Good News for Golden Gate Park

Closing part of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park to automobile traffic may happen sooner than later.


By SF Progressive Editor Savannah Blackwell


I finally got out of the apartment this weekend and ran down to JFK Drive on Sunday, May 7 to try and make “Healthy Saturdays” proponents’ 2 p.m. press conference.


The SF Green Party’s Susan King had called to alert me, unfortunately at 2:15 p.m.


Then I got lost in the construction mess behind the California Academy of Sciences.


So I missed the best part: SF Tomorrow’s Jane Morrison, whose husband, Jack, played a critical role in getting the city to ban cars from the eastern mile-and-a-half span of JFK Drive on Sundays nearly 40 years ago. The weekly event remains one of the most popular activities in Golden Gate Park.


I ran into car-free stalwarts Leah Shahum of the SF Bicycle Coalition, who finally received some much deserved attention in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Chris Duderstadt of Alliance for Golden Gate Park as well as….Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. 


McGoldrick was out for a Sunday stroll with his mother-in-law, the lovely Mrs. Shippey, 80, of Kent, England.  


Both Shahum and McGoldrick told me they are optimistic that the District One supervisor’s proposal to expand car-free Sundays to include Saturdays will actually become a reality soon – at least for a six-month trial period.


Even with Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier’s underhanded moves at last week’s meeting, a ban of car traffic on part of JFK Drive on Saturdays should be able to start as planned on May 25 – assuming Mayor Gavin Newsom doesn’t do something stupid and veto the legislation.


McGoldrick said he was annoyed by Alioto-Pier’s moves, but he wouldn’t let her hold up the plan. Specifically, he said he would make Recreation and Park Director Yomi Agunbiade figure out a way to staff the new disabled hotline (one of the new requirements Alioto-Pier snookered her colleagues into passing last week).


“I told him he better make it happen,” he winked.


As for Alioto-Pier’s amendment requiring that the shuttle to take disabled visitors to and from the museums on the park’s Concourse be up and running prior to closing the drive on Saturdays, Duderstadt said that shouldn’t be a problem.


Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority Executive Director Mike Ellzey has said he’s got funds to cover operation of the shuttle for six months.


Shahum said activists didn’t have any major problems with Alioto-Pier’s amendments, but were shocked and offended by her tactics.


Shahum other activists had been working faithfully with Susan Mesner, Newsom’s liaison to disabled constituents, to address the latter’s concern that their ability to access the park’s cultural institutions might be impeded by McGoldrick’s legislation. Mesner told Shahum she had no clue that Alioto-Pier planned to spring her amendments at the last minute last week.


Neither did the members of McGoldrick’s staff, who apparently had been checking in regularly with Alioto-Pier’s aides to see if the District Two supe had additional problems or concerns. That was part of their (it now appears hopeless) effort to woo her to the park activists’ side and build a veto-proof majority of support on the board.


But Alioto-Pier kept her plan under tight wraps – most likely because she knew it had the potential to McGoldrick’s legislation as well as thwart the decades-old practice of closing the eastern span of JFK Drive to cars on Sundays.


SF Progressive still suspects that someone in Newsom’s office – a certain aide left over from former mayor Willie Brown’s administration specifically comes to mind – working behind the scenes.


Regardless, it sounds like the many supporters of extending car-free Sundays to Saturdays have a good shot at accomplishing their goal.


If they succeed, it would finally mark one major victory for park activists and environmentalists in their longtime struggle against private, moneyed interests and their push to transform the city’s premier park to suit their agenda.



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