The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is considering a proposal by San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Deputy Chief Mikail Ali to permanently designate three blocks of red curbs and “police vehicles only” signs around a SFPD-leased 17th Street building. The facility, home to specialized equipment, and which hosts constabulary trainings, is located between 1700 and 1740 17th Street. Currently, there are no red curbs around the structure, with “police vehicles only” signs on De Haro and Carolina streets.
Potrero Hill residents, businesses, and neighborhood organizations, including the Potrero Boosters and the Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA), expressed significant anxieties about the SFPD proposal at a SFMTA public hearing held last spring.
“The Boosters and PDMA have raised concerns about the SFPD request. Having heard from the community at the May 4 hearing, we’re compiling that input. This summer we’ll reconvene the conversation between all parties,” said Andy Thornley, SFMTA senior analyst of parking and curb management.
According to Thornley, enforcement of current or expanded parking restrictions could be done by SFPD or SFMTA. “Per SF Transportation Code, police-only parking is meant to be used for police service vehicles, like squad cars, as opposed to members of the Police Department reporting to work,” said Thornley.
Kansas Street resident, Keith Goldstein, said business owners are concerned because there’s little available parking in the neighborhood. “There’s an increase in the work population in this area. This means there’s a great demand, especially among commuters. Out-of-town commuters park all day on Potrero Hill and use ride shares to get to their offices…because of the steep hills, locals often drive to our local shops and they need the parking. The police are as much victims of the parking crunch as the neighbors,” said Goldstein.
The 17th Street building, formerly Jamba Juice’s headquarters, houses SFPD’s Special Weapons and Tactics team, bomb squad unit, and a Department of Homeland Security office. The facility also serves as a storeroom for specialized equipment, including vehicles. In the past, trainings have drawn so many personal vehicles of officers that SFPD has posted “police-only parking” signs along the north side of Jackson Playground; SFPD has authority to enforce temporary curb closures.
“Neighbors said this was burdensome and knocked out parking for playground visitors and shopping. We want to balance the needs of the police with the needs of the community, given that there’s a finite amount of curb space in the neighborhood,” said Thornley.
Although street parking is available on 16th Street, Carolina and Wisconsin streets have undeveloped curbs and missing sidewalks. “Carolina Street doesn’t have sidewalks at the 17th Street end. In that respect, Carolina Street is still 100 years old. These are streets which not long ago were mostly industrial and undeveloped…pretty raw edges…no curbs or gutters or sidewalks. As the City has filled out, we have streets that are now busier and more active, with more people,” said Thornley. “We don’t actively add sidewalks to streets where they’re missing. Instead we try to have developers do it as they build out properties. Certainly, having Carolina Street’s edges be more defined would make that street work better.”
J.R. Eppler, Boosters president, said he’s concerned that the City and SFPD aren’t honoring previous commitments. “The City made a promise it would build sidewalks in this area. SFPD promised there would be a community room in the police office to be available for neighborhood use. They reneged on the community room because of security concerns. We understand that, but parking in the area is extremely limited. We want to accommodate the police in some way. We feel that any changes in the parking situation need to be part of an overall neighborhood parking plan,” said Eppler.
Thornley agreed that, even without new restrictions, there’s limited parking available in the neighborhood. “There is street cleaning in the area once a week. Open parking spots are intermittent, but anybody can park on that 17th Street edge at this point. Much of the curb on the De Haro Street side of the SFPD facility is taken up by driveways. The 16th Street edge has a lot of driveways and curb cuts, so there are not that many places to park,” said Thornley.
Police vehicles on official business are allowed to park in curb cuts, in driveways, and next to fire hydrants. Residents can park in a curb cut on their own property.
Thornley said SFMTA is working with SFPD to explore options. A suggestion made at the meeting held last spring is to reduce the number of police officer drive-alone trips to the 17th Street facility. “There’s an established and ever-evolving discipline known to transportation pros as ‘Travel Demand Management,’ or ‘TDM.” It’s basically about helping people get to work without driving solo, commuting off-peak, or work remotely to avoid the drive altogether. Everything from carpooling to taking transit to using shuttles and bike-share is on the list. Having even a small percentage of workers commuting smarter can relieve congestion on our streets and at our curbs. City agencies are stepping up to do a better job at this,” said Thornley.
Eppler believes police officers can use the same methods to get to work as other City employers. “They can also have parking off-site and run a shuttle to get people to this location. SFPD needs to develop a transportation demand management plan before they expand their parking by commandeering parking from the neighborhood,” said Eppler.
Parking in the area has been further constrained by construction of several nearby residential complexes, including a 395-unit development at 901 16th Street and a 299-unit facility at 1601 Mariposa Street. Erection employees’ personal vehicles, construction trucks, and supply delivery vehicles have taken up parking spots.
“They get there early in the morning and take up parking for the workday,” said Goldstein.
One of the closest construction sites to the SFPD facility is a mixed-use complex, now called “Alta Potrero Hill,” located at 1301 16th Street, owned by Ronaldo Cianciarulo and being developed by Mill Valley-based Wood Partners. The site is surrounded by red plastic construction barriers. It replaced what was an informal police parking lot behind the 17th Street SFPD building.
According to Thornley, municipal regulations require Alta Potrero Hill to build a sidewalk along parts of Carolina and Wisconsin streets. Alta Potrero Hill is slated to decrease on-street parking by siting a parklet at the corner of 16th and Carolina streets The complex will provide 111 parking and 260 secure bicycle spaces for 172 apartments, with retail and production, distribution, and repair space on the ground floor.