Commentary: Michael Durand

A Marketplace of Ideas

Attentive readers may have noticed that I don’t write editorials. I’ll contribute a commentary from time to time, but I generally don’t share my opinions.

To me, my opinion is irrelevant. I don’t think my way of looking at issues is more valuable than anyone else’s simply because I publish two community newspapers.

I see my job as providing a platform for the community to learn and to share their perspectives. We run letters to the editor and commentaries as much as we can. 

I am fascinated by the fact that different people can see the exact set of facts and draw completely opposite opinions. There are those who think Donald Trump was the worst president in the history of the United States, and there are others who think he was (some think he still is) the greatest. 

Not quite as dramatic an example, but I get feedback fairly often about one of our regular columnists, Quentin L. Kopp. Some are puzzled that we can give him a platform for his observations, while others sing his praises. He certainly speaks for a segment of our community and I think it’s important to hear all sides of each issue.

A very polarizing issue before us today demonstrates the same dichotomy. On one side, closing the Upper Great Highway to cars is one of the greatest byproducts of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Creating a public space where people can get exercise while remaining socially distant to decrease the possibility of spreading the virus was a step in the right direction. The order to close the highway to cars created a new public park, a “Great Walkway” instead of the Great Highway, and allowed people to walk, ride bikes (and teach their kids how to ride bikes), roller skate and recreate where cars used to be. Bonus: an ocean view! Many people believe this is the way it should stay forever. 

Other people feel exactly the opposite. Now that San Franciscans have done such a great job of getting vaccinated and wearing masks that we are slowly emerging from pandemic isolation, they believe it’s time to reopen the Upper Great Highway to cars again. For the most part, people have gone back to their jobs and need to commute to their offices. To them, having the Upper Great Highway closed presents a tangle of traffic through Golden Gate Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Where they once were able to glide down the highway along the beach – keeping a smooth pace, thanks to the timed lights and no intersections – they now need to deal with stop signs at just about every intersection, a clogged 19th Avenue (undergoing construction) and struggle in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a beautiful park where they think the walkers and bike riders could recreate instead of on the roadway.

We have two strong opinion pieces on the subject in this month’s newspaper. They mostly take issue with the way in which the roadway was closed. I’ll let them tell their side of the story about how SF Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg may have overstepped his authority by unilaterally closing the roadway. 

We published the opinion piece by Richard Corriea, former police captain assigned to the Richmond Station and a fourth-generation San Franciscan, in the Richmond Review newspaper and on our shared website, It attracted a lot of responses, both supportive and condemning. It is also published in this issue of the Sunset Beacon.

  We are also publishing a piece by Paul Kozakiewicz that takes aim at Ginsburg.

Kozakiewicz was the founder of the Richmond Review (34 years ago) and co-founder of the Sunset Beacon (30 years ago) and former publisher and editor-in-chief of the papers. He still helps edit the issues every month.

 I attempted to contact Ginsburg to offer him space to tell his side of the story. Emails to him and to his department went unanswered. Phone calls to the department left me in an endless loop of automated choices, none of which resulted in a return call from the department.

News writer Thomas K. Pendergast has done a good job on the story in this issue about the “slow ride” bicyclists protest on the Upper Great Highway, getting opinions from both sides of the issue.

While we don’t always have space to publish letters to the editor in every issue, we do post them all on our website. We average 20,000 views per month. To find letters, commentaries and other interesting content that is not published in the paper, go to

A quick word about comments: We try hard not to censor people who leave comments, but we don’t approve cheap shots, name-calling, obscenity and other useless or offensive entries. We invite and welcome differing opinions, but character bashing and snide remarks don’t move the conversation forward, so we don’t allow them on our site. 

That being said, please feel free to share your thoughts with us. Please keep letters brief and to the point. If you have an idea for a commentary, let me know. Send me an email and we can discuss your ideas. 

Phil Ginsburg, if you hear about this commentary, please know that our community would love to hear your side of the story about the closure of the Upper Great Highway. We believe in openness, transparency and the power of communication. Our readers await your words.

Michael Durand is the editor and publisher of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers and the website. He can be reached at and P.O. Box 16035, SF, CA 94116.

5 replies »

  1. Thank you for your comments. I have sent emails too Phil Ginsburg also, about 2 dozen in the last year. I have never received a single reply from him. He does not hear the public except the Bike Coalition, is acting as if RPD is his own fiefdom, and plans to commercialize a beautiful rugged, natural, unspoiled GH section of Ocean Beach with the help of the Park Alliance. There are now FOOD TRUCKS messing up the roadway on weekends when supposedly no vehicles are allowed, and he will continue no doubt with other commercial vendors and contractors to completely despoil this very special and beautiful place, making it into Coney Island West. The BOS must remove him from control over this needed highway by removing jurisdiction of GH from RPD and placing it with SFMTA, which would also be problematic since some employees have colluded with RPD and the Bike Coalition, but it would be better than Phl Ginsburg and RPD doing what they want to GH without any due process or oversight from anybody, including the mayor.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The Richmond Driver Review and Subset Motorist Beacon have consistently posted the opinions in line with the sentiments of the worst Open The Great Highway zealots. Selfish motorists who resort to harassment, bullying name calling and vandalism when the don’t get their way.

    Liked by 1 person

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