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Is the Great Highway’s partial closure here for good?

A road with cyclists, walkers, and a runner, with traffic lights overhead and foggy hills in the distance.
People walk and bike along Great Highway on Aug. 10, 2021. | Gabrielle Lurie/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The dust has barely settled after voters chose to keep JFK Drive car-free earlier this month, but the fate of another iconic San Francisco road is already up for debate.

At a Monday meeting, the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee moved ahead with legislation to keep the Great Highway closed to cars on weekends and holidays until the end of 2025, sending the decision to the full board. 

The partial closure of the Great Highway—a major artery running north-south through the Richmond and Sunset districts—was a pandemic-era measure but soon became a rallying cry for walking and biking advocates. 

Gordon Mar, who just lost reelection to Joel Engardio for the District 4 supervisor seat, introduced the legislation to keep the current closure in place—even if Mayor London Breed decides to end the city’s Covid state of emergency.

“The Great Highway will change. It must,” Mar said at Monday’s hearing. “We didn’t decide that. Climate change did.”

Should the legislation pass the full board, the road closure would be continued on a “pilot” basis, beginning Friday afternoons and ending Mondays at 6 a.m. The committee also created a second version to give incoming Supervisor Joel Engardio a chance to weigh in when his term begins early next year.

The three-year, weekends-only closure would allow the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to conduct a full study on its effects—and to accommodate a planned 2023 closure of the southern stretch of the highway to protect wastewater infrastructure. 

On Monday, Mar likened the Great Highway decision to the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that destroyed the Embarcadero Freeway, but led to today’s walkable eastern waterfront.

But both Supervisors Connie Chan and Myrna Melgar pushed back on making a decision now, saying they want to hear from more residents and explore other options.

Preliminary studies from the city’s Recreation and Parks Department and SFMTA found that 2.8 million people used the roadway between April 2020 and October 2022, with an average of 1,300 users on Friday afternoons and 3,100 per weekend day since August of 2021.

Car-free advocates, including President of Friends of Great Highway Park Lucas Lux, called to extend the closure slightly to include all of Fridays, starting at 6 a.m. Lux worries that some supervisors will seek to get rid of Friday closures altogether, despite voicing support for a full-time Great Highway closure in the future. 

“A politician saying something about what is going to happen years from now is not something that we take to the bank,” Lux said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the Great Highway’s usage in the western part of the city. 

Garrett Leahy contributed additional reporting for this story.