Deal reached to close park streets 

After more than 15 hours of negotiations — including an all-nighter that spanned Thursday night and Friday morning — a compromise was found that allows some roads in Golden Gate Park to be closed on Saturdays for car-free recreational use, ending a long-running battle.

"Today was a victory for our shared values. Golden Gate Park is our city’s treasure, and this proposal allows everyone to enjoy it with minimal disruption," Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

For decades, a 1.5-mile stretch of John F. Kennedy Drive and some connecting roads have been closed on Sundays, an initiative that has been popular with bicyclists, skaters and outdoor enthusiasts, among others. In recent years, supporters of the park closure have worked to extend it to Saturdays as well. In 2000, two voter measures for the closure lost at the ballot box.

On Friday, a compromise was reached to allow for a closure on Saturdays as well, but for a smaller stretch of JFK Drive than on Sundays, and for six months of the year, not year-round. The Saturday closure on JFK Drive will start west of Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive instead of going all the way to Stanyan, as it does on Sundays.

Although the original proposal was for a six-month trial closure, the group agreed to make the Saturday closure plan permanent. According to a source close to the negotiations, neither side wanted to come back to debate the contentious issue again at a later date.

"We’re pleased and proud to work out something that everyone got a little, everyone gave a little," said Rick Galbreath, vice chair for San Francisco’s chapter of the Sierra Club. "There were handshakes and claps and hugs. We’ve got pictures."

In February, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick introduced legislation in support of the Saturday road closure, noting that, since 2000, a public garage has opened in the park area near the closure area. He also touted the results of an independent study that said traffic and parking impacts were minimal and more visitors came to the park and local cultural institutions on the day of the Sunday closures.

Opponents to the closure plan have maintained that closing the park roads on both weekend days would result in adverse traffic impacts and parking problems, particularly in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as diminished attendance at the park’s cultural institutions. There have also been concerns that the road closure limits park access to those with disabilities.

Organized by the Mayor’s Office, a handful of representatives from both sides sat down for a mediation session at City Hall that began at 5 p.m. Thursday and was led by the mayor’s chief of staff, Philip Ginsburg. The two groups were kept in separate rooms, with Ginsburg conducting "shuttle diplomacy" between them. In addition to the Thursday all-nighter, the group met Friday afternoon, with Newsom joining them for the talks that ended just before 7 p.m.

Supporters in the negotiations included representatives from the San Francisco Bike Coalition, the Sierra Club and Walk S.F. Closure opponents in the talks included disability advocates, neighborhood representatives and officials from the de Young Museum and the Academy of Sciences.

beslinger@examiner.com

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