Dogpatch Parking Pilot Slow to Get Off the Ground

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It’s been more than a year since the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) proposed a pilot in Dogpatch to test interventions that might make parking in the neighborhood easier. The agency has held regular meetings with residents, but consensus has yet to be reached on what approach to take.

“Not a whole lot has happened,” said Nicky Jacobson, a Tennessee Street resident and member of the Dogpatch Parking Taskforce, which represents the interests of the neighborhood to SFTMA. The Taskforce meets roughly monthly, and consists of a mix of home- and business owners. Along with Jacobson, members include Susan Fitch, Karen Chang, and Joyce Mulcahy. 

“There have been a ton of meetings, but I don’t know why the MTA isn’t listening to us,” said Jacobson. “Everyone is running out of patience. I just don’t know what to do. I can only push so hard.”

Under SFMTA’s proposed pilot, new parking management strategies would be implemented on a number of blocks within an area bounded by Mariposa and Cesar Chavez streets to the north and south; Pennsylvania Avenue and Illinois Street in the east and west.

According to SFMTA manager of parking policy, Hank Willson, the pace has been slow due to the desire to create a plan that’s accepted by as many people as possible. “We’re trying to get as close to consensus as we can with those folks on the Taskforce, who have influence over the community,” he said. “The community has different interests and demands, and we’re trying to balance all of them.” The latest proposal consists of a combination of residential permit parking (RPP), a permit/paid parking overlay –  metered parking in front of residential areas without any time limits – time-limited parking, and paid parking, with distinctions varying block by block.

Jacobson’s main worry centers on RPP.  “The MTA wants this pilot of overlaying meters onto residential parking. Once they deem this pilot a ‘success,’ imagine the repercussions this has across the City,” she said. “It will allow them to do this to any RPP area. This would effectively selloff residents’ parking. Not only is that catastrophic for residents, I see this as something that encourages driving, traffic, and is against their Transit First policy. The SFMTA is selling off our RPP to whoever can get to the spot earliest. At a one dollar per hour, a person could pay as little as $8 and park here all day.”

According to Willson, SFMTA wants to provide more parking flexibility in a mixed-use neighborhood like Dogpatch. “The idea is in some cases a two-hour limitation isn’t as effective as payment could be, in terms of discouraging people from outside the neighborhood from parking there,” he said.

Willson pointed to visitors to the University of California, San Francisco, who park south of Mariposa Street because it’s free, as one of the pilot’s targets.  “It’s worth testing if payment might be more effective at keeping those folks from parking on Dogpatch streets, because even with time limits, they might come out and do the ‘two-hour shuffle’. As soon as they have to pay, and it costs something similar to what it costs to park in the UCSF garage, people go ahead and park in the garage. Or if driving meant paying, they might take the train or bus instead. Our overall strategic goal is more transit use and biking.”

Willson also wants to make parking easier for neighborhood visitors; those who don’t want to run out in the middle of lunch to move their car, or tradespeople who need to stay longer than two hours. “Most people would say the guest or the plumber has a perfectly legitimate reason to be in the neighborhood, but the time limitation is a hardship for them,” Willson said. “No time limit allows them to stay for however long they need to as long as they pay.”

Jacobson and Willson both want parking regulations to reflect upcoming changes to the neighborhood:  new buildings and land uses, novel curb cuts and loading zones. “I want the SFMTA’s draft to be a real reflection of what the neighborhood is going to be, the real parking spot count,” Jacobson said.

Willson said SFMTA is proposing different parking management options based on expected development.  To assuage some of Jacobson’s concerns that the agency needs a better sense of the characteristics and location of new land uses, Willson proposed a walk through the neighborhood that has yet to be scheduled, although he hopes it’ll take place soon. 

“I was inspired after the last taskforce meeting, when a resident pointed to specific block face and said it should be residential parking,” Willson said. “I thought it made a lot of sense to have the conversation while looking at the block. Let’s go around and look at the proposed map and really try to hash it out. Walking and talking face to face might facilitate understanding or agreement.”

As far as when the pilot will become a reality, the answer is murky. “It really depends on how soon we can get these meetings scheduled,” Willson said. “My thought is one more Taskforce meeting, a meeting all are welcome to attend that is well publicized, and then we move forward with the plan.”