Bay Area Lifts Brow at Gorbachevs’ Tour : Diplomacy: Raisa’s planned stop at Fisherman’s Wharf is seen as declasse. Worse, the couple will clog traffic by visiting the Golden Gate Bridge at rush hour.
The excitement surrounding Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s upcoming visit here was tempered Wednesday with the release of his wife’s itinerary and news that the Gorbachevs hope to visit the Golden Gate Bridge--at rush hour.
To ensure security, Golden Gate Bridge officials and the California Highway Patrol plan to slow traffic on the heavily traveled bridge while the Gorbachevs and their 30-car motorcade make their way across, sometime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday.
Earlier that afternoon, Raisa Gorbachev is tentatively scheduled to go on an hour-long tour of the city, viewing some of San Francisco’s finest sights and some of its most blighted and tacky.
“Talk about abominations,” one San Francisco native involved in the planning sniffed upon hearing that Raisa Gorbachev will visit touristy Fisherman’s Wharf.
The itinerary released by PBN Co., the San Francisco public relations firm that is coordinating aspects of the visit, shows that her entourage apparently will bypass such monuments to Western consumerism as Union Square.
“I. Magnin said at one point they would close the entire store if she wanted to shop there. But she’s not going to (Nordstrom). She’s not going to go to I. Magnin,” said Staci Walters of PBN.
After spending the morning with her husband at Stanford University, Mrs. Gorbachev will take her tour. She probably will be escorted by Tatyana Kamenev, wife of the Soviet consul general, and perhaps Sherry Agnos, wife of Mayor Art Agnos, said Charlotte Mailliard Swig, San Francisco’s chief of protocol.
“They won’t have much time, but I think she’ll like it and come back,” Swig said. “I just hope they don’t stop in Civic Plaza.”
Her itinerary will include a trip to Golden Gate Park, perhaps a stop at a museum, and a visit to Civic Center, locale of San Francisco’s ornate City Hall and home to hundreds of homeless people who camp in the plaza there. San Francisco has been sprucing up the plaza in recent months, but does not plan to relocate the residents.
“It is part of life,” Art Silverman, spokesman for Mayor Agnos, said of the tent dwellers in the plaza outside City Hall. “It is our own glasnost policy, you might say. We’re not going to try to hide anything.”
“I think it’s great,” said Warden Coleman, 33, who has been living in the plaza for three months with his dog, Lady. The out-of-work bartender put down his book--a spy novel--and pointed out that if Mrs. Gorbachev drives by or stops at the plaza, “she’ll get to see that her country isn’t the only one having trouble.”
The tentative schedule also has Mrs. Gorbachev heading to the heart of the city’s financial district, stopping at the 52-story Bank of America building, then going on to Fisherman’s Wharf.
While she tours San Francisco, her husband is scheduled to speak to business and political leaders at the Fairmont Hotel. San Francisco police spokesman David Ambrose said he expects that the largest demonstration of the Soviets’ West Coast stop will take place outside the hotel.
Southern California representatives of ethnic Armenian, Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian groups said several busloads of demonstrators will arrive Monday from such locales as Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Fresno.
“There won’t be a shortage of Baltic flags flying around,” said Jaak Treiman, a Los Angeles attorney of Estonian extraction.
At the Fairmont, Gorbachev reportedly is planning to acknowledge Gov. George Deukmejian’s relief efforts on behalf of victims of the Armenian earthquake in 1988. Deukmejian, who is of Armenian descent, has said he does not know if he will have a chance to speak privately with the Soviet leader.
If given the opportunity, the governor added, he will tell Gorbachev that Armenians in the United States “hope Mr. Gorbachev and his government would take steps to ensure greater protection for Armenian people living there, and greater assistance to help them to rebuild from the devastating earthquake.”
After the Fairmont speech, Gorbachev will return to the Soviet consul general’s home, meet with his wife, and head to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Officer Bill Wylie, spokesman for the CHP in Marin County, said the Gorbachevs tentatively plan to cross the bridge and get out of their cars at the vista point on the Marin side. After gazing upon the San Francisco skyline for about 15 minutes, they will return to their cars for the drive to San Francisco and the airport.
“We’re very happy that he’s coming to view our area and our bridge,” Wylie said.
But feelings of peace and goodwill aside, the sightseeing excursion is likely to take its toll on the Monday evening commute across the Golden Gate.
Wylie said at the minimum, the CHP will slow traffic, and “they could shut down the bridge for a minute,” while Gorbachev and his entourage cross the span. At rush hour, 6,000 cars an hour head north from San Francisco to Marin across the bridge.
“We don’t think the motorcade itself will impact traffic as much as people wanting to get a view of the President of the Soviet Union,” Wylie said.
Golden Gate Bridge officials say the 25-minute operation--15 minutes at the vista point and 10 minutes for the round-trip drive--will not result in gridlock.
“People in this area stay clear when they know there’s going to be a major event. They go home early or they stay late,” said Carney Campion, manager of the bridge.
Times staff writer Doug Smith in Glendale contributed to this story.