JFK Drive will stay car-free indefinitely after a 7-4 vote at a joint hearing between the Board of Supervisors and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.
“We tried something different,” Supervisor Matt Haney said. “What we saw was powerful, beautiful, but it also has more work to be done.”
A loud protest on the steps of City Hall greeted supporters and opponents alike as they scaled the stairs to the hearing hall. Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Dean Preston and Haney each spoke at the rally in support of keeping the road closed to cars permanently.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, it still wasn’t clear what the vote breakdown would be, with three supervisors co-sponsoring Mayor London Breed’s proposal. Board President Shamann Walton had signed on to Supervisor Connie Chan’s competing initiative, and several supervisors hadn’t announced their positions.
But on Tuesday, the lines emerged and Breed’s proposal came out on top. Ultimately, Chan sent her plan back to the Land Use and Transportation Committee because it still would need environmental review and planning department analysis.
Before making their decision, the board considered an equity study from the county transportation authority that found no meaningful change to the racial makeup of the users of the park, but that usership for people living in some districts farther from the park did decrease.
Board President Shamann Walton, who voted against the proposal, said he’s worried about who is being left out when car access is removed.
“It’s clear that access to the park has never been equitable for certain populations of San Francisco,” said Walton, who has previously equated closing JFK Drive to “segregationist” policy. “The closure has done nothing to make Golden Gate Park more diverse.”
In presenting her proposal, which would reopen the road to eastbound traffic from 8th Avenue to Transverse, Chan questioned the validity of a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency survey that found 70% of San Franciscans support car-free JFK.
“Who are we prioritizing? Who are we willing to leave behind?” Chan asked. “It is fundamentally about race and class in this city—who gets to have a say about this space.”
A main flashpoint on Tuesday was parking availability and cost. The Music Concourse Garage costs $5.50 per hour, which Walton called too high. Under Breed’s proposal, SFMTA plans to implement flexible pricing, which Rec and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton said would require a resolution at the Board of Supervisors, but would not require approval from the Music Concourse Community Partnership, which owns and operates the garage.
It was Haney’s last meeting before he goes to Sacramento to represent San Francisco’s Assembly District 17.