Car-free support

Study bodes well for Saturday road closure in Golden Gate Park
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steve@sfbg.com

Sup. Jake McGoldrick plans to reintroduce his Healthy Saturdays legislation this week and told the Guardian he's confident that a new city study paves the way for its implementation by this summer.

Healthy Saturdays — which would create a six-month trial Saturday closure to cars on the same streets in the eastern portion of Golden Gate Park that are now closed Sundays — was approved by the Board of Supervisors last May but vetoed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, who ordered a study of the impacts of the Sunday closure.

That study by the Transportation Authority and Department of Parking and Traffic brought great news for Healthy Saturday supporters, concluding that road closure is extremely popular with park users and has no significant negative impact to attendance at the park's museums, access by those with disabilities, availability of adequate parking, or traffic congestion at the intersections around the park.

"It spells out a very positive picture," McGoldrick told us. "Anecdotally, we knew all this, but now we have the empirical data laid out."

The study found that closing the roads encourages 40 percent more nonvehicular trips to the park. Almost 40 percent of those surveyed said the road closure makes them more likely to visit the park, while 10 percent said it made them less likely, and the rest said it had no impact.

"I see no good reason why this shouldn't fly through the board and Mayor's Office," Leah Shabum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told us. "The report shows without a doubt there are no negative impacts to creating car-free spaces in the park."

Yet the proposal last year drew strong visceral reactions from opponents in adjacent neighborhoods, some representatives for those with disabilities, and those affiliated with the de Young Museum and other cultural institutions in the park — some of whom say they still aren't satisfied with the report's conclusions.

A group called Park Access for All sent out a press release urging the city to reject closure. Member Ron Miguel of the Planning Association for the Richmond said the city shouldn't do anything until the Academy of Sciences reopens late next year. And disabilities advocate Tim Hornbecker said he was concerned that the city still hasn't put in place a tram and other improvements that were approved along with Healthy Saturdays last year.

Those improvements have stalled at the Recreation and Park Department, which answers to the Mayor's Office. The Guardian asked Newsom about the report Feb. 15, and he said, "I haven't seen that," and ignored further questions. Newsom spokesperson Peter Ragone told us, "We're in the process of digesting it and deciding how to move forward."

But Healthy Saturdays advocates point to statements Newsom made after the veto, noting that the study seems to satisfy all the concerns he expressed. Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, told us, "It should be a no-brainer. All the original objections cited by the mayor are addressed.... At this point, holding it up would be obstreperous." *

The Healthy Saturdays report is available at www.goldengatepark.org.