New Film Shows People Benefiting from Great Walkway, J.F.K. Promenade

Filmmakers push back against false narrative that open spaces are for "elites"

Carol is an 80 year old who loves exploring Golden Gate Park and one of the interviewees in a new film. Image: Community Spaces SF
Carol is an 80 year old who loves exploring Golden Gate Park and one of the interviewees in a new film. Image: Community Spaces SF

An advocacy group called “Community Spaces SF” released Safe Places, Community Spaces, a documentary video on Wednesday. The video is comprised of interviews with people enjoying the J.F.K. Promenade and the Great Walkway.

Those who want the J.F.K. Promenade turned back into a highway and the Great Walkway turned back into space dominated by auto traffic 24/7, foist a false narrative that people who use car-free spaces are exclusively able-bodied, wealthy, and elite. Regular people, they claim, drive to work and need these roads for their cars.

Gene, a father of three, and other subject of the film
Gene, a father of three, and another subject of the film

“What’s special about J.F.K. and the Great Walkway is they’re large expansive places with room for people to enjoy nature’s greatest gifts to our city,” explained part-time advocate and Outer Sunset resident Lucas Lux. “They’re inviting to everyone and allow people to build community and connections.”

Lux and others with the group “Community Spaces SF” decided to make their 15-minute documentary to show examples of who really uses the Great Walkway and J.F.K. Promenade. It’s actually an incredibly diverse group of people. “It’s easy to find people in mobility scooters or in a wheelchair using the space. It’s easy to find any type of person using the space,” said Lux, who hosted and directed the film. “You see every type of person sharing the space together.”

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Heidi, a mom of two who used to rely on her car. Another subject of the film.

“It’s been really fun to go through the editing process, because you have to really listen to what people say, and you have to do a good job of hearing their voices and not misinterpreting,” said Parker Day, who edited and helped produce the film. “I enjoyed listening to each of these interviews and understanding where they’re coming from.”

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David Miles, also in the film, of course

Day develops online training programs for companies and was the only member of the group with professional production experience. “We started shooting around Christmas,” he explained. From the group’s website about the movie:

Spaces like JFK Promenade, Great Highway Park, and Slow Streets have changed the lives of San Franciscans by giving them more spaces to build community. Hear from your neighbors who love these spaces including Carol, who rediscovered Golden Gate Park on a mobility scooter, and Gene, who brings youth he mentors to JFK Promenade to ride bikes away from the violence in their neighborhoods.

Day will be editing shorter versions of the interviews for use on Twitter and other social media platforms for those who may not want to spend 15 minutes watching the full documentary. Lux told Streetsblog that part of the point of making the videos is that many people don’t have time to spend advocating and going to city hall, which skews perceptions of who actually wants these spaces to remain car-free. The idea is to give a voice to the people who don’t have time to speak out. “It’s a challenge of advocacy–most people don’t want to or can’t advocate. They just want to enjoy these spaces with their friends and family.”

Be sure to check out the full video:

To learn more, or to get involved, check out the Community Spaces SF web page.

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Advocates on the steps of S.F. City Hall demanding that J.F.K. promenade remain open to people (and closed to cut-through traffic). Photos Streetsblog/Rudick

Rally to Protect J.F.K. Promenade

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Some 100 advocates, policy makers, and others gathered on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday morning to demand an end to attempts to turn the J.F.K. promenade (previously known as J.F.K. Drive) in Golden Gate Park back into a high-traffic thruway.