Ending the road-closure stalemate

Pub date March 13, 2007
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL There’s really only one way to look at Mayor Gavin Newsom’s response to Saturday road closures in Golden Gate Park: the fix has been in from the start. The mayor is willing to discard his own evidence, break his word, ignore the obvious facts, and damage his environmental credentials — but he won’t risk offending the rich society swells who run the de Young museum.

It’s been 40 years since the city began shutting down a stretch of JFK Drive to cars on Sundays, and by any account it’s one of the most popular regular programs in the city. On nice days the park is packed with bikers, joggers, skaters, walkers, families. There are free swing dance lessons. It’s one of the few opportunities for young kids to learn to ride bikes in a safe environment.

But the trustees of the museum, such as socialite Dede Wilsey, are adamantly opposed to expanding the road closures to Saturday. Their arguments make little sense: since there’s now an underground parking garage, there really isn’t any problem finding a place to park or getting access to the museum.

Yet under pressure from the de Young folks, the mayor vetoed legislation last year to expand the road-closure program to Saturdays, saying he didn’t have enough information on how the program would impact traffic and parking in surrounding neighborhoods. He asked for a study; the study was done. As Steven T. Jones reported ("Unhealthy Politics," 3/7/07), the evidence clearly shows that road closures have minimal negative impacts on anyone.

Newsom’s response: nothing has changed. He’s still opposed to Saturday closures.

So either he was lying last year when he said he wanted more data or he’s ducking today when he says the study hasn’t changed his mind — or he’s just afraid that going against the will of the almighty de Young board will tarnish his political star with the movers and shakers in town. In the end, it doesn’t matter: the mayor apparently can’t be moved on this, and the only way Saturday road closures will happen is if eight supervisors — enough to override a mayoral veto — support Sup. Jake McGoldrick’s road-closure bill, which has been reintroduced and will be heard in committee soon.

The measure got seven votes last time, and since it’s highly unlikely Sups. Sean Elsbernd, Michela Alioto-Pier, or Ed Jew will defy the mayor, the swing vote is Sup. Bevan Dufty.

Last time around he voted to uphold Newsom’s veto, but now he says he’s keeping an open mind. Dufty has a strong tendency to support neighborhood programs and services, and it’s clear that most of the neighborhood people are behind road closures — and now that the city’s own study shows there are no associated parking or traffic problems, this ought to be an obvious one for him. Dufty should announce that he’ll support McGoldrick’s bill — and end this stalemate for good. *