City Hall

City Hall: Gordon Mar

Finding Common Ground

By Supervisor Gordon Mar

As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re stepping into a neighborhood, City and world that look different. The pandemic has revealed and exacerbated long-standing inequities, forced us all to adapt to survive, and perhaps forever shifted our understanding of what’s essential, what’s possible, and how deeply our health and wellness are connected to our neighbors. 

I recently wrapped up some exhausting and productive weeks of work with my Budget Committee colleagues, with the lessons and needs the pandemic has revealed at the front of our minds as we worked to finalize our City’s budget. We’ve put together a historic $121 million spending plan that builds on top of the commitments Mayor Breed has made and provides critical community investments for a strong and equitable recovery.

These investments include new programs, services, and funding for some of our biggest priorities, including public safety, housing, education, rent relief, climate justice, supporting small businesses, seniors, and our most vulnerable communities and neighbors. We also secured historic investments for the Sunset District, including for after-school programs, Sunset Boulevard, affordable housing, the arts, and many more, and we’re excited to share more details and news about these budget victories in the weeks to come. 

Some changes the pandemic brought, like Shared Spaces, have brought new life to our commercial corridors, and should stay – with adaptations to make them workable long-term. Other changes, like the loss of crucial Muni lines, have been devastating, and should be restored as soon as possible. 

And some changes, like the temporary transformation of the Upper Great Highway, have been deeply divisive. As the end of the pandemic grows nearer, we as a City must shift our work from these temporary, reactive measures to proactive ones. Over the next few months, the SFMTA and Recreation and Parks Department will be preparing a proposal or proposals for the next phase of the Great Highway. I believe there’s room for compromise and we can all find common ground on a debate that has deeply divided our neighborhood. Alongside Supervisors Connie Chan and Myrna Melgar, I am pushing City departments for a transparent, inclusive, and equitable public process in designing and deciding the next phase of this street.

The vision of a waterfront promenade and a managed retreat from the coastline is the future, but we live in the present. While I believe it’s possible to make the changes necessary to our street network to properly manage traffic flow with the Great Highway fully closed, this work would take years, and it’s unreasonable to continue a full closure beyond the emergency period without taking the long-term steps – including real investments in westside transit service, adding signal lights along Lincoln Way west of Sunset Boulevard, and redesigning the intersection at Sloat and Skyline boulevards – needed to make it successful.

In the meantime, I believe compromise on the post-pandemic use of the Great Highway is the right road forward. We can balance the benefits of this unique open space with the real needs for safe and efficient vehicle traffic flow through a partial reopening of the road to vehicles, either part of the time, or on part of the road. 

This is what I’m asking City departments for, and that is the path forward I support. This road belongs to the public and the public should have a clear voice in deciding how it’s best used. So I am also asking MTA and Recreation and Parks to do additional multilingual outreach to impacted communities and neighborhoods, a commitment to ongoing monitoring of safety, traffic, transit service, and parking impacts, comprehensive traffic analysis of the west side of the City, an equity analysis of the use of the Great Highway before and after its closure by race and income, and clear metrics to evaluate the success or failure of a pilot project including thresholds that would call for immediate reevaluation, redesign, or reconfiguration of the pilot. 

And as we look forward to deciding the next phase of the Great Highway, I hope we can also look at one another as neighbors and community members with a shared stake in this street, and also a shared stake in seeing and hearing one another, with all our diversity of opinions, needs, desires and experiences. We can disagree, and do it with compassion and respect, and emerge from this deeply challenging year knowing we have far more in common than what divides us, whether it’s a highway or a walkway. 

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

14 replies »

    • Agree. Open it now. There is already a sidewalk and a side street and a beach for non-motor vehicles. If there is any closure it should start where the road is scheduled to be closed for major construction. The highway that connects Marin to San Mateo must remain open for motor vehicles.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It sounds like you’re still waffling Mr. Mar. You’re acknowledging that it can’t be kept closed until these improvements are made and studies completed. I hope you’re planning for a full reopening while the City addresses these problems, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re going to do. It can’t even be kept closed on the weekends, because the traffic WILL be coming in the fall once tourists start to return, the weather gets nicer, everyone wants to drive along the coast. It’s been that way every fall for all of the 53+ years I have lived here. Meanwhile, construction on 19th Ave will be ongoing for at least the next 2 years. This wasn’t a bad experiment during this pandemic, but I think you’ve made it clear, that the City if not ready for this yet so it should be fully opened NOW!

    Liked by 3 people

    • The only reasonable thing to do is to put everything back thebway it was before yall took advantage of a health pandemic.

      DO THE RIGHT THING. REATORE THE HIWAY

      Like

  2. Hi Gordon, sorry that you feel it is too politically risky to support a walkway on the beach. I think you are miscalculating the voice of a few, such as Jim here, and hiding under language such as “deeply divisive” (your words) even though surveys from your own residents paint a different picture of support for more car free spaces.

    When our children grow older and the ocean continues to climb, we can recognize our place in history as we fought for (checks notes) ensuring a private motor vehicle highway continues to be on the beach.

    Kieran

    Like

  3. “The vision of a waterfront promenade and a managed retreat from the coastline is the future, but we live in the present.” In the present I live in, we are facing horrific wildfires and drought (the past two years have been worse than the entire century before), along with rising sea levels and erosion that have forced the Great Highway to be closed around a month every year. These are not “future” issues, but it sounds like Supervisor Mar is only listening to a small group of car-only climate denialists who refuse to make small changes, like driving a different route, to help our community become more resilient.

    Instead, we will face worsening disasters and an even more “divisive” fight after Mar is out of office. Good luck to all those who prefer to bury their heads (and roads) in the sand than become more sustainable now; our elected officials aren’t going to bail you out when your house is on fire or under water.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Supervisor Mar. You are correct that a compromise is the best solution. I am waiting to see what the proposed compromise is. I favor closing it on weekends and holidays and leaving it open on weekdays.

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  5. Terribly disappointed to hear this. The GH is enjoyed and used by so many and the vision for this public space to be better used was so amazing. As senior citizens without a car, we USE this car-free place as part of our safe bike travel from the Richmond to south areas of the city. NextDoor is not the whole city nor does it represent the whole of your constituencies. In the context of our climate emergency, we cannot keep capitulating to those unable or unwilling to decenter car culture. We ALL have to support change that makes it easier to do without one–NOW, not someday in the future we are burning.

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  6. Your statement that Gordon Mar is only listening to a “small group of car-only climate denialists” is absolutely ridiculous. The petition at OpentheGreatHighway.com has been signed by almost 10,500 (and growing) people who used the highway on a regular basis or are currently fed up with the traffic being re-directed through their neighborhoods. If you want to see a “small group,” however, check out how many people are actually using the highway for their leisure since it’s been closed… like the “slow streets,” it sits virtually empty all day. Closing the highway to cars for climate control concerns is also absurd… it just moves the same 18,000-20,000 vehicles who drove it daily to another area of the city and accomplishes nothing.

    Automobiles exist in every metropolitan area in the U.S., and your utopian fantasy of getting rid of them because you might have a shiny new bicycle or have decided for all of us that we should be riding them too isn’t going to make them just disappear. All the histrionics about houses on fire or being underwater won’t do that either.

    The Great Highway should never have been allowed to be closed in the fraudulent and unethical manner it was in the first place, and I agree it should be re-opened NOW. Despite Mr. Mar’s comments above, the highway still remains closed. How much longer is he going to continue to ride the fence?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. No, Supervisor Mar. No compromise. Open the Great Highway 24/7. It was taken from motorists and their passengers over a year ago, and it’s time to return it. The disadvantages of the closure are numerous. And the only disadvantage to reopening it is that a few people won’t get to walk or bike in the middle of a 4-lane road. Closing this thoroughfare was Highway Robbery. I call it The Great Heist. It should be returned to the users for whom it was intended.

    Like

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