Doyle Drive — On the Eve of Destruction

“…and you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”

The Eve of Destruction, 1965
written by P.F. Sloan, performed by Barry McGuire  


Proposed Beach Street approach to the Golden Gate Bridge by Chesley Bonestell

Proposed Beach Street approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, Illustration by Chesley Bonestell, Source: Derleth Collection, Water Resources Center Archives.

It is official, Doyle Drive is coming down at the end of this month. From the beginning, Doyle Drive was a tough sell. The original path of the highway would have connected the Bridge traffic to Beach Street and that did not sit well with the residents of the Marina district, who feared traffic jams.

In 1932 protests from residents forced the City and County of San Francisco to pressure the Golden Gate Bridge & Highway District to instead connect Doyle Drive with Lombard Street/Highway 101. Chief Engineer Joseph B. Strauss at first resisted the City’s demand, but soon began promoting a plan to connect Doyle Drive both to Lombard Street and to Beach Street. Construction of the Low Viaduct began in 1934, the controversy over Doyle Drive’s street connections in the Marina District lasted for several years.

In a letter to Illustrator Chesley Bonestell, Bernard Maybeck, architect of the Palace of Fine Arts, wrote:

Beach Street Perspective by Chesley Bonestell

General perspective of the proposed Beach Street approach to the Golden Gate Bridge by Chesley Bonestell, Source: Derleth Collection, Water Resources Center Archives.

“When the wide road over the Presidio territory has old trees fringing both sides of it and lower bushes to break the ocean winds, it will become a favorite drive, IF, also, the ends of the bridge are controlled to avoid popcorn stands, wayside restaurants that usually decorate our highways, and the ends are parked beautifully to form preludes to the beauty of the Golden Gate as you look down from the bridge. It is necessary to awake the attention of the traveler before he gets on the bridge. The drawing of the approach to the Fine Arts building shows the possibility. If we can have one road like your painting shows it will give the citizen of San Francisco an idea how S.F. can be made into a city that will attract many people who must and can get away from their homes in the interior of the U.S. when the thermometer reaches 100° and 110° Fahrenheit. We may even cut chunks out of our fogs and sell them to the middle west.”

According to Caltrans: “…The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District (GGB&HD) built the Low Viaduct as part of the original Golden Gate Bridge project between 1934 and 1937. It conformed to the Army’s stipulation that the bridge’s approach roads have no at-grade crossings with Presidio roads so that communication within the military reservation would not be affected. Military officials also required the GGB&HD to undertake extensive relocation, reconstruction, and new construction of utilities and buildings as compensation for Presidio facilities demolished or otherwise affected by the construction of the Low Viaduct.”

We did not get the magnificent Beach Street boulevard envisioned in 1932, but Doyle Drive has served us well over the last 75 years. The addition of Green Space on top of tunnels will now allow unobstructed views of San Francisco Bay where the Viaduct once stood.

With a nod to the past and an eye on the future, I think that you will agree that this is an exciting time in the Bay Area.

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