letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Upper Great Highway Has Been Failing for Decades


I write to respond to Mr. Perkins’ April 13th Letter to the Editor, seeking to reopen the Great Highway to cars.  Mr. Perkins claims that the problems with the highway were “created by the closure” and that the highway should be re-opened to cars because it has “worked perfectly fine for all interests, and without complaint, its entire existence.”  The claim is comically untrue.

The Great Highway has been failing for decades and, because of natural erosion, the road is unworkable in the long term.  This is not a new issue. Annually, the City spends an insane amount of money attempting to keep the road open to motor vehicles, with frequent closures to remove sand and debris from the road.  

For decades the City has documented the way in which the Great Highway is failing as a roadway.  In 2012, after years of studies, the City approved the Ocean Beach Master Plan, effectively eliminating the Great Highway as a commute road for vehicles.  For those who wish to understand the multitude of problems related to the Great Highway, the following are links to the San Francisco Planning Department and the Master Plan:


The Great Highway is “perfectly fine” in the same way the hideous Embarcadero Freeway was “perfectly fine” before it was demolished following the Loma Prieta earthquake.  Like the Embarcadero Freeway and the Central Freeway, we should stop trying to put a band aid on a failing road and use the Proposition K money – which only can be used to study changes in transportation – to come up with some workable solution.  As I have stated previously, this money can only be used for this particular purpose and so why not get solutions to create a better Upper Great Highway?

Finally, Mr. Perkins claims that my opinion should be discounted because I currently work for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.  My letter was not written on behalf of the Coalition, nor is this one. Aside from it being weird to Google and gratuitously attack me, the idea that my work in operations for the Coalition means I have an “agenda” is offensive.

According to SFCTA’s recent survey, only an estimated 21% are in favor of doing what Mr. Perkins is advocating – returning the Upper Great Highway to its pre-pandemic four lane road.  Like every other homeowner and taxpayer in the City, I’m tired of seeing the City waste my money trying in vain to keep the road open so that a handful of (vocal) individuals are free to drive more quickly between the Sunset and Richmond Districts.


Janelle Wong, Inner Parkside

9 replies »

  1. I beg to differ with Janelle Wong. Using the data provided in the D4 mobility study open house, the comparison of maintaining the GH as a 4 lane highway is $5 million in capital and $1.5 M in annual maintenance and operations. To make the GH into a full Promenade with complete closures to cars will cost $5.6 M in capital and $1.6 M in annual maintenance and operations. So it will be MORE expensive to keep the GH closed and convert it to a Promenade which does NOT include the costs of traffic calming measures on adjacent streets where diverted traffic is now going and the cost to commuters/drivers idling in traffic jams at Chain of Lakes, Crossover, 19th Avenue and Sunset Blvd in terms of fuel use and time spent in gridlock. I think we can agree that if an adequate alternative to the Great Highway to handle the displaced 18,000 cars is in place, then closures may be a good idea, BUT those alternatives do not exist at this time. Talk to the neighbors living on the streets now seeing the increased traffic from the current closure. Traffic calming measures only displace cars to other streets. The earlier SFMTA survey showing relative approval/disapproval of permanent closures was probably not reliable where people self-selected to participate in the survey, no controls for repeat respondents were in place, etc. The difference between Outer Richmond residents who use the GH to cross north south vs Outer Sunset residents who don’t need to make that transit is reflected in the flipped approval rates between the two with Outer Richmond residents voting narrowly to keep the GH open and the Outer Sunset residents showing a very small percentage wanting it to remain permanently closed. However, now that the impact on those Outer Sunset residents as traffic resumes is now being felt (the displaced traffic on to their formerly quiet residential streets), it would be interesting to see if the vote changes now compared to earlier in the year.


  2. Being born and raised by Playland @ Ocean Beach I’ve seen the UGH before ANY stoplights and as it is now and truly believe that the one option mentioned in talks that is not being investigated more… That option is WEEKENDS close UGH and weekdays allow commuter traffic to avoid the off streets of the outer Sunset District.

    I drive all the time from Daly City horse stables to the outer Richmond District (west of 43rd Ave) and that is not about to change anytime soon. Not sure how long this is going to take to resolve but until then every outer Sunset Distict neighborhood street is NOW my daily transit route.

    Bill Schoolcraft


  3. As a resident of the outer sunset. Traffic is definitely increased going north and south. Accidents waiting to happen on every intersection. Trying to get to the Richmond is a struggle. I against the closer of what it’s ment to be a road that connects us to the peninsula. Open the Great Highway


  4. Regarding the SFCTA’s recent survey, who was given the opportunity to fill that out? I am positive that not all the people impacted were given the opportunity to fill out that survey. UGH closure impacts more than just the folks in that neighborhood.

    It’s laughable how The SF Bike Coalition’s DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS pretends to be so offended by the accusation she has an agenda. If you are someone who plays a major role within the Bike Coalition, you need to state that fact because it is in direct relation to the issue being discussed, makes no difference whether or not your letter is on “behalf” of them or not. Not stating your role with the group leading the opposition is totally dishonest. Nothing “creepy” about googling a name in order to find out who you’re dealing with.

    Lastly, stop minimizing the impact of 10,000+ cars daily by referring to those impacted as a “handful of (vocal) individuals”. The survey & your assessment of the situation is inaccurate & dishonest.


  5. What’s offensive is Janelle Wong’s insistence that her Bicycle Coalition bias doesn’t exist when it is on obvious display in her every letter and this one in particular. This bush league gaslighting would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous for families that live from Lincoln to Sloat and the LGH to 45th or so.

    I urge the Review to append “Director of Operations, Bicycle Coalition” to her future nonsense for needed context to readers who may not be familiar with her anti-family stance.


  6. Dear Janelle,

    I don’t believe it was Mr. Perkins who recognized your name from SFBC, but many other people who recognized your name. And, to say that you can respond objectively while working as Director of Operations is an outright fallacy. After all, the organization you work for serves to influence elections for the benefit of the coalition (https://sfbcmomentum.org/why-i-dont-support-sfbc-board-recommendation-of-board-candidates) and backed Gordon Mar in 2018.

    Additionally, MANY residents in the Sunset did not even know about the poorly distributed D4 mobility study. I would LOVE to see the survey go out again, and then let’s take a look at the results. People are catching on; they are tired of the lies, the traffic, bottlenecks, running stop signs, unsafe streets, etc. etc. etc.

    If you decide to move down to the area where you would actually be affected by this closure, then you voice may carry more weight. But as someone who is in Operations for SFBC and lives in Inner Parkside, and is pushing for closing a major artery in and out of SF, used by 18,000 residents PER DAY? Sorry, not happening.


  7. ” my work in operations for the Coalition means I have an “agenda” is offensive.”

    By definition anything you say regarding automobiles should be automatically dismissed, as the coalitions entire reason for existence is to promote bicycle “awareness”. Sorry, but I’m not riding a bike from Outer Richmond to Silicon Valley every week – it’s more practical to drive my electric car (or was) down Great Highway.

    Also, your argument about erosion is totally false! The only part of the Great Highway that is eroding away is SOUTH OF Sloat. The closure of Great Highway in the past from Sloat to Lincoln has been to remove sand dunes, which quite ironically has the opposite effect of “eroding” the road away.


    • Actually, the erosion of UGH south of Sloat has been stopped by the placement of the rock resentment in 2010. Now the City has caved to the demand by the Coastal Commission to remove the rocks for purely aesthetic reasons. They didn’t have to do this, but now they are designing a low seawall that will cost more than $100 million so the rocks can be removed without damaging the sewer pipe that runs under the UGH. If they go ahead and remove those rocks the sand on the beach will be quickly eroded away and the bluff that the Treatment Plant sits on will be vulnerable to erosion by the winter storm waves.


  8. There’s a beautiful beach to walk on. There’s also 4 foot pathway to walk on.
    London Bree give our road back to the working people of San Francisco.
    Remove the slow streets the core concept is not needed anymore people can pass each other on the sidewalk and still be 6 feet away from each other.


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