Sep 29, 2022 - Things to Do

Ahead of crucial vote, JFK Drive gets murals and more

Street mural in Golden Gate Park

"We are on native land" mural in Golden Gate Park. Photo: Nick Bastone/Axios

Head to the stretch of JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park that's been closed to cars since the start of the pandemic, and you'll notice a collection of new changes.

What's happening: Local artists started painting large-scale street murals along a 1.5-mile section of the decommissioned roadway as part of a project dubbed "The Golden Mile."

  • It's spearheaded by local group Illuminate, which has become the go-to organization for executing lofty public art projects in San Francisco, ranging from the rainbow lasers down Market Street during Pride Week, to the LED light show on the Bay Bridge.

Details: There will be at least 12 murals on JFK Drive, all created by Bay Area artists.

  • One work — titled "We are on native land" — was conceived by local artist Rachel Znerold, and features plants and wildlife indigenous to the area.
  • It sits across from the Conservatory of Flowers.

What they're saying: Illuminate's founder, Ben Davis, told Axios he wanted to "create moments of magic up and down the entire 1.5 miles to reveal the promise and potential of this as a place for people first."

  • "For years, cars have dominated this space and now it's opened up for the first time to people — it's a walkway," he said. "It's a beautiful opportunity to reimagine this space."

Why it matters: San Francisco voters will decide in November whether to keep JFK Drive car-free.

  • And while Davis says his group isn't taking a formal position on the matter, he said a major impetus for the project was to "show people what they have," what could happen in the park if cars weren't part of the equation on a permanent basis.

Of note: "The Golden Mile," an idea that came together over the last couple of months, according to Davis, will also include two grand pianos — with at least one placed in the middle of the road, coffee kiosks, a weekend beer garden, refurbished Doggie Diner heads and more.

  • 100 yellow Adirondack chairs for patrons have already been dispersed along the stretch.
  • SF Rec and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton told Axios that Illuminate has permits that allow the "temporary activations" to stay up through the end of February 2023.

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