Finding Common Ground
By Gordon Mar
Much has been said about how San Franciscans feel divided, on how controversy and contest fuels much of our local politics, and how we can’t seem to find agreement to get big things, or even basic things, done.
In the face of this, finding common sense solutions, building consensus, bridging divides and, yes, compromising offers a real road forward. Here in the Sunset, we’ve been able to find common ground on some of the most hot-button issues to make real progress.
This month we finally broke ground on Shirley Chisholm Village, the very first 100% affordable housing development ever in the Sunset District and the first affordable educator housing project in San Francisco. At a time when San Francisco residents continue to be frustrated with the cost of housing and the state of our schools, this project provides real hope, not just to the 135 educators and their families who will have new homes here in the Outer Sunset, but hope for our neighborhood and our City. We can build real solutions for our biggest problems. We can do it sustainably, effectively, collaboratively and creatively. And we are.
This project brought our neighborhood together. In the face of so much contention around housing, Shirley Chisholm Village has the broad support of its neighbors and has benefitted from the input and collaboration of our Outer Sunset community. And it has literally brought us together.
While we prepared to break ground for this project, this site was reimagined and repurposed by the community as Playland at 43rd Avenue, an innovative interim use that united artists and gardeners, yoga teachers and skaters by using public land for public good and bringing the Sunset together in all its diversity. I want to thank my predecessor Katy Tang for her work on the project, and all of the stewards who made Playland possible.
While Playland is gone, the needs it served aren’t going anywhere. In addition to delivering deeply needed mixed income housing for our educators, Shirley Chisholm Village will continue the tradition of public serving space on this site, with a community room and community art by local artists.
We’re taking a similarly thoughtful approach for the future of our streets. While Slow Streets had an important goal, the signs and sandbags spread across District 4 without any public process failed to meet that goal. We can and will do better. The Slow Streets barriers in the Sunset are being removed – many are already gone, and all will be soon. Meanwhile, planning for the Sunset Neighborways network will move forward. After much frustration with the haphazard and poor design and roll-out of Slow Streets, I decided that the Sunset should go its own way – while the rest of the City will continue to contest and debate Slow Streets, we’ll design a Sunset-specific and neighborhood-led project to create a network of safer streets, designed with robust community input. Get involved at http://www.sfmta.com/projects/sunset-neighborways.
Compromise is also the cornerstone of our approach to the Upper Great Great Highway. A year ago, I reached an agreement with Mayor London Breed to restore vehicle access on the Upper Great Highway on weekdays, when car commuters use it most, while preserving it for walking, biking and rolling on weekends and holidays. We complemented this with extensive traffic calming for the outer avenues, installing more than 36 new speed bumps and stop signs. This compromise – this weekend walkway – has been effective, popular and, I think, largely successful.
In July, I introduced legislation to maintain and study the Upper Great Highway weekend promenade for the next three years. My legislation will require neighborhood outreach and engagement, regular data collection and reporting, meaningful traffic management planning and, finally, the development of a sand management plan. It also will allow us to observe the impacts of the closure of the Great Highway extension, south of Sloat Boulevard, planned for 2024. I believe this pilot project is consistent with our commitment to climate action, Vision Zero, transit first, and to finding a popular, workable and effective road forward on what has been an incredibly contentious issue.
The question of what time the road closes for weekends is still contentious – and I look forward to more input and further discussion on that, and on this legislation as a whole, as it moves forward through environmental review, Coastal Commission consideration, and eventually a vote by the Board of Supervisors.
I’ve also been working toward an agreement between Sunset Mercantile and St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School to maintain the beloved Outer Sunset Farmers Market and Mercantile while addressing the school’s concerns about access for its private events. We reached a tentative agreement and secured renewed permits for the farmers market with my support, and conversations continue for a longer-term agreement.
Working with Sunset Mercantile and People of Parkside Sunset to create this incredibly unique farmer’s market – by the Sunset and for the Sunset – has been among my proudest accomplishments. I look forward to continuing to support it to thrive for many years to come.
Just this month, it hosted one of three Autumn Moon celebrations in the Sunset — one of the most important celebrations in Chinese culture, rooted in thousands of years of tradition, and a time for gathering, giving thanks and being in community.
We also saw an oceanside celebration on the Upper Great Highway, and the return of the official Sunset Autumn Moon Festival presented by the newly formed Sunset Chinese Cultural District. Legislating the creation of our neighborhood’s first cultural district – also the first for the Chinese community and the first on the west side – is another example of how, with the support and collaboration of many community and neighborhood groups, we can come together to move forward, and to thrive.
Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at 415-554-7460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Categories: City Hall