Business Owners: No More Parking Meters

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Businesses in the northeast Mission have started organizing against a plan to increase the number of parking meters around 17th and Folsom streets. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will meet with the community in September to discuss its parking management plan for the area.

When Angela Sinicropi, vice president of public affairs for the Northeast Mission Business Association (NEMBA), heard about the plan to add meters, she thought to herself, “You can’t do that, you’ll put us out of business.”

SFMTA first unveiled its parking meter plan for the eastern Mission in January, but the overwhelmingly negative community response sent the agency back to the drawing board. It’s not clear at this time whether SFMTA’s new plan includes more parking meters, according to agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland.

Even so, northeast Mission businesses are rallying preemptively through NEMBA, fearing that new meters could drive business away, make their employees’ lives more difficult and even put them out of business.

Parking occupancies in the area are some of the highest in the city, according to Holland, and open spots will become even more scarce when the lot at 17th and Folsom closes in the summer of 2013. A new community park is slated to be built on the site, removing roughly 250 parking spots.

Gwen Kaplan, NEMBA’s founder and the owner of Ace Mailing at 2757 16th St., said the organization stepped up its membership efforts because it knew that without more political bargaining power, neighborhood merchants wouldn’t stand a chance.

Since the beginning of the year, NEMBA has doubled its membership, now at 20 businesses. New members have joined largely because they expect parking meters would have a negative effect on their businesses.

“SFMTA has a lot of trouble accepting that people need these vehicles, but my clients wouldn’t be able to do work here if they couldn’t park their vehicles here all day,” said Sinicropi, who owns Sintak Studio, a rentable studio space for photographers, filmmakers and designers.

Other northeast Mission business owners worry about their employees.

Hans Art, who owns Hans Art Automotive at 3121 17th St., stepped up his involvement with NEMBA earlier this year when he heard about the plan to add meters. Art provides off-street parking for his employees but can’t accommodate all of their cars. If new meters go in, his staff will have to pay to come to work.

His employees drive to work because almost all of them have young children, Art said.

“When the school calls and something’s up with your kids, you’ve got to go. Waiting for a BART train just doesn’t work.”

Charlie O’Hanlon, new to NEMBA and owner of Charlie’s Place motorcycle repair shop at 3084 17th St., said the meters might just shut him down.

During business hours, O’Hanlon uses one street parking space and his shop’s driveway to park motorcycles awaiting repairs. His shop is too cramped to keep them all indoors. Earlier this year SFMTA said that seven parking meters would be installed in his single spot, because that’s how many motorcycles can fit in the space, O’Hanlon told Mission Local. Now he’s waiting to see whether the agency’s updated plans still include those meters.

O’Hanlon, who thinks he already pays the city too much in taxes and fees, said the meters just represent another tax — one that might push him over the edge.

“[The meters] will eventually make me either change my business or leave this city,” he said.

The parking situation also makes Mike York, who has owned Ocean Sash and Door at 3154 17th St. since 1966, cringe. Although he’s not a NEMBA member, he agrees that the meters would be yet another complication.

York sells items that are often too large to take on Muni or BART: windows, doors and various building materials. His customers need to be able to park their cars near the store’s entrance.

“Right now they can come here and park in the parking lot,” said York, referring to the lot at 17th and Folsom.

“Once that’s gone, parking spots on the street are going to be worth the price of gold.”

With this in mind, York is currently applying for two commercial parking spots in front of his business. If SFMTA approves them, he’ll provide them to customers.

Even if he gets the spots, York worries that the dearth of nearby parking will make his staff into “parking system monitors,” chasing away drivers who want to take advantage of open spaces.

“So all of a sudden we become the bad guys in the neighborhood,” he said, adding that he already has to kick drivers out of his two-car lot, which he reserves for customers.

Despite the number of northeast Mission businesses opposed to new meters, NEMBA president Doug MacNeil isn’t optimistic that they will get their way.

“SFMTA’s attitude seems to be, ‘We hear you, but we’re not going to do anything.’ My belief is, the parking meters are a done deal,” he said.

41 Comments

  1. marcos

    Parking is not problematic in the neighborhood now, at least not according to friends who drive here to visit us.

    The rationale for this project is based on a small survey of businesses adjacent to the 17th and Folsom site. But the MTA has generalized that to cover a much larger area without thinking it through. Any challenge to their designs is met with condescension that thinly masks contempt. “Parking is a very emotional issue,” is one canard, as if the economic charge of forcing people to pay even more money to get to work each day is not an objective reason to object to a policy initiative.

    This plan is inappropriate for a variety of reasons. The Northeast Mission is a mixed use neighborhood. SFPark was supposed to be put into place to price parking to the level where it guarantees availability in the neighborhood commercial districts.

    The plan is all stick and no carrot and contains a fatal flaw. If the revenues from meters were dedicated to improving Muni service in the areas where meters are proposed, then that might mitigate some objections. But the MTA refuses to even consider that which means that meter revenue dollars are to be thrown into the money pit that is used as a political salve through work orders to other agencies not directly related to the provision of reliable transit. Cut the SFPD traffic company out of the MTA budget and restore the $26m that voters gave the MTA in parking revenues in 2007 and we’ll talk.

    The premise that increasing parking availability in NCDs is a good thing must be examined. If motorists in this increasingly upscale city know that parking is always priced for availability and they know that Muni services are deteriorating, then they will most likely drive instead of take transit to SF Park controlled NCDs because they know that parking is always there and they can afford $10 for the convenience.

    This will, in turn, increase the generation of auto trips which will, in turn, increase congestion and slow down transit. The MTA has no data on hand to back up the SFPark claim that circling is a problem and making parking more available will diminish circling.

    This is a revenue grab disguised as green public policy. Until the investment is made in rapid, reliable regional transit that can bring people from dispersed housing clusters to dispersed job clusters throughout the Bay Area in less than an hour, then there will be a need for private autos.

    The MTA has proven itself as an untrustworthy custodian of precious public resources, funding to run a transit system and of run time of its transit lines. The neoliberal political priorities of the Brown/Lee/Pak machine see Muni run times as an infinite sink for the impacts of their money making projects. They are at this very moment seeking to blow through environmental review for condo projects under the claim that paying a partial fee to mitigate transit delay through future investment will be sufficient.

    San Franciscans are asked to shell out more and more money for Muni service that deteriorates as more and more load and impediments are larded on the transit system. Until the MTA demonstrates a commitment to jealously guarding resources and dedicating them to the provision of quality transit, they should get no more money and should install no more meters, especially in mixed use areas where the kinds of light industrial businesses that the City claims to want are clustered.

    In truth, the City probably wants to price these businesses out of the Northeast Mission so that their lots can be transformed into the emerging condo desert. Welcome to Willie’s World, where residents are just impediments to progress, our neighborhoods are problems to be solved.

    • Valenchia

      @Marco: It would be great if the City used parking fees to pay for Muni.

      Unfortunately, the City seems is entirely focused on making life difficult for drivers. And if drivers ever complain, the City invokes “Transits First”. Of course that policy is written as a “carrot” — it calls for ‘encouraging’ use of transit, bikes etc., not as a stick. But the City ignores that distinction.

      The problem is that the City does not have much money and is incapable of running an efficient Muni system. So they instead invest resources into bike lanes and punitive anti-driver measures because those things are relatively cheap. Unfortunately, while bikes are a great option for some people some of the time, it is not realistic to expect that most people will adopt them or that most people will want to abandon all forms of motorized transportation.

      • randolph mortimer

        The city is unable to run an efficient Muni system because they are accused of racism when they attempt to enforce that fares are paid.

      • marcos

        The City and the MTA have plenty of money. It is just that Ed Lee views the MTA as an ATM to fund his pet projects and will cut transit service while increasing fees and parking costs to shunt money out of the system.

        That dynamic has to be reversed, transit requires investment, and then when there are viable transit options on the table that compare favorably with private autos, driving should be discouraged through public policy.

  2. neighbor

    Couldn’t the city underground a huge parking lot at the 17th and Folsom site, and still build the park above? This is not uncommon in other large cities — or even SF, look at Union Square and Yerba Buena. If the city is going to take existing open space that is used as parking and make permanent parks, it makes sense that they should be forced to incorporate parking in the site, just like private builders. And I don’t really even care about the parking issue in this area, I just want to see our limited resources used wisely.

    • Mario Tanev

      Neighbor,

      The city has no money to do such a thing. If neighbors want a parking lot, they should pay to construct one. Enough subsidies for drivers. Even if the city did construct a parking lot, it would still cost money to park in there. And it’s not like the city decided to do the park on its own, the neighbors wanted it, and they wanted it way more than they wanted the parking spaces. So take it up with your neighbors who felt (I think correctly) there wasn’t enough green space in the Northern Mission.

      • neighbor

        Yes, parking in an underground lot would cost money, this is how building the lot gets paid for (drivers of cars paying for the building of parking for cars — win!). I am not speaking just of this specific area, but in more general terms. The City should feel obligated to build access into infrastructure projects, and that should include car parking when and where it makes sense. In this case, they are removing parking to make way for a park, an there is a real opportunity to do both.

        I do not feel so much hostility toward building parking infrastructure, apparently, and am simply pointing out that there are ways to make both sides happy.

        • Missionaire

          Except that nobody will pay to park in the garage when there’s unmetered street parking everywhere.

          • Valenchia

            Not true, many people will pay for the convenience of having secure, reserved parking. Or will happily pay to park for a few hours rather than circling the neighborhood trying to find parking prior to a dinner reservation.

      • Valenchia

        @Mario: It is likely that a parking lot in the Mission would be a profitable venture, but the City won’t allow such a thing to be built.

        • Mario Tanev

          Do you have proof of your claim? I haven’t heard of private parking operators bidding to build parking. In fact, SFMTA has their own garages which are rarely occupied. A lot of people prefer free parking, so the free parking competes with the garage rate. If anything garage rates should be cheaper than curbside parking on the same block as it’s less convenient, and further from your destination.

          There are only two possible ways to make parking available to those who needed – to build it at immense public expense, and increase congestion (since more people will be incentivized to drive), or to price it accordingly.

          The revenue from parking meters does get applied to Muni, and other transportation improvements, except since parking is so underpriced it’s barely enough to provide adequate service. Even if a private operator decided to build a parking garage, it would compete with those willing to pay to park, thus stealing away revenue from Muni, and starve the agency even further.

        • Mario Tanev

          To further my point, the city already has a lot of parking space that it can lease to those that need it and invest the returns in improved transportation options. However you want it to keep it free, and to build more of it, or to let someone else make a profit of it. The truth is that the city has enough parking capacity already, it’s just that drivers are not always willing to walk to a further parking spot. The undesirable parking spots are virtually free. The price mechanism is intended to distribute drivers so that those not willing to pay walk longer, and those willing to pay walk shorter. Less waste, more money to improved transportation options, less congestion via induced demand, and a more livable environment. Isn’t that better than a parking garage which will remain underutilized (since it combines price + need to walk longer), it will encourage more driving, fewer funds for better transportation options, and more fumes?

        • Toto Negro

          There are actually already two city-owned parking lots in the Mission: 16th/Hoff and 21st/Bartett

    • Yes, the city could and should provide parking for cars near freeway exits and Muni hubs. And yes, they can afford to build garages, install parking lots, and provide park and ride options if they quit wasting “our” money on expensive controversial projects like the Central Subway, that will take passengers less than 2 miles for over a billion dollars. As expensive as a garage can be, it is a lot cheaper than the subway they want to put in.

  3. Boudreau

    Resistance is futile with the SFMTA, since their sole purpose is to raise money.

    They will pay lip-service to the citizen groups and then proceed as planned, regardless.

  4. Mario Tanev

    I am always amazed at the lack of rationality supporters of free parking expose.

    The window salesman states in one breath that his customers need to park close to the store, and in another that any price of parking is too high. Well, if parking is free, there is no way his customer can park close to the store. The point of SFPark is to ensure one open space on every block, and market pricing is the way to ensure that. If he wanted to, he could reimburse his client for it. His client may be stupid enough to spend a higher amount on gas to buy windows from suburbia, but that’s not SFMTA’s fault.

    • randolph mortimer

      The lack of understanding of basic economics regularly displayed in comments on this site is indeed amazing.

      • marcos

        And the reason why progressives and liberals in San Francisco are pushing conservative market based approaches to solving public problems is what again?

        • Jeffrey Yasskin

          Once in a great while, a conservative idea like “use prices to allocate the use of space” is actually a good idea. You can tell it’s progressives implementing the idea, though, because the city isn’t just selling the street space to a private company. ;)

    • marcos

      There is no paucity of parking in the Northeast Mission. I don’t drive, but when friends drive in to visit, they don’t have problems finding parking. The number of spaces eliminated from the parking lot, used mostly by working UCSF commuters, will not significantly impact on-street parking utilization. The MTA makes its claims with little more than the waving of the hands to supplant studies and analysis.

  5. seamless

    Start electing better officials to SF Gub’mint and employ the French solution for change (except the $tatus quo doesnt at all like change and people in SF keep electing these $ame people). Simply leave the MTA with no budget for this nonsense. Money from these vacuum cleaners never goes where they say it will anyway. Look at the two nearly-empty garages they could somehow afford to build at SFO on SF property near 380 (ask willie, he was there in his big shiny sports car for the opening of one when I worked down there 10 years ago). That white elephant had no actual purpose at that time – it was contracted out with airlines for their employees, back when airlines had employees. Now they are public and underserved. If they can afford garages there why not in SF? Underground all the better. “The lack of understanding of” SF “ecomonics regularly displayed in comments on this site is indeed amazing.”

  6. voltairesmistress

    On the issue of the opposition to parking meters in the Northeast Mission District:

    Business daytime parking is so difficult around 18th and Bryant that I routinely swing in and then out of the area without stopping for that sandwich or coffee or picture framing project. The lack of short term, paid, business-related parking is directly related to workers commuting by car to jobs there and parking all day on the street without any limit. The problem evaporates at night when the relatively few residents are the primary people parking there.

    Business owners should note that they can’t see the business they are losing when customers are turned away by a lack of parking. Unless there is a one-of-a-kind business, we drivers simply drive to a commercial district with meters or garages where we can pay to park for 20 minutes or two+ hours on street or cheaply off-street. Or we wait until we get home and walk to the nearest comparable place in our neighborhood. We don’t put off the errand, take a 40+ minute bus ride to the Northeast Mission, transact business, then take a bus home. The Mission loses a lot of business for lack of paid parking alternatives.

  7. 17th Street Neighbor

    If we want more parking in our neighborhood, we should ask Charlie to remove all of his motorcycles in front of Charlie’s Place: http://goo.gl/maps/9JNtZ Not fair!

  8. Meters = turnaround, period. The business owners are shooting themselves in the foot as usual.

    • marcos

      Turnover = congestion.

      Congestion = slower traffic.

      Slower traffic = slower Muni.

      Slower Muni = more cars.

      More cars = slower Muni, less safe cycling, more dead pedestrians.

      We are shooting Muni in the foot by encouraging people to drive to do their shopping by making parking available for a price most can afford.

      Jay Primus asserts that SF Park is not intended to encourage turnover, rather to encourage availability. That is the intellectual consistency that the MTA uses to justify their programs.

  9. KWillets

    With no free parking, where will I park my motor home?

    If they start with this, mark my words, they’ll make meth illegal next.

  10. SFpark Ripoff

    Let’s examine the SFpark pricing strategy.

    The SFMTA wants people to walk, ride their bikes, or take public transportation to their destination, which often has private businesses that employ people that sell goods and services that are sought by individuals.

    Once the customers start shopping, they limit their purchases since they don’t have the means to carry home a larger quantity of goods (a car or SUV can carry a much greater capacity than a few bags dragged onto a bus, or loaded onto a bike carrier, or lugged home in a bag). I have not even addressed the dramatically increased danger of riding a bicycle loaded down with additional weight.

    The businesses sell fewer goods, make less profit, have less need for employees, and cut their employment than they would with an independently mobile populace. The manufacturers of goods sell fewer goods to those same retailers, make less profit, have less need for employees and cut their employment. The shipping companies ship fewer goods, make less money, and reduce their employment. The mining companies and oil companies that mine and drill for the natural resources used in the production of those goods sell fewer goods and, hence, cut their employment. People use their cars less and have less need to buy replacement vehicles as often as in the past. The car manufacturers sell fewer vehicles, make less profit, and reduce their employment.

    Sales Taxes are supposed to pay for transportation projects and government salaries. By nickel-and-diming residents and local business and their customers, the city loses out on millions of dollars of sales tax revenue and does long-term damage for a short-term gain. Money spent on fines, and in parking meters won’t be spent in the community or in local businesses. The more prohibitive it becomes to park in or visit San Francisco the faster the city will sink into insolvency. San Francisco is a city that is killing itself. The death will come suddenly and fast then folks will understand the killing of private cars killed the city.

    I get all giggly when I think about what else government will give us for our good. Lets take a minute to thank Mayor Ed Lee and the Job Killing Board of Supervisors for doing their part to chase off small businesses, working families, and tax revenue.

    • Mario Tanev

      Actually research shows that although transit/walking/biking customers can indeed carry less, they shop more often and in the aggregate actually spend more. This doesn’t necessarily hold for EVERY business (I am sure a furniture store never sells a whole couch to a bicyclist), but since you claim that somehow generally smaller purchases equal fewer profit, I’d like to point out you’re wrong.

      And for the few businesses that actually require car access, SFPark is great in that it allows the car to be parked as close as possible. This cannot be solved with the underground parking garage utopia. There is only a limited number of parking spaces on a given block, and if every store there is a furniture store, price is really the only way to find the right balance between those willing to pay more and haul their sofa less, and vice versa.

    • KWillets

      We must pave the Earth, and force the environmentalists and their ilk to work underground making us cheeseburgers.

    • marcos

      Different businesses have different customer footprints as relates to time in the business and the bulk of goods they purchase. SFPark is one-size fits-all for NCDs. The NE Mission proposal is not for a NDC, rather for a residential and mixed use light industrial neighborhood. SF Planning’s own Mission Area Plan calls for on-street parking to be managed for the benefit of current residents because they moved into a neighborhood under a set of assumptions. Even though Planning reconfigured the neighborhood to become a higher rise luxury condo desert, they still threw a crumb to existing residents. Now the MTA is blowing through neighborhood plans that were cleared through CEQA and blowing through CEQA on this even though turnover slows transit. The debate is not between pave the earth for cars and a green utopia, it is about a rogue agency that has no significant democratic checks on its conduct and does not see delivering transit services as a core part of its mission, rather as a side business to raking in cash to give to Ed Lee’s favored patrons.

    • Erica S

      The whole idea behind SFPark is to keep parking spaces open when they are needed for making those bulky purchases. If I am buying a $500 couch, I won’t mind paying $2 an hour for parking because the parking is truly necessary for the purchase, and I’ll only be there an hour or two. If on the other hand I am buying a $6 sandwich or commuting to work where I’ll spend 8 hours, I’ll conclude it’s not worth it to drive my car and choose to take transit or bike – thus freeing up the space for someone who really needs it to pick up a couch!

  11. SFpark Ripoff

    SFpark, along with City Hall are doing a great job of CA$HING in on Taxpayers. According to the latest SF Transportation Fact Sheet, the city of San Francisco makes $40,520,486 from parking meters and $86,306,584 from parking tickets for a total of $126,827,070.

    f anyone doubts why San Francisco is broke, look no further than the fact that 1 out of 3 public employees make over $100,000 a year, 20% more than the private sector pay, with vastly better benefits and health care.

    To further tax people who are already highly taxed just to raise revenue for a city that grossly overspends money on projects, salaries, pensions, and benefits, is plain wrong

  12. Mister Big

    I don’t trust the SFMTA. The solution to every problem is more parking meters.

  13. rp

    As Professor Shoup puts it: “Who pays for free parking? Everyone but the motorist.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html

    • Mister Big

      I don’t put a lot of stock in Professor Shoup.

    • marcos

      Doctor Shoup would not answer my questions as to whether increased turnover leads to slowed transit.

      Nor would he or Jay Primus point me to any studies that quantified circling congestion.

      There are also no studies on the impacts of removing the parking where the new park will be.

      This is all argument by the waving of the hands supported by some single issue enviros working out their rage against autos and motorists.

  14. I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1975 and I’ve never owned a car. How is it that I live in a full life without one? Easy. I walk, I take the BART, I take MUNI, or I ride my bike. Mostly I walk. San Francisco is seven miles long and seven miles wide. Despite all the moaning, we have a good public transportation system for a city this size. I have very little sympathy for car lovers.

  15. 94103er

    Maybe because Shoup and Primus are tired of trying to reason with gadfly trolls like you.

    Marc, you make Rob Anderson look like some kind of grass-roots hero of the back-to-traffic movement. Unlike you who spends all day on blogs with your completely nonsensical rants, Rob actually lawyered up at one point and, you know, did something when he found out about our pesky bike plan.

    We’re all oh so impressed that you’re stalking our hardworking transit officials and attending meetings. I’d think everyone would agree with me when I say: get a life, dude. Seriously. As if anyone in the NE Mission wants you speaking for them.

    And for crying out loud, start reading something about economics! I might suggest a book about basic statistics, for starters.

  16. Erica S

    It seems to me Mr. York’s window business will only benefit from parking management. Right now, one lucky commuter can park in each space near his store for 8 hours straight, probably getting there before he opens so no customers have a shot at it. If that space is changed to meters with time limits, then 8 customers can each park there for an hour to shop.

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