SAN FRANCISCO — As Pope John Paul II attends to the spiritual tasks of his pilgrimage here today, the city will be dealing with earthly traffic dislocations of epic proportions for much of his 20-hour visit.
"People are going to be enormously inconvenienced," promised police spokesman Dave Ambrose. "We sympathize with them, but there's not much we can do."
Some of the most heavily traveled streets in the northwest sector of San Francisco, where the Pope will be going after his afternoon helicopter arrival from Carmel, will be barricaded. Geary Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the city, will be closed all day.
An enormous rush-hour crush of traffic is expected along detour routes. "Megagridlock" was predicted in one newspaper. Warnings have been issued of the impossibility of parking in those districts. People are warned to stay away, unless they have tickets for papal events.
Mayor Dianne Feinstein has pleaded with reluctant employers to let their people go home after lunch on Thursday.
Immediately after his arrival at Crissy Field at 5 p.m., the pontiff will motor up a steep hill to the south vista of the Golden Gate Bridge, bless the 50-year-old San Francisco trademark, then travel immediately on a secret route to the motorcade start on Funston Avenue.
The bridge event will occur at the height of the northbound commute to Marin County. The southbound lanes of the bridge will be closed "for five minutes" said Lt. Raymond McGill of bridge district police.
State mutual aid provisions have been invoked to bring in officers from surrounding jurisdictions. California Highway Patrol units from as far away as Bakersfield, 300 miles south, have been ordered here to help.
To assist the visibility of San Francisco officers managing crowds and helping shunt traffic away from forbidden areas, 1,300 pairs of white gloves have been delivered to the department.
Mail boxes have been yanked along papal routes to foil bombers; climbing hardware has been removed from utility poles; residents are asked to stay off roofs and keep their windows closed; tow companies are ready to drag cars away from visitation sites and motor routes.
All controlled streets have been posted with towing warnings. They include the Geary Boulevard parade route, the streets around St. Mary's Cathedral and Mission Dolores, and Candlestick Park, where a papal Mass for an estimated 71,000 people will be held Friday morning.
Hundreds of garages that open onto streets from homes, a typical San Francisco residential design, must remain closed during visit hours, the Secret Service has ordered.
Geary Boulevard alone, from Baker Street to Funston Avenue, will be closed in both directions from 10 a.m. until the parade clears the stretch, expected about 5:45 p.m.
San Francisco Assistant Police Chief Jack Jordan said the motorcade route can accommodate 850,000 people, wall to wall from curbs to buildings. Crowds are expected to clog the broad street for hours after the Pope has gone.
Armed officers will be stationed every 24 feet along the Geary route. More than three miles of metal barricades are available. Abandoned cars have already been cleared from the route. Low-hanging tree limbs have been cut down to prevent people from climbing for a better look.
Six motorized broom trucks snapped up every offending speck on Geary in advance of the motorcade.
No one can force people living along the Geary Boulevard two-mile motorcade route to do as they are asked, and the Secret Service is ready for that too.
"We're asking for cooperation," said Ambrose, "but if we don't get cooperation along the motorcade route--people all over the roofs--and if it's unmanageable, the Secret Service will call it all off and whisk the Pope right to Mission Dolores. That would be an unfortunate and extreme measure."