San Francisco Chronicle

August 7, 1997


Golden Gate Park Sunday Traffic Plan Irks Bikers, Skaters

By Yumi Wilson

Chronicle Staff Writer

Skaters and cyclists vowed yesterday to fight any plan change the decades-old tradition of closing a chunk of Golden Gate Park to cars on Sundays.

David Miles Jr. of the "Free the Park" coalition denounced a proposal by supervisor Michael Yaki that would open the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive to motor traffic and close a section along the west end.

"If you thought the Critical Mass demonstration was .explosive, it is a firecracker compared to the nuclear response that will be generated If the Sunday closure is changed," said Miles, an in-line skater who leads the popular Friday Night Skate.

"Saturdays and weekdays can be discussed, but an attack on the Sunday closure, will be fought tooth and nail, down to the last person by any means necessary."

Miles' heated response came a day after Yaki pitched the idea of reworking the Sunday road closure in a last-ditch effort to keep the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in the park.

Yaki's idea has been praised by museum supporters, who say they have no choice but to leave the park because of failing attendance, money trouble and a lack of parking. '

Yaki, who earlier supported efforts by the de Young to move downtown, believes his plan to reroute traffic will satisfy museum supporters and pedestrians, skaters and cyclists. Under his proposal, the Sunday road closure would move from the east end of JFK Drive, where the museums are, to an area near Stow Lake.

Mayor Willie Brown, who visited Golden Gate Park yesterday, said he is open to Yaki's idea and "would love" to see both the de Young and the California Academy of Sciences stay in the park. But, he said, he thinks both museums face even greater challenges.

"These two institutions will not survive without a large influx of money to renovate, and they also need to have transportation access," said the mayor's spokesman, P.J. Johnston. "So this idea by Yaki may very well buy us some time, but one way or the other, we have to solve the money and transportation issues."

Yaki believes his plan to reroute traffic to the museum would boost attendance and give it time to raise the money needed to repair the damages suffered in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Last year, supporters of the city-owned museum lost their bid to win a $73 million bond measure to pay for repairs and a new parking garage.

Paul Dorn of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition called Yaki's effort to help the museum "well-intentioned." But he said rerouting traffic would be unfair to the "more than 40,000 people who regularly visit JFK Drive during Sunday closure to skate, cycle, jog, walk or just hang out"

The majority of these people, Dorn said, are San Francisco residents, adding that Yaki's proposal "shoves (them) farther out to the remote and less climatically attractive extremes of the park to accommodate the automobile parking needs of few hundred predominantly out-of-town museum visitors."

Dorn's Golden Gate Park task force has helped collect more than 7,000 signatures in a drive to close the east end of JFK Drive on Saturdays, too. Yesterday, Dorn sent an e-mail to every supervisor and to the mayor, urging them to oppose Yaki's plan.

"You've heard it before I'm sure: it's Golden Gate Park, not Golden Gate Parking Lot!"