Longtime Biz to City: We Want Parking, Not Meters

En Español.

A neighborhood group in the northeast Mission has distributed hundreds of fliers advising residents to get involved to stop a proposal to install hundreds of parking meters from 13th Street to 18th Street, between South Van Ness Avenue and Harrison.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) proposal came after the city’s recent decision to turn half of a 220-space parking lot at 17th and Folsom streets into a park, and eventually affordable housing.

The decision immediately heated up ongoing parking skirmishes among new businesses and residents, making the hunt for a parking space in the once-quiet industrial quadrant feel more like the Wild West. It also underscores the competition between commercial enterprises that value shorter-term parking and industrial businesses that need long-term parking for employees.

A parking survey conducted by the SFMTA confirmed what many in the area already know: Parking in the northeast Mission is tight.

Take Charlie O’Hanlon, who moved his motorcycle repair shop to the northeast Mission in 1998 after the parking situation south of Market became too difficult.

Even though someone dumped a cadaver in front of his new shop at 17th and Folsom on the first day, he decided to tough it out. The area, zoned industrial, was perfect for his shop.

Now he’s not so sure. As he watches the parking disappear, he wonders whether the city wants commercial or light industrial businesses here.

On weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the competition for about 2,500 existing spaces includes everyone from employees of local businesses to commuters who hop on BART at the 16th Street station, Muni drivers who don’t want to pay for parking at the nearby Muni yard, and people who sleep in their cars.

The proposed parking meters were the city’s solution to the loss of the parking lot spaces, but for some longtime businesses, the solution is worse than the problem.

The proposal is consistent with the city’s transit-first policy, which encourages residents to use public transit, walk and bike. If approved, the area would be part of an experimental parking strategy, known as SFPark, that allows the city to change meter pricing based on the demand.

The meters would not impose a time limit, meaning that employees could potentially park at a meter all day — they would just have to pay.

But O’Hanlon and others, including the 17th Street Neighborhood Coalition, are fighting the proposal, saying that it treats the northeast Mission, which is zoned for light industrial businesses such as auto-repair shops, distribution centers and manufacturing, like the commercial corridors of Valencia and Mission streets.

Meters might clear out those taking advantage of the free parking, business owners acknowledge, but would put many of the industrial employees at a disadvantage.

Hans Art, the owner of Hans Art Automotive on 17th Street, said he is looking out for his employees, who are specially skilled but for family and other reasons commute from outside the city. They need parking, not parking meters, he said.

Now, most of them park on the lot or find street parking nearby. Once meters are installed next spring, his employees will have to pay for parking.

He said he doesn’t know what the solution is, but that the SFMTA has not even tried to work with him.

“They said, ‘It’s not up to the MTA to provide free parking for commuters,’” he said. “They already knew what to say to me.”

O’Hanlon was not consulted, either. To add insult to injury, he said, this is the second time the SFMTA has proposed major street changes without consulting him and other longtime businesses that would be directly affected.

In the spring, the SFMTA, working with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, tried to eliminate 200 parking spaces on 17th Street, from Valencia to Kansas Street in Potrero Hill, and replace them with a bike lane. A deal was brokered after O’Hanlon and other neighbors intervened. Today the bicycle lane coexists with parking.

But the transportation agency is moving forward with plans to eliminate parking on 17th Street from Harrison to Potrero, as that section of the street is too narrow for both a bike lane and parking.

As with last spring’s plan to eliminate spaces, O’Hanlon and other businesses did not find out about this plan from the SFMTA.

“I had to find this out from an informed neighbor,” he said.

In contrast, the agency consulted with ODC Dance Theater regarding the proposal, which will help commercial businesses because it will create a faster turnaround on coveted parking spaces.

“Some 40 percent of our business depends on short-term parking and we were grateful to have their attention in this essential matter,” said Brenda Way, ODC’s artistic director. Last year the dance company reopened its refurbished performance space at 17th and Shotwell.

Although the area is zoned light industrial, a report by the SFMTA says the agency foresees a proliferation of entertainment venues in the area, such as ODC’s theater and the forthcoming Mission Bowling Company.

“As commercial development intensifies in this area, the demand for parking from visitors and employees, and therefore on street parking, will also grow,” the report states.

The light industrial designation discourages owners from converting buildings to residential and office use, but does allow for entertainment venues.

O’Hanlon uses two spots in front of his shop to park motorcycles while he and his employees work at the garage. He doesn’t oppose the new entertainment businesses, but sees the city’s attitude as a slap in the face for small industrial businesses like his.

Filed under: Business, Front Page, Parking

21 Comments

  1. Krista

    I’d be interested to hear what ODC’s school has to say about parking for daytime activities. While short-term parking doesn’t really make a difference for ODC’s evening performances (and most of the commuters are gone), many of their daytime classes are more than 1 hour: the current limit for the residential street parking on that block of Shotwell Street. I imagine many of their students try to find parking on other non-permitted blocks, which doesn’t help.

  2. Long Time 17th St Neighbor

    I agree that the City continues to do a terrible job of outreach about these changes. However, the days of free parking are ending and O’Hanlon and others need to get used to it. O’Hanlon monopolizes the parking spots out in front of his shop. If he needs the space for his customer’s motorcycles and his business then he should pay for them – why should he be allowed free use public space for his private business? Pay for the spots and pass the costs onto the customer, like any business.

  3. LovesTheMission

    I question the assumption that the best use of public roads is for long term storage of personal possessions (commuter cars). “Free parking” is a misnomer, free parking if not really free. Read Donald Shoup’s paper on this, and/or:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html

  4. Long Time 17th St Neighbor

    @Krista – I believe this would benefit ODC’s patrons who need short-term daytime parking. Have a look at page 15 of the draft plan at this link:

    http://sfpark.org/resources/draft-17th-and-folsom-parking-management-strategy

    Most of the metered parking won’t have time limits. One will have to pay but can stay as long one needs too. Since people will now have to pay, it should more parking spaces available.

    I think these changes will benefit short-term visitors to the area. The folks who will be upset about this are those that have enjoyed free parking and will now have to pay for it – residents who park long term on the street and businesses that use the street parking for their employees or business activities (like the auto and motorcycle shops).

  5. Aaron

    Mr. O’Hanlon “wonders whether the city wants commercial or light industrial.”

    I’d qualify that and say the city doesn’t want more commercial or light industrial businesses that are dependent on shoppers or employees arriving by car. Are there really no unemployed mechanics in town willing and able to take the bus?

    Same goes for bus drivers. It’s ironic and sad that so many MUNI operators drive to work.

    • Rigoberto Hernandez Post author

      If I can chime in here.

      When I spoke to Hans Art, he said that he can’t hire based on where people live. He needs technicians for the kind of work they do and they are not easy to find, he said.

      As Art himself mentioned, he doesn’t know what the solution is, but the heart of the problem is that the SFMTA never really worked with him or others like him in finding one.

      I got the sense that there is a general distrust of the SFMTA among the industrial business community here, based on previous experiences. They don’t think it’s fair for the SFMTA to charge them money when they don’t get something in return. As O’Halon said, he thinks “Muni is a Joke,” when it comes to reliability.

      The process is still ongoing, so I am sure there will be a chance for more community input.

      • sweaterhead

        Hans Art’s shop is a regular auto mechanic shop, nothing “specialized”. His employees probably have to live outside the city because auto mechanics do not receive a living wage (despite the high prices shops charge) that would allow them to live easily in the city. Since the majority of us have to use public transportation to reach our jobs, what is the problem with his employees and others using BART, etc. Maybe they should be complaining about the state of public transportation instead of boo-hooing about not being able to park for free near their job (a luxury in the city).

        BTW, what will happen to those of who live in the neighborhood? Will they give out neighborhood stickers?

      • Long Time 17th St Neighbor

        I think a lot of the distrust is because people are finding about the changes at the last minute. The SFMTA and the ISCOTT hearing process is shooting itself in the foot with its poor notification methods. It just seems to be letters in small type posted on street lamps here and there that a lot of people don’t see. I get a letter mailed to me from the Planning Dept when there’s something up with a nearby potential construction project. Why can’t I get a letter when the SFMTA is making changes to my street?

  6. sflady

    I’d like to get to know this neighborhood group, could we work together to get this area residential parking permits. I think business owner also are allowed to purchase a certain number of permits (based on employees). Meters would be terrible for the people who live here and need to park. Meters will require people to drive to work to avoid daytime parking tickets!!!!! Can they allow residential permits to park at meters? Then people who want meters can use them and the locals can purchase residential permits at a much more reasonable cost than meter parking.

  7. Long Time 17th St Neighbor

    This just in from the SFMTA:

    From: “Primus, Jay”
    Date: December 21, 2011 6:26:41 PM PST
    To: “Primus, Jay”
    Subject: SFMTA >> Revised parking management proposal for the 17th & Folsom area

    Hello,

    I am writing to update you on a parking management proposal centered around 17th & Folsom. The plan has been revised based on feedback.

    Summary of revised version
    That revised version is attached and is also posted online at http://sfpark.org/resources/17th-and-folsom-parking-management-strategy/. The main changes are:

    · Where meters are proposed, rates are proposed to begin at $0.25 per hour rather than $1.00 per hour as initially proposed. Using demand-responsive pricing, the SFMTA will charge the lowest rate possible that achieves a minimum level of parking availability so that it is easier for drivers to find parking quickly.
    · Meters will not operate in the evening. They are proposed to operate Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (as in much of the city).
    · Drivers will be able prepay at the meter (someone can pay ahead of time at 7am but won’t be charged from 7am-9am), addressing a concern that many expressed. While always planned, it was not clear in the original proposal.
    · Meters will not have time limits.

    Thanks to many of you for your help in improving this plan.

    Next steps
    This proposal is being forwarded for review and approval.

    The first step in that process is a public hearing, which is scheduled for Friday, January 13 at 10 a.m. at City Hall, Room 416 (Hearing Room 4). If you cannot attend but wish to submit input for consideration, please email sustainable.streets@sfmta.com with subject line “Public Hearing” or fax to 415-701-4737.

    After the public hearing, the next step is for the SFMTA Board to consider for approval, which is scheduled for February 7. Those meetings are typically held at 1 p.m. at City Hall, Room 400.

    Thank you —–

    Jay Primus

    • Long Time 17th St Neighbor

      I would suggest emailing Jay if you want on their email list.

      @sflady – look at that! If you need to park all day you can and it will cost $2.25/day. Cheapest parking in the City. I don’t believe residential parking permits are valid at metered spots. But there’s quite a bit of non-metered space along the streets that are primarily residential.

    • Long Time 17th St Neighbor

      Jay Primus- Jay.Primus@sfmta.com

  8. Fran Taylor

    Sounds like the same people who originally complained about losing the parking lot, which requires payment, are now complaining about having to pay for what is now free parking. Hmmm. The city is just trying to replace one source of paid parking with new, different paid parking. What’s the big deal, unless your complaint is really that you think you should be able to park for free? We humans have to pay rent. Why should machines get a free pass?

  9. shotwellresident

    This article gets at only one slice of the story. Where is the voice of the residents? I, for one, am pretty sure the MTA plan will result in me driving much MORE (as one commenter suggested above) and walk LESS. Thus how can the reporter plainly assert that the plan supports the city’s transit-first policy without any substantiation? That’s what MTA would like us to believe.

    The reporter also does not question MTA’s assertion that the parking plan is to support the new park at 17th/Shotwell; in fact that park is years in the future and not even funded, while they’re moving fast to ram the parking plan into place. Why?

    Lastly was there any attempt to contact MTA? If so, what did they say? The other reason that people are complaining is that MTA is trying to shove this plan into place on the DL (over the holidays–people are away/distracted). They did not reach out to residents in formulating the plan (they surveyed people who use the parking lot and ODC, apparently, but not people who actually live here), and they have not made a sincere attempt to reach out to residents now.

    Hope you can do a follow-up story, and also ask MTA why our little neighborhood has been chosen for their newfangled meter experiment? (Just how long will this experiment last? How will they decide if it’s successful nor not? How much revenue do they estimate they will generate?)

    Thanks.

    • Long Time 17th St Neighbor

      Why is it going to result in you driving more? You’ll be able to park all day and probably find parking easier at that since it won’t be free anymore. The price for parking is going to start at $2.25/day. Do you think driving your car is going to be less expensive than that?

      • sweaterhead

        I agree that it may cause more incentive to drive — drive to work (when we can park free or as cheaply as keeping our car at home). The inconvenience of having to come out and feed our meters every morning or face a ticket may incentivize us move it more frequently and drive when we would normally walk or take public transportation. And yes, for those of you haters who oppose any car driving, there are many of us with valid reasons for needing a car. We can’t all ride our bikes everywhere or always take public transportation or afford car rentals.

  10. Mission Dweller

    If the response of shotwellresident (and possibly other readers) to the MTA plan is to drive “much MORE,” I hope they’re prepared to foot the growing costs of that wasteful decision. I just hope they don’t come here to complain later

  11. There should not be any free car storage on SF city streets, which is a subsidy for people who choose to own cars. $2 for 8 hours of parking is ridiculously cheap, so I really can’t see what people are complaining about. Don’t like it? ride your bike or take public transit. the grumbling is silly.

    SF is desperate for money, and it’s about time every single spot in the city costs money. keep raising the price until the supply and demand find balance. Easy.

    • bill

      The assumption that bike/transit is an alternative for everyone is a what’s silly. Not everyone has a desk job near an effective Muni line, and many people have bulky/heavy tools and equipment required for their job.

      • alabamastresident

        If this new approach to parking is to discourage commuter parking, how would $2,25/day do it? Bart is expensive! It seems wrong and unfair to make residents pay metered parking. Residential areas in the city has residential parking permits. In a mixed use area why not have residential permits for the residents and metered parking for traffic attracted by businesses? If you as a resident have payed for a permit you wouldn’t have to feed the meter. Then why not raise the cost of metered parking and heavily subsidize the cost of Bart and Muni tickets.

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