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Controversial Golden Gate Park
Car-Free Saturday ordinance stalled

Supervisor Alioto-Pier amends legislation
for ADA-compliance

Martin Luther King Drive, Golden Gate Park.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Aldrich M. Tan

May 3, 2006

Discussions over the Healthy Saturdays ordinance, which would close a 1.5 mile stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays for a six month trial, will continue to next week.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier introduced three amendments to the legislation at the Board of Supervisors meeting during the ordinance's second reading which brought the legislation back to its first-reading state. The amended ordinance passed on first reading this Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Alioto-Pier amended the ordinance to create a deaf-friendly information line for individuals to call, to make the three major requirements addressing accessibility for the disabled community mandatory, and to continue ongoing application of those programs on Sundays when the Saturday trial ordinance expires.

Alioto-Pier said she disagrees with the Saturday closure. However, the legislation must completely addresses issues regarding disability access to make sure that it does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such violations could have legal repercussions since The Arc of San Francisco is seeking legal advice.

"I don't like being the person who constantly brings forward the little intricacies on how the Americans with Disabilities Act works," Alioto-Pier said, "I don't want to have to do that every single time I see a piece of legislation, but I will do it on this one because I see some big holes within it."

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said Alioto-Pier's amendments strengthen the legislation.

"It would have been nice to pass the legislation a week early in time for summer," McGoldrick said, "but it is important to address the needs of the disabled community."

The original legislation implements disability-specific access programs for Saturday and Sunday road closures during the six month trial period. Alioto-Pier asked for the disability access programs to continue on Sundays even after the trial period ends.

Burke Delventhal, Deputy City Attorney, said he would amend the ordinance as requested.

Alioto-Pier also expressed concern over the wording of the legislation addressing disability access. The legislation provides for an intra-park transit, additional parking places and additional signed drop-off zones "or any combination of the above."

"It's important that these three components work in conjunction with each other to make sure that the park is fully accessible to communities with disabilities," Alioto-Pier said.

McGoldrick assured Alioto-Pier that all three requirements would be met.

"I think there is good faith on the table from my office and from the proponents of the ordinance that we'll make it happen," McGoldrick said. "I guarantee it."

Alioto-Pier said she wanted to see it written in the legislation itself.

"I appreciate the guarantee but it still worries me especially as someone who has worked on disability issues for quite some time," Alioto-Pier said. "We can't take anything for granted."

Alioto-Pier asked for the creation of a deaf-compliant information phone line so that people with disabilities can access information about park accessibility on weekends.

Yomi Agunbiade, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation & Parks, said that the development of a weekend information line would be challenging because the park lacks the staffing to run the program.

"Essentially, we would need staff in the lodge but that area is not staffed during the weekends, Agunbiade said. "We have park patrol working on weekends who can use cell phones but that doesn't take care of the TDD access."

McGoldrick agreed with Alioto-Pier that the program should be implemented.

"We have until mid-June before this trial is incorporated so I would appreciate Mr. Agunbiade making sure that the staffing will be available by that time," McGoldrick said.

The revisions of the amendment will delay the amendment's passing by one week, Supervisor Aaron Peskin said. McGoldrick initially said the legislation needs to be passed as soon as possible.

"I'd like to get this legislation moving because summer is coming up and I'd like to make the park accessible as soon as possible," McGoldrick said.

The ordinance passed with Supervisors Fiona Ma, Bevan Dufty, Sean Elsbernd, and Alioto-Pier voting against the ordinance.

Then, Supervisor Chris Daly made a motion to rescind the previous action.

"I disagree with the 11th hour substance being employed while moving a piece of legislation that the supervisors had already voted on during its first reading," Daly said.

The motion to rescind the previous action failed 7 to 3 and the ordinance passed on first reading as amended.

David Miles, president of the California Outdoor Skateboarding Association, agreed the additional amendments will improve the legislation and increase accessibility to the park on Saturdays.

"We have waited 26 years for this ordinance to pass," Miles said. "We can wait one more week."

Susan Mizner, Mayor's Office on Disabilities director, said the disabled community will benefit from the revised legislation.

"There are real access issues that this legislation addresses," Mizner said. "The disabled community did not have access to the park on Sundays before and now it will."

Timothy Hornbecker, executive director of The Arc of San Francisco, applauded Alioto-Pier for her amendments, but said the amendments are not enough.

"There has been little discussion about the financial cost of the program," Hornbecker said. "I want to see that also in writing."

McGoldrick said he is looking at a variety of different sources for the shuttle trams, including electric-running vehicles to save energy.

McGoldrick said the costs of implementing the recommendations could cost up to $25,000. The committee working on the ordinance will have a more precise figure in the coming weeks.

"We're not going to let the issue of money stand in the way," McGoldrick said. "We will easily find the funding for this ordinance."

Mayor Gavin Newsom still has not made a decision if he will veto the legislation, said Wade Crowfoot, Mayor's Liaison to the Board of Supervisors.

Newsom is concerned over access to the Conservatory of Flowers and is interested in leaving Arguello Boulevard and West Conservatory Drive open to provide approximately 30 to 45 vehicle parking spots and a courtesy drop-off point for the Conservatory.

"It would open up an excellent drop-off point for people with disabilities," said Rebecca Green, San Francisco Parks Trust board member.

Newsom also has a copy of The Arc of San Francisco's legal consultation with Protection & Advocacy, Inc., Hornbecker said.

The Arc of San Francisco sought the legal counsel of the Oakland-based private nonprofit organization that protects the legal, civil and service rights of persons with disabilities on April 28.

An analysis of the situation, based on phone conversations between The Arc of San Francisco and Protection & Advocacy, Inc., suggests that the ordinance may be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Diana Honig, staff attorney for Protection & Advocacy, Inc, in the consultation

"I need to see what else happens to this legislation," Hornbecker said. "If our requests aren't met, we will take legal action."

McGoldrick said he would consult with the city attorney if The Arc of San Francisco does take legal action against the city.

"We'll deal with the situation accordingly if it gets to that point," McGoldrick said.




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