Commentary: Ban Cars on JFK from the Panhandle to the Sea

Supervisor Connie Chan wants 'compromise'? Okay, motorists can use Fulton, Lincoln and Crossover

Damn the polls, Connie Chan still wants to turn JFK drive back into a dangerous traffic sewer with cyclists forced to the sides. Photo: File
Damn the polls, Connie Chan still wants to turn JFK drive back into a dangerous traffic sewer with cyclists forced to the sides. Photo: File

Nearly 10,000 people responded to SFMTA and Rec and Park’s survey over whether or not to keep a section of J.F.K. Drive car-free. The results were conclusive, as spelled out by the grass-roots advocates at Kid Safe SF:

10,000 responses. 72 percent in favor of car-free JFK.

And yet, in yesterday’s Board of Supervisors discussion, Supervisor Connie Chan objected to a “winner takes all approach” and pushed her “compromise,” which would still allow cars on 8th Avenue/part of JFK and “provide free garage parking for people with disabilities and those from under-served San Francisco neighborhoods.”

There is already ADA access via car (or shuttle) to the entrance to the museum, with ramps under J.F.K. drive. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
There is already ADA access via car (or shuttle) to the entrance to the museum, with ramps under J.F.K. drive. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

At least she’s acknowledging that there is a garage–with 800 spaces in fact–under the museums that should be available for the underserved and disabled people (another good idea to help assure access is to continue making more of the park’s many attractions free, as Mayor Breed just did with the specialty gardens).

Chan, meanwhile, should also check out the tunnel that already provides direct car access from Fulton into the garage (the idea that 8th Avenue is required for ADA access is ridiculous).

The entrance and tunnel to the parking garage at 10th and Fulton isn't enough? Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
The entrance and tunnel to the parking garage at 10th and Fulton isn’t enough? Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
More underground disabled parking in Golden Gate Park. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
More underground parking in Golden Gate Park. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

And yet the gaslighting continues. Borrowing from the Trump playbook, the survey results didn’t support her plan, so she attacked the survey, claiming it wasn’t available to non-English speakers. It’s actually available in “five languages: English, 繁體中文, Filipino, Русский, Español.”

What else are they supposed to do–add versions in Esperanto and Ancient Greek?

From the Car Free JFK web page. Connie Chan still wants the city to go back to the "before" image.
From the Car Free JFK web page. Supervisor Chan still wants the city to go back to the “before” image.

To review, in the argument to keep all of JFK open to cars, the de Young and the politicians who support them have made the following statements: D10 Supervisor Shamann Walton claimed that car-free JFK is “recreational redlining” or “like the segregationist south” because the bus takes “a couple of hours to get from the southeast sector of San Francisco to Golden Gate Park.” In reality the Muni’s 44-O’Shaughnessy bus, which runs every 12 minutes, does a loop around the Bayview, and then heads directly to the museums in Golden Gate Park. It takes less than one hour. It should be faster, but Streetsblog is unaware of any steps Walton has taken to give that bus its own lane. And then there was that now-infamous, obviously planted New York Times story that claimed that the de Young is somehow the lobbying underdog on this issue, at the mercy of the juggernaut of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco. In reality, the museum takes in $16.7 million in city funds and then turns around and hires professional lobbyists to try and influence the Board of Supervisors on this issue, including Chan.

Map from Rec and Parks
Map from Rec and Parks. Notice all the white and yellow roads are still open to cars.

Like Chan did yesterday, many of these same politicians then talk of “compromise.” What gets lost is that the proposal is to keep JFK as a promenade only from Stanyan to Crossover Drive–less than half its length. And as seen in the map above, the majority of JFK (and most of the other streets in the park) would remain open to cars.

So Streetsblog has a new compromise to propose. Let’s make all of JFK Drive, from Stanyan to the Great Highway, car-free. In fact, let’s make all of MLK Drive car-free too.

As the Chronicle wrote in its editorial last month endorsing car-free JFK:

Before the pandemic, JFK was one of the most dangerous and deadliest streets in San Francisco. There were 91 crashes on it from 2014 through its 2020 closure. That’s mostly because 75% of people traveling on JFK had no intention of visiting the park; they were simply using it as a cut-through.

Given that, let’s be generous and allow private motorists to retain Lincoln Way and Fulton to go east/west around the park and Crossover, Park Presidio Bypass, Chain of Lakes, and Stanyan to go north/south. Motorists can also keep the aforementioned car tunnel to the giant underground garage (which should be for the disabled and disadvantaged only). And any surface parking lots that get cut off in this scheme can be turned into ball courts and more parkland.

Heather Miller's ghost bike. She was killed on JFK drive in 2016. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
Heather Miller’s ghost bike. She was killed on JFK drive in 2016. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

The rest of Golden Gate Park will be for buses and the 72 percent of people who just want to use the park safely, without private, cut-through traffic blasting by putting their kids in danger. Now that’s a compromise maybe everybody can literally live with.

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