‘Healthy Saturdays’ may gain longer life

The hotly debated closure of a stretch of roadway in Golden Gate Park to traffic on Saturdays would go into place for at least five years under legislation to be introduced today.

Earlier this year, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office helped broker a deal between those historically opposed and those in favor of a Saturday closure, which supporters say would be similar to a closure on Sundays.

As part of the deal, a trial closure was implemented this year for four months, between May and September, with the understanding that trailing legislation would follow, enacting the closure for at least five years.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick is expected to introduce the trailing legislation today, codifying the deal, which would enact a Saturday closure from the first Saturday in April to the last Saturday in September.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee is expected to hold a hearing Monday on the legislation.

During those six months, John F. Kennedy Drive would be closed from Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive (near the entrance to the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences) to Transverse Drive. As a result of the deal, Saturday’s closure is about half of the 1.7 miles of the road that is closed Sundays.

Also as part of the deal, the aging and dilapidated Middle Drive West, which is closed on weekends, is supposed to be repaired to serve as a destination for recreational uses that include bicycling, skating and walking. That work has yet to begin.

The deal brokered by the Mayor’s Office was viewed as a compromise that would end the debate.

Not everyone is happy about the deal, however. David Heller, president of the Geary Boulevard Merchants Association, said the Saturday park closure exacerbated parking problems in the neighborhood and adversely affected businesses.

David Miles, president of a local skaters’ organization, said the Saturday closure allows the park to live up to its mission of promoting healthy lives by getting people out of their cars and engaged in recreation. He dismissed suggestions that it increased parking woes.

“I don’t care what day it is, you will have trouble with parking,” he said.

Prior to the deal, opponents had argued that closure on both Saturdays and Sundays would cause traffic and parking problems as well as decrease attendance at the park’s cultural institutions, such as the de Young Museum. The closure was widely supported by such groups as the San Francisco Bike Coalition and the Sierra Club.

The Recreation and Park Commission is also expected to hold a hearing as early as next month on the impacts of the Saturday closure and is supposed to issue a report about the impacts by Dec. 15.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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