Joan Seiwald, 91, one of a trio of young Glen Park mothers who in 1965 kept San Francisco from building a freeway through Glen Canyon Park, passed away on Thursday, May 11.
Seiwald and her husband Robert bought their home on Burnside Avenue in 1960, just one block from the park. As today, parents spent hours at the park with their small children and Seiwald became fast friends with other moms there, especially Zoanne Nordstrom and Geri Arkush.
Variously called the Crosstown Freeway or the Circumferential Freeway, it was a proposed connector between I-280 near Daly City to the southern edge of Golden Gate Park.
The City proposed linking 280 and 101 with a freeway that would have begun where the Glen Park BART station stands today, risen 60 feet over the present baseball diamond in the canyon, cut into the hillside, filled in part of the park, tunneled under Portola, slashed across Laguna Honda, joined Seventh Avenue and eventually tunneled under or rise over Golden Gate Park to eventually empty into the second deck of the Golden Gate Bridge, as the Glen Park News reported in a history of the effort to stop the project.
The City’s Public Works Director at the time, Sherman Druckel, came to a community meeting at the time and said that 120 homes and 13 businesses would be torn down.
The first effort was in 1958, but was thwarted through the efforts of another neighborhood woman, Mrs. Hermini “Minnie” Staub Baxter, who led an uprising that resulted in the Board of Supervisors unanimously voting against the proposed freeway in 1959.
The idea came up again in 1965 when the City began taking measurements in the Canyon. Nordstrom came across the workers and alerted her friends Seiwald and Arkush.
Seiwald wrote a letter to the San Francisco Progress in 1965 that you can read here. Courtesy of the Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project.
The three Gumtree Girls organized, writing hundreds of letters, posting notices, holding meetings and tracking down Supervisors at City Hall.
“All department heads were men. As soon as the three of us showed up, the men would head for the men’s room,” Seiwald told the Glen Park News in 2000.
Eventually, the City backed down. The Glen Park Neighborhoods History Project held a Gum Tree Girl Festival in 2022 to celebrate their victory.
A fuller obituary will follow. If you have stories about Joan and her life that you’d like to share, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.