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Lawsuit Filed to Open the Great Highway & Other Streets in Golden Gate Park

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A group of San Francisco residents filed a lawsuit on Thursday, seeking to force the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to reopen streets within Golden Gate Park that were closed off to vehicles during the pandemic.

In addition to the Recreation and Park Department, the lawsuit also names the Recreation and Parks Commission, and Recreation and Park General Manager Philip Ginsburg.

The suit alleges that Ginsburg, the department, and the commission are violating local and state laws by shutting down the Great Highway, John F. Kennedy Drive, and Martin Luther King Drive to vehicular traffic.

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The road closures began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the city’s Slow Streets program, which aimed to encourage walking and bicycling by creating a network of carless streets throughout the city amidst a stay-at-home order.

According to the suit’s six plaintiffs — which includes the organization Open the Great Highway Alliance — it’s time to reopen the streets.

“The city is allowing pedestrians, bikers, as well as people who are in food trucks, motorized scooters, and surreys to use the roads anytime, while keeping many others off the road. This violates both state and local laws,” said attorney Guatam Dutta, who is representing the plaintiffs.

According to Dutta, the closed streets not only pose a challenge for drivers, but they also make access difficult for people who are disabled.

“As a result, they (disabled people) will not be able to access the attractions at Golden Gate Park, at Ocean Beach. They’re just locked out,” he said.

Excluding certain members of the public from accessing the streets is in violation of state and local laws, Dutta alleged.

“It’s all or nothing. If you’re going to close the roads, then go all the way. But then you have to meet very strict guidelines that the city can’t meet,” Dutta explained. “Or you’ve got to keep it open to everybody; all vehicles and every member of the public.”

In addition to the lawsuit, the group is planning on filing a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to force the defendants to reopen the streets.

“Enough is enough,” plaintiff Steven Hill said. “Just as the economy has reopened, we think it’s time to reopen the roads and so we are asking the judge to return the roads to pre-pandemic.”

Charley Perkins, a member of the Open the Great Highway Alliance, said, “The mindset that by closing roads to cars, suddenly people are going to just stop driving, that’s just not the reality here. The people who use the Great Highway, which is largely a commuter route, they’re getting to jobs, to schools, to doctor’s appointments. They’re not going to stop driving because their preferred road has been blocked. They’re just going to be in their cars longer.”

“Filing a lawsuit in court is a measure of last resort and there would be nothing better if the government would step up and do the right thing,” Hill said.

The Recreation and Park Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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  1. December 17, 2021 at 12:40 pm — Reply

    What a PR piece for the Spoiled motorists. Not one comment from any NGO representative or individual who is actively working for car free JFK, Great Walkway and Slow Streets. Totally lazy journalism by a reporter from whom I expect some diligence and advocacy

    • Christina Shih
      December 20, 2021 at 5:19 pm — Reply

      What, you don’t like the outcome of your strident and repetitive rhetoric? You certainly have galvanized people to action to re-open the Great Highway!

  2. Doug
    December 17, 2021 at 1:37 pm — Reply

    It’s about time. Rec and Park as well as MTA have gotten away with way too much. They don’t own our streets.

  3. Victoria
    December 21, 2021 at 7:41 pm — Reply

    Enough is enough!!! Its beyond comprehension how a small group of individuals think that their needs to ride their bikes supersedes an overwhelmingly bigger group of people’s need to, go to work, school, doctors appointments, etc. Its beyond selfish, ignorant, and reeks of privileged snobbery. I hope and pray, karma puts all those supporting the closure, on her list!!!

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