It appears the war for JFK isn’t over just yet.
In April, the Board of Supervisors voted to make John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park car-free in perpetuity, ending months of contentious debate.
But last week, advocates filed a ballot measure with the San Francisco Department of Elections that would restore car access to JFK and other streets in Golden Gate Park, as well as the Great Highway.
The measure, known as “Access for All,” still needs to be certified to begin signature-collection, after which point it will need to collect approximately 9,000 valid voter signatures to appear on the November 8 ballot.
The measure was filed by Howard Chabner, a San Francisco disability advocate. It’s clear that the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the De Young Museum’s parent organization, is involved as well. Four days after the ballot measure was filed, a political action committee called, “Access for All, sponsored by corporation of the Fine Arts Museums and Open the Great Highway Alliance,” registered with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.
Disability advocates and the De Young Museum, which has attributed a decline in visitors to the street closure, have been some of the loudest voices in opposition to car-free JFK. The De Young has also launched a web portal called “Access for All,” where it provides a link for museum visitors to share their discontent regarding JFK with city officials.
This ballot measure would go beyond reversing car-free JFK by undoing the car bans along stretches of Martin Luther King Drive and Bernice Rogers Way that together form a bike and pedestrian spine along the length of Golden Gate Park. The measure would also reverse the weekend closures of the Great Highway, and transfer management of that road from the Department Recreation and Parks to the Department of Public Works.
The measure would allow JFK to remain car-free on Sundays, holidays, and Saturdays for half of the year, as it was before the pandemic. Temporary closures along the affected streets would be permitted for special events like Bay to Breakers and Outside Lands.
Reopening these streets to vehicles “would restore and enhance equitable access to Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway,” the ballot measure reads. “All residents and visitors must have access to all City streets; no streets should be reserved for the exclusive use of those who have the physical capacity to ride a bicycle or motorized scooter, to those who have the physical capacity and convenience to walk, or to those who can afford a bicycle, while vehicles are banned. ”
Should the ballot measure qualify, it’s likely to face steep opposition from cycling and walking advocates as well as prominent elected officials like Mayor London Breed and state Senator Scott Wiener, who supported car-free JFK.
City surveys found that 70% of residents supported car-free JFK.
As part of the approval of what is now known as JFK Promenade, SFMTA and Rec and Park committed to several strategies to improve disability access, enhancing the JFK shuttle and building a new handicap parking lot in the Music Concourse. Visitors still have direct car access to the museums from the Sunset District direction, and from the Richmond via the underground parking garage.
The story has been updated to correctly note that about 9,000 signatures, not 52,000, are required for the ordinance to qualify for the ballot.