Commentary

Commentary: Paul Kozakiewicz

Ginsburg’s Power Grab

By Paul Kozakiewicz

Wow, I’ve never seen the residents of the Sunset District so fired up as they are over the continuing closure of the Upper Great Highway.

As former SF Police Department Captain Richard Corriea states in his commentary this month, one unelected city official made this decision.

Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department, issued directive 21-002 on Aug. 15, 2021, approving the closure of the Upper Great Highway due to the pandemic. That directive references his earlier approval of the closure in March of 2021, but the Rec. and Park Department has no such record ordering the closure. (Ginsburg also closed the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park by directive, essentially creating a wall between the Richmond and Sunset districts, but that’s a topic of another column.) 

Ginsburg’s action to close the Upper Great Highway to only some people (drivers), and not all people, could be a gross overreach of his authority. He has the power to close roads in an emergency, but not just to benefit a special class of people, like just motorists. 

As well, his “compromise” to close the road on some days, and leave it open others, also appears to be an overreach. And, closing the roadway at noon on Fridays makes absolutely no sense at all as people still have to get home. 

The fact that one man could negatively impact every resident on the west side by simply declaring so is an insult to good governance and erodes the public’s trust in government.

District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar, who reportedly approved of the road closure for the pandemic emergency, is straddling a fine line. He is up for reelection next year and risks being a one-term supervisor unless he gets behind a majority of his constituents and calls for the full opening of the Upper Great Highway for everyone – every day, 24-hours-a-day.  

There are procedures for closing a major highway, and that includes an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which will tell us the environmental effects of such a move, including how much more pollution would be caused by rerouting up to 20,000 vehicles a day through stop-and-go traffic through our neighborhood. That’s why the SF Sierra Club has called for an EIR before the road is closed, not afterward. 

An EIR would show how the closure affects the police and fire departments’ response times to emergencies in the district. It would also look at the efficacy of using alternative routes. 

But, some people don’t respect the law, or the proper way of creating change. Ginsburg’s directives are nothing less than a power grab for a small, vocal minority. 

In a recent development, a small group of bicyclists has been obstructing the flow of traffic on the roadway and trapping thousands of westside residents who are simply trying to go about their business. This is leading to a very dangerous situation for frustrated motorists and residents – recently a truck driving through the residential neighborhood at 46th Avenue and Taraval Street tore down numerous overhead wires. 

Assisting this illegal action is the Taraval Police Station, which has been giving the bicyclists a police escort for their protests. This is ridiculous and takes police vehicles and officers out of service for hours. During a recent protest, there were about a dozen bicyclists with a police escort illegally holding hundreds of law-abiding citizens hostage, people who are simply trying to move about the district. 

Bicyclists have the right to use any roadway they wish but, according to the motor vehicle code, bicycles have to pull over and let traffic pass when more than five vehicles are stacked up behind them. It is not right that Taraval police officers, under the command of Taraval Police Station Capt. Nicholas Rainsford, is being used to assist and abet the blatant breaking of the law. 

I’ve been an editor of the Sunset Beacon for more than 30 years, and I’ve never heard anyone suggest closing the Upper Great Highway. There has always been room on the roadway for everyone, with bike lanes, a walking trail, a long seawall and, of course, Ocean Beach. 

Due to Ginsburg’s power grab, a group of irate Sunset residents is organizing and raising money to sue the City to reopen the Upper Great Highway. For more information or to make a donation, go to openthegreathighway.com. I wish them luck. 

To express your views on the subject, contact Ginsburg and Mar and tell them what you think of the Upper Great Highway road closure. Now that we are reopening our city, they need to hear from the people who are suffering the consequences of the general manager’s punitive actions.

To contact Ginsburg, call (415) 831-2701 or email phil.ginsburg@sfgov.org. For general comments about Rec. and Park Department road closures, go to  RPDinfo@sfgov.org. Mar can be reached at (415) 554-7460 or by email at marstaff@sfgov.org. To communicate with Rainsford, call (415) 759-3100 or email nicholas.rainsford@sfgov.org. 

It’s time for the people of the Sunset to be heard. Tell Ginsburg and Mar to demand the opening of the Upper Great Highway to everyone, every day – now! 

Paul Kozakiewicz is founder of the Richmond Review newspaper (1988) and co-founder of the Sunset Beacon newspaper (1991). 

11 replies »

    • Good god, man. Talk about irony! It’s your lot that want exclusive use of the Great HIGHWAY – talk about entitled. It was gifted to you and your kind, temporarily, as a way to encourage social distancing. Now that SD is no longer really needed, keeping it closed is no longer required.

      Also, you spew the same stupid phrase on every post; learn some new words.

      Like

  1. Thank you for shining a light on this probably illegal land grab by Phil Ginsburg–an unelected official who has used the cover of a global catastrophe issue a Directive to divert almost 20,000 drivers from the safest big artery in San Francisco into our neighborhoods or onto arteries known for their high accident rates, all for the sake of a vocal minority that he favors, maybe some new concession fees, and maybe more pay-for-play activity in the future from the Park Alliance. Reducing safety and increasing pollution (longer drives) is not in the broader public interest.

    Even worse, this story of Ginsburg’s power grab has been buried by the mainstream media, with the help of other public officials. We were told for months that this was part of an Emergency Order as part of he pandemic response . It’s just the head Park Ranger for the city getting a little too full of himself as often happens with petty officials. The Board of Supervisors needs to re-write the ordinance that Ginsburg is perverting for his land grab and guarantee that decisions about major street closures is a real public process with elected officials in charge. If that doesn’t work, then let’s have a voter initiative.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Totally agree with this commentary. Thank you so much. More revelations to come. Just like the SFMTA just decided to restore as much bus service to prepandemic levels before making major changes (the first of three options), all closed roads should return to pre-pandemic usage. If major changes are proposed, THEN they can be considered through open decision making processes with thoughtful studies on unintended consequences. This should be done “before the horse leaves the barn” and not afterward. No more staff decisions behind closed doors and the public only gets to give feedback to something that’s already a fait accompli like the closure of the Great Highway, JFK, and slow streets.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Excuse me. Please leave me out of this screed. I have lived here since the age of 5 and I am doing everything i can to ensure The Great Walkway becomes a permanent place in San Francisco. It is long past the time when The Entitled can yell, scream because they are inconvenienced. Every motorist in San Francisco knows there are plenty of option other than The Great Walkway. But like spoiled children who are having their allowance cut back The Entitled will browbeat and bully until the parent gives in. It’s not gonna happen this time. Deal with It.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said! This damaging and illegal order needs to be Rescinded ASAP! The Richmond District suffers the most, being Walled Off -for 30 Blocks- from the Park. Seniors and the Disabled can’t visit their Park, or sit on their favorite bench. Visitors from out of town can’t even figure out how to Enter the Park. And the Museum’s attendance is Down 50%. Reopen JFK Drive NOW!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Get real. Walled off? Where are we? East Berlin circa 1963. These are the lame protestations which The Entitled continue to put down on the road. If some of these car addicted would get out of their vehicle and get some exercise on car free JFK Drive this whiny kvetching would grind to a halt

      Like

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