While city officials did their best to foster a discussion of parking alternatives for those who use the lot at 17th and Folsom Streets now envisioned for a park, ODC Dance Commons, Mission Neighborhood Health Center, and some other businesses were not impressed.
City planners at the Tuesday meeting tried to explain the city’s Transit First policy – which encourages walking, biking, and public transit – and showed maps of the surrounding region, which include nearly 11,000 parking places. Much of the parking in the area is completely unregulated.
“Why does somebody come in from the outside of the neighborhood and want to change it,” said Jerry Hotarek, who owns Lutz Plumbing across the street from the site. He was also against transit enhancements for bicycles – another city project slated for the area – saying bicyclists appeared content with the current state of transit.
If state funding goes through, the park would take up half the lot. The other half could eventually become affordable housing, but that takes time and money so a portion of the parking could linger for years.
Years of planning and community input went into the city’s decision to prioritize the 17th and Folsom park. However, even if that is ignored and the Department of Parks and Recreation is stopped from buying the land, the SF PUC, which owns the lot and leases it to UCSF, will sell it for market value.
If that happens, it’s unlikely that someone will purchase the land to maintain the parking, and the city itself doesn’t have the money to build parking there, according to Jerry Robbins, an MTA traffic engineer at the meeting.
Brenda Storey, the executive director of the Mission Neighborhood Health Center, said at the Tuesday meeting that she was very concerned about patients needing parking. She added that some of her staff can’t afford to live in the community. “A lot of them are really single moms,” she said.
She also said that the health center was worried about being able to recruit doctors if they couldn’t provide parking. Others from the center said parking was critical for their survival.
Representatives from ODC Dance Commons, a well-attended dance company and dance school on Shotwell just south of 17th Street, were extremely concerned about available parking. The ODC’s new theater on the corner of Shotwell and 17th streets is slated to open this fall.
The Planning Department and MTA suggested tools to increase regional parking turnover - time limits, meters, or residential parking permits. Other possibilities included using angled parking in wider streets or looking for shared parking, spaces that might be for a private business until 5 p.m. but could become public in the evening.
The city tried to soothe the crowd by talking about its plan to convert a nearby, existing lot at 14th and Harrison Streets, now used for city employees, to public paid parking this summer. It would add 227 spots – seven more than would be lost at 17th and Harrison.
But three blocks, some in the community argued, was simply too far, and some raised safety issues. Others like David Baker, who lives nearby with his partner and daughter, thought that the people who are scared tend to be the people who don’t walk around the neighborhood.
“You get less scared if you walk around,” Baker said. “Yes, you see people smoking crack, and you see people drinking 15 dollar glasses of wine at Bar Bambino.”
Sixty-five percent of the health clinic’s staff park in the lot, according to Storey, and “the other 55 percent [sic] of staff are actually able to take public transportation,” she said.
The parking lot in question was about two-thirds full on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. a little lower than average according to the parking attendant and UCSF employee, Eddie Morgan. He guessed about 100 cars park daily from the nearby UCSF Mission Center Building on Folsom.
UCSF is officially neutral regarding the lot’s future.
The Planning Department is still working with the state on securing a grant to purchase the lot from the PUC and develop a park there. The time line is unclear at this point, but the purchase is expected as soon as the grant is ironed out.
“We could have easily lost this land to condo development,” Oscar Grande, a community organizer from PODER, reminded the crowd.
Grande and PODER have been working to get this park for the last ten years, he said at the meeting, adding that the same community members that use Mission Neighborhood Health Center are the ones that have been asking for a park that they can walk to, because they don’t have cars.
Grande said he was familiar with the “transportation hustle,” adding “I have four kids in three different schools.”
“I look at this as not a deal breaker but something that we can work together, organize together,” he said.
Parking lot breakdown (All the permits aren’t used at the same time):
- 220 Total Spots
- 191 permits to UCSF staff working in nearby UCSF building
- 65 permits sold to Mission Neighborhood Health Center
- 20 permits sold to other business, including ODC Dance Commons
- 42 spots reserved for the public, paid parking