Mission District Biz Mixed on Meter Moves

By ARMAND EMAMDJOMEH

Tired of rushing out to check the meter while enjoying your meal at the new Urban Burger on Valencia Street? According to new plans by San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Authority, drivers may have to check their meters while shopping, drinking or eating until as late as 10 p.m. And Sundays may no longer be free.

“That would impact business all over Valencia,’ said Kristin McKee, a manager at Good Vibrations. “It definitely can make the difference between someone coming in and shopping or not.”

Mission District merchants’ reactions range from mixed to negative about the proposed rate hike and four more hours of paid parking, which are part of MTA’s efforts to fill a $128 million budget gap.

Metered parking rates across the city will rise 50 cents an hour beginning July 1, according to Judson True, media relations manager for MTA. This will raise the cost of metered parking in the Mission District to $2 an hour.

MTA is also conducting a study to extend the time drivers have to pay for parking to as late as 10 p.m.

True said extending the meters’ operating hours two hours until 8 p.m. would increase revenue by $1 million a year, while extending hours to 10 p.m. and all day Sunday would bring in an extra $9 million annually.

While merchants on Valencia Street are concerned about possible impacts on their businesses, many saw the changes as a way to cut down on driving in the city.

“In terms of business I think it’ll have a negative effect,” said Ryan Moritz, an employee working at Therapy, “particularly for us as a furniture store.”

“On a moral level I think it;s good … I think it’s better in general to deter people from driving,” he said, adding that the store delivers furniture to those without cars. Better to raise revenue through meters, he said, than by raising Muni rates.

McKee at Good Vibrations took a more serious tone. “I think it’s great to encourage public transportation, but in the economic times we’re in, that can really make or break it for business.”

Further down, Ryan Smith at Dog-Eared Books said he didn’t think the changes would impact their customers much, many of whom “just kind of wander in off the street.”

Erick Arguello, a board member of the Latino Business Network, said his association of approximately 75 Latino-owned businesses—most based in the Mission District—has voted not to support the proposed changes. Arguello said the network felt the changes would negatively impact both businesses and residents, who may be forced to pay for parking at their houses after the work day has ended.

Arguello is also president of the Lower 24th Street Merchants Association, which along with the Mission Merchants Association, has not voted whether to support the changes pending discussions with MTA.

On 24th Street, merchants have taken a slightly harder line.

“Everything, they want to make it more expensive,” said Edgardo Campos, who said he already keeps quarters behind the counter at JJ Joyeria for customers who need to fill their meters in a hurry.

“It’s gonna hurt business,” Campos said, adding that the changes would be counterproductive for 24th Street, which he said has seen a slow improvement in crime and drug dealing over the past 24 years he has worked at the shop.

Sarah Aguirre in Floreria La Poblanita agreed, saying the shop, which is owned by her friend Marisol Torres, would surely lose business. Most of the florist’s customers are planning weddings or quinceañeras, and can take hours to choose arrangements as their parking meters tick down.

Allison Dewald, a waitress at Herbivore, said that while the restaurant attracts a large number of pedestrian or bike customers, it’s also an attraction to visitors and tourists from outside the Bay Area, who see the vegan restaurant as a sort of Mecca.

“If they’re going to do that, they should at least improve service on Muni or BART,” Dewald, who usually bikes but also owns a car to get out of the city, said.

“That or they should just build bike lanes everywhere.”

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