The most popular attraction in Golden Gate Park is, by far, a closed road. In April 1967, San Francisco's Recreation and Park Commission closed the eastern 1.5-mile portion of John F. Kennedy Drive to automobile traffic on Sundays. In the 33 years since then, thousands of City residents routinely flock to the Sunday JFK Drive closure to enjoy biking, skating, running, picnics, dogwalking or just hanging out -- delighting in a green space without the noise, hazards and stench of automobiles.
Not only is the Sunday closure of JFK Drive the most popular attraction in the park, it is also the most successful program offered by San Francisco's Recreation and Park Department, serving the recreational needs of thousands at virtually no cost to taxpayers. You'd think that an enlightened City government would seek to expand access to such a popular civic amenity, right? Wrong. San Francisco's City government is far from enlightened, and has long been captive to elite special interests.
For more than three decades park lovers have been frustrated in their attempts to persuade City Hall to extend the popular Sunday closure to Saturdays as well, so that families could enjoy a traffic-free park all weekend. Tired of delay and obstruction by politicians, many park activists mobilized 300 volunteers earlier this year to collect the signatures necessary to place Proposition F on the November ballot. City Hall responded with Proposition G, a mean-spirited and manipulative ploy to delay the road closure for at least five years, and perhaps indefinitely. (Proposition G has a similar malicious purpose as Proposition K, namely to derail a grass-roots citizen's initiative by confusing voters.)
Why should progressives care about a park road closure?First, public resources like parks are particularly important to poor and working class people. Unlike wealthier residents who escape urban stress in Tahoe, Carmel, Mendocino or elsewhere, San Francisco's less affluent residents often lack the resources to travel to remote natural areas. For purposes of family recreation, poor and working class city residents depend on local facilities like Golden Gate Park. The increasing traffic congestion in the park in recent years has degraded its value as play space. Proposition F will enhance the park by expanding access to its most popular attraction.
Second, Proposition F is a step against privatization and commercialization of Golden Gate Park. Many of San Francisco's ruling elites (mostly affiliated through the San Francisco Foundation/Committee on Jobs/Chamber of Commerce axis) would like to replicate the "Presidio Model" of so-called self-sufficiency in the City's flagship park. These country club habitues seek to create "public-private" partnerships for "revenue generating" activities like restaurants and retail establishments. Mayor Brown and friends have expressed their delight with the success of the Beach Chalet and their interest in seeing similar facilities elsewhere in Golden Gate Park.
This could transform Golden Gate Park from a naturalistic open space that is free and accessible to all, into a space crowded with attractions available only to those able to pay the admission fee. Many park lovers are concerned that the proposed Music Concourse parking garage (funded by Committee on Jobs honcho Warren Hellman and designed "pro bono" by those selfless people at Bechtel) is really intended to facilitate commercial development in the park. Not GAP or McDonalds, of course. Likely the food service-retail complex (mall) would be a tasteful emporium attractive to suburbanites run by a "non-profit," such as the loathsome and truly misnamed Friends of Recreation and Park. It's a classic attempt to convert a public resource to private enterprise.
The third reason why progressives should support Proposition F is because it would expand access to important community building space. In an age when people are divided along race, class and gender lines, when San Franciscans are forced to compete desperately for jobs, housing and other necessities of life--providing a free recreational area where people from all backgrounds can come together and associate with each other is more important than ever. Parks are important community building resources; Prop F would enhance opportunities in Golden Gate Park for community.
And the fourth reason progressives should support Proposition F is because it has all the right enemies. Opponents of Proposition F include the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican Party, SPUR, and other corporate toadies, including Mayor Brown's leading "yes people" Supervisors Yaki, Brown, Teng, Katz and Kaufman. (Proposition F is also opposed by the fraudulent misleaders at the San Francisco Labor Council, who didn't bother talking with its proponents.) The opposition campaign is chaired by socialite, "philanthropist" and venture capitalist Leonard Kingsley, and is believed to receive its funding from such GOP luminaries as Hellman, Al Wilsey, and W. Richard Bingham.
Fortunately, Proposition F is supported by most progressive organizations and individuals, including the Progressive Left Slate, the SF Tenants Union, SF Bay Guardian, Green Party, Sierra Club, Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, SF League of Conservation Voters, Supervisor Tom Ammiano, Medea Benjamin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and many others. It has even received support from generally moderate groups such as Quentin Kopp's Good Government Committee, the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and the Democratic Women's Forum.
Please vote YES on Proposition F and NO on Proposition G.
For more information on Proposition F, see the Advocates for a Safe Golden Gate Park website at:
This article represents the personal opinions of the author, and does not represent the views of the Advocates for a Safe Golden Gate Park. This article may be forwarded as desired.
RELATED ARTICLES BY PAUL DORN
" Pedaling to Save the City
" Exchange with Socialist Worker on Sport Utility Vehicles
" Cycling in Bike-Friendly Davis, California
" Cycling in Osaka, Japan
" Two Months of Red Splendor: The Paris Commune and Karl Marx' Theory of Revolution
" Paul Dorn's Random Shots: Selected Musings on Various Topics