The People Will Decide
By Paul Kozakiewicz
Congratulations to Park Access for All, a new political action committee that put before city voters the future of closed Golden Gate Park roads and the Upper Great Highway.
In July, the organization turned in almost double the amount of signatures of registered voters that are required to put a proposition on the ballot. Park Access for All is comprised primarily of the Corporation of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Open the Great Highway Alliance.
Two people who are out front and center on the issue are ballot initiative proponents Howard Chabner, an attorney and advocate for disability rights, and Richard Corriea, a retired commander from the SF Police Department. Corriea was also captain at the Richmond Station and is a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.
“The big news is that we needed just under 9,000 signatures and turned in 17,581 signatures,” Corriea said. “Given that we had less than 20 days to collect signatures, this number is remarkable. People were lined up to sign.”
For Chabner, the issue is about park accessibility.
“Golden Gate Park and the Upper Great Highway should be open and accessible for all – especially people with disabilities, seniors and families that now have limited access to the park because of these closures,” Chabner said.
Rudderless City Hall
The fact that this contentious issue has to go before the voters in November shows a serious lack of leadership from SF Mayor London Breed and the lack of a moral compass from seven members of the SF Board of Supervisors who voted to make the temporary ban on vehicles permanent during a pandemic emergency. In April, the supervisors voted 7-4 to close the roads permanently.
The fact that the mayor and seven supervisors would use the pandemic to exploit the people of the City and permanently alter people’s ability to get around and visit public institutions is unconscionable.
Breed’s zealousness to sign the measure – in Golden Gate Park on a Saturday – strips her of any leadership position on this issue. She could have vetoed the supervisors’ measure and told them to take it to the voters or go through proper channels, which would have included the creation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to determine the deleterious effects of the closures. (It takes eight votes to override a mayoral veto.)
Surely sending tens of thousands of vehicles across neighborhood streets and having them sit in massive traffic jams caused by the street closures should warrant that kind of scrutiny.
The process of closing park roads was done with the verbal order of Phil Ginsburg, the general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department, who was granted that authority under the city charter in the late 1800s.
The pain and suffering Ginsburg and his cohorts are bestowing upon westside residents will get worse this month when Ginsburg closes Chain of Lakes Drive to facilitate the Outside Lands Festival. If you think it is difficult to travel from the Richmond to the Sunset now ….
Ginsburg has been working with Jeffery Tumlin, the head of the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), to restrict vehicle access in the park. The two, with their nonprofit minions, worked hard to create a pathway for the temporary road closures to become permanent.
The two department heads are primarily buoyed by the very vocal SF Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF, two nonprofits that combined receive about $1 million a year though the SFMTA’s budget in no-bid contracts. Why do we use taxpayer money to pay non-profits to lobby for a particular position that supports the position of the department (SFMTA) that is paying them? This is a perversion of the democratic process. These nonprofits are exempt from competitive bidding because the SFMTA says they are the only organizations in San Francisco that can do the work requested. This claim is ridiculous – cronyism and collusion at its worse.
Back to the Polls
So now we go to the polls again, this time to correct an abomination created by city agencies and a morally bereft mayor and board of supervisors. They needlessly created hardships for westside residents and the important institutions in Golden Gate Park, including the Conservatory of Flowers (and the Dahlia Dell), Academy of Sciences and de Young Museum, all of which have seen their attendance plunge due to a lack of access.
San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents District 10, the primarily African-American neighborhood in the Bayview, bemoans the lack of access and outright redlining of the city’s premiere park. He supports Park Access for All.
“This isn’t about being pro-bike or pro-car; it’s about ensuring Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway are accessible for all,” Walton said.
For more information, or to make a donation to Park Access for All, go to the website at access4allsf.com.
When our government goes sideways and loses focus on the needs of the people it is supposed to represent, it is the right of the people to correct the course of government – which they will do in November.
Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, with the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.