Upper Great Highway

Letter to the Editor: The Future of the Upper Great Highway

Editor:

I recently attended Supervisor Gordon Mar’s virtual town hall meeting on the future of the Upper Great Highway, and cannot express my level of dismay over what became apparent: as far as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) is concerned, one of the three north-south corridors through the west side of the City will be permanently closed to cars, with millions if not tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to try to address the dozens of unsolvable collateral problems that the permanent closure needlessly creates.

The meeting ostensibly was for SFCTA to present and discuss various possibilities for the Upper Great Highway’s future, but it was the most biased, agenda-driven presentation I have ever witnessed, and it quickly became clear that from SFCTA’s perspective – the permanent closure option – is fete accompli.

The plan is to close the Upper Great Highway permanently and try to divert all north-south traffic to the two remaining arteries traversing the west side of the City: 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard. The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing the numerous problems that this plan will create (the inevitable increased heavy traffic through residential streets, for example, and the many negative results of adding additional significant traffic to the already impacted 19th Avenue and Sunset Boulevard)  and the expensive ways SFCTA might then try to address the problems. And the first order of business, to no one’s surprise, will be a series of “studies” to assess the issues, which, history shows, tend to cost millions of dollars.

“Why are all of these headaches for westside residents and costs to taxpayers being created?” one might wonder.

Supposedly, it’s to preserve permanently this two-mile stretch of road as a recreation area. Taking that explanation at face value, on any nice day since the pandemic-closure, you will find a good number of folks enjoying themselves on the Upper Great Highway, which is a nice thing, to be sure. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a relatively small number of people, many of whom, while taking advantage of the closure, do not want it to be permanent.

Spending millions of taxpayer dollars and creating uncountable major aggravations and inconveniences for so many more San Franciscans is not worth it, particularly given that there already are walking/biking paths on both sides of the Great Highway, and that it’s surrounded by many wonderful alternative places to recreate (Golden Gate Park, the beach, Lake Merced, and Fort Funston).

Bear in mind too that now come the winter months, and having a desolate Upper Great Highway serves zero purpose, other than to inconvenience people and force them to drive out of their way, thus being in their cars longer and burning gas (something that also is true at night, year-round).

What is driving this horrible agenda?  I honestly don’t know. The pre-pandemic use of the Upper Great Highway worked wonderfully for everyone. An eventual return to that status quo creates no new problems and costs no taxpayer dollars. The permanent closure that the SFCTA seeks, on the other hand, creates dozens of new issues, which results in millions of dollars then being spent to try to mitigate the problems the action produced, and forces people to spend significantly longer amounts of their valuable time driving in their cars. Stop this insanity now.

Charles Perkins

3 replies »

  1. I agree it is not a smart use of roadways. Part of the grand plan to get people out of their cars I suppose because maintenance is minimal on roads only people use.

    It makes more sense to split the road so there is access for both cars and people, maybe add bus transportation on the lower street with houses so walkers can access that road easier.

    I recently moved back to SF after an absence of almost 40 years and it seems there is an attitude of forcing very progressive agendas on the citizens here. I am a lifelong Democrat, so I support many liberal and progressive ideas, but pushing these big changes through without consensus seems to be the strategy now whether people are progressives or conservatives. That is wrong in a democracy and citizens and residents have a right to object.

    Is there a public comment period for residents or other means to object and ask for further discussion?

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  2. Thank you Mr. Perkins for raising this issue.

    The pandemic has given us the chance to pause, rethink, and reset many of our priorities – personally and collectively. And while a closure of the upper Great Highway currently sounds great, it will create problems and unnecessary expenses once Covid restrictions are lifted and SF returns to “normal” life.

    I have loved using the Great Highway to bike and jog during the shutdown and would love to be able to access it on a regular basis. We’ve been successful closing roads on weekends in other parts of the city, perhaps a weekends-only closure would be a better approach than a permanent one.

    Shouldn’t we expect Supervisor Mar and our other leaders to provide future-thinking planning and resist the urge to placate trendy but flawed initiatives? Surely he can do better than blindly support a plan that will disrupt so many people and cost so much money. That’s his job as our representative and a leader.

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  3. I have traveled on the Great Highway 5 or 6 times in the past 3 months. The purpose of the Great Highway is to admire the view and for getting to the beaches and walkways and promenades that are already in place. Lots of parking. Huge beach and walkways, not to mention the west side of the Golden Gate Park. Each time I would look at the views and the people on the beach and was grateful to be able to get my ocean “fix”. And each time I would get extremely frustrated when I had to detour and go through back/front yards to then get back on to the Great Highway. The last 2 times I was a passenger and decided to count heads that were using the Great Highway as their alternative to the beach and walkways already in place. Both times I counted less then 10 bikes (I could see their heads zoom by) and fewer walkers (most of the walkers were just crossing to get to the beach side). There were twice as many cars going through the neighborhoods than walking or biking on the Great Highway. And go to Sunset or 19th Ave., not a chance as I wanted to get back on the Great Highway at the end of my detour through residential streets. The Great Highway may be a commuter route for a few, but a lot more use the road because it is the Great Highway. If they want to close the Great Highway to cars on weekends or one or two days a weekend a month, sure do it as we do that with lots of streets. But close the Great Highway forever to through traffic….we might as well rename it the Almost Great Highway.

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