SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A fight is brewing over the future of the Great Highway in San Francisco as area residents argue whether it should stay closed to cars or reopen to vehicle traffic.
The Great Highway was closed to cars back in March 2020 in the early days of the initial COVID-19 lockdown. Over a year later and the city has yet to decide what to do long term.READ MORE: San Jose Mom Samantha Rodriguez Waives Extradition In Son's Murder Case; Returning To Las Vegas
The Great Highway decision is now causing a great divide.
“I know more people that enjoy this as a community space than not,” said Angie Petitt as she walked her dog on the sand-covered road. “Bicyclists, skaters, walkers, runners, dog walking.”
More than a slow street, many consider the Great Highway the city’s great, new public space. The biggest fans are pedestrian and bicycle advocates who want this stretch of roadway to remain car-free.
But not everyone in the Avenues is entirely sold on that.
“My kid today asked me if I would please take the sign down, because they’re afraid it’s somehow going to get them involved in social media,” said Hilary Passman.
Passman is the owner of Devil’s Teeth Bakery, a Sunset fixture for about a decade. She recently put up this sign supporting the return of cars to the Great Highway. In response, she got a flurry of angry calls, emails and nasty social media commentary.READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You Get Another Relief Payment?
“And then I found out that the person who started it is actually Janice Li, who is an elected BART official,” Passman said of the sign blowback. “So that was upsetting. That we’ve been getting hate mail and personal comments, it was all started because an elected official decided to bash a small business during COVID. That’s pretty upsetting.”
Board member Li’s tweet prompted a thread of angry replies, some of them customers declaring they’d never return to the bakery.
“I’m sorry people feel betrayed because I have a different position than they do on a local street closure,” explained Passman. “This whole thing seems crazy to me.”
By the city’s own polling, people are just about evenly divided on what to do about the Great Highway.
“It’s cherished as a community space right now, but I understand that there’s traffic issues that need to be addressed,” Petitt said of neighbors’ concerns. “I think there’s some great suggestions for compromise.”
Several different possibilities are being considered; some with cars, some without, and some with no cars on just the weekends. For her part, Passman says a compromise would be fine with her.MORE NEWS: Bay Area, NorCal Heatwave May Break Records; 'Potentially Life-Threating' Central Valley Temps
“I’m not live-or-die on this issue,” Passman said. “I think the Great Highway should be open to cars. But if it’s not, I’m still happy to live in the Sunset and happy to be part of this community. It’s not something that I want to go to war over, for sure.”