Is the Academy against permanently closing JFK Drive to vehicle traffic?
The Academy is not against permanently closing JFK Drive to vehicle traffic. We do, however, want to ensure that any permanent closure results from an inclusive, thoughtful planning process. Through the working group mentioned above (as well as any other process elements that develop), we’re committed to exploring a wide range of options, including a permanent closure of JFK Drive to vehicle traffic. We deeply value input from our fellow community members as we continue to work together to seek an environmentally friendly, equity-based, data-driven solution.
How would permanently closing JFK Drive prevent access to the Academy? Doesn’t the City-owned Music Concourse Parking Garage provide sufficient access for guests that cannot walk, bike, or take public transit?
Many of our guests live within close proximity to the Academy, but not everyone is physically able to bike or walk to the nearest transit stop. A past survey indicated that 40% of households that visit Golden Gate Park include a member with a mobility challenge, and that increased road closures would decrease visitation among 41% of Park visitors. Over 80% of our guests visit from outside San Francisco, some from regions where public transit isn’t accessible or may not be financially feasible. This reality, coupled with limited access to free parking in and around the Park (particularly options close enough to be useful for those with mobility issues), raises concerns about the disproportionate impacts on underserved and vulnerable communities that primarily rely on personal vehicles to visit the Academy.
Additionally, permanently closing JFK Drive would eliminate an estimated 300 free parking spots, 20 of which are designated as ADA-accessible, with no current plan to relocate them close to destinations like the museums where they are needed. While the City-owned Music Concourse Garage is indeed one available option for directly accessing the Academy, its hourly rate may pose a barrier for many potential guests. The Academy does have one seat on the garage's board, but pricing is set and approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Furthermore, the garage frequently fills up before noon on weekends, and its current capacity may not be able to accommodate increased demand without a holistic, comprehensive plan for alternative parking options. We want to ensure as many people as possible can access and enjoy the Academy, especially those traditionally underrepresented among visitors to cultural institutions.
What’s the background on the most recent closure of JFK Drive?
On April 28, 2020, the San Francisco Department of Public Health ordered the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department to temporarily close JFK Drive to all vehicle traffic from Crossover Drive to Stanyan Street. (Prior to the pandemic, JFK Drive was closed to vehicles every Sunday of the year, as well as select Saturdays.) This closure will remain in effect for up to 120 days after the official end of the City’s shelter-in-place order, but that date has yet to be determined.
What has been the Academy’s involvement so far?
In December 2020, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) approached the Academy and other stakeholders to discuss the future of all modes of transportation within Golden Gate Park. This January, the SFCTA assembled these stakeholders into a Golden Gate Park Working Group—which includes representatives from short- and long-distance park users, city agencies, park institutions, and neighboring communities—to formally solicit their input and ensure all views were taken into consideration. The working group was tasked to help clarify goals for JFK Drive operations and identify actions needed to support those goals. The fourth and final meeting took place in April. The SFCTA will now present findings to the SFCTA Board, which in turn will make a recommendation to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for how best to improve transportation in and around Golden Gate Park.
The 11-member San Francisco Board of Supervisors is the legislative body that will ultimately decide this issue, and you can find and contact your Supervisor at https://sfbos.org.
What is the process for permanently closing JFK Drive to vehicular traffic?
Permanent street closures require involvement from a number of City stakeholders, including the SFMTA, the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Any change to the current status of streets in Golden Gate Park will require a change in the Park Code, but only if the Board of Supervisors votes in favor of the change.
Does the Academy support efforts to travel sustainably and reduce emissions?
Yes. Riding public transportation, walking, or biking are among the most effective actions individuals can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their community. We encourage guests to visit the Academy by sustainable means whenever possible, and in non-pandemic times offer discounted tickets to guests that walk, bike, or ride public transit. (Due to ticket-window safety restrictions this discount is temporarily unavailable, but will absolutely resume as soon as possible.) Employees also accrue additional vacation days or receive transit subsidies for commuting sustainably, and lockers are provided to securely stow bikes.
Does the Academy support measures to increase the safety of city streets?
We strongly support providing corridors where residents can bike and walk safely, and applaud the SFMTA for spearheading widespread efforts to reduce traffic collisions and make our city streets as safe as possible for all modes of transportation. The City of San Francisco’s recent Slow Streets program, responsible for the current daily closure of JFK Drive to vehicles between Stanyan Street and Crossover Drive, has provided a safe opportunity for physically distant recreation, travel, and exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, JFK Drive was closed to vehicles every Sunday of the year, as well as select Saturdays.
How is the Academy providing affordable, equitable access to the museum?
The Academy is a proud partner in Museums for All, a collaborative initiative that ensures every child and family has access to a world-class museum experience by offering reduced admission. Guests with an EBT, WIC, Lifeline Pass, or Medi-Cal card can simply present it at the ticket window upon arrival to receive $3 Daytime Admission. (Please call ahead to ensure availability: 415-379-8000.) Learn more about this program and other free and reduced admission opportunities on our Academy for All page.
How do we reach a compromise?
We believe having a productive dialogue to consider as many perspectives as possible can lead to a sustainable solution that preserves equitable access and increases safety. The Academy is committed to participating in a process that thoroughly explores a number of options, including a permanent closure of JFK Drive to vehicle traffic, in order to be as informed and inclusive as possible.