letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Is Closing the UGH Permanently a Foregone Conclusion?

Editor:

Thank you for sharing this letter:

Dear Commissioners,

I am in the process of deciding whether or not to attend the meeting on the future of the Upper Great Highway (UGH) scheduled for June 10, or keep the dentist appointment I have scheduled for that same day. So far, the dentist appointment is sounding more and more appealing.

I simply can’t see any benefit to attending the meeting and waiting for two hours on hold in order to talk for one minute about my objections to a permanent closure of the UGH. I believe the future of the UGH has already been decided, and that it will soon be known by the name already given to it on the Rec. and Park website: “The Great Walkway.”.

I must admit, I was encouraged to learn that MTA finally decided to collect some fresh data on both the usage of the Upper Great Highway, and the impact the closure of the UGH has had on neighborhood traffic, rather than relying on data that is more than a year old. However, I became skeptical when I learned of the location of the counters. When I saw for myself the placement of the counters, chicanery was the first word that came to mind. How clever of you to place counters on La Playa, 48th Avenue and 47th Avenue between Lincoln and Irving when you know that cars are prohibited from making a right turn off of Lincoln onto any of the aforementioned streets. However, at 46th Avenue, where cars are permitted to turn right, there is not a counter in sight – from Lincoln all the way down to Sloat. And based on my personal observations and the observations of numerous others, the traffic on 46th has been heavy and non-stop since the diversion began. In other words, that’s where the numbers are.

I won’t even bother discussing counters on the south side, except to say there are no counters where the traffic has been diverted: 45th Avenue. Chicanery seems to be the name of the game on the southside as well. I’m not sure whether I am more insulted, more offended or more furious that you think so little of residents of the Outer Sunset and Outer Parkside as to believe we aren’t intelligent or observant enough to figure out that this “new data” is clearly and unabashedly skewed in favor of a permanent closure. It is astounding how little regard you show for those of us who pay your salaries.

Why does MTA even bother to pretend our opinions have any influence on your decisions? You obviously worked with no non-profit organizations other than the Bicycle Coalition in making your decision to keep the UGH closed permanently. You ignored the two groups of people who are the most unlikely to be able to use a bike on a regular basis (if at all) and are, therefore, most reliant on cars: seniors and those with disabilities. Seniors currently make up 36% of San Francisco’s population, and that number is growing rapidly. (Conversely, those who ride bikes on a regular basis make up around 7% of the population.) According to the San Francisco Human Service Agency, “…One in ten San Franciscans…reports a disability. Almost half of the people with disabilities are under age 65.” Yet no organization that represents seniors or people with disabilities was consulted about the closure. (I am a former employee of Senior & Disability Action, and I had lunch with two of my former co-workers yesterday who had heard nothing about this, nor have any of the other organizations with whom they work). 

Additionally, you have not worked with anyone representing Concerned Residents of the Sunset and there is no indication that you worked with those in the Richmond District who are most impacted by the closure of the Upper Great Highway. I know for a fact that you have not consulted with anyone from the Open the Great Highway Facebook group that has been actively recording daily usage of the UGH by way of photographs taken by different people at different times at different locations over course of the last several months.

You have provided nothing to show that you consulted any groups who represent the working people of San Francisco who need the UGH for purposes of commuting to and from work. There is no indication that you discussed this with anyone from the San Mateo County peninsula or the North Bay, even though there are thousands from those regions who rely on the UGH for commuting as well. You have not consulted with veterans who use the UGH as the easiest route to the VA. You have not consulted with any group representing motorists in general. If you had, you would have been forced to conclude that re-opening the UGH to cars serves a greater purpose and a greater good than a permanent closure. Instead, you have simply decided the Upper Great Highway is now The Great Walkway, slap hands, done deal, and the 7% of those on bikes count more than seniors, more than those with disabilities, and more than any of the other people mentioned above (i.e., the vast majority of the population).

In writing this, I have come to the conclusion that the meeting will be nothing more than a sham. You have wasted hundreds of thousands of tax-payer’s dollars in what ultimately amounts to fraud. Pretending to care about our opinions is your pathetic but worthless attempt to make us think we matter. As a result, I can think of nothing more to say to you than this: Shame on you.

Sincerely,

Alyse Ceirante, Outer Parkside

13 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for speaking this truth as so many of have been tirelessly trying to get anyone to listen to reason. I myself have written to Gordon Mar’s office at least 8 times on this issue and. heard back with ONE thank you for your concern. I attended the “town hall meetings” where Gordon Mar left his staff to field our comments that we still have yet to see published. I have emailed the SFMTA, London Breed and numerous council persons and agencies so many times I cannot fully comprehend the time and energy I have used. And for what? Words have fallen on deaf ears. We are sick of the effort and tired of the fight that seems to have been decided by a coalition of bike riders. I am sick of driving on the LGH and the outer avenues through stop signs and pedestrians all the while the UGH is EMPTY of anyone. If there was even talks of a compromise to open the road Monday -Friday at least those of us having to commute would be able to get to and from work in a safe and timely manner. Thank you for writing this, thank you for getting it published and thank you for being another voice of reason in what is now a city owned by those whose interests are their own.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The UGH must be reopened. I am a senior with disabilities and live in the Sunset District. Our Veterans need it opened to get to the VA. Neither the Richmond nor the Sunset district citizens can get across GGP due to the road closures there. Other Streets that need to reopen are Kirkham and Ortega and probably more. They are the routes needed for First responders, fire department, and any patient needing to get to UCSF-ER. Open now. We are two districts that have a heavy turnout at the voting poles.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is how government works at all levels now.

    Those government servants get elected and then they have carte blanche (i.e., complete freedom to act as one wishes or thinks best). A very good recent example of this is the San Francisco Board of Education and the renaming of public schools for “good cause,” including Abraham Lincoln High School and Washington High School.

    It is only at election time that the candidates pretend to listen to you. You can see and talk to them personally at the Clement Street Farmers’ Market, for instance. But once elected, you can only talk to staff – the elected government public servants are far too busy

    By the way, you did a very good analysis of the problem in your posting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I applaud Alyse for representing what so many of us are feeling. Our needs and requests are not being heard, or they are being heard and ignored because so many people oppose this closure. Our neighborhoods are fragmented, our community is broken. Two years is a long time, we’ve already had the closure for almost a year and a half. Wasn’t that the “pilot program?”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is an accurate description of the feelings of so many of us who live close to the highway and are impacted 24/7 by the overwhelming noise and emissions from the extra 570,000 vehicles per month that used to travel through SF at the far edge of town instead of at our front doors on our 100% residential streets running parallel to the highway. It looks very much like RPD has a lot to hide since they do not respond to public requests for info, and conduct biased studies as opposed to independent ones with an agenda to keep the highway permanently closed. Traffic counters are placed away from the busiest streets, people counters do not produce accurate numbers of those using it, and there’s a refusal to allow inspection of devices, documents and records. It’s easy to feel there has been a decision made long in advance of public meetings. The majority of residents/voters with their outcry to reopen the temporarily closed highway are not being heard or considered. I agree with you, Alyse. Thank you for speaking out for so many.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is one of the biggest scams I’ve seen the City pull on its people in the 46 years I’ve lived here. The highway was closed with a complete lack of transparency and no attempt whatsoever was made to consider the thousands of people who drive it on a daily basis; the most shameful thing about it is they used the guise of the pandemic to shut it down. I agree with Mr. Lockmiller above that this is how SF government works now… it’s not about what the majority of those of us who live here want, but a few city officials who decide to adapt San Francisco to whatever (often eccentric) vision they have. It’s also yet another move by RPD, MTA and the Bicycle Coalition to monopolize the city’s streets and continue their war against anyone who drives a car in San Francisco. Re-open the Great Highway now.

    Like

  7. I agree with all above. This selfish and greedy attempt by the bike coalition and others to have a much-needed highway for their sparse and sporadic use solely for themselves is a disgrace. 3 districts are now living with unsafe congested streets, and greenhouse gasses have increased greatly due to the poor commuters having to drive greater distances to get around. Yes indeed, shame on you, bike coalition, abetted by the self serving Rec and Park, SFCTA and the SFMTA. A disgrace. Many thousands suffer and are in more danger than ever before, thanks to you.

    Like

  8. This is a brilliant and accurate representation of what is going on. I am a former longtime Richmond and Sunset resident who now lives in Pacifica. I listened to most of the meeting yesterday and was appalled at the biased presentation. In listening to the presenters, I thought do any of them actually live on the west side? Have any of them tried driving these neighborhoods at commute times? And who has time between 1 and 4 to sit on these meetings online? Working people who are essential workers are not participating in a meeting like this. There was no discussion of the major construction on 19th Avenue until a caller brought it up. I don’t understand how people think small businesses are going to be supported by people outside of SF if it is a nightmare getting there.

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  9. After reading this letter I went to the area myself to look for counters – I only saw one, on 47th Avenue, between Lincoln and Irving, and that street is closed to southbound traffic coming from Lincoln. 46th Avenue, which is no doubt experiencing tremendous increase in traffic, had NOTHING. This is shameful.

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  10. The Bike Coalition is a self serving arrogant group of elite rich people who only care about themselves. I have lived and worked in the Sunset for well over 30 years. I am shocked and appalled that the rights of residents of the Sunset are being punished by this high handed group of elitists and the terrible decisions being made by the MTA. Seniors, handicapped and disabled people are being shafted by the MTA and the Bikers Coalition. This is a shame and a disgrace. OPEN THE GREAT HIGHWAY!

    Like

  11. Improperly counted traffic impacts is covered under CEQA. Gonna have to do what people do for everything and file a challenge alleging that the VTM measurement for the project was improper.

    Like

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