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.