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Controversial ordinance banning cars
from Golden Gate Park on Saturdays moves forward

District 1 Supervisor Jake McGoldrick sponsored the Golden Gate Park
Saturday car-free legislation.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 14, 2006

City officials approved a resolution to close 1.5 mile stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays for six months at a special hearing of the Land Use and Economic Development Committee meeting on Friday.

The resolution intends to replicate a similar traffic-free park program on Sundays that has been active for 39 years and has attracted thousands of people annually to the park, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said.

"We have proof that this technique has worked for four decades on Sundays," McGoldrick said. "Let's give this a try on Saturday."

The resolution is a trial closure of John F. Kennedy Jr. Drive between Kezar Drive and Transverse Rive and adjacent roads connecting with that portion of John F. Kennedy Drive, McGoldrick said. The Recreation & Parks Department will conduct a study on the impact of the Saturday road closures that it will present to the Board of Supervisors by Feb. 1, 2007.

The resolution passed with additional amendments addressing the closure's impact on the city's disabled community which is concerned over the passing of the legislation, said Susan Mizner, acting director of the Mayor's Office of Disabilities.

Susan Mizner

"Most people can drive and park within a half-mile radius and can walk, bike, or skateboard to the park," Mizner said. "It's not an option for people with mobility impairments. They need to find an accessible place to park and be able to get to their destination within a block or so."

Spencer DeBella, a ticket taker at the Conservatory of Flowers, said he has a developmental disability and walks with Canadian crutches. He gets dropped off by a cab to get to work.

"If this ordinance passes, it will be very difficult for me to get to work on Saturdays," DeBella said.

DeBella said the cab would drop him off if he needed to work on Sundays but he would need to get an official letter from the conservatory to give to the cab driver. McGoldrick said he would work with park officials and the cab companies to cater to DeBella's needs.

An amended version of the ordinance provides for disability access, city attorney John Malamut said.

Vehicles with disability placards will be able to cross from Fulton Street to the Music Concourse and Tea Garden Drive through Eight Avenue during the park closure, Malamut said. The amended version of the ordinance includes additional handicapped accessible parking spaces on 8th Avenue between Fulton Street and John F. Kennedy Drive and a passenger drop-off zone for people with disabilities on Bowling Drive as close as possible to John F. Kennedy Drive.

The Department of Recreation & Parks would also report on the park closure's effect on disability access in their presentation to the Board of Supervisors at the end of the six month trial, Malamut said.

The ordinance will still be a challenge for disabled people and seniors even with the additional parking spaces, said Timothy Hornbecker, the executive director of The Arc of San Francisco

"The new parking spaces are still too many blocks away for disabled people to access the park," Hornbecker said.

Denise D'Anne, 72, of the Senior Action Network said the ordinance does not hinder handicapped or seniors from considering alternative routes of transportation to get to park destinations.

"I occasionally drove to the park and the museum before I had my spinal problem," D'Anne said. "I have learned to take public transit which lets me off in front of the museum. I see disabled people and families with strollers on the bus all the time."

Park museum officials also expressed concern about the ordinance. John Buchanan, director of the re-opened de Young Museum, said the ordinance would discourage visitors from coming to the museum.

John Buchanan

"We are trying to bring as many people as possible," Buchanan said. "The closure of John F Kennedy Drive near the museum on Saturdays prevents people from outside the Bay Area traveling to the park and visiting the new museum."

According to the de Young museum's attendance report, museum attendance on Saturdays since the park's reopening last October ranged from 2,732 visitors to 10,546. Sunday visitors ranged from 926 to 11,694.

"I am not convinced that Saturday's attendance is going to be less than Sunday's," Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell

Glenn Bailey of Encino, Calif. said he never rents a car when he visits the city once a year.

"I got lost walking to the de Young Museum's grand re-opening but it gave me an opportunity to see the Rose Garden and the other parts of the park that I wouldn't have seen if I went straight to the museum," Bailey said.

Dennis Kern, Department of Recreation & Parks director of operations, said the department supports the street closure. The department is looking for means to increase the visibility of other sections of the park.

"We would like to create outdoor recreation options that offer more pastoral and woodland-like experience than the current state which is populated by the larger facilities," Kern said.

David Miles, president of the California Outdoor Rollerskating Association, said he is pleased with the ordinance's passing. Miles said he brings his family every Sunday to the park.

"Saturday's closure extends the experiences that I have on Sundays," Miles said. "I can show up at the park for free and bring my family to ride bikes and have a picnic."

Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval agreed with Miles and said he supported the legislation.

“I’ve been to the park many times and it really resembles more of a parking lot than a park,” Sandoval said. “It’s a park and that should be its first goal in the matter.”

Supervisor Geraldo Sandoval

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he viewed the ordinance from an economic standpoint considering the 800-unit garage under the park.

"Closure on Sundays has shown that the garage isn't going to pay for itself," Mirkarimi said. "We are stuck with the garage and Saturday closure will make sure that the garage is put to use."

Supervisor Maxwell said she wanted to hear both sides of the arguments before making a decision on the ordinance.

"I am convinced that this ordinance is at least worth the trial," Maxwell said. "Let's try it and see where it takes us."




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