letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Help Those With Disabilities – End Car Ban in GG Park


Dear Mayor Breed, Board President Walton, Supervisors, Director Ginsburg, Director Tumlin, Director Bohn, staff members and others:

For the second year in a row, banning cars from (the eastern part of) JFK Drive made it impossible for many people with mobility disabilities, seniors, those who live far from Golden Gate Park and others to see the Winter Lights shows.  In 2020 there was Entwined, which “transformed [Peacock Meadow] into an enchanted forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light.”  This past December the Winter Lights event was larger, featuring, in addition to Entwined, “Photosynthesis by Illuminate on the Conservatory of Flowers, special ambient lighting among trees and ferns by the SF Park Alliance and the activation of the Music Concourse.”

For many people with mobility disabilities, including me (I use a power wheelchair full-time), the only way to see these light shows is by car.  I live a couple of blocks from Golden Gate Park and my wheelchair can go long distances, but because of my muscular dystrophy I don’t do well in cold weather and it just isn’t feasible or healthy for me to roll there at night.  For others with mobility disabilities who don’t live nearby, for those who walk with difficulty and precariously, for those who cannot walk far and for others similarly situated, it’s literally impossible to get there, and to view the light shows, without a car.  Winter evenings and nights are cold and often windy, and this past December – fortunately – there was a lot of rain.  Many of us need the shelter of being in a car.  And many, including women alone, don’t feel safe walking in the park after dark; being in a car is safer.

Yet the only solution Rec and Park proffers is the shuttle.  But it isn’t a solution.  Does RPD really expect people with mobility disabilities, seniors, families with small children, and women alone to wait in the cold, darkness, wind and rain for a shuttle?  To stand because there are no benches at the stops?  To wait multiple times in order to go from one display to another?  To risk the shuttle being full of able-bodied people (for whom it may be workable), and being passed up?  To risk missing the last shuttle?  To risk the wheelchair lift (assuming every shuttle has one) malfunctioning?

Moreover, the shuttle operates only on weekends and holidays, and only until 8 PM.

It may well be that the shuttle runs with many empty seats, especially at night.  RPD might misinterpret this as a lack of interest by people with mobility disabilities in viewing the Winter Lights shows, or, during the day, a lack of interest in visiting the park entirely, when actually it’s due to the fact that the shuttle is not a real solution.

On Nov. 17, 2021, I filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice about discrimination against disabled people by the City and County of San Francisco due to the closure of JFK Drive to cars.  It was assigned report number 116626-RTG.    Others have filed similar complaints.

Please act according to the principles you profess.  It’s time to end the ban.

Howard Chabner

1 reply »

  1. Well stated! Who are these thoughtless, selfish, entitled people making our City so inaccessible? It’s dangerous any time of day or night for a woman walking alone in the park!


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