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Politics & Policy

What to know about the election’s 3 JFK Drive ballot measures

Pedestrians utilize John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. A section of the street is currently closed to vehicle traffic, but next week's election will determine whether it reopens or stays closed. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Golden Gate Park’s John F. Kennedy Drive is on this November’s ballot three times, and it’s up to voters to decide its fate as a domain of pedestrians and cyclists.

Here’s what you need to know about the three JFK Drive-related ballot measures.

What Would the Measures Do?

Proposition J seeks to maintain the status quo of a car-free JFK Drive, codifying an ordinance submitted by the Board of Supervisors in June to keep cars off the road. Emergency vehicles, government vehicles and deliveries to the de Young Museum would be exempt.

Proposition I would largely return JFK Drive back to pre-pandemic times, bringing cars back except on Sundays all year long, Saturdays during the summer and other holidays and special events, and fully reopen the Great Highway to cars.

Proposition N was placed on the ballot by Mayor London Breed and would turn over management of the parking garage located under the de Young Museum to the Recreation and Parks Department.

All three measures require more than 50% votes in favor to pass.

A JFK Promenade sign hangs on a street pole behind a bicycle direction sign on John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. A section of the street is currently closed to vehicle traffic but is being voted on to reopen in this years election. | Benjamin Fanjoy/ The Standard

What Do Supporters Say?

Prop. J, also called the Safe Parks for All Measure, is supported by Walk SF, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Myrna Melgar, Matt Dorsey and Hillary Ronen. Its supporters say that car-free JFK Drive is a much-needed protected open space and that more car access and parking is not needed, as the park already has roughly 4,700 parking spaces and a shuttle that runs along JFK every 15 minutes.

Prop. I was submitted to the ballot by Richard Corriea and Howard Chabner. Chabner, a disability rights advocate, said in an official proponent argument that closing off JFK Drive and the Great Highway to cars restricted access to those who need vehicles to get around, including people with disabilities, and funneled high amounts of traffic into formerly sleepy residential streets.

Prop. N’s main supporters are the mayor, Walk SF and the San Francisco Democratic Party, who say that the de Young parking garage rates are too high, and that having the city run it would allow parking for disabled and low-income visitors to be subsidized, making museum access more equitable.

What Do Opponents Say?

One key argument against car-free JFK Drive has to do with park and museum access. Supervisor Shamann Walton opposes Prop. J for its negative impact on Black and Brown communities because many are underserved by transit, hindering their access to the park leaving them no other means than private vehicles.

The supervisors who support Prop. J have opposed Prop. I because it would pause the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Plan, threatening sewage treatment plants on the city’s Westside, which are at risk of being damaged by rising seas.

A controller’s analysis said that Prop. I would require the city to spend $80 million building a sea wall to protect the treatment plants.

There are no official opponent arguments against Prop. N, and no money has been raised to oppose it.

Who’s Funding the Measures?

More than $900,000 has been raised to pass Prop. J with proponent funders including Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, who has given $300,000, and Uber, which has given $50,000.

More than $700,000 has been raised to pass Prop I. Main funders include San Francisco socialite Dede Wilsey, who has given $200,000 and the Corporation of Fine Arts Museums, the nonprofit that handles day-to-day operations at the de Young, which has given more than $400,000.

The Yes on Prop. N committee has raised $25,000 to pass the measure.

How Are the Measures Polling?

It’s a close call between Prop. J and Prop. I.

Forty-eight percent of respondents favored keeping JFK Drive car-free and 38% preferred reopening the road to vehicle traffic, a poll of 944 San Franciscans conducted by The Standard found in early October.

When looking at likely voters the margin narrows, with 40% of likely voters wanting to see car traffic return.

Support for cars varies by demographic. Voters aged 18-34, cyclists, tech workers and regular Golden Gate Park visitors want the roadway staying car-free. Seniors, parents with young children, homeowners, independents and Republicans favor reopening the road.

The Standard’s poll did not produce findings about preferences for Prop. N.

Those who favor reopening the road to cars tend to identify as independents or Republicans. They also tend to be born and raised in San Francisco, homeowners and parents of local schoolchildren, according to poll data.