The most diametrically opposed people in bed with each other, is how Mission resident Fran Taylor described the scene at the Municipal Transportation Agency’s board meeting Tuesday, in which nearly 50 people spoke during public comment.
The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition and the SF Apartment Association, the Socialist Party and the Union Square Association—all unexpectedly unified in outrage over the proposed extension of parking meter hours that the agency estimates will bring in $8.8 million annually.
The new study, chief financial adviser Sonali Bose said to the embittered group of new allies, proposes matching meter hours to occupancy. That is, where parking occupancy exceeds 85 percent, it’s goodbye to the good old days of free meters in the evening.
If the agency gets its way, 59 percent of the city’s parking meter hours would extend until 9 p.m. during the weekdays, and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Some 17 percent of the city’s meter hours would extend until midnight every day except Sunday. That includes the Mission District.
As Mission Loc@l reported last week, the plan extends parking meter hours on Valencia and Mission streets, and many of the corridor’s smaller streets, to midnight Monday through Saturday, and until 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Parking meters are a tool for availability, said Bose. If cars stay parked after 6 p.m., businesses won’t reap the benefit, she said. Bose’s views were not shared by business owners.
She added that the city’s parking laws haven’t changed since the meters were installed in 1947. At that time, the meter hours corresponded with the business hours of local stores, most of which closed shop by 6 p.m. and took respite on Sundays.
But during public comment, the business owners, along with the social justice activists, did not care to hear about the days of yore. Many hailed the recent victory by Oakland residents who led a citywide revolt against extended meter hours in their city.
Regina Dick-Endrizzi, director of the Office of Small Business, said there was a “lack of outreach and input from the business community” and demanded a comprehensive economic impact analysis on the proposal’s effect on private sector jobs.
“It’s very easy for people to drive across the bridge and do their shopping elsewhere,” she warned.
Ike Pinkston, a teacher at Compañeros del Barrio, a preschool on Valencia Street, said residents—and not just its businesses—will be impacted by the extended meter hours.
“It’s hard for parents to leave their homes at 8 or 9 p.m. to go feed the meters,” he said.
A member of San Francisco State University’s Students Fight Back felt that working class people are shouldering the burden of the economic crisis with unfair fee increases and incentives to ticket the poor.
Lisa Fricke, government affairs director with the San Francisco Apartment Association, said the proposal curtails the rights of a different population: the city’s landlords and condominium dwellers that benefit from free parking.
“It’s dangerous for them,” she added.
Linda Mjellem, director of the Union Square Association, said that the proposal would further distress the suffering luxury industry along Powell Street.
Drawing attention from another sector was uniformed parking control officer Dominic Garrett, who said he opposed the proposal because of safety issues of his officers on night duty. He questioned how the agency would manage the program’s enforcement.
But some spoke out in support of the proposal. “These parking meters weren’t here when the Spanish arrived,” said BART Director Tom Radulovich.
“They’re not free.”
With free parking available at 6 p.m., drivers circle around the neighborhood looking for the perfect spot, endangering bicyclists, said Mark Caswell of the SF Bicycle Coalition.
“The thought that people are too cheap to spend a couple extra dollars on parking after spending $40 on a meal is a scary thought,” he added.
Plans for a vote on the proposal are still in the future, but Executive Director Nathaniel Ford said the agency would map out an outreach strategy to share with the public next week.
“Once we complete that, we can come back with a modified proposal, or the same proposal,” he said.
Board member Malcolm Heinicke suggested launching a pilot program in one business district to gauge the effects of extended parking meter hours.
Board Chairman Tom Nolan, in response to earlier public comments, said, “it’s not helpful to say ‘find revenue somewhere else’ because we have to find it somewhere.”