A decades-old movement to close a stretch of Golden Gate Park roadway to
motorists on Saturdays -- a political debate that has pitted green-space advocates against
those concerned with congestion, museum attendance and access for the elderly and disabled
-- received an essential endorsement Friday.
The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee unanimously
approved a six-month test run of the closure, introduced by Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, at
a special public hearing.
Closing 1.5 miles of John F. Kennedy Drive between Kezar Drive and Transverse Drive on
Saturdays would mimic the 39-year-old Sunday closure of the same stretch of road from 6
a.m. to 5 p.m. The measure moved to the full board, where it is expected to pass. If
approved, it would require several agencies to gather data on the temporary closure that
could be studied later.
"I think we have something here that will move forward the needs of using Golden
Gate Park on the weekends," McGoldrick said after the vote. "It's a very
practical piece of legislation." Dozens of supporters and opponents of the measure
lined up to voice opinions at the hearing, which lasted nearly four hours.
Those in favor pointed to the success of the Sunday closing of the eastern end of
Kennedy Drive to create a refuge for skaters, bikers and pedestrians who want to escape
the traffic. Proponent David G. Miles Jr., a popular roller skater who leads the Friday
Night Skate, has advocated Saturday road closures for decades and brought several of his
children to help voice support Friday. Saturday closures, he said, would give families
more opportunities to have picnics, enjoy green space for free or skate, as he does every
Miles urged the supervisors not to reject the measure because of the "same
excuses" that have dogged the idea for years. "We have a new day," Miles
said. "We have a new garage. We should be able to make this happen."
Supporters pointed to the Music Concourse Garage, a parking structure that opened in
October, as a way to alleviate parking that would be eliminated by the proposed Saturday
Those opposed, however, raised concerns about access for the elderly and the disabled,
access to the park's cultural institutions and the parking and traffic congestion the
closure could create.
Spencer DeBella, 50, uses crutches to walk from a cab to his job as a ticket-taker at
the Conservatory of Flowers. Cabs often won't take him through the barricades on Sundays
he works -- meaning he gets dropped off farther away.
He's also encountered trouble in getting cabs to come back into the park to pick him up
during the Sunday closures.
"If they close it both days, it would really be difficult," DeBella said
before the hearing. People with disabilities, however, may use handicapped placards to
bypass one of the closure barricades, McGoldrick said."The issue of access is so
clear," McGoldrick said. "I don't know how many times we have to go over
But Shelley Gottlieb, president of the nonprofit Arc of San Francisco, which serves the
developmentally disabled, criticized the handicapped placards as a solution to gain
special access. "It's saying, 'I have to do something extra to get access to the
park,' " Gottlieb said.
Other residents complained about the traffic and parked cars that spill into
surrounding neighborhoods on Sundays, when the free parking along Kennedy Drive is
Chooi Eng Grosso, who lives on Seventh Avenue south of the park, learned the hard way
that she needs to run errands Saturdays, she said. She recalled returning home one Sunday
afternoon with her car full of groceries -- including ice cream -- to find a car parked in
"They're not very careful about how they encroach on your driveway," she
The Recreation and Park Department favors road closures that would bring additional
users to the park, operations director Dennis Kern told the committee. But he suggested
they consider Saturday closings of roads in the middle or western parts of the park --
areas, he said, that would benefit from increased use.
"We think it's a great use of park lands," Kern said. But "we've got
1,017 acres of land in Golden Gate Park." Museums in the park have claimed that
attendance suffers on Sundays, when patrons cannot park along Kennedy Drive.
During the meeting, however, the supervisors received data showing that M.H. de Young
Memorial Museum attendance was higher on Sundays than Saturdays in 10 out of 23 weekends
since the museum reopened in October.
Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said that, based on the data, she wasn't convinced that
Saturday road closures would hurt attendance. In fact, she said, it might bring new
patrons to the park's cultural institutions.
"People may decide to go in" as they pass the museums, Maxwell said.
"They may decide that we will save up and we will go to the museum next time."