Car-Free My Knee: Peskin Aims to Pull Yoga Mat Out From Under Newsom

yoga_sil.jpgIt's grumbling merchants vs. yoga in the streets. Wow! No one wins!

By Joe Eskenazi

Aaron Peskin doesn’t see the mayor’s grand plan to shoo cars from the Embarcadero for dance- and yoga-ins as set in stone quite yet. The North Beach supervisor instead describes it as “freshly laid concrete that hasn’t quite set.”

If that’s the metaphor of Peskin’s choosing, expect to see his footprints and signature in that concrete before it dries.

Peskin told SF Weekly he and Supervisor Sean Elsbernd plan to call for an economic impact study of the mayor’s proposed car-free Embarcadero parties during Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The festival days, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 31 – just before Labor Day – and Sunday, Sept. 14, would entail shutting down six miles of road from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Peskin said the first he heard of the car-free party days was when “every business from the Ferry Building to Aquatic Park started howling” – and leaving messages on his voicemail. “Lining up dancing and yoga classes probably took a lot of organizing. They just didn’t talk with anyone whose livelihood was going to be affected.”

Motions to close the Embarcadero have traditionally elicited behavior in Fisherman’s Wharf-area merchants akin to Indiana Jones in a Vivarium. Earlier this decade ...

top-level bicyclists zipped along the waterfront in the San Francisco Grand Prix; the bike race closed amidst political shenanigans -- and restaurateurs along the Embarcadero reacted as if they’d won the yellow jersey.

Kevin Westlye, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said that the Grand Prix knocked 40 to 50 percent off sales totals for area restaurants. As the proprietor of the Franciscan Restaurant at the time, he saw his daily take drop 40 percent for the day.

So the notion of rolling yoga mats across the Embarcadero was especially unwelcome to Westlye and his colleagues. The Sunday before Labor Day, he claims, marks the year’s high-point for quasi-locals traveling by car to Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and the touristy districts therein. Westlye believes this is, literally, the very worst time of year for the mayor to shut down the Embarcadero. It would be akin to instilling a temperance holiday on March 17.

Vehement complaints from area merchants persuaded Newsom to drop a proposed third car-free day. And, reading between the lines of what Peskin told SF Weekly, he may have his sights on picking off the remaining pair.

The car-free days are “something Supervisors Elsbernd and Peskin agree should be analyzed,” said Peskin, referring to himself in the third-person, Rickey Henderson-style.

“We’ll be introducing a resolution urging the mayor to undertake said analysis prior to moving ahead with any decision.”

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