Stuart Mosher, in United States Commemorative Coins, 1940, commented: "In choosing the obverse design for this half dollar the artist used the same idea as is on the reverse of the issue in 1925 for the California Diamond Jubilee. While the choice was of secondary importance compared to the bridge design, it aroused considerable criticism at the time of issue. The grizzly bear is the emblem of the state of California, but in this instance the artist used as his model a bear known as Monarch II that had spent the 26 years of its life in a cage as a public exhibit at the Golden Gate Park. It is customary for all United States coins
to depict liberty in some form or another so perhaps the critics were justified in their wrathful outbursts." In actuality, the bear was a composite of different animals observed by Schnier at the San Francisco and Oakland zoos. (Carter. Mike. "Jacques Schnier and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Commemorative Half Dollar," article in The Commemorative Trail, Winter-Spring. 1987. pp. 22-26.)
Alpha2814, thank you for mentioning the Stuart Mosher's book. I had never heard about it before, but decided to buy it after your post. This small book has only 52 pages (one page for each coin) but contains many interesting facts and useful information. A good addition for other books on the classic commems.
nickelsearcher, thank you for your opinion. It took some time to find a Bay Bridge commem with a nice looking obverse.