letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Save the JFK Promenade and Great Walkway


In San Francisco, 16 pedestrians have been killed by motorists during 2022.

JFK Promenade and The Great Walkway, less than three miles, are two places where pedestrians, cyclists, runners, people who are blind, people who use wheelchairs, children, and pets can feel safe and breathe in clean air. 

A “yes” vote on Proposition J and a “no” Vote on Proposition I will provide a small sanctuary for pedestrians, cyclists, families, and visitors to use and enjoy, unthreatened by cars and sheltered from emissions of cancer-causing car pollution.

San Francisco has 1,017 street miles consumed by cars; driven or parked. 

JFK Promenade and The Great Walkway account for less than three miles.

In a fit of political arrogance, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco want to bring back cars to JFK Promenade and even The Great Walkway, which is miles away from the museums.

De Young Museum’s Dede Wilsey infused at least $200K of her own money to pay signature-gatherers to qualify Proposition I for the ballot. Most of the $800K war chest, amassed to destroy JFK Promenade and The Great Walkway, has come from Dede Wilsey and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The Fine Arts Museums’ claim that cars being unable to park on JFK Promenade impacts attendance is rubbish! Life-long partner Liz Heidhues has brought me to the museum as a guest for years under her membership in FAMSF. Attendance has not changed since the Museums’ re-opened. When we toured the exhibit “Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs” recently, we jostled into the de Young Museum alongside a packed audience and a class of school kids. 

San Francisco has bent over backwards to accommodate seniors and people with disabilities. There are continuous shuttle buses running along JFK Promenade. An entire area near famed Japanese Tea Garden has been converted into parking for motorists with disabilities. Pick-ups and drop-offs for paratransit, taxis, and similar accommodations for people with disabilities are earmarked in the underground parking garage serving the museums.

It is common knowledge that, prior to the creation of JFK Promenade, the roadway was on San Francisco’s High Injury Network, in the top 13% most-dangerous streets, a parking lot for the de Young Museum, and a cut-through for motorists speeding from one residential neighborhood to the next.

There have been BIG compromises on The Great Walkway. It is only a car free oasis on weekends and holidays. During the work week, the motorists have total access to this stretch of land that is truly a sliver of wilderness running up against the density of San Francisco. 

The entitled motorists discount the eroding Pacific Ocean shoreline along The Great Walkway. Voting “no” on I allows the City to plan for and protect the shoreline from coastal erosion and the reality of sea level rise.

The entitled motorists discount the years-long multi-agency project to seismically upgrade and maintain the Westside Wastewater Treatment Plant near The Great Walkway.

All the reasons being put forth by motorists and their enablers must be rejected.

Liz and Lee Heidhues

6 replies »

  1. Have you actually looked at the shuttle schedule in GG Park? It doesn’t even start running until noon on weekdays. I just read that they are buying new low profile shuttles because the current ones are too difficult for mobility impaired people to negotiate. Not to mention the problems with taking multiple bus lines to even get to a GGP, not infrequently taking 60-90 minutes for some people. All these new blue zones and shuttle improvements only started to be implemented in the past six months or so and only when SF Park and Rec realized the problems they had caused. I remember attending a hearing with SF Park and Rec around March where disabled advocates talked about shuttle stops with no seats or shelter, the need for street parking because blue zones were often occupied or despite having some sort of physical limitation they didn’t actually have a disabled permit so they depended on nearby street parking. I also attended the Ramses exhibit at the deYoung in the only visit in 2 1/2 years we’ve gone to the deYoung despite our museum membership. I was surprised at how few people were in attendance. Attending a phone meeting with the Fine Arts Museum the director recounted dropping attendance at the deYoung although the Legion of Honor has recovered since access to the Legion has not been limited. They also recounted episodes of vandalism of Museum and vendor vehicles and harassment of their staff and vendors. Even the Ocean Beach Master Plan acknowledges that the GH is a major north south traffic artery for the west side of SF and did not recommend closure. The erosion issue is not along the Upper Great Highway. The location of the water treatment plant at the GH extension means that shoreline has to be shored up to protect that key structure.


    • I do not wish to engage in a protracted war of words with the pro-motorist lobby deeply entrenched in San Francisco. That said, when drivers join forces to throw stones on my Op-Ed, using disinformation, hearsay, and manipulation of the facts I have researched, I have no other choice but to come out of the corner I have been backed into and shed light on the state of our car-dominated streets.
      How did 16 pedestrian deaths in San Francisco, in a year with 57 more days to tally more traffic violence, become something that motorists accept as NORMAL?
      Has the writer of this attack on me joined forces with the fossil fuel industry to shape how we think and feel about public health and the monopolization of our parks and green spaces by fossil fuel burning cars?
      The emissions spewed out by the burning of fossil fuels not only induce cancer, lung disease, and asthma, greenhouse gas emissions are killing our planet and causing climate crises.
      Should I, a lifelong public transit user, pedestrian, bicyclist, and runner, trade my health and safety for this writer’s convenience to use JFK Promenade as personal free parking or a cut-through to avoid traffic on residential streets and catch a pretty view of greenery while speeding through the park?
      The motorists’ convenience hides the true cost and nature of car dependency. No part of daily life wastes more money than cars. If the City spent as much on bicyclist and pedestrian protected streets as it did on the maintenance and upkeep of the 1017 miles of streets driven by cars, we might be able to reach our Vision Zero goal of 0 traffic fatalities in 25 months.
      The writer by her own admission admits she has only been to the De Young Museum once in 2-1/2 years! The writer didn’t even say if she ever went on JFK Promenade at that time. Yet the writer promotes herself as an authority on the state of JFK Promenade.
      I was shocked to read that a person who may NEVER have set foot on JFK Promenade accuses people on the Promenade of “episodes of vandalism of Museum and vendor vehicles and harassment of their staff and vendors.” False accusations are harmful. Heresay gossip spreads lies and damages the reputation of good people and should never be published.
      The writer’s snarky attack on me for telling the truth about my visit to the Ramses exhibit was a punch below the belt.
      Unlike the writer who visited the Museum only once in 2-1/2 years, I go to the De Young at least monthly, whether it be to see new exhibits, eat at the Café, or visit the Museum store. I always see a lot of people at the Museum.
      I am a member at other Museums, downtown, as well. I see low attendance at these Museums and there is plenty of parking downtown. People are still jittery about Covid-19 and confused about whether to wear masks or even risk exposure in crowded venues. Museum attendance, even life, may never be as it was before the Pandemic. Covid is still very much out there, and coronavirus cases are beginning to rise once again. Do not blame beautiful safe car free JFK Promenade for an Act of God.
      The snarkiness of the attacks on me from Motorists is unwarranted.
      I will say this about the Golden Gate Park Shuttle. The need was assessed by a survey and the shuttle bus schedule was developed to meet the expressed needs.
      Based on what people asked for, The GGP Shuttle bus runs 7 days a week and IT IS FREE! Priority was given to the weekends and holidays because that’s what people who use the Shuttle Bus wanted – 9 am to 18:00. The ungrateful writer gripes and moans about the Shuttle Bus starting at 12:00 on weekdays, using its sensible schedule on which to base her unfounded argument — the City has not done enough to make JFK Promenade accessible and therefore cars must be returned to this sanctuary!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Get your facts straight. Museum attendance is considerably reduced, access for all is significantly impacted, and the JFK CORRIDOR is what was dangerous, which includes Kezar Drive, Stanyan and several other streets. JFK drive itself is not dangerous. Though interestingly the SFMTA decided to stop tracking accidents on it once it was closed, which is ridiculous. I can’t believe you actually wrote that the City has “bent over backwards” for people with disabilities and seniors.


  3. The closure of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park is the absolute worst! It is the most severe restriction of disability access I have experienced in 44 years of living with a lifelong mobility disability in San Francisco! It is the consequence of a campaign of aggressive, weaponized ableism that has gone so far as to infiltrate the ranks of our city’s government.

    When I came to SF in my mid-20s, I could easily ride Muni to Golden Gate Park every Sunday. Now, as a 71-year-old, I can no longer take Muni safely, and because taxis, including paratransit taxis, are banned from JFK Drive, I cannot access all the attractions along JFK Drive I love most: the Rhododendron Dell, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Dahlia Garden, the AIDS Memorial Grove, the museums, and many more.

    Here is but one example: the “new” disability parking lot behind the Bandshell is not serviced by a nearby ramp. The two ramps closest to it are 600 feet and 680 feet away. This is an impossible distance for anyone to traverse who uses a walker, canes, or crutches! Also, for any person who walks slowly and with difficulty, and for any person with a vision disability, there is no safe way to cross JFK Drive on foot when bicyclists and others on e-scooters routinely run stop signs. Slow walkers cannot get out of their way in time, and blind people cannot hear them until they come too close to avoid a collision.

    The planners and implementers of the “Golden Gate Access and Safety Program” are promoting neither access nor safety. They are promulgating a biased campaign of propaganda, half-truths, and outright lies, which tends to exclude the southeastern half of San Francisco, and all of the rest of the Bay Area, from Golden Gate Park. This is bald-faced gentrification and redlining of the park! Please vote yes on Proposition I and no on Proposition J to open JFK Drive so that everyone can freely and fairly access all of the beloved attractions in Golden Gate Park.


  4. After extensive comment from seniors, disabled people and others describing how the 24/7 JFK Drive car ban has made it impossible or extremely difficult to access many Golden Gate Park destinations, the Mayor’s Disability Council resolved on March 9, 2022, that permanent closure of JFK to cars shouldn’t be considered unless around 20 specified access improvements were implemented. These include drive-through car access for exhibits and events on JFK, information and wayfinding improvements, code compliant shuttle stops with sheltered waiting areas, kneeling or low-floor ramped shuttles, compliant curb ramps in good condition, and physical separation between pedestrians and cyclists/scooter riders.

    Almost none of these access and safety improvements have been implemented, yet RPD spent hundreds of thousands of dollars painting murals on the pavement, installing Doggy Diner heads and Adirondack chairs, and hosting beer gardens, food trucks, and a Halloween party. Yet RPD still has not replaced dangerous, noncomplying curb ramps, or addressed the dangerous cross slope at the intersection of Stanyan and the RPD parking lot, or made the SkyStar Ferris wheel accessible. This speaks volumes about RPD’s lack of commitment to access and fairness.

    Please vote Yes on Proposition I and No on Proposition J. RPD has implemented
    almost none of these measures despite the pending election. If Proposition I is defeated and/or Proposition J is approved, RPD will never implement them, permanently shutting out countless thousands from much of Golden Gate Park.


  5. A response to all who critiqued our message. San Francisco has 1017 miles of Street. Nevertheless motorists and their Cardres refuse to relinquish even THREE MILES (JFK Promenade and The Great Walkway). Instead, The Cars have gone to Court and waged an expensive ballot fight to deny those seeking a small Car free place to gather. It’s a sad commentary on Car Centric America. Motorists, Some in the disabilities community (by all means not all), Some in the elderly community (by all means not all), are waging a pitched battle to preserve their hegemony. We will soon find out if San Francisco is a genuinely innovative and forward looking international City or a small town backwater driven by The Car.


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