Opponents to the JFK promenade have introduced a measure for the November ballot that would undo car-free JFK, the Great Highway weekend promenade, and all other car-free spaces in Golden Gate Park. So what does this mean for the future of car-free spaces in SF?
After securing car-free JFK in late April, powerful opponents began working on an ordinance to undo all of our hard work. The Access for All campaign collected over 17,000 signatures in three weeks to get their measure in front of voters. We have yet to see if they have the 9,000 valid signatures needed, but it’s very likely since they submitted nearly double that. The “Access for All Ordinance,” as the ballot measure is called in its submission, is backed by the Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums and Open the Great Highway Alliance.
The implications of this ballot measure go beyond just car-free JFK. The ballot language details that the Great Highway will have car traffic 24/7 in both directions permanently. This includes the extension between Sloat and Skyline, which is already scheduled to be closed permanently due to climate change and beach erosion in 2023. This is part of the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Plan and was set in motion years ago. Not only will we no longer have car-free space on the Great Highway, but further maintenance of this road due to climate change and beach erosion will take a large financial toll on city resources.
The language also states that the other car-free spaces in Golden Gate Park will be reopened to traffic — meaning we will lose the car-free western portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as well. This is a crucial piece of a Beach-to-Bay car-free connection that allows people to cross the city safely. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in October 2021 urging the SFMTA and Rec and Park to make improvements to Golden Gate Park so that the city could achieve this Beach-to-Bay connection.
The good news is, in response to the Access For All measure, Supervisors Mandelman, Melgar, Ronen, and Dorsey submitted their own counter ballot measure that will codify the April 26 vote to make car-free JFK permanent.
There are two ways the battle between these measures can play out in favor of preserving car-free space in SF. First, if the anti-car-free measure gets less than 50% voter approval and the Supervisors’ measure gets more than 50% voter approval. This would make the JFK Promenade city code. Second, if the anti-car-free measure gets over 50% voter approval, but the Supervisors’ measure gets a higher approval, it will cancel out the other and JFK Promenade will become city code.
Last Monday, July 18, the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee brought us closer to achieving this by approving the counter measure to codify the car-free spaces in Golden Gate Park. Additionally they approved a ballot measure for November that would repeal the infamous Prop J and allow the City to operate and manage the parking garage below the Music Concourse instead of the Concourse Authority, an independent nonprofit board. Then, the SFMTA will be able to lower the parking rate and make the garage more affordable and accessible for people with disabilities and seniors.
Be ready to vote and rally your friends in November. And, every dollar given today will support our work as we prepare for the November election and fight to make our streets safer and more accessible.