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Politics & Policy

The Haight and its neighbors carried car-free JFK Drive to victory

Pedestrians utilize John F. Kennedy Drive on Oct. 18, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/ The Standard

Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive will remain permanently car-free thanks to massive support for Proposition J in the city’s central neighborhoods, many of which are an easy bike ride away from the promenade. 

Support was strongest for Prop. J in Haight-Ashbury, Lone Mountain and Hayes Valley, where more than 80% of voters supported the measure in many voting precincts. 

Jessica Jenkins, a software engineer who lives in the Lower Haight with her 8-year-old son Otis, celebrated Prop. J’s victory. Since the main thoroughfare cutting through the park was closed to traffic during the pandemic, she has regularly taken Otis and his friends to JFK Drive, where they’re able to hop on their bikes and take off.

“They love being able to explore the park by themselves, and I love being able to sit and read a book and not worry about what’s happening with the traffic situation,” Jenkins said.

Robin Pam, manager of the Yes on J campaign, says it makes sense that people came out in droves to support Prop. J from the densest parts of the city, where many live in apartments without backyards and more regularly rely on public transit.

“As we build more housing and the population grows, safe, protected space for recreation like we’re seeing on JFK, is going to become even more important to the health and well-being of San Franciscans,” Pam said.

Opposition to Prop. J was strongest in the Outer Sunset, Lincoln Park and Sea Cliff. While the Sunset is close to the park, the neighborhood is less dense and further from the city’s transit hubs.

Many Sunset residents often drove on JFK Drive before it shut down to traffic, and they valued its convenience, said Elisa Smith, a longtime Sunset resident and leader of Equitable Street Access, a community group that organized against Prop. J. She feels like automobile advocates faced an uphill battle once the question went to a citywide vote.

“Most neighborhoods don't have any sort of an emotional investment in these two streets being open to cars,” Smith said. “We really had to work hard to reach other neighborhoods, and we weren't able to do that with our resources.”

Dozens of people in support of permanently making JFK Drive car-free rallied in front of City Hall ahead of a key vote on the matter in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. | Nick Otto | Source: Nick Otto for The Standard

Back in March, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton said that keeping the roadway closed was a segregationist policy that had the effect of making it more difficult for Black people, and other people of color, who live in the eastern and southern regions of the city, to visit the park.

Given that argument, it was surprising that some voting precincts in Bayview-Hunters Point, where many Black San Franciscans live, supported Prop. J. In the city's southern precincts, opposition to Prop. J was more common, though some narrowly supported the measure.

Every precinct in the Mission, the city’s most Hispanic neighborhood, overwhelmingly supported keeping JFK Drive car-free.

The SF Department of Elections is still counting votes. As it stands, 59% of voters supported Prop. J, giving it a wide enough margin that The Standard has called the race in favor of the measure. Sixty-one percent of voters opposed Prop. I, the competing measure that would have reopened Prop. I and the Great Highway to cars, leaving it dead in the water.

The margins on each measure will likely change as new vote counts are announced, beginning tomorrow afternoon.

Liz Lindqwister contributed additional reporting for this story.
Noah Baustin can be reached at