Board of Supervisors pass controversial
Golden Gate Park Car-Free Saturdays
Vote shy of veto-proof
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 26, 2006
Resolution to close 1.5 mile stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive
in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays for a six month trial passed
on first reading at the Board of Supervisors' Tuesday meeting,
but not unanimously.
The ordinance passed with a 7 to 4 vote with an amendment to
develop an accessible inter-park shuttle for disabled people.
Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd, and
Fiona Ma voted against the ordinance.
Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval said the measure would not pass the
board with a veto-proof majority. Mayor Gavin Newsom will have
an opportunity to veto the legislation.
"It reflects the nearly equal split on this item,"
The board's voting also reflected the divided public opinion
regarding the ordinance.
With banners raised and excited voices abound, dozens of advocates
for and against a resolution presented their cases at the steps
of City Hall prior to the Board of Supervisors hearing.
At 12 p.m., advocates against the Healthy Saturday initiative
gathered for a press conference in front of City Hall. Speakers
included various neighborhood associations, park representatives
and disabled community advocates.
Timothy Hornbecker, executive director of the The Arc of San
Francisco, said he appreciated recent efforts of the supporters
and city officials to find better solutions for the disabled community
in regards to the resolution but the organization overall still
opposes the street closure.
"The fact that people who are elderly and disabled now have
to prove themselves is patronizing," Hornbecker said.
Michele Stratton, co-chair of the North Park Neighborhood Association,
said the surrounding neighborhoods view the streets closure detrimental
to the community.
"The 2,000 residents living adjacent to Golden Gate Park
know how the traffic is like on Sundays with the park closure,"
Stratton said. "It will be unhealthy Saturdays in the inner
Rebecca Green, San Francisco Parks Trust board member, said the
ordinance will be detrimental to the recently re-opened Conservatory
"This ordinance dissuades people from coming to the park
and they won't be able to see the beautiful exhibits at the conservatory,"
At 1:39 p.m., advocates of the Healthy Park Saturdays spoke surrounded
by colorful posters on the steps of City Hall
Adam Aufdencamp and his daughter Sophie, 3, commute weekly to
the park playground from the Presidio area.
"It's hard to find a place for kids to ride their bikes
and play without the risk of being run over by cars," Adam
The Aufdencamps said they either park a block away from the park
and walk into the park grounds or take the Presidio shuttle to
the street across from the Park and the Fulton bus into the park.
They are more than willing to use the bus option more often to
get to the park if the ordinance passes.
"I can't wait for a day with no cars," Sophie Aufdencamp
Iqra Anjum, president of the San Francisco Youth Commission,
said that Healthy Saturdays will give families more opportunities
to spend time together.
"A lot of families complain about not having the time and
sometimes the money to spend with their children," Anjum,
19, said. "Going out to eat and watch movies can be so expensive
in the city that the park is a healthy and affordable option."
Supervisors Jake McGoldrick, Ross Mirkarimi and Tom Ammiano also
spoke at the rally expressing their support of the ordinance.
"I am waiting for the day when McGoldrick and I can ride
a bike for two in the park," Ammiano joked. "Fully clothed,
Seriously, Ammiano pointed out that the ordinance would advocate
healthy lifestyles for the city.
"Let's show the alternative to those who think public transit
means valet parking," Ammiano said.
Not all the Board members agreed with Mirkarimi, Ammiano and
McGoldrick at Tuesday afternoon's meeting.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he would not support the ordinance
based on the impacts on Golden Gate Heights and Sunset Heights
neighborhoods during Sunday closures.
"Saturdays will be much worse because parking meters are
ticketed and those who want to be at the park for more than two
hours will have to park farther away from the area," Elsbernd
Elsbernd said the idea of moving the park closure to the Western
end has not fully been discussed in an adequate manner.
Supervisor Fiona Ma said she also listened to her constituents
on both sides of the issue.
"This is a neighborhood issue and the neighbors have spoken,"
Ma said. "I believe that we shouldn't replace the voters'
judgments with our own."
Supervisor Chris Daly said the voters have spoken for the ordinance
to move forward given the different circumstances before and after
the presence of the 800-unit garage underneath the park which
led to original support for the ordinance.
"Until we take the corrosive influences of money out of
the arena, let's realize that elections are not the end-all,"
The Board of Supervisors approved an amended version of the ordinance
7 to 4. Based on discussions at the special Land Use and Economic
Development Committee meeting on April 14, the city attorney amended
the legislation to development of an accessible interpark shuttle
trained to go five miles per hour to transport disabled people.
Hornbecker said the shuttle program is a great idea. He will
be working with the Mayor's Office of Disabilities in a committee
to develop the ordinance.
"I'm willing to look at the situation and work with the
community to find a good solution that will benefit the disabled
community," Hornbecker said. "I still believe that the
park should be for everyone."
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said he was pleased that the ordinance
"The people and the park belong to each other," McGoldrick
said, "not to cars."
Mayor Gavin Newsom has not made a decision to veto the legislation
yet, Mayoral spokesperson Peter Ragone said.
"The mayor will continue to work with both sides and remains
hopeful that there will eventually be a compromise," Ragone