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Advocates celebrate as Breed officially signs car-free JFK Drive into law

Fittingly surrounded by roller skaters, cyclists and joggers on John F. Kennedy Drive near the Skatin’ Place, advocates and city leaders turned out in Golden Gate Park Saturday to celebrate as car-free JFK Drive was officially signed into law. 

Less than two weeks after the marathon Board of Supervisors meeting and “historic” vote, Mayor London Breed sat outside under the sun to formally sign legislation she’d proposed that keeps private vehicles off the 1.5-mile stretch of JFK Drive between Kezar and Crossover drives.

Before signing the legislation, the mayor referenced her favorite Netflix show, “Bridgerton,” saying:

“I always wanted to promenade down some sort of walkway because they always talk about going somewhere to promenade and now we have our own promenade here on JFK.”

Breed said permanently leaving the space open for families, bicyclists and pedestrians is a victory for The City, adding:

“San Francisco is one of the densest cities in the country. That’s why a space like this being car-free is so critical to ensuring that we have the ability to move around, to skate around, to bike around free of vehicles because this is not a place that should be a highway or a freeway or a cut through. It needs to be a place for people to enjoy.”

The eastern section of JFK Drive, now renamed JFK Promenade, was closed off to private vehicles in the early days of the pandemic as a way to provide extra space for people to exercise and recreate. The car-free area became an increasingly popular destination, especially for bike-loving families looking for a safe place to let children ride.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay San Francisco Mayor London Breed signs legislation in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, May 7, 2022, to permanently make 1.5 miles of JFK Drive car-free. (Jerold Chinn/SFBay)

But not everyone was thrilled about Breed’s proposal to keep space permanently closed to traffic, including some supervisors and the de Young Museum. Supervisor Connie Chan, who represents the Richmond District, proposed an alternate plan that would address parking issues for seniors and persons with disabilities by allowing some vehicle access through the Eighth Avenue park entrance.

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton also objected to the mayor’s proposal, saying the only people who would benefit are those who live closest to the park.

Supervisors Dean Preston, Gordon Mar and Rafael Mandelman joined Saturday’s signing ceremony.

As part of the Golden Gate Park Access and Safety Program, the Recreation and Parks Department has committed to making park access improvements, with a priority given to  two main Music Concourse attractions: the de Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences. 

Rec and Parks officials said they are working with operators of the underground Music Concourse parking garage to make rates more affordable for low-income families through flex pricing and free three-hour parking for museum visitors who receive government food assistance.

More blue zone parking spaces are being established just across from the Japanese Tea Garden, and the department has already improved the free Golden Gate Park shuttle bus service to help visitors get around.

Robin Pam with Kids Safe SF said the organization is grateful that Breed supported keeping private vehicles off the portion of JFK Drive, and is hopeful car-free spaces will be approved for every part of The City.

Pam said:

Our vision at Kids Safe save is for a promenade in every district across the city. This shouldn’t be something that we only get to have and Golden Gate Park.”

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