By Thomas K. Pendergast
A permanently car-free JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park moved closer to reality after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to create a “beach to bay” car-free connection across the City.
Over objections by critics from the disabled community, many of whom see this as coming at their expense in terms of access, the Board unanimously voted to support extending the existing road closures in Golden Gate Park and continuing the banning of cars from using MLK Drive, starting at La Playa Street, to Middle Drive West, then to Overlook Drive and connecting at JFK Drive and Transverse Drive through to Kezar Drive.
The Board also wants the SFMTA and Rec. and Park to collect data on vehicle travel through Golden Gate Park in north-south directions, establish metrics in data collection for the purpose of ensuring bicycle and pedestrian safety; to implement strategies identified in the Golden Gate Park Sustainable Travel Study; to provide diverse and affordable transit options, including a Golden Gate Park shuttle that connects with nearby public transit; restoration of the 21-Hayes bus line, which provides the Western Addition and other city residents with a direct connection to Golden Gate Park; to implement free parking for the first four hours in the Music Concourse garage for San Francisco residents in ZIP codes that are historically low-income, underserved residents (including 94124, 94112, 94108, 94134, and 94133), or by proof of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) or Medi-Cal card; to add additional ADA parking and provide free parking for the first four hours in the Music Concourse garage for vehicles with a Disabled Person Placard, as seniors and people with disabilities may experience more economic hardships; to develop options for considering managed access at Eighth and Fulton to allow for vehicles actively transporting seniors, people with disabilities and visitors with limited mobility.
“This debate has long since preceded all of us here,” District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan told the Board. “Starting in 1969 the eastern half of JFK was closed to cars every Sunday. And in 1998 the Golden Gate Master Plan was adopted.”
That same year, Proposition J passed, which established the Concourse Authority to oversee the construction of the garage under the Music Concourse.
“Today, I also see (the underground garage) as a key element to problem solving some of the issues that we face on JFK,” Chan said. “Once the pandemic (hit) JFK was closed to cars 24/7 and additional roads west of Transverse Drive were closed to cars, allowing for a car-free stretch from east to west in the park.”
But not everyone is happy with the idea. During public comment Linda Chapman expressed her concerns about the plan.
“Speaking for the interests of people who tend to be forgotten in these matters – people with children, people with disabilities, people who are getting old – why do the people who are advocates for bicycles and skating and walking feel that they should have exclusive access to the part of the park that has the institutions … everything from the museums to the children’s playground?” Chapman said. “That’s the end of the park that should be open to everybody and cars if they need them…. I am the daughter of a polio survivor. I would never have gotten to the children’s playground if there had not been cars.”
Associate director of Special and Capital Projects at the de Young Museum, Lucia Coronel, also testified on behalf of the disabled community, which includes herself.
“I am an individual that is hoping to have a better quality of life despite my health challenges, but I’m also hoping to shed light on what other people with disabilities may experience,” Coronel said. “I became permanently disabled about three years ago due to illness, treatments and side effects from my treatments. Even though I have been ill for 12 years, I was able to enjoy biking, hiking and other physical activities during most of my life that I now see as privileges that I cannot enjoy anymore….
“On top of all the hardships that people with disabilities have to endure, if the closure remains, I wonder why would the City make it so hard for some of its most vulnerable San Francisco and Bay Area populations to enjoy our major institutions that are supposed to help with our quality of life…. I contest the choice of the JFK location of closure.”
At the meeting, some people suggested that the de Young Museum should lower its parking rates to make it easier for lower-income people to park in the garage below the museum. But, this is more complicated that it might seem.
The de Young Museum does not own the parking lot underneath it. It belongs to the Music Concourse Community Partnership (MCCP), and they have a $24 million bond debt still outstanding to pay for it. Further complicating things, the land underneath the garage is owned by the City, which leases the land to the MCCP.
When the bond debt is paid, the garage will be transferred to the City, according to Executive Director Jan Berckefeldt of the MCCP. Rates are approved in a process that involves the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority, the SF Recreation and Park Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and then finally the mayor.
District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, however, supports the resolution.
“Our city is far too car-centric in many ways,” Preston said. “We’re in a climate crisis. We’re in a street safety crisis. I think we need to act boldly to address the threats of climate change and unsafe streets.”
Categories: Golden Gate Park