SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A judge has affirmed that San Francisco has the power to keep some of its Westside thoroughfares – such the Great Highway on the weekends – closed.

Judge Richard Ulmer issued a three-page ruling in the case of Open the Great Highway Alliance v. Philip Ginsburg on Wednesday.

The closure of the highway adjacent to Ocean Beach – as well as parts of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Drives in Golden Gate Park – has been very controversial in the Sunset and Richmond neighborhoods, with residents claiming the closures have resulted in speeding and traffic jams nearby.

They’d been closed by the city at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown to allow for physically distanced exercise and other uses of outdoor space.

Gautam Dutta, an attorney for the Open the Great Highway Alliance, told KRON4 that the street closures hurt his elderly and disabled clients. People over 65 and/or who are disabled comprise a quarter of San Francisco’s population.

“A lot of the disabled and senior community cannot use, as a practical reality, Golden Gate Park right now because of the closures,” Dutta said. “If you need a wheelchair, it’s not workable. They’re effectively frozen out. … And we’re not even talking about the day-to-day errands we do.”

Dutta said that the Great Highway closures alone affect 750,000 cars a month.

The situation had reached a fever pitch over the summer, when many other pandemic measures were loosened. Mayor London Breed and supervisors Gordon Mar, who represents the Sunset, and Connie Chan, who represents the Richmond, announced a compromise August 5 whereby the Great Highway would be open to cars on the weekdays, but closed noon Friday till 6 a.m. Monday.

“Having the Great Highway closed on weekends and holidays will make sure that residents and visitors still can enjoy this incredible space, while recognizing the needs of our families and residents who need to get to school and work during the week as we reopen,” Breed stated at the time. “There has been a lot of ongoing community discussions and meetings about the long-term future of the Great Highway, and I look forward to that continuing over the coming months to inform the next phase of the project.”

Advocates from the pedestrian group Walk SF filed an appeal to keep the highway fully closed to traffic, and the Open the Great Highway Alliance filed a suit to fully reopen it, along with two Golden Gate Park streets that hadn’t been opened at all.

Ulmer stated in his ruling that he didn’t want to “interfere with the legislative process,” since the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is anticipated to be considering a “permanent solution” regarding the three streets “soon.”

City officials touted the ruling as a legal victory.

“Opening Great Highway and JFK to people has allowed thousands of San Franciscans to exercise outdoors every day, enjoy parks with their families and travel across town safely while Muni service is fully restored,” stated Jeffrey Tumlin, director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. “We’re glad the court has supported the City’s current public engagement process which addresses safety, accessibility and traffic concerns, while expanding their benefits equitably to all San Franciscans.”

Dutta said the alliance is weighing its options.

“We obviously disagree with the court’s ruling and will evaluate our options going forward,” he said. “We believe the judge got the facts and the law wrong.”