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Board of Supervisors pass controversial
Golden Gate Park Car-Free Saturdays

Vote shy of veto-proof

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

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," Sandoval said.

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 Richmond."

Rebecca Green, San Francisco Parks Trust board member, said the ordinance will be detrimental to the recently re-opened Conservatory of Flowers.

"This ordinance dissuades people from coming to the park and they won't be able to see the beautiful exhibits at the conservatory," Green said.

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 Aufdencamp said.

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 said.

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, of course."

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 said.

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," Daly said.

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 passed.

"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 said.




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