Park or Parking Lot?

Agency moves forward with road widening plans in Golden Gate Park


By Savannah Blackwell, SFProgressive.com Editor

Last August, Superior Court Judge James Warren ruled that the city’s plan for funneling auto traffic to and from the underground parking garage slated for Golden Gate Park did not comply with the text of the 1998 measure that authorized the facility’s construction. 

Warren decided that since the plan included an entrance inside the park, it violated the terms of Proposition J, which states that any entrances or exits should be located outside of the park.

So officials with the Golden Gate Concourse Authority and the private Music Concourse Community Partnership, the outfit associated with wealthy financier Warren Hellman that has largely driven the project, have come up with a solution that many park users say creates more problems than it solves. Even some city officials, including those with the Municipal Transportation Authority, say they cannot support it.

Even so, the authority voted five to one today, with member John Rizzo voting against, to select one of the plans that authority director Mike Ellzey says will make the city comply with the judge’s order. The authority is in a hurry to do that, as delays have occurred already due to activists’ legal efforts to make the city comply with Prop J. Officials from the M.H. de Young Museum are counting on the garage being open in time for their planned re-opening next year. Ellzeyand other officials with the authority have blamed the shortcomings of the current plan on the activists who sued over the matter.

"We were ordered by the court to do this," authority chair Nancy Conner said. "This shows that the original design was preferable."

In a nutshell, the plan is to turn a quarter mile section of Martin Luther King Boulevard, beginning at the intersection of 9th Avenue and Lincoln, into a four-lane thoroughfare, with one lane to be shared by MUNI and bicyclists.

"We look for creating…a calm (traffic) environment," Joe Speaks, an MTA staffer, said at the meeting. "The MTA cannot support any of these alternatives. (They) will lead to increased motor vehicle speed."

The Inner Sunset Merchants Association was only recently contacted about the project. Pat Christiansen, a representative of the organization, read a letter penned by the group’s vice president of community relations expressing opposition.

"I personally addressed the EIR for the garage and at that time requested further traffic studies South of the Park. It was stated at the time of the EIR that traffic patterns South of the Park would not be affected by the garage and an inadequate survey of one southern intersection was performed," Craig Dawson wrote. "To think that that the Inner Sunset will not suffer irreparable damage should ANY of the plans for a Southern entrance be approved is FALSE."

At the meeting, it was clear the desire of activists and neighbors to slow the project down to allow more time for input was at odds with the desire of a majority of concourse authority members to move forward.

The planning department has issued a report stating that the new plan would not require another environmental review process. That report was made available to the public and to concourse authority members after the meeting began. To select an option, the authority had to first sign off on the planning department’s new report.

Rizzo tried to get his colleagues to take more time on the matter. 

"We circulate these things and give the public an opportunity to comment," Rizzo said. "This is a highly unusualpractice….We don’t really even know what we’re voting on."

"I believe this is being rushed." 

Activists are hoping they might get a more sympathetic hearing with the Board of Supervisors. The matter is to be heard by the Finance Committee on Nov. 17. Supervisor Chris Daly, for one, has said he might be willing to hold up the authority’s budget over the issue.

--Email SFProgressive editor Savannah Blackwell at savannah.blackwell@gmail.com


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