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Mission merchants and Muni supporters are clashing over the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s discussion to extend parking meter hours on weeknights and Sundays – a proposal that could generate millions.

Muni advocates view the meter proposals as a way to help the MTA bridge its $16.9 million deficit, while merchants along Valencia Street say the meter hikes have the potential to destroy their businesses.

“People drive to my store from all over the Bay Area,” Mia Galaviz de Gonzalez, owner of the Encantada Gallery of Fine Art, said. “They should keep it as it is.”

An MTA study, published last October, predicted extending hours on meters could generate $17.2 million annually, but cost the MTA $8.4 million in enforcement and maintenance – creating an actual profit of $8.8 million.

The study indicated that 59 percent of meters could extend until 9 p.m. There could also be Sunday enforcement from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

But Gonzalez said that for every 10 people that come into her store, between two and three have driven. She said she hears customers complain about parking tickets received from expired meters at least once a week.

Her largest concern lies with the Sunday enforcement, she said.

“People shouldn’t have to worry about parking on Sunday,” she said. “Sunday usually generates better business for us.”

The MTA’s town hall meetings have allowed the public to vent about Muni’s current service cut proposals, but many also see the parking meter proposals as a way to shelter Muni and spread the pain.

“Muni isn’t free after 6 o’clock, so why should parking meters be free,” Sarah Bassler, said during an MTA town hall meeting on Feb. 6.

Three of the seven MTA board members have opposed hiking meter hours and enforcement.

However, Mayor Gavin Newsom told reporters earlier this month that he had reconsidered his opposition to Sunday enforcement because of support he’s received from city businesses.

The Chronicle wrote on Jan. 29 that merchants have told the mayor they support  higher car turnover rates on Sundays near their shops because it keeps people from parking all day for free.

As it stands, the parking meter plans are just an idea, and haven’t been added to the MTA’s current budget proposals, but could be added to next year’s budget.

Randy Figures, manager of framing store, Back to the Pictures on Valencia, said his business depends on the MTA ignoring the meter proposals.

“I’m not a fan of cars, but I’m a fan of my customers,” he said of his clients who drive. “And a $63 parking ticket is extortion.”

Most customers of the framing store, which stays open until 7 p.m. during the week, need their cars to carry artwork, he said.

Both Gonzalez and Figures support what happened in Oakland last August when business revolted against similar parking meter changes.

“I love what they did in Oakland, I appreciate that,” Figures said of the stores that closed their doors in protest. “It would be cool if we could do that, but we couldn’t even afford to close for a day.”

However, not all businesses along Valencia oppose the meter increase ideas.

“Lots of my customers are from the neighborhood,” said Cary Heater, who works at Borderland Books at 19th and Valencia Streets. “People are probably going to come here regardless.”

In an effort to look at the effect increasing meter hours would have on businesses, the MTA study revealed that 25 percent of Valencia Street’s businesses are open until midnight — a percentage higher than most neighborhoods.

Heater said customers who drive in the evening shouldn’t have a problem finding parking on streets without meters if the parking meter proposals become adopted.

Ryan Tabaldi, a 22-year-old recent San Francisco  State graduate, who talked to Mission Loc@l after he parked in a space on Valencia Street, agreed that extending meter hours is vital to closing the deficit.

He’s still critical of its success in the Mission, however.

“It’s going to create a bigger problem,” he said. “Everyone is going to avoid the meters and look for free street parking, especially on Sundays,” causing possible parking congestion in the Mission neighborhoods.

SFMTA spokesman Judson True said a resolution over the current proposals for bridging the budget would likely be made during the MTA board’s meeting on Feb. 26, but he gave no word on parking meters.

“They have to take action to close this deficit,” he said.

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Nick Sucharski

Nick Sucharski is the current transportation reporter for Mission Loc@l.

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  1. What about the poor folks with families? They need their cars to do groceries, take kids to school and run errands. The MIssion is not just for single, under 30 crowd that likes bikes and lives with 4 others. Yet many of them act all progressive and pretend to support families.

  2. I completely support meters all the time everywhere. Why would you drive to the Mission anyway? There’s BART, MUNI, bikes, walking, and taxis. On Saturday night, you’re probably drinking anyway, so get a taxi. On Sunday, higher turnover on the meters will be good for businesses. Why do we sacrifice our public spaces in cities to cars all the time?

  3. I agree 100% with what Aaron said.

    If people are parking on Saturday before 6pm with metered parking, they will park in the evening with metered parking, and they will park on Sunday with metered parking. And they will probably be happy they didn’t have to circle for 20 minutes, and were able to park within a block or two of their destination.

    Ideally they will take at least a portion of that revenue and pump it back into the neighborhood with streetscape improvements.

  4. What has been hardly mentioned here is the MTA’s study that demonstrates principles that indicate that updating parking meter hours (they haven’t been changed since 1947 when business still closed on evenings and Sundays) actually benefits everyone by making the parking system more efficient. Drivers either pay some change for a spot or we all pay when they circle around for parking, causing more congestion, danger, and pollution. This way, people who need to drive would actually have a spot available when meters are priced appropriately to maintain about an 85% occupancy rate. As the article mentioned, instead of people parking for free all day, turnover would increase and therefore business would. Think about it – if someone drives (say from the East Bay) and finds only metered spots available, they don’t just leave – they will still park. It doesn’t cost that much.

    However, I do agree that the meters themselves need to be updated to accept other forms of payment as well as consolidated to take up less physical & visual space on the sidewalk (like the new machines on the Embarcadero). SF has ancient meters.

  5. I absolutely support this measure. The Mission is easily accessible by public transportation for shoppers. Flat roads and a bike lane on Valencia make it bikeable too.

  6. This is a terrible choice. If the Muni needs to raise $8.8 million, believes it should be paid by vehicle drivers and can find nothing to cut in its budget, it should just bite the bullet and levy a tax on registration. The only time you need to make a law to be enforced against “criminals” is when there is a problematic action to be corrected. Not when an organization can’t balance its books. The city stands a good chance of losing regional weekend visitors if each visit is met with a ticket.

  7. The problem isn’t the extended hours – it’s how the meters work. It’s ridiculous having to carry around a ton of change for the meters. They need to be changed to accept credit cards.

  8. As a resident of the Mission and a proud monthly purchaser of the MUNI Fast Pass, I can say I am happy that the city is considering this. However, I am also unhappy because my husband owns a car. Business owners who would oppose changing meter times could help everyone by supporting legislation to change the wording the City Charter stating that MUNI drivers are allowed to make the same amount of money as the top two transit agencies nationwide. Rather than pit those of us who use MUNI everyday against our spouses that drive everyday, please pit the City against itself.

    By the way, to the person who said a $63 ticket is extortion, try riding MUNI and getting caught without paying. The BASE fine for missing or invalid proof of payment on MUNI is $75, and can go up to $500.

  9. I was driving around Valencia and 14th/15th St yesterday and found it frustrating that there were so many parking meters everywhere. And most of the spots were empty! I might have taken one but had no change. No one wants to risk getting tickets at expired meters anymore and heads into the neighborhood streets, like I did. Found a spot in an alley.

  10. It will never be enough. SF Parking alread rakes in 345 million dollars a year. 346 Million!!! Cut management or next year it’ll be the same story.