City Hall

City Hall: Gordon Mar

The Future of the Upper Great Highway

By Supervisor Gordon Mar

With cases of COVID-19 surging across the country and in California, San Francisco is no exception. We’re seeing alarming increases in our key public health indicators, including new cases and positivity rates, which are moving us into more restrictive tiers in the state’s coronavirus regulations. 

With the holiday season upon us, we are all craving a sense of comfort, familiarity and normalcy. We want to see our family and friends, share meals and be together. But these aren’t normal times, and this new surge is the most dangerous we’ve seen since the earliest days of the pandemic. 

Gathering in person this holiday season increases your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19. Meeting virtually is safest – if you do gather in person, meet outdoors in small groups, wear a mask and avoid sharing utensils or beverages. 

With good news about viable vaccines in development, there’s real hope that we’ll be able to return to more normal activities in the not-too-distant future. But to see that future realized, we have to hold firm in the meantime, stay vigilant and stay home to save lives. 

For the most up-to-date guidance and restrictions on San Francisco’s public health orders, visit sf.gov/topics/coronavirus-covid-19.

Meanwhile, we’re continuing to support local businesses, which are adapting to the pandemic to provide safer options for you to shop and dine locally. 

We’re thrilled to announce that the Beachside Taraval Sunset Mercantile has been extended through December! Come eat, drink, shop, play, connect and be local this Sunday and every Sunday through December. The event is on Taraval Street between 46th and 47th avenues,  11 a.m.-5 p.m. This open-air pop-up market features unique crafts, cool vintage finds and fascinating treasures of all sorts surrounded by the awesome cafes, restaurants, bars and shops of Beachside Taraval.

And the Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile continues every Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on 37th Avenue between Ortega and Quintara streets, offering fresh produce from local farmers, goods from local merchants, live music by local artists, and dining options provided by local restaurants. Stop by, shop local and stay #SunsetStrong. 

We are in the first part of outreach for Sunset Forward, our community planning process, and we need the input of as many people by the end of this year as possible. 

Sunset Forward aims to stabilize low- and moderate-income families and seniors in the Sunset. We need to enhance community connections and quality of life for all by addressing unmet needs in housing, transportation and neighborhood services.

If you live, work, study, worship or play in the Sunset District, we want to hear from you — what are your priorities on housing, transportation, and neighborhood businesses and services? Your input will result in real policy changes for the Sunset’s future. 

You can participate by taking our Sunset Forward Community Needs survey, leave a discussion comment, engage in our interactive map, and more at the Sunset Forward website at sunsetforward.com. 

We recently held a virtual town hall on the future of the Upper Great Highway, which was attended by more than 500 people, with many more writing in to express their thoughts by email. 

Since April, the Upper Great Highway has remained closed to cars and open to thousands of people of every age, race, gender and ability on a daily basis. It has also presented real and serious challenges resulting from the traffic diverted from the Upper Great Highway. And since April, I have repeatedly stressed the need for an urgent and comprehensive plan to mitigate the traffic impacts on the Outer Sunset of this closure. I am grateful for the steps that have been taken, including additional detour signs and new turn restrictions to ensure nearby streets are also safe. 

Over the last few months, we’ve held virtual community meetings with groups of residents on these streets. Lower Great Highway has experienced increased traffic volumes of more than 5,000 cars a day, with a significant percentage of those cars driving at unsafe speeds, after mitigation efforts were made. We know this because we commissioned traffic counts and measured it through our D4 Mobility Study.

So in November, I sent a letter to SFMTA Director Jeff Tumlin and the SFMTA Board of Directors calling for specific steps to be taken to better calm and divert traffic in the Outer Avenues. 

Specifically, we’ve called for a traffic mitigation plan, additional traffic counts to measure the effectiveness of the mitigation, traffic engineers to identify the level of traffic volume and traffic speed that is safe for the Lower Great Highway, and the immediate installation of the remaining components of the Lower Great Highway Pedestrian Improvement Plan. In that letter, I told the SFMTA that I cannot continue to support the temporary closure of the Great Highway if we cannot make it safe. 

Speed table installation is now underway on the Lower Great Highway, and SFMTA has committed to additional traffic counts. We expect to have updates from SFMTA on these efforts soon.

While we navigate the impacts of the temporary closure of the Upper Great Highway in response to COVID-19, we also have a decision to make on the long-term future of this public space – not in response to COVID, but in response to climate change. Coastal erosion has been exacerbated by climate change-driven sea level rise, and the Great Highway extension south of Sloat Boulevard will have to be closed to cars permanently in the coming years because it cannot be maintained as a roadway. We have to decide how we can best use the rest of this public space, north of Sloat Boulevard, to meet our needs in the future.

Through our District 4 Mobility Study, we have identified four ideas for the future of the Great Highway, and we want your input. So, we’re partnering with the Transportation Authority to launch a survey to help inform this decision. To participate, simply text “Great Highway” to 415-358-0017.

Finally, we’re excited to announce the continuation of City College Sunset, our program that’s brought City College classes here to our neighborhood, now adapted for distance learning. For the Spring 2021 semester, we will be offering classes in older adult mind-body health, child growth and development, early childhood curriculum, and two high school dual enrollment classes. 

For more information on these classes and enrollment details, and to stay up to date on all our work in the neighborhood, connect with us on Facebook at @d4gordonmar, or subscribe to our newsletter by emailing marstaff@sfgov.org. 

As always, we’re here to serve you. 

Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or marstaff@sfgov.org.

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