Golden Gate Park advocate David Miles, right, and his family are among those who enjoy having no car traffic on John F. Kennedy Drive. (Courtesy photo)

Golden Gate Park advocate David Miles, right, and his family are among those who enjoy having no car traffic on John F. Kennedy Drive. (Courtesy photo)

My 40+ year fight with SF museums over street safety in Golden Gate Park

By David Miles

I was in Golden Gate Park this weekend with my family and after a year of hell, I felt a twinge of normalcy and joy. And then I remembered — right now there is a group of highly skilled professional lobbyists working backroom deals with city politicians to kill this amazing beautiful refuge in The City.

“Gaslighting” is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. These are the tactics being used by Supervisor Shamann Walton as he posts his opinion “Closing JFK Drive in Recreational Redlining.’

I don’t know why Shamann Walton wrote this op ed, or if he is working with San Francisco museums on their 42-year quest to keep John F. Kennedy Drive unsafe for kids. But he is certainly helping them achieve their goals.

The issue of keeping JFK in Golden Gate Park closed to car traffic has been around since the Sunday road closure began in 1967. I have been working hard for 42 years on creating these road closures to create safe public spaces for all San Franciscans (and especially children!), since I moved to Visitation Valley on Arleta Street in Supervisor Walton’s district.

In those 42 years of fighting to keep a safe place to skate for my family and all of San Francisco, I have seen a lot: lobbyists working behind the scenes, aiming misdirection, getting allies in the city machine to fight their fight for them in public. But I have never seen such a blatantly false narrative as what I read in Supervisor Walton’s opinion piece. This story is not about access to the park. It is about money and power, specifically the money and power the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco directors and trustees wield to get their way in this city. This is all well and good for the museums, but they operate on city land. This is our park. It does not belong to the trustees of the California Academy of Sciences or the trustees of the de Young Museum.

Supervisor Walton, are you familiar with the park? Are you familiar with the history of this particular political fight with the San Francisco museums that you just stepped into?

There is no such thing as recreational redlining in San Francisco! Just because someone comes up with a catchy slogan doesn’t make it true.

Anyone that wants to go to Golden Gate Park can go there. There is now an 800-space underground garage under the Music Concourse right next to the museums (that The City paid for for the museums by a bond measure by the way). There is plenty of nearby free street parking, with over 3,500 free parking spots in Golden Gate Park. There are more ADA spaces surrounding the park than ever before. We now have a shuttle system to take everyone including the handicapped and the elderly to all the attractions in the park.

The bigger problem seems to be Supervisor Walton has little of no knowledge of what goes on in the park, who goes there, why people go there, and why we have been fighting for 42 years to create safe public spaces for kids.

Everyone in San Francisco has been in lockdown for this past year. Creating a safe, public space for kids on JFK has been one of the very few bright spots in The City that I love. The people have discovered just how much more magnificent the Golden Gate Park experience is without the threat of being run over by cars.

Why would Supervisor Shamann Walton want to turn JFK back into a “high-injury corridor” — one of the most dangerous designations for a street in San Francisco? Last year, eight people were injured on JFK, one severely. This is where our 3-year-olds scooter around and our 5-year-olds learn to ride their bicycles. We live in a city, which means forgoing a backyard and a cul de sac. In exchange, we get the park. Golden Gate Park is our park, not the museum trustees’ park.

With the cars gone, kids can play, families can explore, ride their bikes together, skate together, walk together and use the park for what it was always meant to be used for. This is the kind of environment that needs to be nurtured, not discouraged. The City knows it, the San Francisco. Recreation and Parks department knows it and it’s time our other city leaders and the parks institutions finally recognize it!

After 42 years, I demand they stop using their lobbyists to bully us into giving up the safety of our park for our children and future generations of children. Enough.

COVID-19 may have been a devastating time for San Francisco and the nation, but it has finally shown to all of us San Franciscans how great it can be to enjoy protected and safe spaces with our children, our friends, and our families.

Signed,

David Miles Jr., Church of 8 Wheels

David Miles, aka the Godfather of Skating, is a longtime Golden Gate Park advocate and founder of the Church of 8 Wheels.

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