No-car Saturdays plan steps on gas

A Saturday closure of a stretch of roadway in Golden Gate Park to cars is expected to go into place for at least another four years after the warring parties on both sides of the debate have agreed to lay down their arms.

In April, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Office brokered a compromise between those for and against a Saturday road closure in Golden Gate Park to allow for recreational uses, similar to a Sunday road closure that has been in place for 40 years.

Opponents had argued that the Saturday closure would exacerbate traffic and parking problems as well as decrease attendance at the park’s cultural institutions. The closure was supported by such groups as the San Francisco Bike Coalition.

As part of the deal, a trial closure was implemented this year for four months, from May to September, with the understanding that legislation would follow enacting the closure from the first Saturday in April to the last Saturday in September until at least 2011.

On Monday, the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee embraced the legislation that codifies the agreement and sent it to the full board of Supervisors for a Nov. 13 vote next Tuesday.

Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who introduced the bill, called it a “great” compromise that will “allow us all to move on to other issues.” However, the debate seems far from over.

The de Young museum reported a drop in attendance during this year’s Saturday closure. Before the Saturday closure, attendance averaged 5,337, but during the closure, attendance dropped to 4,550, or by 14 percent, said Bob Futernick, associate director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. A six-month closure would result in a loss of about 20,462 attendees, he said.

Leah Shahum, who runs the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, suggested the museum attendance was down for other reasons, such as a decline in the museum’s popularity. She added that “their attendance is higher on car-free Sundays than on other days.”

Futernick said that while he remains in support of the compromise, when the new Academy of Sciences opens up next year, and there more people wanting access to the park, the Saturday closure “should be looked at again.”As part of the compromise, for six months out of the year 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 on Sundays.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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