Parking Changes Ahead for Third Street

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Third Street, from 20th to 24th streets, home to an eclectic collection of commercial spaces, retail outlets, residences, and public transit infrastructure, is facing increasing parking demands.  Situated in the characteristically industrial Dogpatch, the area surrounding Third Street is being transformed, as residential developments are steadily built.  With parking shortages citywide, Third Street businesses are concerned that transportation will become even more snarled as the neighborhood grows. 

According to Bruce Huie, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association president, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is undertaking a joint effort with DNA to develop a plan to better manage parking in the area.  The neighborhood group and SFMTA have been holding monthly gatherings to discuss potential plan elements. 

“We’re working with the DNA and their board of directors to talk about putting together a neighborhood parking management plan,” said Kathryn Studwell, residential permit parking program manager for SFMTA. “The implementation will be towards the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017.  Third Street is one of the sub-areas that is being addressed.” 

Though plans haven’t yet been fully articulated, according to Studwell the strategy will include a combination of parking measures.  Because Third Street is mostly commercial, a mix of metered parking and two to four hour time limit parking will be included.  Residential permit parking regulations will extend to other blocks in the vicinity. 

Inadequate parking has been a longstanding issue for people who work in Dogpatch.  The American Industrial Center, which houses a couple hundred businesses in a complex that extends two blocks on Third Street, has especially felt parking pressures as a resulted of being situated near the Muni T-Line and bus stops.  The few spaces available at the busy intersection of Third and 20th streets are often taken by people who then hop on transit.  Greg Markoulis, AIC manager, who has worked in the neighborhood for 40 years, stressed the importance of supporting the growing retail district, which depends on minimum wage earners having access to affordable parking during work hours.

Ruben Donze, owner of La Fromagerie Cheese Shop, feels that public transit riders are impacting the situation.  “People using the train tend to leave their cars during the day, so it’s not just residents and employees who are looking for parking.  The City should provide affordable parking alternatives for employees,” Donze suggested.

Parking alternatives in the area are slim.  Impark, at 901 Illinois Street, charges $160 monthly for parking during weekday business hours.  Donze believes the rate is too expensive for workers. 

According to Suzie Coliver, owner of ARCH Supply Inc., Impark is usually full, and will likely only be in operation for another two years, as there are plans to develop the space for housing.  Coliver had mixed sentiments about proposed parking strategies, acknowledging the difficulty of finding the right solution.   “Right now it’s chaos,” Coliver added.  “If you arrive after quarter of eight in the morning you can’t find parking.  I think anything would be an improvement over what’s there now.  We depend on customers being able to come and do business with us during the day.  Metered parking would be a big help, though there’s a feeling that it would make it very hard for people who work in the area to find parking.  There are other ways to deal with the issue, such as building large outlying parking areas and providing shuttles.”

Greg Mindel, owner of Neighbor Bakehouse, doesn’t think that metered parking is appropriate for the area, and wants to explore other solutions.  “I’m not sure what will be accomplished by putting in meters,” he said.  “The residential parking permits make sense.  Let’s make more parking spaces by taking one of the bay barges and creating a floating parking lot with shuttles into the area.  With metered parking the problem is not solved.  The Monday through Friday people who are working would be most affected.  There are still a lot of open lots around here, so they should let people park in these areas or build a parking garage.  Some of the development plans are still years out, so why not use these spaces for parking?  It’s a clear solution because it would create more spots.”

Food and beverage businesses find the parking situation especially challenging, as their patrons often want to park for longer periods after business hours, competing with residents who are returning to the neighborhood from work.  “Parking is very, very tight, and has gotten noticeably more difficult over the past year or two,” Dave McLean, owner of Smokestack Restaurant at Third and 22nd streets, offered.  “I know it has an impact on our business because people tell me how much difficulty they have finding parking, and some people say it factors against them coming at certain times. It also impacts our business internally, with our own team having a hard time finding parking when they come to work. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the growing number of new residents in the neighborhood.” 

Ian Hannula, a Dogpatch resident and owner of the N.I.C.E Collective on Third Street, experiences the parking shortage from both angles.  He thinks that meters would help customers for his retail clothing business find parking by creating more turnover.  As a resident, he’s gathering signatures to petition SFMTA to apply residential permit parking for the block on Third between 22nd and 23rd streets. 

Hannula attended one of the DNA meetings and is hopeful about the options being discussed. “I like the hybrid measure that’s being proposed to have residential permits override the meter parking,” He commented.  “It’s a program that’s new to the City and is on the table now.  As a resident and business owner, I think this measure would address my situation.  It’s important to recognize that it’s a mixed use area and we have to address all the issues.  Let’s use the Dogpatch as a prototype to try something new.” 

As stakeholders continue working on a parking management plan many hope that the City understands that new housing developments need to have sufficient parking factored into their designs. 

Despite loving Dogpatch, Coliver, whose clients often come from outside the neighborhood, expects to have to relocate her business because parking issues are making operating on Third Street no longer viable.  Though Mindel’s employees are sometimes as much as half an hour late for work due to difficulty finding parking, he tries to keep things in perspective. “From living in cities my whole life there’s no silver bullet to solve the problem, but we have a really special neighborhood in the Dogpatch so I think we should treat it as such by looking at more creative solutions,” Mindel concluded.