SAN FRANCISCO–On January 21 the Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California–"The Council," became officially the legal owner of Mount Davidson Cross–following its victory at the ballot box on November 4–1997.
The Council is a non-profit California corporation which was created in Northern California by 32 Armenian-American charitable–religious–cultural–athletic and political organizations–for the main purpose of establishing a memorial for the victims of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
On June 27–1990–the ACLU–the Jewish-American Congress–and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State–brought an action against the City and County of San Francisco–alleging that the City’s acts of supporting–maintaining and caring for the Cross upon public land was unconstitutional. On August 26–1996–the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that the ownership–maintenance and upkeep of the Cross by the City was a violation of the No Preference Clause of the California Constitution.
The City decided to sell the Cross with approximately .38 acre surrounding it–at a public auction. On July 21–1997–the Council came out as the winner with a bid of $26,000.00. The sale was confirmed by the voters of San Francisco who came out strongly on November 4–1997–in favor of Proposition F with a large majority of 68.38%–confirming the sale of the Cross to the Council.
The Cross is 103 feet high–built in 1934 on the top of Mount Davidson at an elevation of approximately 1,000 feet–and is surrounded by 40 acres of wooded park land. It is the highest cross in the United States. The Cross was of such national and local significance that more than 50,000 residents attended its inauguration–and then President Franklin D. Roosevelt–was given the symbolic honor of pressing the golden key in Washington that triggered the first floodlights illuminating the Cross.
"We will preserve this Cross not only as an important historical landmark for our city of San Francisco but as a memorial for the Armenian Martyrs of 1915," stated Bishop Aris Shirvanian during close of escrow–in the presence of the directors of the Council and title officers. "Today–the will of San Francisco voters has been fulfilled by the transfer of the Cross to the Council. It will continue to stand proud and tall as a symbol of tolerance of our City and a reminder of our own Armenian history," added Bishop Aris Shirvanian.
The initial directors of the Council are: Bishop Aris Shirvanian–also acting as President (Pastor of Saint John Armenian Church); Dr. Krikor Soghikian–also acting as Vice President (Friends of the Consulate of the Republic of Armenia); Goriun Hairabedian–also acting as Treasurer (Armenian Revolutionary Federation); Ruby Sanoian-Kueffer–also acting as Secretary (Armenian General Benevolent Union); Edward Aslanian (Armenian-American Citizens’ League); Archie Azizian (Saint Vartan Armenian Church); Kevork Garabedian (Armenian Democratic League); Reverend Steve Muncherian (Pastor–Calvary Armenian Congregational Church) and Edward Missirlian (Board of Trustees–Saint Gregory the Illuminator Apostolic Church). The Council’s attorney is Paul Tour-Sarkissian.