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New Permanent Oceanfront Park at SF’s Great Highway?

Voters will decide if SF’s Great Highway should be made into a permanent 17-acre park with a 2-mile oceanfront promenade
By - posted 6/24/2024 No Comment

San Francisco is putting it to the vote; should The Great Highway be turned into a permanent oceanfront park? Voters will decide in November 2024.

The Great Highway is a 3.8-mile-long roadway running along Ocean Beach on the westernmost side of San Francisco. The Upper Great Highway is a two-mile segment of this roadway, between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard. Currently, on weekends, this area becomes a 17-acre park with a 2-mile promenade, while on weekdays it is a roadway with an adjacent trail.

The closure of the Upper Great Highway to vehicle access began during the COVID-19 pandemic and has provided enhanced outdoor space for recreation for families, people on bicycles and in wheelchairs, people with walkers or other mobility assistance devices, people with strollers, and people walking, jogging, skateboarding and more.

The area, which was created and designated under San Francisco park jurisdiction in the 1870s as a space for recreation, also provides a valuable scenic public promenade that can accommodate higher volumes of use than the adjacent pathways. In addition, it offers recreational access to the beachfront to people who cannot easily use the beach itself.

In December 2022, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance to maintain the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard as a car-free promenade until December 31, 2025, allowing for a three-year pilot study. The current schedule closes the road to motor vehicle traffic on weekends beginning at noon on Fridays and ending at 6 a.m. Mondays, as well as on holidays.

This ballot measure builds on the tremendous success of the Great Highway park and promenade pilot programs that have been in place since 2020, and have attracted more than 3 million visitors – nearly 10,000 people per weekend, making it the city’s third most visited park. The flat, paved promenade allows people to enjoy the coast in ways not possible on the beach itself, facilitating access for people in wheelchairs, families with strollers, children on scooters and bicycles, and people skating. A permanent park enables park features like seating with ocean views, accessibility improvements for people with disabilities, play structures for children, and separate space for dogs.

The southern portion of the Great Highway (south of Sloat Boulevard) is already slated to close to vehicle traffic due to coastal erosion and rising seas. The roadway under consideration for the new park (Sloat to Lincoln) has become unreliable to commuters – the Great Highway currently closes up to 65 times per year due to sand accumulation – and is expensive to maintain, with sand cleanup estimated to cost up to $1.7M per year.

The SFMTA’s plan – already in progress because of the frequent closures – is to divert cars to Sunset Boulevard and smooth traffic flow along both Lincoln and Sloat by replacing stop signs with traffic signals. This improved, seamless drive will keep drivers from cutting through neighborhood streets, and traffic studies indicate drive times will be the same or even faster. More details on the planned improvements are available on the fact sheet at www.GreatHighwayPark.com/Vote.

By closing the Great Highway to private vehicles, the proposal also removes automobile pollution from our coastline. Run-off pollution, which comes from non-exhaust sources like brakes and tires, is one of the leading causes of oceanic pollution. “We believe Ocean Beach is no place for a highway,” wrote the San Francisco Group of the Sierra Club. “Creating a beachside park also presents an important opportunity to restore habitat and provide more outdoor educational experiences for our urban youth that so badly need it.”

“This project is an example of how our city can get things right,” continued Supervisor Engardio. “We heard from folks across the spectrum on this issue, and worked hard to address their concerns while also planning for the future that climate change will bring. We know San Franciscans love our parks, and we also know everyone needs to get to work, school, and everywhere they need to go. The result of all our planning is a win-win: an incredible new oceanfront park for everyone, and improvements to enable a smoother and more reliable north-south car commute that adapts to the closure of the southern end of the Great Highway.”

Read more at The Great Highway Park