From Supervisor Gordon Mar’s office:
Supervisor Mar Introduces Legislation to Officially Pilot the Great Highway’s Weekend Promenade
Proposal would preserve current configuration for three years while the City continues to study the road use
District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar today introduced legislation that would maintain the Great Highway between Lincoln Way and Sloat Boulevard as a car-free promenade on weekends and holidays under a three-year pilot study.
If approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the ordinance would codify the Great Highway’s current configuration until Dec. 31, 2025. During this time, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department would collect vital information such as visitor usage data, traffic conditions and gather public feedback before issuing a recommendation to the Board regarding its long-term future.
“Keeping the Great Highway as a promenade on weekends and holidays when it’s used the most, while allowing car access on weekdays when motorists use it the most, is a win-win solution,” said Supervisor Mar. “Millions of visits to the promenade have shown its value as a space for community and civic action, active transportation, and joy. The weekend promenade has been popular and successful, and I’m proud to keep it in place while we continue to study this roadway in the face of climate change.”
The Ocean Beach Master Plan developed by SPUR recommended potential changes to the Great Highway’s use as part of a managed retreat from the coastline in response to climate change. The City is already planning to permanently close the Great Highway extension south of Sloat to vehicles in 2024 due to sea level rise and erosion impacts as part of the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project.
Mar’s legislation will transition the weekend promenade between Lincoln and Sloat from an emergency status to a pilot project, with the City enhancing its data collection and analysis of visitor usage, and engaging the public about the space and its use. It specifically requires City departments to make recommendations on managing traffic and sand, which is frequently blown onto the roadway.
The City will be submitting Environmental Applications required by CEQA, in addition to a Coastal Development Permit application. The Great Highway is within the Coastal Zone, which requires additional approval from the California Coastal Commission for land use changes.
In April 2020, the City temporarily closed the four-lane thoroughfare to cars in order to prioritize safe recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic. On August 15, 2021, Mayor Breed reached an agrement with Supervisor Mar to modify the closure to apply only between Fridays at noon until Mondays at 6 am, and on holidays.
From April 2020 until May 2022, people made more than 2 million visits to the scenic public promenade, with a total of 3,700 average daily visits during the full-time closure, and 3,300 average daily visits since the current part-time closure was instituted.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic was the creation of new open spaces for people to exercise, connect, and enjoy the outdoors,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg. “As we evaluate what works beyond the emergency health and into the longterm future, I look forward to continuing our work with the public, SFMTA, and other agency partners.
The New York Times listed the promenade as one of 52 places to go in the world in 2022, writing that a “Great Highway has become a unique destination – in a city full of them – to take in San Francisco’s wild Pacific Ocean coastline by foot Old bike, skates or scooter, sample food trucks and explore local cafes, restaurants, record stores, bookstores and more.