Before the COVID-19 pandemic, commuters used to park on Vermont Street to avoid steep garage prices in Showplace Square and elsewhere nearby. Assuming these travelers ultimately return, residents will no longer have to compete with them for spots; the 500 block of Vermont Street now requires a parking permit for extended stays.
Prior to the public health crisis, the parking commons had increasingly become a battleground, according to Mark Platosh, a Vermont Street resident who lives near the U.S. Route 101 offramp. Platosh is a block captain for SF SAFE, a nonprofit that “engages, educates, and empowers San Franciscans to build safer neighborhoods through crime prevention, education, and public safety services that result in stronger, more vibrant and resilient communities,” according to its website.
As block captain, Platosh often organizes events and elevates his neighbors’ voices at City Hall and elsewhere. Like many community members, he was frustrated after losing his parking spot. After returning from dropping off his kids at school in Pacific Heights, he’d find all the spots on his block taken, mostly by commuters; he’d frequently see people taking small scooters out of their cars and continuing north, towards Showplace Square, where Zynga, Sega, and Airbnb are located.
For a few years it was a minor annoyance. As the neighborhood changed – more residences being built nearby; the opening of the Chase Center – parking congestion grew. In response, Platosh gathered signatures from community members who wanted to adopt the Residential Permit Parking system for their block.
It took a half-decade to get a speed bump added in the area; Platosh wasn’t expecting a quick response from municipal parking officials. Since the signatures were submitted around the same time companies responded to the emerging pandemic by allowing their workforce to stay at home, dramatically reducing commuter traffic, the issue’s urgency greatly diminished.
Late last year the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency held a final hearing on the proposal to make the 500 block of Vermont Street a permit zone, installing signs a few months later indicating that a sticker is required to park longer than two hours. The labels cost $152 a year per vehicle, available to area residents as well as those who need to park there often for work. Citations cost $95.
Residents may not be happy with the new system.
“There has been a bit of buyer’s remorse,” said Platosh. “There is going to be a healthy debate on whether we will go back, those who really wanted before are now like we didn’t need it during the pandemic.”
He noted that residents who work from home tend to be more acutely aware of the situation, whereas those traveling elsewhere for what was in the before times a typical 9-to-5 job generally find plenty of parking available to them when they return home.
Parking permit zones can be removed if residents petition to do so. The withdrawal process is similar to the one to create the zone, starting with collecting signatures, this time asking for the permit zone to be removed.
According to Platosh, it’s not clear whether the permit zones or the pandemic made parking easier on Vermont. According to Vermont Street resident Paul McDonald, his neighbors are in a “wait and see situation” mode.
Under current public health rules offices can open at 50 percent capacity, with near normalcy potentially within reach by the end of the year.