As Gordon Mar’s “pilot project” moves through the city agencies and onto its eventual vote and passage by the Board of Supervisors, the Upper Great Highway’s closure will be allowed to continue without an environmental study through Dec. 31, 2025, for a total of five years and eight months since its initial shutdown, despite the escalation of erosion of our sand dunes and destruction of our wildlife sanctuary from unrestricted foot traffic when vehicles are banned and beachgoers ignore designated crosswalks.
Neighborhood traffic collisions are up and drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians young and old are in danger from the 20,000 vehicles/day diverted onto our neighborhood streets during the Highway’s closure. Toxic emissions from excessive traffic a few feet from our homes causes severe air and noise pollution endangering our health; all these are good reasons for an Environmental Impact Report.
Nothing about Supervisor Mar’s plan is consistent with our commitment to climate action or Vision Zero. The Upper Great Highway, when open to vehicles for all to simultaneously share, is San Francisco’s best example of Vision Zero. There has not been a death on it for the past 17 years, and the SFFD hasn’t responded to a collision on it since 2017. It has no cross traffic so it’s unusually safe. Bicyclists have been using the four-foot-wide road shoulders for years without a problem. However, the traffic now diverted from its four lanes is directed to drive instead on high-injury networks like Sunset Boulevard and 19th Avenue, which are super dangerous even without thousands of extra vehicles.
It is Supervisor Mar who created the incredibly contentious issue he seeks to resolve with his unworkable compromise. Nothing he or SFMTA has done to mitigate the extra traffic during the Highway’s closure has kept our neighborhood streets safe. He can stop the conflict among neighbors by keeping his word about only closing the Upper Great Highway “temporarily” during a shelter-in-place emergency. If he wants it closed permanently, a transparent, unbiased environmental study performed by an independent agency without financial connections to San Francisco should be done with the Highway in its original 24/7 open condition and compared to what has been studied during its full and partial closures. The use of this safe, Vision Zero, major transportation artery in and out of San Francisco should not be closed to continue to endanger our community and wildlife sanctuary.
Please help stop this by voting “yes’ on Proposition I and “no” on Proposition J.
Categories: letter to the editor
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Prop I is an irresponsible and poorly crafted ballot measure that will end up costing San Francisco taxpayers $80 million or more. Much like Prop K which was ultimately withdrawn from the ballot, the authors of Prop I didn’t do their homework and failed to understand that their measure conflicts directly with the city and state’s plans to save Ocean Beach and Fort Funston from coastal erosion and protect San Francisco from climate change. Not only that, but Prop I puts our critical infrastructure at risk, and will likely lead to severe damage or even failure at the sewage treatment plant that is next to the SF Zoo. Vote NO on Prop I because raw sewage in the ocean is bad.
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Well stated letter about the Great Highway , JFK Drive and other road closures and Supervisor Mar’s dividing the community by he mis-statements, his pandering to the Bicycle Coalition and ignoring the will of his constituents.
I believe we have a duty to ensure that senior citizens, the disabled including disabled vets be able to easily access their medical appointments. Commuters need to be able to commute from home to work and back efficiently to have more time with their families. There are no studies that prove the closure will do any of the things used as fodder for the opposition’s rationale for closure.
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Jim Hansen you should please do your homework as well. The city’s plan to “save” Ocean Beach conflicts with state coastal laws, and the Surfrider Foundation has said as much in their letter to the city where they have highlighted that the proposed seawall design was improperly changed by the city contrary to designs that were agreed upon in the Ocean Brach Master Plan. Have you read that letter? If not, go do your homework. That seawall will ENHANCE erosion if it is built – that’s why coastal laws prohibit artificial seawalls – sand can’t stick to walls and replenish. Do you know why the city suddenly decided to increase the size of the seawall . . . ? Because the geology by the treatment plant was discovered to be softer and more vulnerable than previously known. So, while you are correct that the treatment plant is at risk, you are 100% wrong that prop I has anything whatsoever to do with it. The risk was there long before prop I was created. Regardless of road closures or not, prop I or not, what the city is trying to do is build a wall to protect its underground pipe (which is directly beneath the road) instead of just moving the wastewater infrastructure. The city is also corruptly trying to distract voters by suddenly claiming that a phantom cost has appeared out of a ballot proposition when they already need to do costly work anyway. If you truly believe that the infrastructure is at risk, you should be advocating that the city pay up to move the treatment plant instead of building a bike park over crumbling infrastructure. Do you know how much that would cost? If you do your homework and read the draft environmental impact report for the proposal, you will note that it is a LOT more than $80 million. And this was all known long before any recent ballot propositions. THE CITY NEEDS TO PAY UP, and come clean with its residents and find a spot for its sewage. Prop I does not suddenly jeopardize the coast, and it shouldn’t be a straw man for ignorance. Also, more homework for you – go read what the draft EIR says about road closures – do you know what “VMT” stands for . . .? Go write that on the chalkboard several times, then try searching for that acronym in the draft EIR, and your homework will reveal that the city states in its own words that closing roads will SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED. Go read it, and then complete your homework assignment by doing some basic math on this question – if vehicle miles travelled is increased, do emissions go up or go down? I bet you can figure that out without my help. PS – if you study sand movement and you know about the sandbars like those of us who live and surf at OB, then you also know that the rate of erosion is far slower north of Sloat, and actually by some accounts sand is increasing, particularly more northward along OB – that’s because in addition to seasonal and daily currents and countercurrents, twice a day we have huge tide changes through the golden gate – have you ever waited to surf Fort Point until the tide bottoms out, or do you want to get sucked out to sea?. If so, you know already that tons of sediment of varying weight is flushed by the narrow and deep gap under the bridge at high speed and plumes outward and deposits in a multi-mile semicircle, which the army corps of engineers regularly needs to prick for a shipping channel a few miles offshore, like Sisyphus, and dump the sand for temporary protection. Do you happen to know where the southern boundary of that plume stops? Its terribly negligent when people who have ZERO CLUE about our coast start piping up and telling people to do their homework because their own-self-interested and misguided goal of building a bike park on top of infrastructure has blinded them. Prop I doesn’t make the city’s responsibility go away, but it does get people back to the table to figure out what you already know – the treatment plant needs to be moved, and a bike path ain’t cutting it. People who actually live at and care about the coast don’t want the Embarcadero built here, with a bunch of food trucks, signage, and dunes getting trampled, and a bunch more emissions and dangerous traffic in their neighborhood. They want real solutions from real leaders. Perhaps you will pull your head out of the sand and become one. Those of us who are waiting will be voting on Prop I so we can reset and act like true stewards of the environment.
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Lisa: I appreciate that you’re digging into the details, but based on your extremely long (and sometimes rather hostile!) paragraph I do worry that something may have gotten in the way of your own objectivity on this topic. There are serious issues with a number of your many, many claims, and I could go on at length about VMT and the scientific consensus and global best practices for reducing vehicle-related emissions, or the decision science around whether to invest in relocating high cost critical infrastructure, but I suspect you’d just view me as part of a larger corrupt conspiracy of some sort. The larger issue here is that you appear to think of yourself as a “steward of the environment,” which I find fascinating.
Perhaps you can enlighten us: How many environmental organizations have endorsed Prop I? Surely if Prop I is actually good for the environment and in step with your core values as a steward of the environment, the proposition’s many consultants and organizers could have secured the endorsement of many committed environmental organizations — or at the very least just one? I count zero. Huh. Why is that? Another grand conspiracy of some kind? Or is it possible that your position is out of step with scientific consensus, environmental responsibility, and objective policy making?
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Jim – you pointed out that the author needs to do their homework, and then accused a poster who told you the same thing that they were being hostile, unenlightened, and lacking in objectivity. You did this alongside zero reference to any actual studies which refute the main obvious point, which is that creating more road congestion and increasing VMT is actually bad for the environment.
This is why we probably all need to take a closer look at the environmental impacts of putting thousands of vehicles into a residential neighborhood with dangerous stop and go emission-inducing traffic. And, if you have in fact done your homework, you already know that this is a need raised by many folks, including the Sierra Club in a letter from last summer and multiple members of the community who live in the area.
I find it very curious and troubling that Prop J supporters keep saying that they think the sky is falling and so more VMT and congestion is the answer, but are shy when Prop I supporters ask for an environmental review to be conducted before more damage is done. Jim – if you have a copy of that independent environmental review in hand, or a scientific study that advocates for increasing congestion, VMT and vehicle emissions to help the environment, please just simply share it with everyone instead of trying to kill messengers who have a different point of view. It might advance the conversation further instead of causing congestion – but your mileage may vary.
You’ve clearly thought a lot about this, but if you’re concerned about what the Surfrider Foundation says, I’d encourage you to review Surfrider’s position on Prop I: the experts there on protecting the beach are very much advocating for No on Prop I. “Prop I would immediately destroy more than a decade of work on a resilient, nature-based approach to deal with erosion by requiring the construction of a conventional seawall on the beach at Sloat. […] If you love surfing, fishing and running on the beach at Sloat, vote ‘No’ on Prop I!” The Sierra Club and the SF League of Conservation Voters also both recommend a No vote on Prop I.
I’ll be voting No on Prop I because I trust the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters to know the best thing for the ocean and the environment a whole lot more than I trust the rich Trump mega-donor who’s backing Prop I.
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I think the poster was actually referring to the letter here, which seems to highlight the hypocrisy of the city suddenly trying to claim it will cost 80 million for a “large” wall (which Prop I is NOT even asking for) when it has been asking for a “medium” wall instead of the “small” wall it first promised because it doesn’t want to pay billions anyway – https://www.surfrider.org/campaigns/save-sloat
Personally, I don’t think this is a delicate little “goldilocks” problem of not too much erosion, nor too little. No seawalls of ANY size should be permitted, and they won’t last, or do jack squat except enhance erosion. The ocean called, and it doesn’t give a $h!t. I think the treatment plant should just be moved, plain and simple, and everything shuttered. But in the meantime, if the treatment plant is still there then a road right next to it is fine to keep for the public (the city said so itself – it is trying to build a private road for its own use, so there must by definition be plenty of available time and room for that road, correct . . . ?). I smell special interest problems, and am voting for Prop I because we need a full reset rather than new construction. New construction of a new bike path right over the same old threatened sewage pipes is not managed retreat. Just open it, now, then close it when there is a good plan which doesn’t cause more emissions problems and clogged roads.
The author’s points, and commenter “Lisa” actually really opened my eyes. There is some serious intellectual and physical thuggery going on. It’s bad enough that we have bike protesters blocking cars on the upper great highway, and museum workers being harassed when they go to work, and seniors and handicapped folks getting impaired. But I am starting to think there is some serious corruption in the city. Every time people make straightforward points about the roads, another thug pops up. First it was about safety. Then folks pointed out that pound for pound the great highway was actually safe (and safety officers at the police and fire department highlighted that emergency response times were being impaired, and it is an evacuation route). Then it was about kids having a place to learn to bike ride – and folks pointed out that there was a bike path there already that just needed to be repaired. Then the thugs started waving their arms and saying it was about the environment – as if a tiny park in isolation justifies creating more road congestion across the western side of the city, not to mention dune erosion and threatening an endangered species. Then it was back to safety, and folks pointed out that dumping thousands of cars into residential streets created new safety issues for residents. Then the thugs pulled out the Ocean Beach Master plan, and waved it like a bible, until folks started pointing out that the master plan didn’t call for the upper great highway to be closed at all, and didn’t authorize the city to build a giant seawall either. Then when all else failed, the financial excuse gets waived – by a city that we found out had budgeted NO MONEY for its park, and refused to turn over documents when asked in public records requests (and then the manager of Park&Rec was found guilty by unanimous vote of the city ethics commission of hiding information). But now we know – “managed retreat” isn’t about the environment at all, it’s about trying to build a park for some, at the expense of others, and moving folks in one spot but yet building a big erosion-inducing seawall in another when it comes to the city’s own property. Want proof? I just read the draft EIR that Lisa pointed out, and there seems to be a plan for a new roadway along the wastewater plant after all – but it’s not for the public, it is only for city vehicles. WHY . . .? If there is enough room to keep a road there, can’t we just avoid the congestion and let the public use it? It’s like whack a mole, and the city and the bike people can’t make up their mind, and just come up with new excuses every time logic gets highlighted. I think folks are starting to figure out what is going on. If the bike coalition had just had the intellectual honesty at the outset to say that they wanted a flat road for riders, then at least we would have a straightforward discussion about compromise . . . but instead they pollute city hall, and our city. Follow the money – something odd is going on when logic is being ignored repeatedly.
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Yea, personally I wish we had two propositions that separately allowed citizens to vote on JFK and the Great Highway. Why couple them into Prop I and then have a separate prop J for JFK? Because people like me will vote for both, and thus my vote is actually diluted since voting for prop I is really about the Great Highway.
Consider the 4 cases that are possible.
Yes on I , Yes on J : this means people want JFK to open and TGH to close
Yes on I, No on J : this means people want both JFK and TGH to remain open
No on I, Yes on J : this means you want JFK and TGH to be closed
No on I, No on J : this means you want to close JFK and open TGH
(i think that’s right, but feel free to correct me)
And then we hear that Prop J will override prop I if more yes votes on J occur.
So when you say Yes on I and No on J, that is Case two, which is the only case that opens up both JFK and TGH to cars again. For me, the only vote is case four.
Confusing? Yes. But these are fair statistical choices if they are properly explained to the voters.
I would not be too hard on what you call Gordon Mar’s “pet” project. Mr. Mar is just trying to balance the competing public interests in his district as best he can. Criticize him on that point, but please don’t conflate the disagreement in the community with what you are calling Mr. Mar’s “pet project.” Mr. Mar is just doing his job as a public servant.
To Mr. Napoli: Gordon Mar’s legislation is a 3+ year “pilot project,” not a “pet project.” The SF Planning Dept can classify Pilot Projects as exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act’s protections for endangered wildlife and impacted humans. Until January 2022, closing a road without first performing an intensive study resulting in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was against the law. This new exemption is being used to avoid EIR’s which take time. Perhaps the thought was to speed up the badly needed building of new housing in SF. It is still up for debate whether or not that’s a good thing, especially when avoiding it may overlook the discovery of toxins on and around sites where buildings are being erected. But in the case of the Upper Great Highway, where we can see with our own eyes that its closure is destroying our National Wildlife Refuge, escalating sand dune erosion, bringing closer to homes a massive increase in noise and greenhouse gasses from the diversion of 20,000 trucks/big rigs/vans/cars per day onto quiet residential roads by homes and pedestrians, the exemption is being used for something unintended and harmful, in my opinion. How worse off is our community from the vehicles driving longer distances, stuck in gridlock, jammed up stopping and restarting, some circling around in search of free parking as pedestrians dangerously cross intersections, as opposed to sharing a Vision Zero safe Highway bordered by a promenade and safe places to bicycle ride, by a beach with an endangered species of birds thriving in its sand dunes? You wisely stated that the choice of “Yes on I” and “No on J” is the safest one and best way to vote. Thank you for seeing the big picture.
Such a sensible comment Jagspaints – thanks.
Prop J proponents have been resisting a comprehensive independent environmental impact review for more than two years. Why . . . ? It’s the same short-sightedness that travels hand in hand with Scott Weiner, who decided it was more important to just build rather than adhere to CEQA rules. It’s the same short-sightedness that wants to build a 12 story high rise in the coastal zone and redesign the nearby roads to create a dead-end except into residential streets (and with no parking). And it’s the same short-sightedness that wants to put up signs and park food trucks in a wildlife preserve because, well, we just want another Embarcadero (but no need to have a budget or pick up trash).
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Couldn’t agree with the author more. I’ve lived in the Sunset 32 years and I don’t know an issue that pitted neighbor against neighbor the way the Great Highway has. And Gordon Mar is personally responsible for that divisiveness. All was well until he climbed on board the “let’s hijack this COVID safety measure and use it to ram through the Bike Coalition’s anti-driver agenda.” And now he acts like he’s the reasonable voice in the room? This guy is HORRIBLE!!
If Mar is doing is just doing his job as a public servant, he is doing a spectacularly selfish and one-sided job of it. Closing the UGH and then spinning opening it up as “a compromise” is weasel-word language in the extreme. What is he “compromising with? It’s a street that’s closed on the weekend. Why aren’t all streets closed on the weekend? His “pet project” is ham-handed and wasteful and creates a division that DID NOT EXIST until he arbitrarily and without AN OUNCE of community outreach closed a needed throughway and refused to reopen it until Mayor Breed panicked when schools opened in August of last year.
His latest is working with local nutbar and siphon of city money for painting nonsense Jeff Canham’s putting an illegal metal bench in the middle of the Taraval crosswalk in what is still a working highway despite Mar’s best efforts. He basically approved installation of an attractive nuisance that put the city at legal risk, cost taxpayers money, and was immediately taken out. Fifteen thousand D4 residents worked like bastards to get Prop I on the ballot, and he led four other supervisors to write Prop J in opposition. I don’t know what that vindictive idiocy is, but it’s not democracy.
He’s a menace that is working in opposition to D4 living in their community in quiet enjoyment. D4 tanked his Muni and Street Safety bond with no organized effort at all. If you don’t think that’s a clear signal D4 rejects his capricious idiocy and bending over for 3% of SF residents who use bicycles as their main transportation, I don’t know what is.
Proposition I and J will give the voters a chance to weigh in on their mode preference and act as a referendum on the politics and priorities on the SFMTA and SFCTA and related city authorities. This is a heavily contested argument that needs some resolution. It its clear that the powers that be are pleased with their plans and projects, but they may not reflect the will of the voters who have largely returned to their cars. I have seen very few buses as I drive around the city. I usually count 1 bus and around 3 bikes during a typical trip. That would indicate there may not be an appetite for road closures. And let’s not leave Prop L out of the conversation. How likely are the voters to support higher taxes during an economic downturn?