For nearly three hours, citizens at a public hearing expressed unanimous outrage in their opposition to a proposal to install hundreds of parking meters in the Mission. Afterward, a city transit official said that minor changes would be considered, but recommended that the city approve the new meters.
“Unbelievable. Those three hours were a waste of our time,” said Hannah McFaull of Pirate Press in the Potrero Hill District. “They made their decision after talking for five minutes, without taking our comments into consideration.”
The meters will be placed throughout the northeast Mission and other southeastern neighborhoods.
Hearing officer John Newlin said he made his decision based on the project’s merits.
“It’s not a numbers game,” he said, referring to the number of people who spoke in opposition at the public hearing at City Hall. “It’s doing what’s best for the situation.”
The proposal calls for the installation of hundreds of parking meters from South Van Ness to Potrero Avenue and Division to 19th Street. The meters would have no time limits and would operate Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Newlin and staff from the city’s SF Park project decided to revisit proposed changes on Shotwell from 15th to 16th streets and on 15th between Folsom and Shotwell, because those blocks are residential. Those revisions, which may include residential parking permits, will be unveiled when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) board of directors considers the proposal in February.
The parking meters were conceived as a way to solve the on-street parking shortage created by the construction of a park on a city-owned lot at 17th and Folsom streets.
Residents and business owners, many of whom took the morning off to attend the hearing, asked the SFMTA to work with them, saying they had only recently found out about the proposal.
They argued that it was developed without taking into account that the northeast Mission and the southeastern neighborhoods include commercial, industrial, residential and other live and work spaces.
“They can install parking meters in their heads for all I care, but we need residential parking permits,” Marc Glom said. “I already pay $12,000 to the city in taxes; I am not going to give them more quarters.”
The news that for the most part the parking meters would not be reconsidered outraged residents. They called the process undemocratic and arbitrary.
“Let’s call it what it is,” one resident said, referring to the new revenue the meters will bring in. “It’s a money grab.”
The parking situation in the northeast Mission is chaotic in the daytime but manageable at night, residents said. It is a favorite parking area for out-of-town commuters who work downtown, people who sleep in their cars, and bus drivers who don’t want to pay for parking at the Muni yard at 17th and Bryant streets. In some areas, the only restriction is for street sweeping once a week.
Jay Primus of SFPark argued that the proposal is consistent with the city’s transit-first policy, which encourages people to take public transit, walk or bike. Furthermore, Primus said, adjusted pricing, which adjusts the price of the meters depending on demand, could reduce the number of people circling around the neighborhood looking for parking.
Primus said that rates would start at 25 cents an hour, and the fact that the meters will not have time limits means that people can potentially park all day.
Some residents laughed at the idea.
“Twenty-five cents an hour sounds good, but how long will that last?” asked Ann Colichidas.
Residents argued that once the parking meters are installed, there will be no going back. Trimark, a kitchen equipment company in Potrero Hill, threatened to leave the city.
Even some who might benefit from a faster parking turnaround oppose the proposal. San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) on 15th Street, for example, believes new meters could deter people from volunteering, an official said.
Rebecca Katz, SFACC’s director, said the SFMTA should enforce its own rules, such as not allowing people to sleep in their cars and asking Muni drivers to pay for parking.
Residents said the SFMTA is not keeping its end of the bargain when it comes to putting transit first. They argued that Muni service is poor and that for many business and residents, taking transit is not an option.
The SFMTA board is set to hear the proposal again at 1 p.m. on Feb. 7, in Room 416 of City Hall.