SF’s Great Highway Continues Giving Off Major ‘Dune’ Vibes

More like ‘Beach’ — amiright?

Mother Nature never intended for us humans to criss-cross her work with concrete. Long before the road running along Ocean Beach became a car-free promenade on the weekends, the Upper Great Highway — which stretches 3.5-miles along San Francisco’s western neighborhoods and began closing (on and off) to vehicular traffic back in 2020 — was privy to being engulfed with sand. “The Great Walkway” has continued that quirk well into this year; it’s been swallowed by the beach and caused vehicular traffic to cease during the workweek on more than one occasion, as well. 

This reality is abundantly clear in a tweet published over the weekend by Joel VanderWerf. Its scale, composition, and its displayed text all culminate into a singular *chef’s kiss.*

VanderWerf recently snapped Ocean Beach’s iconic like-named sign with sand coming up well past its base, covering up the “Beach” part. In its current state, it reads “Ocean” — which is comically ironic.

San Francisco Public Works (DPW), the City branch assigned to contend with sand removal maintenance, has been in a losing battle with Mother Nature as of late. 

As I waxed prior, the City and County of San Francisco doesn’t have a dedicated crew for sand removal, so DPW employees often must respond to more pressing issues first before removing dunes on the Great Highway: Workers attend to the area regularly to remove the sand — frequently using trucks, backhoes, and other heavy equipment in the dead of night. However, other, more pressing maintenance and upkeep requests can delay sand removal.

Whenever crews clear the roadway, the “Great Sandway” has returned in a matter of days. And cars, again, are redirected to the very same streets they take when the Upper Great Highway closes on the weekends and holidays.

The Great Highway — which opened in 1929 as a means to make it easier to go to and from the southernmost parts of San Francisco — was doomed from the time it was incepted. As the climate crisis reshapes one of the windiest parts of San Francisco’s coastline, the upper part of the highway will always be closing due to the elements. 

This looming reality is why the Great Highway extension from Sloat Boulevard to California State Route 35 is expected to be permanently close to vehicle traffic starting in 2023 as part of the Ocean Beach Climate Change Adaptation Project.

Once opened, this part of SF’s scenic highway will house a multi-use trail, public restrooms, beach access stairs, and a community plaza for pedestrian use. Access to the beach is also expected to be eased.

But until then… maybe it’s best we just shut the whole damn thing down and give it back to the people throughout the week. You know.. the exact same thing we did in 2020 to great fanfare.

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