Published Monday, March 31, 2003, in the San Francisco Examiner
Freeway be gone
By Adriel Hampton
Of The Examiner Staff
Up on the dead quiet Fell Street off-ramp, in a post-apocalyptic
moment out of Mad Max, a man was walking his Labrador retriever.
Below, in the deep shade, hundreds of activists partied in anti-
The freeway is coming down.
Mayor Willie Brown took the first swing of a golden hammer at one of
the massive concrete buttresses, leaving a nick in the paint.
The crowd used the occasion to chant for peace as the news cameras
turned to capture the mayor's John Henry moment.
In the next six months, CalTrans' sledges will bring down the tons of
concrete and asphalt, the last of the Central Freeway west of Market.
Over the next three years, CalTrans and city workers will turn
Octavia into a six-lane, tree-lined drive.
The freeway will touch down on Market Street and builders will add
hundreds of new apartments to Hayes Valley.
Land sales and state transportation funds will fund the $74 million
For drivers, the massive project -- and 40,000 motorists a day forced
to take different routes -- may mean more-crowded surface streets and
longer commutes. Alternate routes and transit alternatives are
highlighted at www.octaviacentral.org.
Drivers might be frustrated, but for the neighborhood activists who
took down the concrete behemoth, the moment was pure joy. Brown told
how Democratic Party activists Sue Bierman, a former supervisor, and
Jane Morrison, now chair of the local chapter of the Democrats, had
engaged him at the beginning of his quest for the state assembly in
the early 1960s in the campaign to keep the Central Freeway from
extending to Golden Gate Park.
"As outgoing mayor, I intend to take this crap with me," Brown said,
minutes before taking his swing at the ramp.
San Francisco's top pols came out to kiss the ramp goodbye, along
with representatives of dozens of neighborhood, environmental and
political groups. Event emcee Michael Krasny of KQED radio heralded
the campaign to oust the freeway as the first to bring together the
Tenants Union and the San Francisco Apartment Association, normally
"This spot hasn't seen sunshine for 40 years," said activist Robin
Levitt, as spring heat blew through the assembly crowd. "We're going
to have some sunshine down here."