2022 – A Seminal Year for Safe and Livable Streets
8:10 AM PST on December 22, 2022
Who would have thought that Trump-supporter, inheritor of wealth generated through chemical warfare, anti-bike, pro-car, sometimes-art-supporter "socialite" Dede Wilsey would go down in history as having done more to help the cause of safe-and-livable streets than anyone else in the Bay Area?
In April, advocates celebrated a vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors preserving the eastern half of J.F.K. Drive as a car-free space. And why not? Motorists have an 800-space underground parking garage, and MLK, and tunnels to access the interior of the park. It was the democratic conclusion to a decades-long battle to try and prevent crashes and make the park more of a, well, park.
But that wasn't good enough for Wilsey and others who insist on unfettered car-access everywhere in the city. Wilsey bankrolled a signature-gathering campaign to get the J.F.K. Promenade decision overturned via plebiscite. Not only was she gunning for the J.F.K. Promenade, but she wanted to put cars back on the Great Highway, 24/7. To hell with the consequences; cars everywhere all the time.
At the time, Streetsblog predicted that Measure "I", as her ballot measure would be named, was an overreach and a terrible misread of the popularity of both of these spaces. Nevertheless, if "I" succeeded and "J" failed, the measure put on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors to enshrine the J.F.K. Promenade into the city charter, it would have been a disaster for safe-and-livable streets advocates.
So advocates returned to the ramparts and re-fought the battle as if their lives depended on it--because they did.
Of course, the rest is history. Not only did "I" fail and "J" succeed in November, but it wasn't even close. Nearly every electoral precinct affirmed that they have had enough of speeding drivers and the noise, pollution, and danger they bring to the park and the city.
It was, in the end, the best thing that could have happened.
Without the clear results in this election, would the San Francisco Chronicle and other major players in the mainstream media have given any ink to a plan to make the Embarcadero car free? Would a complete tear-down of the Central Freeway be getting so much traction? Now, with such a strong affirmation of everything this publication and its allies fight for, anything is possible.
As a region, of course, we are still decades behind our counterparts in Europe (and we're falling further behind) when it comes to safe streets. Fights continue to rage for safe streets in Emeryville, Oakland, Marin, the Peninsula, Berkeley, Contra Costa, and elsewhere. There have been significant victories throughout the Bay Area.
But sadly, the death and horror on our streets continues.
As editor of Streetsblog, 2022 has been exhausting and sometimes painful--as I'm sure it was for all of our friends at the various advocacy groups.
Streetsblog San Francisco will be taking a hiatus for the remainder of 2022. My hope is Streetsblog will have more resources next year to cover and highlight the next big fights--getting protected bike lanes around the rest of Lake Merritt in Oakland, Seamless Bay Area will continue its push to get better transit services, the push will continue against Caltrans's constant excuses for widening roads, and, one hopes, advocates can finally make San Francisco fulfill its broken promises on Valencia. There are so many fights it's impossible to mention them all here. But right now, as 2022 winds down, let's celebrate the J.F.K. Promenade victory as a beacon of hope and accomplishment and a guide to what's possible moving forward.
And please consider giving to Streetsblog to help us expand our abilities to cover these issues.
Have a great, safe, holiday. All the best from Roger Rudick, editor, Streetsblog San Francisco, Melanie Curry, editor, Streetsblog California, Publisher Damien Newton, and the rest of the Streetsblog team in California and throughout the U.S.
More from Streetsblog San Francisco
Weekend Roundup: Caltrain Electrification Update, Speed Cameras
...and help protect the car free space on Shelly Drive