The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to approve legislation Tuesday that makes permanent the car-free promenade on John Shelley Drive in McLaren Park. Like John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park, it’s been closed to car traffic since the pandemic, but with considerably less controversy.
The promenade takes up the 2,100 feet between Mansell Street and the Upper Reservoir parking lot in the park. McLaren Park is the city’s second-largest park, located just blocks away from its southern border and surrounded by the Excelsior, University Mound, Portola, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale and Crocker-Amazon neighborhoods. The promenade itself will also be close to June Jordan High School.
Meanwhile, car access to key public spaces are preserved. “I generally support it, as it has increased the safety and parks use on a daily basis,” Tom Murphy, the organizer of the yearly Jerry Day concerts in the park, told The Standard in an email.
At an Oct. 2 Land Use and Committee meeting, staff from the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department described the plan as enhancing community access to the 7 miles of walking trails in the park and providing a mostly flat place to walk in what is a comparatively hilly park. Like much of the park, the promenade offers views of the city from the ocean to the bay.
Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who chairs the Board of Supervisors’ land use committee, called the permanent promenade plan “great, amazing, and overdue” before the committee unanimously referred the item with recommendation to the full board for this week’s vote.
The relative lack of controversy around the Shelley promenade stands in contrast to the legislative and ballot fights over the car-free promenade on JFK in Golden Gate Park, which raged through the 2022 political season.
Supervisors Connie Chan and Shamann Walton opposed some or all of the plan to close the roadway to car traffic, and the museums in the park put one of three measures related to the plan on that November’s ballot. That measure, which would have reopened both JFK Drive and the Great Highway to car traffic, lost handily.
Another sign of consensus around the Shelley Drive promenade is that Walton, a vocal opponent of car-free JFK over accessibility from equity concerns, is a co-sponsor.
“They [JFK and Shelley Drive] have some important differences,” Tamara Aparton, a spokesperson the Recreation and Park Department, told The Standard in an email. “It was never used as a cut-through for motorists. The community has been very clear that it be low-key and nature-based. So while the debate raged around JFK, people were just quietly enjoying car-free Shelley Drive.”