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Politics & Policy

Board of Supervisors in 3 Minutes: Roads and Good Intentions

Written by Mike EgePublished Apr. 11, 2022 • 3:54pm
Aerial view of John F Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park and the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco, California, July, 2016. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images). | Source: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

This week’s Board of Supervisors highlights might be described as being about going places—or not. They include a hearing about a bridge to nowhere, and a new battle in the war over car-free JFK. The mayor will also address the board. (As always, wonks looking for the full kit and caboodle can check out the meeting’s complete agenda).

Question Time, But No Questions

Since 2006, San Francisco’s mayor has been required to address the Board of Supervisors once a month and answer questions posed by them. This week is one of those meetings. The problem is, no Supervisors have submitted any questions for Mayor Breed this month, so she’ll likely have the podium to herself for up to five minutes. 

  • Legislative attempts to try and mandate questions for the mayor have been attempted, with the most recent in 2018. Despite this, Question Time With No Questions is often still a thing, and when there are questions they are often softballs to call attention to recently introduced legislation.
  • Possible topics for Mayor Breed’s remarks range from on her recent trip to Europe to drum up tourist business, to what she and other elected officials view as attempts to politicize the local redistricting process, which has become an omnishambles of increasing proportions. We’ll just have to see what happens.

The Bridge To Nowhere

What bridge? At 3:00 p.m., the board will convene a special order hearing to consider a petition to revoke the permit for the pedestrian bridge over Kearny Street that connects Portsmouth Square park to the Financial District Hilton hotel

  • Portsmouth Square is a park and playground which serves as the combination backyard and living room for many Chinatown residents. It’s also one of San Francisco’s oldest public spaces, having been first used as a public square in the 1830’s. One of the enigmas of the park is the brutalist/orientalist bridge that spans Kearny street, connecting Portsmouth Square to the Hilton hotel across the street. Connecting may be a word used advisedly in this case as access to the public is now blocked. Most regard the structure as more blight than bridge.
  • Since 2014, the Recreation and Park Department has been working on improvement plans for Portsmouth Square, which include tearing down the bridge. That may be hard to do since the hotel paid for it and owns it, but revoking the permit for it is the first step. 
  • There may also be some other complications: Back in 2020, local Supervisor Aaron Peskin noted that Mohammed Nuru, then director of Public Works, may have improperly delayed consideration of petitions to revoke the bridge’s permit from as early as 2018. Nuru was arrested in 2020 on corruption charges and pled guilty earlier this year. 

Having a Cow over Car-Free JFK

Supervisor Connie Chan has moved for the retrieval from committee of her legislation regarding car access on John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, and for it to be considered by a public Committee of the Whole hearing, sometimes called a “Cow hearing” by supervisors, to consider the two ordinances. Even better, it’s a “Joint Cow Hearing”  of both the Board of Supervisors and the governing board of San Francisco’s County Transportation Authority—which has the same membership as the Board of Supervisors. If the supervisors approve the motion, the hearing will be on April 26. 

  • One of the two ordinances, introduced last week, would bring back car traffic to JFK Drive going eastbound between Transverse Drive and 8th Avenue, along with southbound traffic on 8th Avenue and additional access on Conservatory Drive. 
  • Meanwhile, Mayor London Breed has introduced a plan to make permanent the current closure of JFK Drive to cars, based on the support of both the Municipal Transportation Agency and the Recreation and Parks Department along with a large and vocal group of park users, based upon pedestrian and bicycle uses enabled by the closure and safety concerns. At least four members of the board support the Mayor’s plan. 
  • Chan’s legislation, based on concerns about access to the museums and certain other attractions in the park for seniors and disabled persons as well as nearby neighborhood residents, dovetails with a public engagement playbook run by lobbyists for the Fine Arts Museums, which have seen a significant decline in attendance during the Covid-19 pandemic and see any attempt to remove car access or surface parking near the museums as “an existential threat” to attendance, especially by regional visitors.

Mike Ege can be reached at

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