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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com. To communicate with Rainsford, call (415) 759-3100 or email firstname.lastname@example.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).