SAN FRANCISCO - A grassroots petition calls for the Great Highway’s temporary coronavirus closure to be made permanently traffic-free.
The Upper Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard temporarily shut down to vehicles in April as a part of a coronavirus response to create a space for people to safely socially distance themselves outdoors near Ocean Beach.
“One of the things my kids and I really enjoyed during the covid lockdown was coming out to Ocean Beach and bringing our bikes, getting to ride up and down and have that free space,” said Seth Chastain who lives in San Francisco. “It’s nice to do that.”
Two local men, who wish to remain anonymous, started a website - greathighwaypark.com - to collect signatures to petition the city into making Great Highway a permanent park. It’s so far collected 2,000 signatures since June. One of the organizers said 70 percent of the signatures are from local residents. The other 30 percent are from surfers, cyclists and visitors from outside of San Francisco.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said John Dunlap who lives near Ocean Beach. “The more we can diversify transportation in this city and provide options for people to safely ride a skateboard, or bicycle, or walk and be able to take in great vistas of the ocean is terrific. We got enough streets and roads in this city. I don’t think we’re going to miss that one.”
The website organizer said it is a feasible project because the Sloat Boulevard to Skyline Extension is scheduled to be shut down in a few years due to erosion, which could stop the Great Highway at Sloat Boulevard.
The long, flat, paved area sits on top of a national park, making it attractive to diverse families and accessible to people with disabilities.
Making the park a reality, however, likely won’t be easy. There have been complaints of increased traffic on residential streets and traffic mitigation would need to be studied.
“We’re used to coming up here, driving all the way up the highway so we were kind of shocked today when we had to stop and come over and we were lucky enough to get a parking spot,” said Vacaville resident Julie Swingle.
Kristen Holland, SFMTA chief spokesperson, issued this statement:
“The Great Highway Park Initiative is a community-led plan, and the agency has not formally responded to the proposals that are in it….The SFMTA has been working with community stakeholders and Supervisor Mar to address community concerns related to traffic and safety and we are working to balance these trade-offs and opportunities and hopefully can find a long-range solution as the planning process unfolds in the months ahead.”
The petition organizers say they have had conversations with Supervisor Gordon Mar’s staff, the national park and SFMTA, but the big focus now is to get more residents on board with the idea of a Great Highway permanent park.
Moving forward, SFMTA said it’s partnering with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority for a traffic mobility study in the Outer Sunset and Parkside neighborhoods. As early as November, there could be a call for public feedback on the possibility of turning the Great Highway into a permanent park.