Feb. 25, 2003
|Supervisors toying (again) with barring park traffic
Golden Gate Park, seen in this 1997 photo, stretches from Ocean
Beach to Stanyan Street at the edge of Haight Ashbury
battle for Golden Gate Park
By Rachel Gordon CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER
Traffic is barred in parts of the park on Sundays and holidays.
|No one would deny that closing the
eastern roadways in Golden Gate Park on Sundays and holidays to private vehicles has been
a wildly popular program with bicyclists, skaters and pedestrians who love the freedom of
using San Francisco's premiere green space without worry of cars mowing them down. Now,
advocates are once again pressing ahead with a long-debated plan to extend the car-free
policy to a short stretch of Golden Gate Park on Saturdays - despite a loss at the polls
in 2000.They pushed their idea Mon day at a City Hall hearing on legislation sponsored by
Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez that would ban cars on Saturdays along John
|Kennedy Drive east of Eighth Avenue, Bowling Green Drive,
Arguello Boulevard, Conservatory Drive East and Conservatory Drive West - in effect, all
the roads feeding into the eastern end of the park. "The idea," said David
Gartner, who lives in nearby Cole Valley, "is a lot closer to what (Golden Gate Park
creator John) McLaren originally intended: a safe, quiet oasis from life in the
But once again supporters of the plan, including such groups as the San
Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk San Francisco and the California Outdoor Rollerskating
Association, are meeting fierce opposition. Critics, among them representatives of the
park's cultural institutions, the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, the California Academy of
Sciences and the Conservatory of Flowers, fear that restricting cars will keep potential
Monica Abram, 7, of Oakland
enjoys the swing sets in Golden Gate Park. SuperVIsors are considering extending a ban on
auto traffic to a short stretch of the park on Saturdays.
FREDERICK LARSON I The Chronicle
|In addition, some
residents of the adjacent Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods worry that traffic congestion
and the parking crunch will only get worse. And then there are people like Pat Langdell, a
"I don't bicycle. 1 don't rollerskate anymore. 1 don't jog,"
Langdell said. "I'm just a little old woman, and I'm having a harder and harder time
getting around, and I know most of my friends are having a harder and harder time getting
around. ... Don't close JFK Drive."
Countering her was Michael Smith of Walk San Francisco, who said the proposed closure
would affect only a small portion of the park and shouldn't be dismissed. "What we're
trying to do is create a safe place for recreation," he said.
The debate is not new. Less than three years ago, voters rejected the idea of
prohibiting cars in the eastern end of the park on Saturdays. Gonzalez acknowledged the
defeat but say his plan was significantly different, most notably because the proposed
closure he envisions wouldn't stretch as far west.
Under his plan, cars would still have access to and from the park via Eighth and 10th
Avenues in the Richmond District and not be choked off from those two main arteries that
feed the concourse area where the museums are located. "I very much envision it a
compromise," Gonzalez said.
He said there were ways to alleviate the parking and traffic problems in nearby
neighborhoods by putting in a right-hand-turn lane here and a no-left-hand-turn ban there.
Better directional signs, new parking restrictions and other measures also could help,
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who represents the Richmond District, said the board should
take no action until neighbors could be assured that parking and traffic problems would be
taken care of.
we're trying to do is create a safe place for recreation."
SMITH of Walk San Francisco
|And then there's the question of the
Conservatory of Flowers, the grand, glass enclosed building for flora on JFK Drive
undergoing a $25 million renovation. Park officials anticipate that once the wind-damaged
conservatory is reopened, it will attract crowds of visitors. Nothing should be done, they
and others say, to restrict access.
"The Conservatory of Flowers is going to be a
great public institution," said Helene Sanghvi York, executive director of Friends of
Recreation and Park, which helped fund the fix up. "There has been a lot of heart and
soul, as well as money invested in that project, and it is a project that needs to be
enjoyed by people from around the city."
Gonzalez said there was a possible solution to address the concern, one
devised by Elizabeth Goldstein, general manager of the Recreation and Park Department. She
suggested that cars still be allowed to use Arguello Boulevard and Conservatory West Drive
- the roads behind the conservatory - to drop off and pick up passengers. A cul de sac
could be constructed so the vehicles could turn around. In addition, a few parking spaces
for disabled drivers could be allowed. The city could carve out a bike and skate lane on
those roads, to keep park users getting around by people power separated from the cars.
Goldstein said that rough cost estimates for the cuI de sac project ranged from $75,000
to $3 million, but said the best alternative was around $325,000 The Board of Supervisors
Land Use Committee, which held the hearing, did not vote on the Gon zalez proposal, where
support at the board is not yet cemented. No time line has been set. Gonzalez gave no
indication that he would go back to, the voters with his proposal, which the board could
adopt on its own. "I think it's clear," he said, "there's still work to be
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