letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: End the Traffic and Gridlock in the Outer Avenues


I understand that there was a San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) meeting on Friday, Feb. 19 that most of the public was unaware of. Shouldn’t SFMTA, SFCTA, SF Rec. and Park, and San Francisco supervisors get more input from the public and people who live and work here, rather than special interest groups? 

End the traffic and gridlock in the outer avenues! Closure of the Upper Great Highway has made a mess of the neighborhood. Now that construction on 19th Avenue is taking place, things are even worse! You have invited people from all over the Bay Area to come on down and party and play at San Francisco’s western beaches! Carloads of people surrounding us on weekends in what used to be open space. San Francisco is broken! Muni is broken, the police department is broken, emergency services are broken, the DA’s office is broken, the Sheriff’s department is broken, the Department of Public Works is broken, and you want to spend $500k for an idea? Spend the money on getting the kids back in school and put more money into school physical ed programs. 

You already have 220 parks and playgrounds in the City that you have trouble maintaining. You already have six miles of open beach. Why do you need to spend millions of dollars for more space adjacent to the beach? What is wrong with going to the beach and walking in the sand? The Feds did not have to close the highway at Ft. Funston or roads in the Presidio to go to Baker Beach to give people more room. 

Why don’t you open up more parks and open space in the lower income neighborhoods like the Bayview and Hunters Point? It was big news to open a vaccination site in the Bayview as this is a neglected part of San Francisco. You have the former site of Candlestick Park that could be made into a recreational area. Make Third Street safer to walk and ride Muni. Make playgrounds safer and provide more amenities to your 220 existing parks and playgrounds. Golden Gate Park is a mess where gardeners mostly pick up garbage rather than garden. Golden Gate Park is more than 1,000 acres that ends at the beach. Isn’t that plenty of unused open space? People are getting robbed daily in the park that’s out of control. I dare any of you supervisors to walk through the park at night. Make Muni safer to ride and have more buses and routes. 

Before the pandemic, the Great Highway averaged between 16,000 and 20,000 cars a day during the week and more than 20,000 cars on the weekends. All these no right turns, flashing red stop lights, barriers everywhere you turn have only piled up these 16,000 to 20,000 cars a day in front of our houses. Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue are a traffic nightmare. Wait until the Zoo opens back up! What’s the plan there? It’s already gridlock in the mornings and rush hour times leading to more road rage and accidents.

Don’t be fooled! When the pandemic is over, kids will be in school, parents and most adults will be back to work, the Great Highway will be a sand dune full of garbage. In your budget, what is your projected maintenance cost per year? You currently don’t have enough gardeners as it is. Who’s going to clean up the mess left in our streets? By the way, the planted beach grass and ice plant to prevent soil erosion have been trampled on and dying. You can see all the bald spots of sand that will end up on the roadway. Also, from the highway, you can only see the ocean for five blocks, between Noriega and Taraval streets. The sand dunes block most of the ocean view. However, you have a promenade and bike lanes from the Cliff House to Lincoln Way with an ocean view the entire length. Put your money and resources in that area. Put in bathrooms, showers and picnic areas.

Think about new parks and making changes when you have a plan. It is very clear the highway was closed without very much thought! Now you are trying to fix all the things on the fly! You are wasting money! These fixes are not working! Fix Market Street instead – it’s still broken!

Looking out my window, I see five people on the Upper Great Highway. three of whom are on the walking paths. I live on Kirkham, a “Slow Street.” There is a woman on the sidewalk pushing a stroller and no one on the road except for a car that just drove by. The slow streets out here are mostly empty. It’s not like our sidewalks are crowded with people and you have to walk down the middle of the road. 41st Avenue and Ortega Street are “Slow” streets that are now empty and a joke of the neighborhood. 41st Avenue adds to the back-up through the park from Fulton to Lincoln, where 41st Avenue is a dead end. That was really dumb! It can take half an hour to cross the park – longer on crowded warm days! Road rage on confusion daily and money down the drain.

Spend the money on police services rather than recreation. We are choking with crime and it’s getting worse! We are inundated with crime. The Sunset has but only three police cars patrolling the largest police district in the City. Get some input from the public and people who live and work here, rather than special interest groups. Growing up here, I have never seen San Francisco so poorly run with all these special interest groups. It’s embarrassing!

Do the right thing.

Anthony Villa

Native San Franciscan and property taxpayer,

Kirkham Street and Great Highway resident for more than 40 years,

11 replies »

  1. Agree ! agree ! agree ! with Anthony Villa. I am Native SF born on 35th Ave and now 10 year resident on 48th Ave.


  2. Anthony, well-said and agree 100%. Open up the Great Highway now! There are never enough people on it to justify closing it, or to block off access to SF for thousands of people who live here and need the GH. The SIP has been lifted, and yet this road remains closed. Wasn’t this closure supposed to be a Covid-response measure? Open it up now, instead of spending $500K to “study” the ongoing closure Also, a study was never done to close it, why do we need one to open it?


  3. That is a great letter from Anthony Villa.

    I am a native of this Great City, but it’s new plans like this that really upset me.
    Permanently Close the Great Highway? That’s nuts! I currently live in the outer Richmond district and always used the Great Highway as an expressway to go South. Whenever the Great Highway was closed for maintenance as in sand cleanup it use be an inconvenience but at least it was temporary. Now it looks like we’ll be inconvenienced forever if closure were to permanently happen. This is not good for an already congested City.

    Gosh I really feel bad for those people who live in the path of the detours. I am being selfish for complaining about what bothers me of this idea, but the local residents must be going bonkers by now.

    A friend of mine is going through Cancer treatment and lives in the Pacifica area. Since they closed the Great Highway he has to deal with the detours and now finds it very difficult for him to get to UCSF for treatment. I feel bad for him and others who need to travel to and from the City from the coastal areas that need our city’s medical expertise.


  4. There is a reason the UGH is there and it’s not for a promenade. They have closed a 4-lane highway and funneled the traffic through the residential streets. There is plenty of space to do all those activities in Golden Gate Park, on the beach and around Lake Merced not to mention all the “slow streets” that no one uses.

    I have lived on the Lower Great Highway for 30+ years would like our neighborhood back and safe.



  5. Being a native San Franciscan and weekly user of both GGP and the Upper Great Highway I can totally see this argument. What I haven’t seen discussed was the THREE options that were being discussed… Having read them, I conceded that I felt normal traffic during weekdays on the Upper Great and closure on the weekends was an acceptable compromise.

    I grew up one block from Playland, before they even built Safeway… “I was there” so I believe the word “compromise” is what we need.

    What we DON’T NEED is the never ending signs barring people from driving down Cabrillo St, or an other dozen of so streets in the western half of the city being labeled as “NO THROUGH TRAFFIC” which I might add simply doesn’t work.

    Bill Schoolcraft


  6. I totally agree with Anthony Villa. I have lived on 47th Avenue near Kirkham for over 25 years. I am a senior citizen with mobility issues, a home owner and I pay my share of property taxes. I rarely venture east of Stanyan. Since the Great Highway closed I feel like a rat in a maze. I can no longer turn left from Lincoln onto 47th Ave or 48th Avenue. If I turn left on 45th or 46th Avenue I have to go up to Lawton and circle back home because Kirkham is a slow street. The number of cars in the neighborhood has increased, many speeding and ignoring stop signs. Does it take a few people getting killed to get the attention of the clowns running this city? The work on 19th Avenue has only made matters worse. The detour signs directed cars to Sunset is a joke and are largely ignored.

    For the love of God, please reopen the Great Highway so we residents of the Outside Lands can have our sanity back. It’s not like folks aren’t stressed enough by the pandemic, shelter in place, job loss and everything else associated.



  7. Amen from a prisoner at 33rd and Lincoln. Crossing Golden Gate Park is like trying. to sneak into a foreign country without permission. Getting to Safeway at the Beach is an expedition I’d rather not make, but I have to eat. What happened to the concept of “SHARE THE ROAD”? The city has taken it upon itself to commandeer the road.


  8. Thank you Anthony for taking the time to address the ongoing issue of the closure of The Great Highway. My boyfriend and I moved out of our rental on 48th Ave. for the circus that plagued the closure of The Great Highway in the first place. Wasn’t the shutdown suppose to keep people in their own neighborhoods? We used the beach as our front yard. Though with the ridiculous amount of people that flocked to ocean beach because of the shutdown it was challenging at best to even cross The Great Highway with all the bikers and joggers not being regulated by the every other street lights. This would even be a problem at 6:30 a.m. or later evening when we would be walking our dog. Trying to navigate the community in a car to visit friends has left a “Will you come see us” attitude. I agree with all the comments about space throughout the city. Ahem, San Francisco has the best open spaces and truly memorable walks in Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. There are better user friendly beaches in Nor Cal but there’s nothing like GGP or the Presidio! So long SF!


  9. I live in the Richmond District, and my street, 23rd Ave is a slow street, as is Cabrillo starting at 25th Ave. I was never asked if I approved of them, I came home from a vacation, and there it was. TAKE THE DAMN BARRICADES NOW!


  10. I agree with everything that was said here. It is all true. This closure has been an unbearable hardship. In the Rec & Park’s description of their finest accomplishments they boast the following about their Director, Phil Ginsburg: “Under Phil’s leadership, San Francisco became the first City in the United States where 100% of its residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park.” We have 220 existing parks that are not infringing on the health and safety of nearby residents without closing down the UGH for recreational use. This closure of a major thoroughfare used by nearly 20,000 vehicles pre-pandemic brought all that traffic consisting of big rigs, motorcycle gangs of 100+, trucks, vans, and cars, with their noise and toxic emissions right up to the front doors of apartments and homes to race through the residential neighborhood’s parallel streets 24/7. It’s dangerous at every intersection and the lack of pre-planning was unconscionable. To make this a permanent situation that continues to leave so many residents in harm’s way is both unnecessary and immoral. The traffic mitigation efforts do not remove the volume of vehicles from the once quiet one and two-lane streets. This traffic belongs back on the 4-lane highway with timed traffic lights away from the people who live near it. Health, safety and peace is at stake. Mr. Villa laid it all out and I hope those in power will listen with compassion, put their politics aside, and reopen the highway to traffic asap.


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