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What Washington Can Learn from the Great Highway Compromise

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By Evan O’Reilly

Something is brewing on the Western end of San Francisco, and it’s not just a mug of Andytown’s Wind and Sea blend or Outerlands’ Early Girl Tomato Soup. What’s new is something that our national leaders need to learn so desperately.

San Francisco has been at the forefront of so many things that the world loves. Blue jeans, farm to table restaurants, the martini, and marriage equality. It is time for San Francisco to lead the country in something else: remembering how to compromise.

At a time when Democrats on the national level are divided between moderates and progressive who have no problem quibbling over the cost of a human infrastructure bill while people struggle, here in San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor hammered out an actual compromise. A plan to open the Great Highway to the 20,000 motorists who use it weekly and close it for the hundreds of runners and walkers who enjoy it on the weekends. This is the perfect accord for those of us who live on or near the Great Highway.

Cars are no longer treating the residential streets bordering the Great highway as a pass through where speed limits and stop signs are mere suggestions. And those of us who need to drive between the Sunset and the Richmond can do so without having to spend an extra 15 minutes of driving time; reducing emissions and keeping the neighborhoods safer all in one fell swoop.

Likewise, those of us who run, bike or walk not only have the beach and trail along the Great Highway, but also have the Great Highway itself from noon on Fridays to 6am on Mondays. Those of us lucky enough to live on the Western end of San Francisco already have so many parks and walkways but another one is welcome, as long as it doesn’t come at the cost of sending 20,000 cars through the residential streets where we walk our children to school, pick up groceries or stretch our legs.

This was the compromise that San Francisco needed. I understand that those who would like to close more streets permanently in San Francisco are not getting exactly what they want, nor are those who want to fully reopen the Great Highway for local businesses and commuters getting their exact desires met. Like so many times before, San Francisco has something to teach America. It is possible to compromise. Sure, neither side gets exactly what they want, but sometimes the way we move forward is by giving some and getting some and making everyone a little bit happier.


Evan is a teacher who lives in SF with his family. He obviously loves long walks on Ocean Beach.

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