Ferris wheel operation in Golden Gate Park extended through 2025

A unanimous vote has extended the Ferris wheel in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park through 2025, the city's recreation and parks department announced on Wednesday.

The 150-foot attraction, operated by SkyStar Observation Wheel, was approved for the four-year extension by the city's Historic Preservation Commission. 

The ride was the center of a somewhat unexpected dispute and had the vote not gone the private company's way, the Ferris wheel would have had to come down by the end of this month. 

"Today’s decision was a win for fun, joy, and common sense," said San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg. "It fulfills a promise to visitors who haven’t had a chance to ride the wheel, allows San Franciscans to experience Golden Gate Park in a new way, and allows thousands of high-need families and graduating SFUSD seniors to ride for free."

The Ferris wheel was installed last year as part of planned festivities for Golden Gate Park's 150th anniversary. But the attraction has been sidelined for much of that time due to coronavirus restrictions.

But on Tuesday night, extending the Ferris wheel's stay in the park was put in jeopardy.

San Francisco supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan said they want the city controller's office to investigate the contract with the San Francisco Parks Alliance, the nonprofit which oversees the Ferris wheel. They suggested there were possible connections to the Department of Public Works corruption scandal at City Hall. 

Mayor London Breed briefly referenced the heated debate at a news conference earlier in the day.

"You got to get out and enjoy San Francisco," she said. "Get out and ride the Ferris wheel before the 'fun police' take it away."

In addition to the contract investigation, environmentalists are opposed to keeping the wheel in Golden Gate Park for four years because of light pollution and other environmental pollutants.

The SkyStar Wheel will re-open Thursday at noon following San Francisco's entering the less restrictive red tier earlier this week. The attraction will offer discounts for San Francisco residents starting Monday. 

This article has been revised to correct that the corruption scandal involves the Department of Public Works, not the parks and recreation department.