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Outrage as chains removed from San Francisco’s Fort Point Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint

An excavator demolishes metal chains that act as guard rails at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge.
An excavator removes metal chains that acted as guardrails at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Monday. The big chains were put in place in the 1990s and are being replaced with silver railings, placed closer to the edge of the water. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

The picturesque view from San Francisco's Fort Point has changed with the removal of chains, spurring equal measures of surprise and outrage across social media.

This week, along Marine Drive, which leads to the fort and its iconic vantage point, contractors began removing cement bollards connected by heavy chains and replacing them with aluminum railings.

"I could see adding the fence as a necessary safety feature but why remove the beautiful chains that are part of that space and its vibe??? Nooo," one commenter replied to a Reddit post titled "Seeing this completely ruined my day" about the chains' removal Wednesday.

Three people in fluorescent green vests and hooded jackets stand over a low metal fence by a large body of water.
Workers install an aluminum railing beside the seawall along Marine Drive close to San Francisco's Fort Point. | Source: Courtesy Jake Ricker

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Others on the Reddit thread wished idly for a chance to snag souvenir chain links or rued the removal as ugly and smacking of soulless bureaucracy.

"From a design standpoint, the chains really do add character but from a safety standpoint, doesn’t do much," another Redditor said. "I think they could’ve picked a better design for the new fence as that one just screams, 'We made zero effort.'"

"Robbing the city of its character and charm one stupid decision at a time by people with no taste or common sense. Good Job Clowns," an Instagram commenter on a video of the chains' removal said.

'90s Chains, '50s Railings?

Golden Gate National Recreation Area spokesperson Julian Espinoza said that the chains were installed in the 1990s and were not historically significant.

Espinoza told The Standard that the railings being installed now are actually more similar to the barrier in place during the 1950s.

A black and white image partially showing the Golden Gate Bridge and the Fort Point Historic Site, as well as wooden post and rail barriers from 1947.
Wooden posts topped with rails served as barriers between Marine Drive and the seawall at Fort Point Historic Site in this image taken in 1947. | Source: Courtesy National Park Service Archives

However, a contract-opportunity post on in September, uncovered by X user raffcitybish, says, "The earliest design on record used embedded logs." Before that, between 1861 and 1945, there was no barrier in place at all, the contract states.

Metal silver railings and concrete posts neat the San Francisco Bay.
New railings are installed at the waterfront at Fort Point near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on Monday. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

The new barriers, which will take up less than a quarter of the bollards' space, will increase the width available along Marine Drive for cyclists, vehicles and pedestrians, Espinoza added.

The contractors' work, which began this week and is on schedule, will be complete by late January.

A low angle photo of metal chains that act as guard rails near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Metal chains that acted as guardrails were unhooked and lay on the ground near the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point. | Source: Gina Castro/The Standard

"Our maintenance team has been planning this project for many months," Espinoza said. "The new barrier will replace the non-historic cement and chain barrier that currently exists. The new modular railing system will provide a safe, corrosion-resistant structure to clearly mark the edge of the seawall."

According to a Dec. 14 notice on the National Park Service's Fort Point website, temporary lane closures will be in effect along Marine Drive from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays until Jan. 24, 2024.