Dede Wilsey Buys Ballot Measure to Return Cars to JFK

Dow Chemical heiress wrote $200,000 check to gather signatures for astroturf campaign

"Grassroots" support for bringing cars back to JFK. Photo: Lea Suzuki, San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris.
"Grassroots" support for bringing cars back to JFK. Photo: Lea Suzuki, San Francisco Chronicle/Polaris.

The “Access for All campaign” submitted a petition to the San Francisco elections department Monday with enough signatures to get a measure on the November ballot. If passed, the measure would negate an April decision by the S.F. Board of Supervisors and return motorists to the JFK Promenade through Golden Gate Park. From the SF Chron‘s report:

JFK Drive would reopen to car traffic on weekdays as well as Saturdays from October to March. The Great Highway from Skyline Boulevard to Lincoln Way would also be open to cars seven days a week under the measure.

The Chron story and others failed to mention who actually funded the signature-gathering campaign. A local NBC story even referred to the Access for All Campaign as “grassroots.”

This is typical of a campaign actually funded and run by multi-millionaires affiliated with the de Young museum, which hires professional lobbyists to then portray them as the underdogs. The signature-gathering campaign was funded by the de Young Museum’s board president and de facto boss, Dow Chemical heiress Diane “Dede” Wilsey. Through the museum, she hired professional signature-gathering firms in Southern California and Berkeley.

Campaign regulations force them to reveal these facts (PDF), although apparently it’s something they withhold when talking to reporters and at least some of the people signing the petition.

As seen in the disclosures and on the bottom of the flyer included in the above Tweet, Wilsey wrote a check for $200,000 to pay for signature gathering. That’s pocket change to Wilsey but enough money to get a ham sandwich on the ballot.

So what is Access for All really about? As explained ad nauseam, there’s nothing about the current configuration of the JFK Walkway that stops anybody from accessing the museums and the park. Motorists can’t use JFK as a high-speed cut-through anymore (as seen below, even JFK Drive west of Transverse is still open to motorists). However, MLK is still open to cars and it parallels JFK for access to park attractions. There’s a tunnel under the museums that enters directly into the 800-space parking garage, so the museums certainly aren’t restricted in any way. There’s also a system of shuttles now to access the park. And, of course, there are buses that stop right in front of the museums.

Map from Rec and Parks
Map from Rec and Parks of the car-free areas (in green). Motorists can drive on all the other roadways and have a tunnel and parking garage under the museums and music concourse.

But JFK drive was useful for Wilsey to get to her hobby/museum from her mansion (one of them anyway) in Pacific Heights, across from Alta Plaza Park. It’s a straight shot by car down JFK. Or at least it was until the all-powerful bike and walk lobbies ruined it by making her divert to the underground tunnel from Fulton.

Same probably goes for her ultra-rich friends, some of whom are listed alongside her on this invitation to her Trump fundraiser:

Thanks Fitz!
Thanks Fitz!

The good news is this: the ballot measure supporters probably made a mistake by linking JFK Promenade and Great Walkway. It’s unlikely that everyone who wants the Great Walkway compromise blown up and cars returned to it seven days a week also want cars back on JFK, which all polling shows is immensely popular. It’s also going to be harder to trick voters on what the campaign is really about on the ballot because the language will be regulated by the City Attorney. And Supervisor Mandelman, Supervisor Melgar, Supervisor Dorsey, Supervisor Ronen have already placed a counter-acting measure on the November ballot that will change city code to reinforce keeping the eastern half of JFK car-free. If that is supported by more voters than the Wilsey measure, JFK will remain a promenade.

Trump supporters want cars speeding through the park again, endangering children
Trump supporters want cars speeding through the park again, endangering children


Rally to save 'Car-Free JFK' held in February. Photo: Sergio Ruiz

The Museums Want One More Crack at Ending Car Free Streets

The San Francisco Examiner reports that a new ballot measure has been filed with the City of San Francisco, which its proponents are calling “Access for All.” If successful, the measure would: Reverse the Supervisors’ April decision to create a permanent car-free JFK in Golden Gate Park Undo the bans on motor vehicles along stretches […]