December 2013

SFMTA Slow to Unfold Parking Strategies

Keith Burbank

Last month the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced plans to reopen the conversation with the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill communities about strategies to better manage parking, within the context of future transportation development along the Central Waterfront. At a meeting held at Genetech Hall at the University of California, San Francisco-Mission Bay, SFMTA presented parking data it had collected in the area.  At the gathering Hill resident Ed Lortz expressed concerns that SFMTA will install meters along the 18th and 20th street commercial corridors that extend around corners to the fronts of residents’ homes. “That's one of my big worries,” Lortz said.  

According to Paul Rose, an SFMTA spokesperson, any parking changes in the area are likely to be “small in scope and iterative, with the goal of addressing parking on the busiest of commercial blocks, where customers are currently having a challenging time finding parking spaces. A comprehensive approach is not likely.”  

But changing parking policies space by space isn’t the approach preferred by some community groups.  The Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF), an anti-parking meter advocacy organization, is working with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors “to develop better, more comprehensive solutions than the spot zoning SFMTA is trying to use,” said Mari Eliza, an ENUF member.  

According to Potrero Boosters president J.R. Eppler, the neighborhood is likely to get a suboptimal plan unless SFMTA looks at the whole system simultaneously. Eppler argued that SFMTA needs to try some new ideas, such as commercial permits, that allow for parking by employees. “It may be time to develop some new tools to address the issues we have,” he said. 

Pennsylvania Avenue resident Jim Wilkins agreed. Wilkins said the agency has yet to address the parking needs of the neighborhood’s production, distribution and repair businesses. “Do they intend to blanket 16th and 17th streets with meters?” Wilkins asked. “Or will they work with the businesses and community to come up with a more creative solution?”

At last month's meeting, Tony Kelly, past Potrero Boosters president, suggested that SFMTA install meters in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, but give residents a parking card so they don't have to feed the meters. Commuters would have to pay, and the City would still receive most of the revenue it would collect if residents weren’t provided with a parking card, given commuter demand to park in the area.  Mission District residents have expressed support for Kelly's idea. 

SFMTA data would seem to support the concept, indicating that just nine percent of the vehicles parked on streets in Potrero Hill and Showplace Square are owned by neighborhood residents. Thirty-three percent are registered to residents of other San Francisco neighborhoods, and 31 percent are owned by individuals from other Bay Area locations.  

Data for Dogpatch shows similar patterns.  About 11 percent of vehicles parked on that neighborhood’s streets are registered to Dogpatch residents, roughly 31 percent are owned by residents of other San Francisco neighborhoods, and 27 percent are registered to non-City residents. Parking demand in Dogpatch is highest on weekday mornings, with two-thirds of the blocks in the neighborhood experiencing double-parking issues.  For Potrero Hill, parking demand is highest on weekday mornings and afternoons, with half of Hill blocks subjected to double-parking. 

Last fall SFMTA circulated an email about its plans for Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and Showplace Square. In it the agency said it temporarily halted the installation of new meters called for by businesses in the area to provide time for it to review the requests with residents and enterprises affected by the potential changes.  Businesses had requested that parking meters be placed in front of their stores to open up spaces for customers. Those companies are “primarily centered on Alameda, 15th and 16th streets, around Vermont, Kansas and Rhode Island streets,” the email said. The agency was planning to program meters for “relaxed time limits and low hourly rates,” and would monitor them to be sure they were improving access to the businesses. 

Wilkins, who has been involved in the parking management discussion since it started roughly two years ago, suggested that since SFMTA will consider residential parking permits on eligible streets, RPPs should be available to most of the Hill, except for the commercial areas along 18th and 20th streets. To establish a new RPP zone, the proposed block or blocks must be contiguous and contain at least one mile of street frontage.   

Like Kelly, Wilkins is upset about commuters using the community for parking. “The fact that parking is unregulated means that these companies and others use our neighborhood to park,” Wilkins said.  He recommended that SFMTA offer limited-time parking throughout the Hill, with most areas designated as RPP zones. 

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