Marcela Vostrel is the kind of bartender you’d hope to find at an Irish pub. She’s blonde and pretty, with a vague European accent and an easy laugh. And she knows the regulars at the Phoenix Irish Pub on Valencia Street well.
“A lot of the guys that come in here do construction, and there’s not that much work,” she said. “They pay attention to how much a beer costs — they order a certain beer because it’s $1 cheaper.”
If they have to pay $2 an hour for parking on top of drinks, “it would be a bad thing,” said Vostrel.
But if a proposal by the Metropolitan Transportation Agency released Tuesday passes next week, Vostrel’s customers will have to start saving their quarters. The plan extends parking meter hours on Valencia and Mission, and the streets that link the two major corridors between Division and 22nd streets, to midnight Monday through Saturday, and extends meter hours until 6 p.m. on Sundays.
It comes just one week after a similar effort was rolled back in Oakland, where residents and business owners vociferously — and successfully — opposed a citywide parking meter extension.
But San Francisco’s plan is different, argued the transit agency. It’s good for business.
The plan targets the city’s commercial corridors, where it would reduce double parking and circling, making streets less congested. It would make parking easier to find for patrons, said Nathaniel Ford, the agency’s executive director in a statement. Plus, it would encourage customer turnover.
But inner Mission business owners aren’t buying it.
“That’s terrible,” said Andrea Danger, co-owner of Modern Times Bookstore on Valencia Street, shaking her head in disbelief. The store stays open until 9 p.m. weeknights and all day on Sunday.
“In retail, you try to give your customers time to browse,” she said. “I’m sure people won’t want to spend money when they’re thinking about how much they’re paying to park.”
Jeff Hanford has managed Cha Cha Cha, a tapas restaurant and lounge on Mission Street, for 11 years. He estimates that 80 percent of his clientele on weekends comes from outside the Mission — and most of them drive.
“The thing about the Mission is there aren’t really any parking garages,” he said.
The few garages in the neighborhood fill up early, said Hanford. “All of the businesses rely on street parking. Extending meters is going to devastate the restaurants and bars down here.”
Included in the proposal, though, is a clause that would increase metered parking time to four hours after 6 p.m., allowing time for eating and shopping.
Hanford called the change a “drop in the bucket.”
“I don’t think that’s going to make that big a difference,” he said. “People aren’t going to come up here if they’re risking getting a $53 parking ticket. They’re going to stay in their local areas.”
Jim Fourniadis guesses that about half of the audience members at the comedy shows hosted in his club, the Dark Room, on Mission Street, come from outside the neighborhood.
“I sympathize with [the city]; they’ve got to make money,” said Fourniadis, “but can’t they at least lower the cost of the meters for longer pay — compromise so it’s not such a pain in the ass for business owners?”
“They’ve got to come up with something that’s workable, otherwise people are going to say no,” said Fourniadis, alluding to the outcome in Oakland.
“This option is not workable.”
But the proposal would bring in money — an estimated $8.8 million annually for an agency with a $30 million budget deficit
The agency’s board of directors will discuss the plan when it’s presented at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
For now, the customers that line Marcela Vostrel’s well polished bar will at least have something new to debate over frothing ales and lagers.
“It’s just crazy,” exclaimed one gentleman from his vantage point atop a barstool after learning about the plan.
His neighbor shook his head in silent agreement.
Come on people of San Francisco. It is time to face the music. Free/low cost parking is not free – it’s something everyone pays for including the folks who don’t drive. It’s time for the people who drive to pay their share and that includes the parking. There may be some bumps in the road as we all get used to this new paradigm of paying for the true costs of driving, but we’ll adjust.
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