A section of John F. Kennedy Drive in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park could be moving closer to being permanently closed to vehicle traffic after Mayor London Breed introduced legislation to authorize the change.
The proposal to close 1.5 miles of JFK Drive came before the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board (SFMTA) and the city’s Recreation and Park Commission earlier this month, and the bodies voted to recommend the proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The board could vote on the change as soon as next month.
JFK Drive between Kezar Drive and Lincoln Way has been closed to cars and other vehicles since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, when it was created as a safe place to have recreation with social distancing.
The SFMTA and Recreation and Park department put out a survey to see how residents felt about the street closure, gathering feedback over eight months. Both agencies found that 70 percent of the 10,000 respondents supported keeping JFK Drive permanently free of vehicles.
In addition to remaining permanently closed, the area would also have certain sections that are one-way only, would facilitate biking, and increased access and improvements to Golden Gate Park for seniors and people with mobility challenges, the mayor’s office said.
Other changes would include a “vastly improved” free shuttle program, expanded parking for visitors with disabilities, free all-age concerts, pick-up and drop-off zones in front of museums and other attractions, and adding at least six bike-share stations.
The city will also attempt to reduce traffic congestion by restoring southbound access from Chain of Lakes to Sunset Boulevard via MLK Drive and restoring access to the Polo Fields parking lot by creating a one-way circulation westbound from Metson Road to Middle Drive.
“The city has made positive, needed changes and commitments to accessibility as part of having car-free space,” said Marta Lindsey, communications director for Walk San Francisco. “The city added new loading zones and replaced ADA parking spots, plus is building a 20-spot, 100 percent free ADA parking lot in the Music Concourse. This is a strong start.”
Not everyone supports permanently closing the stretch. The De Young Museum, which is situated in Golden Gate Park, released a statement on its website saying that the closure has disproportionally impacted members of the community with limited mobility.
“While it is great for those who can walk or bike to the de Young, it negatively impacts a significant group of our local community, including people with disabilities, those with ADA placards, the elderly, families with infants and young children, and others,” the museum said.
The De Young supports a “one-way, circulating” mode of getting vehicles through the park to facilitate those who may not be able to park and walk to attractions.