SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – A San Francisco supervisor introduced legislation that would continue the Great Highway weekend closure between Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way for at least the next three years — just before a ballot proposition that’d do the opposite heads to the voters in November.
When KRON4 last reported on the controversy last month, the Access For All ballot measure to reopen the Great Highway and nearby westside thoroughfare John F. Kennedy Drive to vehicle traffic was in the process of being approved for signature gathering. The elections department confirmed that it qualified for the ballot on July 15.
Joe Arellano, who is the communications director for the Access For All campaign, told KRON4 that the campaign is waiting for its official proposition letter to be provided in a few weeks.
The Great Highway was first closed to cars in 2020 to provide space for socially-distanced exercise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure was originally 24/7, but in 2021 neighborhood groups such as the Open the Great Highway Alliance pushed back, saying it made traffic in the surrounding Sunset neighborhood more dangerous, and hurt accessibility for seniors and the disabled, as KRON4 previously reported. The conflict over the highway closure has elicited passionate emotions from Sunset residents, motorists, bicyclists and urbanists throughout San Francisco, some of whom see it as a microcosm of larger 21st century urban planning conflicts.
In the spring, Mar, who represents the Outer Sunset neighborhood on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, asked the city attorney’s office to draft legislation to codify the current compromise brokered by Mayor London Breed (which allows for vehicles on weekdays and pedestrians on weekends) for at least the next three years. On July 26, Mar introduced the legislation to the board.
“Keeping the Great Highway as a promenade on weekends and holidays when it’s used the most, while allowing car access on weekdays when motorists use it the most, is a win-win solution,” Mar stated. “Millions of visits to the promenade have shown its value as a space for community and civic action, active transportation, and joy. The weekend promenade has been popular and successful, and I’m proud to keep it in place while we continue to study this roadway in the face of climate change.”
San Francisco has to close the Great Highway south of Sloat to traffic permanently as soon as 2024 due to sea level rise, Mar’s office states.
“Mar’s legislation will transition the weekend promenade between Lincoln and Sloat from an emergency status to a pilot project, with the city enhancing its data collection and analysis of visitor usage, and engaging the public about the space and its use. It specifically requires city departments to make recommendations on managing traffic and sand, which is frequently blown onto the roadway,” a news release from Mar’s office states. “The city will be submitting Environmental Applications required by CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act], in addition to a Coastal Development Permit application. The Great Highway is within the Coastal Zone, which requires additional approval from the California Coastal Commission for land use changes.”
Mar legislative aide Edward Wright told KRON4 that it is unclear when the legislation will be voted on.
“We don’t know,” Wright stated. “There are several steps required for this one, including CEQA determination and Coastal Commission approval, that make the timing pretty uncertain. I expect it’ll be heard in committee in September, though, most likely at Land Use.”
When asked to comment on Mar’s legislation, Arellano stated “The Great Highway averages nearly 20,000 drivers a day. Supervisor Mar’s proposed closure would continue to push all that traffic onto small residential streets in the Sunset and Richmond district neighborhoods, worsening the gridlock, parking, and safety concerns for residents. We urge voters to support our Access for All measure this November to ensure that everyone has equal use of our streets.”
Mar’s office declined to comment the Access For All making the ballot.