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Golden Gate Park to consider making car-free Saturdays year-round

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But the De Young Museum wants to bring the idea to a full stop

The De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
The De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
Photo by A Mad Scientist

From April through September, most of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park closes to vehicular traffic on Saturdays. But campaigns to extend the sixth-day car ban to a year-round stoppage have always run off course.

Now the San Francisco Examiner reports that yet another anti-car drive may have stalled. Director of the de Young Museum Max Hollein reportedly emailed the city’s Recreation and Parks Department in September in an attempt to quash any chance of a year-round Saturday car ban.

According to the paper:

“I received your message regarding exploring the potential of extending the current six-month closure of JFK to a year-round closure,” Hollein wrote. “I cannot lend my support to additional road closures in the immediate vicinity of the de Young.”

Hollein cited [...] fear of losing out-of-town visitors as reasons to oppose the street closure, as well as concern for people with disabilities and families who may travel by car.

The city shut down car traffic on JFK Drive on Sundays in 1967. David Miles, the director of the California Outdoor Rollerskating Association, who bears the nickname Mayor of Golden Gate Park, wrote in 2000:

The Sunday closure of Kennedy Drive to automobile traffic has proven to be the most successful program of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. Thousands of San Franciscans and others from throughout the Bay Area and beyond flock to the park on Sundays when there are no cars.

At the time, Miles was stumping for Proposition F, a ballot initiative that would have extended the car stoppage to Saturdays as well.

Although Prop. F made it to the November 2000 ballot, voters didn’t roll over for Miles’ sentiments about a car-free utopia, and Prop F received only 45.1 percent of the vote.

The argument against it cited the needs of visitors with “restricted mobility” but also the needs of the nearby museums, noting “Saturday closures would affect the attendance and revenue potential of the de Young Museum...[and] the California Academy of Sciences.”

The Board of Supervisors ordered Saturday closures from April through the end September beginning in 2007, with the stated goal to “enhance the recreational uses in this area for bikers, walkers, skaters, and other park visitor.”

Heightened scrutiny about bicyclist safety in the city may provide a new opening to potentially expand the car ban further, but the Examiner notes that “museum opposition may knock it out before it’s even proposed” unless public sentiment seems to favor it.

Photo by Joe Mabel