Battle for Park Access is Over
The November election is over and the final results have been certified. From now on, the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park will be closed to vehicle traffic, except for deliveries to the de Young Museum, first responders and the park shuttle. The Upper Great Highway will also be closed on weekends starting at noon on Fridays, per a vote of the SF Board of Supervisors in December, until a study can be completed and final action taken.
The political campaign to defeat Proposition I, which would have kept JFK Drive and the Upper Great Highway open to vehicle traffic, and to pass Proposition J, which would ban most vehicles, was well organized and well run.
My house in the Sunset got a door hanger and two direct mailers opposing Prop. I and supporting Prop. J. There were also advertisements running on network television.
For about the same money, the proponents of Prop. I could have bought a BMW, but couldn’t afford the gas. I saw nothing but hard-working, dedicated volunteers on the front lines.
A special thanks to disability advocate Howard Chabner and Richmond resident and retired police commander Richard Corriea for sponsoring Prop. I. Unfortunately, taking the moral high ground doesn’t always result in election victories.
Citywide, Prop. I garnered only 35% of the vote. In District 1, only 43% of voters supported the measure to restore park roads back to pre-epidemic levels, and in District 4, 47% did so.
Concerning Prop. J, only the Sunset, Parkside and Portola districts and Lincoln Park in the Richmond District voted “no.”
The voters have spoken and now we have to do the best job possible implementing the new plan. But there was a lot to be gleaned from this political exercise, including:
• It is not a “San Francisco value” to use a pandemic to force permanent changes on the City’s transportation system. These important decisions would normally go through proper channels, including proper environmental review. The current plan limits access to Golden Gate Park’s cultural institutions and other park features for seniors, the disabled and families with young children.
• SF Supervisor Connie Chan’s resolution temporarily banning vehicles from park roadways got away from her, leading to a majority of her fellow progressive supervisors and the mayor to make the move permanent.
• “Poison pills” can be effective. It only took four members of the SF Board of Supervisors to put Prop. J on the ballot, a measure designed to compete with Prop. I.
• The mayor is no friend of the cultural institutions in the park or of westside residents who have to live with the consequences of her decision to sign legislation banning vehicles from JFK Drive.
• The SF Recreation and Park Department either has no respect for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know or is just plain incompetent. All of the public record requests and questions I made to staff were ignored or inadequately answered.
(A San Francisco department head oremployee accused of denying or ignoring a public records request knows it is turned over to the Sunshine Task Force for investigation. If the offending entity is eventually found guilty, a report is turned over to the SF Ethics Commission which conducts its own investigation before making a judgment, usually with minor enforcement consequences.)
• Truth is the first casualty in a political campaign, such as claiming JFK Drive was extremely dangerous and a part of the City’s “high injury network.”
• The SF Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF – two nonprofits that get about $1 million a year from the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s budget (SFMTA) – are nothing more than lobbyists propping up the SFMTA’s plans. The two organizations led the effort to keep the park roadways vehicle-free.
The Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF have sole-source contracts, meaning no other nonprofit can compete for the City’s business. It’s a highly specialized service, teaching children how to ride a bike and navigating dangerous obstacles while walking.
• Ugly social media trolls, oftentimes name-calling and shaming anonymously, do not foster civil debate.
Meanwhile, the battle to dismantle the City’s transportation grid has only just begun.
Since the election, two new proposals have popped up. One would remove the elevated Central Freeway that runs between Market Street and Highway 101 to free up space for housing. The other would remove all vehicle traffic along the Embarcadero to create a pedestrian walkway.
New Supe in Town
It’s hola to new District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio and adios to former District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar.
Mar was a good supervisor who did a lot for the Sunset, but his uncompromising style might have cost him crucial votes.
Good luck to new Supervisor Engardio as he continues the important work already in progress, especially fighting to secure water from Lake Merced (and hopefully the Pacific Ocean) for fire fighting after a major earthquake.
Two businesses Mar nominated for the City’s Legacy Business Registry were approved in December. They join 340 other businesses on the Registry that have been serving the public for at least 30 years.
The Registry, which is managed by the SF Office of Small Business and overseen by Director Katy Tang, a former District 4 supervisor, “recognizes longstanding, community-serving businesses as valuable cultural assets to the City.”
Kudos to the Peking Restaurant, 1375 Noriega St., and Artisians of San Francisco, 2549 Irving St., for their long-time service to the residents of the Sunset and Parkside districts.
Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor and former publisher of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers.