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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: City Hall