Deception and Treachery
By Paul Kozakiewicz
The plot thickens as those with few ethical standards and a lack of a moral compass seize the reins of government to exploit and undermine the democratic process. Oh, and there’s treachery too.
When the pandemic hit more than two years ago, SF Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg closed several roadways, including the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, to allow for social distancing. He had the support of SF Mayor London Breed, who declared an emergency and closed roadways throughout the City in early 2020, as well as Richmond District Supervisor Connie Chan, who authored a resolution urging a contiguous bicycle lane the entire length of the park.
City officials, including Ginsburg and SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Director Jeffery Tumlin, promised local officials the roadways would be reopened when the health emergency waned, but they reneged on those promises and immediately started arranging for the permanent closure of JFK Drive.
John F. Kennedy Drive should be reopened now that the City is returning to normal, but it can remain closed for up to 60 days after the mayor declares and end to the emergency, which she has refused so far to do. The longer she waits, the harder it gets to reopen the roadway and all of the others she oversaw the closure of.
In March, a joint meeting of the Rec. and Park Commission and the SFMTA Board was held to formalize the decision to close JFK Drive.
The day of the meeting a rally was held on the steps of City Hall. There was a broad group of about 100 supporters urging that proper steps be taken before closing such an important roadway. The closure restricts the ability of families, out of town visitors, seniors and the disabled to access the Conservatory of Flowers, Dahlia Garden, de Young Museum, Academy of Sciences and the Music Concourse.
Nevertheless, the fix was in and the two governing bodies voted to permanently close the roadway.
The Board of Supervisors will make a final decision (barring a ballot measure) in what will probably be a close vote.
Those who want the roadway opened to all and for a proper process to be adhered to before making such a drastic change to Golden Gate Park were hoping the mayor would be a neutral arbiter in the case. But their hopes were dashed two days before the joint meeting when she openly declared her support for the permanent road closure. It is unlikely there would have been enough votes at the Board of Supervisors to override a mayoral veto, but that point is now moot.
Mayor Ignores the West Side
I’ve met regularly with every mayor since Art Agnos (1989) and I can say with confidence that Breed is the worst mayor I’ve ever seen.
Breed is willing to use a pandemic to usurp the will of San Franciscans who have voted three times not to close JFK Drive. The last time we voted, some 70% of Richmond residents and 65% of Sunset residents voted “no” to the road closure.
There was even a recall attempt of SF Supervisor Jake McGoldrick in 2007, in part because of his effort to close the park to vehicular traffic on Saturdays.
Citywide, a majority of city residents have sided three times with the concerns of westside residents and the park’s cultural institutions and voted to not limit access to the park.
As of press time, Breed continues the emergency declarations more than two years after the pandemic struck, keeping major roadways across the City closed or restricted – like Lake, Kirkham and Ortega streets, 23rd and 41st avenues and the Upper Great Highway – while at the same time urging workers to go back to work and for life in general to normalize.
Much of the mayor’s support when she was elected came from moderate westside residents. Next time around, her treachery and lack of respect for public process will not go unnoticed.
Fox Guarding the Hen House
Two of the primary organizations pushing for the permanent closure of JFK Drive are the SF Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF. The two non-profit organizations receive almost $1 million a year from the SFMTA in no-bid contracts.
It appears the primary responsibility of the two organizations is to lobby city officials to wage a war on motor vehicles. The two groups organize their members to testify and send letters in support of the JFK Drive closure.
SF Walk Executive Director Jodie Medeiros oversees an organization that spends about $1 million a year, almost all of it to lobby city officials for a particular outcome. (She is a former employee of the SF Bicycle Coalition.)
Despite the massive lobbying efforts by the two organizations, paid for by taxpayer dollars, no one from the Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF are registered with the SF Ethics Commission as individual lobbyists. Additionally, the organizations are not listed as bona fide lobbying organizations. How does that happen when the leaders of these two organizations have outsized influence, with direct access to city officials, on an issue of great impact to city residents?
Upper Great Highway Appeal Filed
On March 4, the Open the Great Highway Alliance and five other plaintiffs appealed a judge’s decision denying a motion for a preliminary injunction against the continuation of three illegal street closures in San Francisco parks by Ginsburg and the SF Recreation and Parks Commission.
Ginsburg closed the eastern end of JFK Drive and portions of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Golden Gate Park and the Upper Great Highway by executive decree in early 2020.
According to the plaintiffs, a California Superior Court judge made a “legally unsound decision that likely will be reversed upon appeal.”
Steven Hill is one of the plaintiffs.
“Respectfully, the judge misapplied the law and based his decision on unsupported and provably false data,” Hill said.
The Upper Great Highway was partially reopened to vehicular traffic last summer from Monday morning to Friday at noon. Closing the roadway at noon on a major commute day doesn’t make sense, but that is what Breed, Chan and District 4 (Sunset) Supervisor Gordon Mar supported. It seems common sense has left the building.
Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.