Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Widening" MLK: What Prop. G really means

You have to hand it to Katherine Roberts and other opponents of the new garage in the park; they are consistent, as they continue to cling tenaciously to their fact-free account of what's happened in the Concourse area of Golden Gate Park since 1998. In her letter to the SF Bay Guardian this week, Roberts provides a list of false claims about the history of the new underground garage and the litigation surrounding it.

"I was disappointed that the Bay Guardian caved in and endorsed Proposition G, the deeply flawed ballot measure that legalizes the illegal southern entrance to the parking garage in Golden Gate Park."

Part of Prop. G does indeed validate---yet again---the southern, inside-the-park entrance, but that's just a sop the city threw to some of the garage opponents when they withdrew from the litigation against the city last June. The southern entrance is already legal, since both Proposition J and Judge Warren, in his Statement of Decision of August, 2004, already "legalized" the southern garage entrance. (to read Warren's decisions, go to http://www.sftc.org/ and enter the case number, 427163.) All Prop. G does that's new is ask city voters if they want to take away the parking on both sides of a 500-foot stretch of MLK Blvd. and use the extra lanes as dedicated lanes to the garage entrance. Whether Prop. G passes or not, the inside-the-park garage entrance will remain in place.

"If passed, Prop. G would 'clarify' 1998's Prop. J (which authorized construction of the garage) to allow an entrance and exit inside the park. But Prop. J clearly stated that all entrances and exits would be situated outside the park, in accordance with its principal purpose of reducing the impact of automobiles in the park...A trial court judge ruled that this [inside]entrance was legal, as long as parking was removed from MLK Jr. Drive. Prop. J promises us that if we legalize this entrance, no parking will be removed."

Roberts and other litigants already lost in court on the second garage entrance issue---and rightly so. And they lost because the text of Prop. J refers to "a dedicated entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) outside the park" and "dedicated access route (or routes) to and from the underground parking facility beginning at a location or locations outside of the Park..." (Legal Text of Proposition J, Section I). What garage opponents want is either for all the garage traffic to use the Tenth and Fulton entrance/exit or to dig a tunnel from Lincoln Ave. to the southern entrance to the garage, which would damage both the park and the contiguous neighborhood. Judge Warren wisely rejected the tunnel idea, ruling instead that the city, as per the text of Prop. J, must at least design an approach to the other, inside-the-park garage entrance that begins outside the park. Hence, in response to Warren's order, the result was the Concourse Authority's plan to eliminate parking on both sides of 500 feet of MLK and use two of the four lanes as "dedicated access routes" to and from the garage.

"So far, garage proponents have broken every single promise of public benefit intended to mitigate the impacts of building a massive, car-dependent structure in a public park."

"Garage proponents" have broken no promises. There is no evidence that any public money was used to build the garage; there is no evidence that the Concourse Authority ever violated either the Brown Act or the Sunshine Ordinance; and the traffic plan adopted by the Authority is designed to discourage through-traffic in the Concourse area. The traffic plan does, however, allow for "visitor drop-off" and "destination" traffic, including buses, to enter the Concourse area. One of the primary public benefits promised by Proposition J---never mentioned by garage opponents---is "to facilitate a park that is accessible to all of the public, including, without limitation, families, children and young people, seniors, and persons with disabilities..." (Legal Text of Proposition J, Section 2). Both the garage and the Concourse traffic plan work toward this end. The reality is that not everyone can walk, ride a bike, or take Muni to Golden Gate Park.

The only valid question Roberts raises is about potential traffic problems if voters pass Proposition G. As those who have read the District 5 Diary interview with Mike Ellzey, Executive Director of the Concourse Authority, already know, the Authority and the city have been conferring about the existing traffic problems in the Ninth and Irving neighborhood, with or without a widened MLK Blvd. If MLK was to be widened, the city planned a number of traffic calming measures for the area, including more stop signs and crosswalks. What will happen to those plans if Prop. G passes? If Prop. G passes, how will an MLK with only two lanes handle the garage traffic once both the de Young and the Academy of Sciences are open?

For his part, Ellzey recently told District 5 Diary that he's ready to go back to the Concourse Authority's original plan if Prop. G is passed:

It's pretty much agreed all around right now Option 1 [widening MLK], as approved by Judge Warren, would ultimately be built only if necessary to satisfy the order. If the voters in November allow us to go back to the Concourse Authority's original approved design---the one over which we were sued and which resulted in Option 1---i.e., an interior entrance without dedicated lanes on MLK, then we open the south entrance for operation in mid-November, as originally approved.

No on G (Letter to Editor, SF Bay Guardian, Nov. 2-8)


I was disappointed that the Bay Guardian caved in and endorsed Proposition G, the deeply flawed ballot measure that legalizes the illegal southern entrance to the parking garage in Golden Gate Park [Endorsements, 10/21/05].

If passed, Prop. G would "clarify" 1998's Prop. J (which authorized construction of the garage) to allow an entrance and exit inside the park. But Prop. J clearly stated that all entrances and exits would be situated outside the park, in accordance with its principal purpose of reducing the impact of automobiles in the park.

Under pressure from the wealthy north park neighbors, former mayor Willie Brown moved one of the entrances slated for their neighborhood deep inside the park. A trial court judge ruled that this entrance was legal, as long as parking was removed from MLK Jr. Drive. Prop. J promises us that if we legalize this entrance, no parking will be removed.

So far, garage proponents have broken every single promise of public benefit intended to mitigate the impacts of building a massive, car-dependent structure in a public park. These promises include:

1) no public money spent to build the garage;
2) garage revenue, after O
&M [operations and maintenance], diverted to the Recreation and Parks Department;
3) no through-traffic through the Music Concourse;
4) entrances and exits outside the park; and
5) garage proceedings subject to the Sunshine Ordinance and the Brown Act.

Opponents of Prop. G, myself included, fear that it will be added to this string of broken promises. It effectively diverts our attention from the real problem, which is that once the southern entrance opens, it will send shock waves through the rest of the park, down Lincoln Way, and into the Ninth Avenue business district. When that happens, garage supporters will come back with another ballot measure to widen MLK and all the other feeder roads in the park as well. At that point it will be impossible to stop them.

Katherine Roberts
San Francisco


Labels: ,