A Post-Pandemic Question: Should Cars Return to Golden Gate Park?

Good morning.

When the pandemic compelled Americans indoors final spring, many people stopped driving. Once-bustling streets stuffed with bumper-to-bumper visitors, abruptly quieted, have been opened to pedestrians, who discovered an outlet for his or her pent-up quarantine power by strolling and bicycling open air.

Now, because the nation begins to strategy a return to normalcy, cities are contemplating whether or not to reopen so-called sluggish streets to automobiles, and transportation activists are preventing to maintain the fast features they made in what has been a decades-long battle in opposition to the auto.

In San Francisco, that debate facilities on a stretch of street in Golden Gate Park, the place a 1.5-mile swath of John F. Kennedy Drive was closed to automobiles throughout the pandemic.

Advocacy teams level to an enormous spike in foot visitors and biking within the park during the last yr and a big discount in automotive crashes as causes the street ought to stay closed to automobiles. But the museums that occupy the park fear {that a} continued closure might make it tougher for individuals to discover parking areas and go to their galleries.

It’s one other battle over whether or not to make everlasting a shift in day-to-day life that was sparked by the pandemic.

“I think the coming out of this pandemic, as we’re beginning to do, is that moment in time to seize the moment for these kinds of changes,” mentioned Paul Skoutelas, the president of the American Public Transportation Association, which has been watching comparable discussions play out in Los Angeles, New York, Austin and different cities.

In April, greater than 200 bikers, skaters and amblers rallied on the entrance steps of the California Academy of Sciences, calling for Golden Gate Park’s J.F.Okay. Drive, which has been closed to automobiles since April 2020, to keep car-free even when the pandemic ends.

“You’re supposed to be able to enjoy yourself in a green environment and escape the hustles and bustles of everyday life,” mentioned David Miles Jr., who spoke on the rally and is thought in San Francisco because the Godfather of Skate. “That only happens when the park is closed to cars.”

Mr. Miles, 65, has been preventing for many years to shut the park to automobiles. The metropolis barred autos from J.F.Okay. Drive on Sundays in 1967, and in 2007 started closing elements of the park to automobiles on Saturdays for half of the yr. With automobiles gone this previous yr, Mr. Miles mentioned, there was a resurgence of roller skaters whizzing through.

Mr. Miles, who views the park as a various gathering floor for skaters doing methods, youngsters using bikes and everybody in between, mentioned the fixed battle and the arguments that resurface each few years have him feeling like he’s within the film “Groundhog Day.”

But “it’s different this year — you have a lot more energy, you have a lot more enthusiasm,” he mentioned. “I think that this is the best opportunity we’ve had to make this closure permanent.”

The de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences, each nestled close to J.F.Okay. Drive, say the state of affairs shouldn’t be so easy. The road closures all through the park eradicated almost one thousand parking areas, together with a handful of disabled areas, leaving 4,700 complete.

Closing J.F.Okay. Drive “is cutting off the ability to access that area of the park, including the de Young museum, to whole swaths of the community, especially those who are not able to walk or bike,” mentioned Miriam Newcomer, the de Young Museum’s director of communications.

Ms. Newcomer mentioned she was significantly involved about seniors and people with disabilities getting to the museum with out ample parking close by. There is a close-by underground parking storage, however she mentioned the $33 cost — not determined by the museums — is prohibitive for a lot of.

Both museums say they’re open to a compromise, corresponding to closing one lane of J.F.Okay. Drive, and wish extra analysis to be carried out. Scott Sampson, the manager director of the Academy of Sciences, mentioned he isn’t essentially opposed to preserving the world car-free, however desires a rigorous examine carried out and group listening teams held earlier than a closing determination is made.

The different aspect says there’s nonetheless loads of parking, and that the museums try to run out the clock and hope inertia leads Golden Gate Park again to the way it was earlier than. If nothing adjustments, the road closures will expire 120 days after town’s coronavirus state of emergency is lifted. The expectation, although, is that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which has the ultimate say, will decide earlier than that.

Last week, the supervisors accepted a report on the park from the Transportation Authority and agreed to spend a number of months surveying residents and finding out the difficulty earlier than making a name. Some supervisors have praised the street closures, whereas others have frightened the shutdowns are hampering individuals of coloration from visiting Golden Gate Park. The report’s findings seemed to dispel that.

In the meantime, transportation activists are calling for different elements of town to stay closed to visitors as effectively. On Sunday, they rallied on San Francisco’s Great Highway, a stretch on the western fringe of town bordering the Pacific Ocean that has turn out to be referred to as the Great Walkway throughout the pandemic.

Luke Bornheimer, the chief of a road security group known as Kid Safe J.F.Okay., mentioned preserving automobiles out of each Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway would “send a clear message that our city values kids, families and the safety of all San Franciscans.”

Compiled by Manny Fernandez

  • The Palisades fireplace continued to burn on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of a whole bunch of houses within the Topanga Canyon space of western Los Angeles County.

  • Kobe Bryant, the previous Los Angeles Lakers star who was killed in a helicopter crash final yr close to Calabasas, was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

  • When it comes to lobbying lawmakers in Sacramento, California’s important academics union is king: The California Teachers Association outspent different curiosity teams within the first quarter of this yr. The academics union pursued political influence amid the pandemic to the tune of $2.85 million, the Bay Area News Group reviews.

  • In Santa Cruz and different cities, tensions over homeless encampments have reached a turning level, The San Francisco Chronicle reviews.

  • Protesters rallying in help of Palestine in Fresno have been pepper sprayed. On Sunday, the police arrested the person they believed was the one caught on video spraying a chemical substance by way of his automotive window, The Fresno Bee reviews.

  • A caller left racist, threatening voice mail messages for Brian Colbert, the Black mayor of the Marin County city of San Anselmo. The police arrested a 63-year-old man in reference to the voice mail messages, The Marin Independent Journal reviews.

  • The Golden Gate Bridge has been humming loudly and driving commuters and neighbors loopy. The San Francisco Chronicle reviews {that a} crew of engineers has been engaged on the issue, which started following a retrofit of a sidewalk security railing.

  • Who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? The Los Angeles Times launched a snack-food investigation and interviewed greater than a dozen former Frito-Lay workers to reply that query.

California Today goes dwell at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you need to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this electronic mail? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Kellen Browning is a know-how reporter within the Bay Area masking the online game trade and common tech information. He graduated from Pomona College. @kellen_browning

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