A plan to install parking meters in the northeast Mission, brought to a halt over a year ago by community opposition, has come back to life amid renewed skepticism from some residents and business owners.
“Parking is the most controversial topic that any neighborhood ever takes on,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, a transportation consultant helping the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency present its proposal to a fractious community.
In January of last year, the SFMTA unveiled plans to install new parking meters across the eastern neighborhoods of San Francisco, including the Mission. When residents of the Mission, Potrero Hill and other neighborhoods expressed strong opposition to the plan, the transportation agency rescinded the approval in order to gain more community input.
The original plan aimed to offset the loss of 220 parking spaces from eliminating a parking lot to make way for construction of a new park at Folsom and 17th streets that is slated to begin this summer. When residents expressed concerns about losing that parking, the SFMTA was asked to create a plan to address parking demand in the neighborhood.
After a year of research, the agency has drafted a new parking proposal for the northeast Mission, designed to decrease congestion and ease parking for residents, commuters and visitors. Meters on commercial and mixed-use blocks would charge 50 cents per hour, have no time limit and run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except for Sundays. The meters would accept coins, credit cards, SFMTA parking cards and PayByPhone.
Blanketing the area with meters might make it tougher still to find parking near home, residents said, who raised fresh concerns and made counterproposals.
“Residents can pay for bumper stickers allowing them to park in the area,” wrote Tony Kelly of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week. Kelly recommended creating a residential parking permit (RPP) zone, explaining, “If you have a permit sticker on your car, you don’t have to feed the meter.”
It’s unlikely, however, that residential permits will be allowed at metered spaces in lieu of plugging the meters, because that “would undermine the purpose and benefit to having meters, which is to provide some parking availability in commercial and mixed use areas,” according to current SFMTA proposal documents.
But the new plan would “significantly expand the amount of RPP in the area (on residential blocks) as well as expand eligibility so that even the few residents that live on a commercial or mixed use block that has meters can still obtain a RPP permit for the area.” All residents would be eligible for such a permit, said Tumlin.
Concerned local business owners also want to retain free parking spaces for their employees to use during full workdays, and for clients to use as needed. SFMTA representatives say the new plan is meant to decrease overall vehicle traffic in the Mission and benefit daytime visitors by deterring long-term parking.
One business proposal would create a commercial parking permit zone for businesses and their clients. Production, distribution and repair businesses, such as auto repair shops, have unique parking needs and could benefit from business parking permits. The SFMTA is currently studying this idea.
In his editorial, Kelly questioned the logic that meters without time limits would deter visitor parking.
“It’s also absurd if the goal truly is to discourage commuters,” he wrote. Yet according to the SFMTA, metered parking even without time limits deters some drivers. The goal is to ensure at least one open space on each block at all times, the agency says.
“There’s nothing that isn’t solvable here with parking permits,” said a local resident and business owner who was unconvinced that the new SFMTA data reflected community needs. “Everything else you’re talking about is screwing some aspect of the society over,” he said, adding that meters aren’t necessary in a neighborhood without a lot of retail businesses.
Community members have asked the SFMTA whether adding new parking spaces in the area is a possibility, and the agency’s planners are weighing that option. But creating new parking is out of step with the city’s “transit-first” vision, which promotes decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging public transportation use, SFMTA plans say.
Another goal of the new metering plan for the northeast Mission is to deter long-term parking by campers and oversize vehicles in the neighborhood, according to the SFMTA.
Building more bike corrals, adding new commercial and passenger loading zones, and removing zones that are obsolete are also up for consideration and community comment.
Unused curb cuts, or areas of a sidewalk or curb that are cut away to make space for an off-street parking space or driveway, might also be a source of new street parking. Residents who know of these unused spaces are encouraged to inform the SFMTA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SFMTA’s outreach efforts also came under fire this week.
“Where’s your outreach to the Latino community?” demanded Mike Alonso of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club at a public meeting Thursday evening. “I have to count Supervisor Campos and the interpreter, and we’re not even at 10.”
Thursday’s meeting was the third in a recent series held by the SFMTA. Public comment is currently set to close on April 25. Once the final proposal goes to the SFMTA board for approval, the long-delayed plan could get under way as early as this summer.