Crowds gather for Golden Gate Bridge celebration

JOHN S. MARSHALL Associated Press Published:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Crowds gathered along San Francisco's waterfront Sunday, while San Francisco Bay was crowded with pleasure boats, tug boats and other vessels as the city celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tens of thousands of people were expected to flock to the area to enjoy a number of events taking place along a section of waterfront stretching from Fort Point south of the bridge to Pier 39 along The Embarcadero.

At least several thousand people had gathered along the waterfront by Sunday afternoon, said Mary Currie, public affairs director for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

"Everyone is biking and walking and looks very happy," she said. "We're off to a great start."

San Francisco resident Daniel Sutphin and his family were among those in the crowd enjoying the day and the views of the bridge.

"It's such an iconic structure, depending on the day or the hour, it just looks like it changes continuously," Sutphin said as he walked through the Fort Point area with his wife and their three young children.

Since it opened in 1937, more than two-billion vehicles have crossed the 1.7-mile-long bridge named after the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance of water to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean, and championed by engineer Joseph Strauss in the 1920s.

Because of the crowds expected and with no parking available near the bridge, officials were urging people to take mass transit to the events.

The California Highway Patrol was planning on shutting down traffic across the bridge from 9 p.m. through 10 p.m. for a monumental fireworks display set to take place over the bridge.

In a stark contrast to the thousands of celebrants, members of the group the Bridge Rail Foundation, an organization dedicated to stopping suicide jumps from the bridge, erected a display of 1,558 pairs of shoes, representing the number of people who died in leaps form the bridge since it opened in 1937.

"It's a symbol of how deep and serious this problem has been," said Paul Muller, a spokesman for the group. "We're still losing 30 to 35 a people a year off the bridge," he said.

Meanwhile on the water, Golden Gate ferries were running again after a one-day strike disrupted service across San Francisco Bay on Saturday.

Workers represented by the Inlandboatmen's Union walked off the job on a day strike, forcing the cancellation of ferries operated by Golden Gate between Larkspur, Sausalito and San Francisco.

The strike was called after nearly a year of negotiations over workloads and other matters, said Marina Secchitano, the union's regional director.

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement Saturday evening, saying that he was appointing a board to investigate the strike, which, he claimed, created a disruption to public service.

Secchitano disputed the governor's claim, questioning the motivation to call for an investigation after a one-day strike. "(This is) an action to try to silence us," she said.

"They're counting on this process to back our membership off the issue," she said.

Ferry and union officials said service resumed Sunday when workers returned to work.