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City spending $200K on JFK Drive improvements, even with ballot fight to come

San Francisco SFMTA crews grind paint on 8th and JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park on August 29, 2022. | Photo via SF Rec and Park Department

In November, voters will decide whether JFK Drive will remain car-free or go back to its pre-pandemic state as a road for drivers traveling the length of Golden Gate Park. But that isn’t stopping the city from forging ahead in turning it into a park.

The city’s parks and transportation agencies are spending a combined $200,000 on changes to the road, now dubbed “JFK Promenade” after a 7-4 vote at the Board of Supervisors late last year to cement its future as a car-free space. 

According to Recreation & Parks Department spokesperson Tamara Aparton, the parks department and San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency plan to spend the next few months experimenting with art and events on the road, including games, seating, food trucks and a Halloween event to create “a vibrant, welcoming space.”

They’re also changing how the road will look. SFMTA is spending an estimated $110,000 to remove old road paint and replace it with decorative paint, while Rec and Parks plans to spend $85,520 on two large designs on the ground, Aparton wrote in an email to The Standard. 

Aparton said the rest of the costs for creating community events and installations are already baked in through nonprofit organizations or, in the case of physical materials like chairs or games, will be repurposed elsewhere. 

A measure on the November ballot may force the agency to undo some of its work. 

Proposition I, one of three ballot measures related to JFK Drive, calls for the permanent reopening of the road to cars. That measure comes with a price tag as high as $80 million price because it also seeks to re-open the Great Highway all the way past Sloat Boulevard, which would require building a costly seawall. 

Another measure, Proposition J, would reaffirm the supervisors’ move to restrict car traffic on JFK Drive. And yet another park-related November ballot measure, Proposition N, would change the governance of an underground parking garage that was central to the fight over JFK Drive.

For now, the city is embracing the road’s car-free status regardless of what may come on Nov. 8.

“The overall aim is a lively public space that promotes health, wellbeing, fun, connection, and community,” Aparton wrote.