Parking Debate Continues in Dogpatch

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Dogpatch residents and nearby neighbors, as well as San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) representatives, crowded into Dogpatch Neighborhood Association’s April meeting to discuss proposed parking management strategies.  Many participants objected to SFMTA’s proposal to add meters and experiment with residential parking permits; a paid parking overlay program for several blocks in the area bounded by Mariposa to Cesar Chavez streets, Pennsylvania Avenue to Third Street.

If the proposed plan is implemented, 401 newly-designated meter-overlay spots and 679 freshly designated time-limited spots would be created. With new housing developments cascading into the area, some meeting attendees said that the addition of paid parking would benefit businesses at the expense of residents, and are skeptical that a paid parking-residential permit hybrid approach is feasible.

“We’re getting nearer to the stage of making actual proposals, and will either go to the community to present multiple options or narrow down and address the areas where there are still issues and disagreement,” said Hank Willson, SFMTA manager of parking policy. “RPP-overlay still needs legal clearance because it’s something new and we need to vet it internally to see if it’s logistically feasible. However, I don’t want to wait until an idea is fully vetted before introducing it to a community. It’s tough because it leaves us open to people asking why we are presenting the idea to them.”

With the neighborhood heavily impacted by commuters parking their cars and taking transit to locations outside the area, participants wanted the proposed RPP regulations reduced from two hour free parking to one. However, local business owners see meters as a more workable option.

“My employees are happy about the possibility of meters because they’re getting at least $150 in tickets per week,” said Francesco Ciampallari, manager of M. Teixeira Soapstone on 18th Street. “My secretary quit after seven years because she was spending $500 to $600 a month on parking tickets. I think meters are a good idea because people who work in the area don’t have permits. I think employees will be happier because paying $10 to $15 per day is better than getting tickets. My employees make between $15 and $20 per hour and commute because they can’t afford to live in the City.”

Ciampallari was unable to attend services for a family member who passed away recently due to lack of adequate staffing, which he views as largely the result of parking challenges. Things were different when the business opened in 2005; Ciampallari claimed that the problems began when University of California, San Francisco employees started taking up nearby parking spots. He hopes that the situation will improve if more parking is available in Mission Bay, but anticipates his business will ultimately have to relocate to the East Bay.

While paid parking options may make more spots available to local businesses, Dogpatch resident, Nicky Jacobson, is concerned about employees feeding meters all day. “This is not the purpose of meters. The RPP permit should be changed to a business and residential parking permit so that these businesses can survive,” Jacobson said.

Data collected by SFMTA doesn’t indicate that people tend to use metered spots as all day parking spaces. “We’re interested in hearing the community’s input on whether or not paid parking spots will have time limits,” said Willson.

Edward Elhauge is concerned about his future as a Dogpatch resident. Following a career in Silicon Valley, Elhauge returned to school to study public health, and now makes half his former income.  “This impacts people who have limited incomes,” Elhauge commented. “One SFMTA staff said that if they allocate parking through permitting that they’d be picking winners and losers, but market-based pricing does pick winners and losers based on income.”

Both Elhauge and Jacobson asserted that SFMTA and DNA members are basing parking proposals on the theories of Donald Shoup, a research professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Department of Urban Planning. “His theories are untested and we’re the ones they are trying to do the testing on,” claimed Jacobson. 

In his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup argued that free parking reduces the costs of owning and operating vehicles, lowers land values, increases housing costs, and leads to urban sprawl. The SF Park Program, which is a federally funded initiative that uses demand-responsive parking pricing to increase parking availability, was inspired by Shoup’s ideas. SF Park currently operates a pilot project of this initiative in Civic Center, Hayes Valley, Financial District, South of Market, Mission Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf, Mission, Fillmore, and the Marina.

In addition to discussing future parking plans, meeting attendees sought immediate measures to alleviate the pressures created by commuter parking and UCSF employees.  “Caltrain and commuters are a big constituency that we are planning on connecting with,” said Willson. “In the northern Dogpatch the main pressure is coming from Mission Bay.”

With RPP, some drivers move their cars every two hours from one permitted spot to the next. SFMTA expects that by adding paid parking in Dogpatch, Mission Bay commuters will be more likely to pay for parking at a garage near their workplace than pay to park in the neighborhood.

Mari Eliza, part of a group of residents from Dogpatch, Mission, and Potrero Hill who are opposed to meters, is concerned that implementing a non-physical meter, paid parking option will marginalize those without smartphones linked to bank accounts. There are pay by phone options at all meters in the City, which allow people to pay via a smartphone application. In consideration of the issue, the SFMTA is deciding whether it’ll utilize multi-space meter stations to enable physical payment while allowing them to refrain from placing meters in front of residences.

“The City is being divided into two camps,” said Eliza. “There are the people who want to tear down and rebuild the City and those that want to continue living here. This goes beyond parking and ties closely to the housing crisis and other issues.”

“I understand that there’s a lot of mistrust of the SFMTA for many reasons,” Willson offered. “We’re really trying to build trust with residents as they are the local experts. Outreach has shaped our thinking and will continue to do so now as we move forward.”