Upper Great Highway

Letter to the Editor: $500,000 for UGH Traffic Plans is Indefensible


Although there are many contenders, the Board of Supervisors’ recent decision to spend $500,000 to study and attempt to mitigate the negative effects caused by what was largely Supervisor Gordon Mar’s decision to close the Upper Great Highway (UGH) to automobiles, coming at a time when businesses are shuttered, many people are unemployed, and homelessness is at record levels, is the most indefensible approved use of taxpayers’ monies in recent memory.

As a four-lane divided road having no cross traffic, the UGH is by far the safest north-south route through the west side of San Francisco. For at least the 31 years I have lived in the Sunset District, the UGH, bordered, on either side by parallel pedestrian/biking paths, has effectively and safely served its function of providing a (quite scenic!) route of access between Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way, without complaint and to everybody’s satisfaction. 

Its closure to cars has forced approximately 18,000 frustrated drivers each day to detour out of their way through residential streets and/or travel as far east as Sunset Boulevard or even 19th Avenue- – two of the most dangerous streets in the entire City – to traverse the two-mile stretch between Sloat and Lincoln.  The results have been disastrous. 

Among other things, Sunset District residents have seen their safe, once-quiet streets become dangerous thoroughfares; in an effort to appease angry neighbors, automobile access to parallel streets in the vicinity of the UGH has been reduced, creating gridlock and chaos in every direction near the western ends of Sloat and Lincoln, and forcing residents on avenues even farther east to absorb a dangerous increase in traffic; and additional carbon emissions are pumped into the atmosphere as drivers are forced to spend more time in their cars, often in slowed or gridlocked traffic, stopping and starting at every intersection. (As most westside residents know, the lights are timed on the UGH between Sloat and Lincoln so that by maintaining a comfortable 30-35 mph, a driver never has to stop.) 

Now, at a time when public dollars are particularly precious, the Board of Supervisors has approved spending $500,000 to study and try to address the many problems that the UGH closure has created.  This is unforgivable, when by simply reopening the UGH to cars, thereby returning to the pre-pandemic status quo that worked wonderfully for all, every one of the problems the half-million expenditure seeks to “study” goes away.

I do not want my tax dollars spent trying to address City-created problems that can be fixed immediately simply by removing the barriers to the UGH at Sloat and Lincoln. And notably, regardless of how the $500,000 is spent, forcing 18,000 drivers each day to detour off the UGH onto more dangerous routes necessarily will result in a needless increase in automobile collisions causing death, injury, and property damage, and additional harm to the environment as drivers must spend more time in their cars.  This is an indefensible waste of tax dollars in an effort to perpetuate a bad result, and the Board of Supervisors should rescind immediately the approved $500,000 expenditure.

Charles Perkins

13 replies »

  1. Totally Agree. I live on 48 and see very sparsely used closed UGH by the walkers bikers etc during the week, and every day there are great pathways and a huge beach to be walked and biked. Counts dont show reality. For example, one walker goes and returns, counted twice, and many cars in the comparison are containing uncounted multiple persons. Please, Simply and cost effectively open the highway as it was before, functioning great, pre-pandemic. Agree a few more stopsigns and/or speedbumps in LGH and avenues are a good idea for all the weather closure times on UGH. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I live in the Outer Sunset. No gridlock. The closure has been nothing but wonderful. Those “angry drivers” you speak of are getting ticketed if they are behaving unsafely, and lots of mitigation measures have been implemented with that money you are saying is being misspent. Why should the anger of a few dictate what should happen in our beautiful neighborhood? Every single day I see families, bicyclists, roller skaters and so many more make use of the closed Upper Great Highway.


  3. As a resident living on the LGH I am in full support of reopening the GH to cars. Do it now. Stop the chaos. Listen to the neighborhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are 1000% correct. Closing of the Great Highway is strictly for the benefit of the residents of D4 and completely restricts access to residents who live in other parts of the city. It’s created immeasurable safety issues that simply cannot be fixed with the mitigation efforts proposed by the city. Why are we spending more money on a study when the adjacent paths could have been widened and improved? Why are we not opening the Great Highway NOW? Residents are demanding it and yet no one is listening. This petition in favor of opening now has almost 3400 signatures. https://www.change.org/openthegreathighway.


  5. Open up the Upper Great Highway! People currently using it for recreation not only have many alternatives within close proximity, but they are but a tiny fraction of the number of cars that use it to get across that section of the city in a timely, frustration free manner. for that there are no other alternatives in close proximity.


  6. closing UGH served a need last year when the lockdown first occurred, but it should have been reopened by end of summer 2020 at max. Keeping it closed and the additional “traffic mitigation” measures have ruined the neighborhood. I’ve lived in the Outer Sunset for years and it’s never been such a mess until the BOS and SFMTA go their hands on it. What a debacle!!! there are plenty of existing open spaces for people to walk and bike including that huge piece of sand that lines the western edge of the city called Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach is completely car free except when the lifeguard comes to save a life in the truck. Get a clue BOS and SFMTA and open UGH. Quit ruining the quality of life of the resident of outer sunset!! Thank you Charles for writing this letter to the editor.


  7. As a resident of D4, I don’t use GHW. Actually, I’m pretty sure that very few D4 residents use GHW because it just does not make sense. D4 residents mainly use Sunset Boulevard or 19th Ave. A lot of use in D4, want to keep UGH closed and bring back our quiet streets by installing stop signs at every corners streets of D4 and speed bumps, from Lincoln to Sloat, from LGH to Sunset Blvd to deter traffic.

    If there is really 18000 drivers, they must live in Pacifica or Daly City and just try to cross the city. I don’t see why residents of D4 must be used as hostages for the comfort of D1, D2 and other cities. It’s appealing that these people dare talking in the name of D4 residents, for the sake of their own interests.


  8. Leave the upper GH closed. With intelligent creative planning, through traffic can be directed to a greatly improved sunset blvd, which would serve Marin and Pacifica much more than the UGH. There will be a closure of GH at Sloat anyway. And, UGH is often closed by virtue of inclement weather.

    Improve public transit on Judah and Taraval to make the beautiful UGH walkway more accessable for all SF residents.

    Use wise planning for the future, improve Sunset Blvd for N-S traffic.


  9. Everyone commenting that “it’s great” that great highway is closed clearly do not use it on a daily/weekly basis, and lets face it, you are in the minority.

    I’m in the Outer Richmond, and it used to take 15 minutes for me to reach 280 highway (Great Highway, to 1, to 280), now that route can take up to 30 minutes either being diverted from 25th or 19th ave across the park which also has closures.

    This is getting out of hand, as I don’t know if you’ve noticed but 19th and 25th now have traffic at ALL times during the day because a HUGE thoroughfare that is Great Highway is closed for absolutely no reason. There are AMPLE walking paths DIRECLTY parallel to great highway and no one should need 500k to see this.


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