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Politics & Policy

Who’s spending money: Museum patrons back return of cars to JFK

Helena Nordstrom, director of communications for Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gives a walking tour of the DeYoung Museum and grounds on March 24, 2022. | Camille Cohen

Proposition I, the “Access for All Ordinance” that proposes the full-time reopening of both John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway to car traffic, started out with a massive lead in fundraising over competing measure Prop. J, which would affirm the current closure of JFK Drive to cars. But that lead has been significantly reduced by a large donation from the CEO of Yelp. 

Prop. I garnered over $693,000 in campaign finance donations by Oct. 18, according to SF Ethics Commission campaign finance data. Earlier in the month, supporters of Prop. J had raised less than half of their competitor. Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO of Yelp, doubled the war chest for the pro-promenade measure with a $300,000 donation last week. Prop. J boosters have now received nearly $635,000 in funds. Additional large donations came from Twitch founder Emmett Shear and Airbnb alumna Laura Skelton Yakovenko.

The “Access for All” Committee supporting Prop I and opposing J has spent over $591,000, while the “Save John F Kennedy Promenade, Yes on J, No on I” campaign committee has used nearly $150,000. Meanwhile, two groups advocating on behalf of Prop. J, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco, have come under criticism for soliciting campaign donations and claiming they were tax deductible.

Prop. I is supported by a hodgepodge of political groups ranging from the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods to the Rose Pak Democratic Club. Prop. J has garnered wider support from a similarly varied mix of groups, ranging from the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club to the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Organization. 

Prop. J supporters also criticize Prop. I for including the Great Highway in the measure, whose future was in question even before the pandemic, due to beach erosion and sea level rise. A report by the controller states that a new seawall, costing $80 million, would be required to keep the road open to cars in the long term. 

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the De Young Museum located in Golden Gate Park, are a prime mover of Prop. I. They see the continued closure of JFK Drive, located near the museum, as a major impediment to rebuilding visitor attendance lost during the pandemic. The closure is wildly popular with bicyclists, pedestrians and park goers generally. 

Much of Prop I’s financial support comes from two very interested parties: over $394,000 from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and $200,000 from Diane “Dede” Wilsey, socialite and chair of the museum’s board. Other major donors to Prop. I include Jason Moment, managing partner at Route One Investment Company ($50,000), and socialite Gretchen Kimball ($10,000).