| Locals Say No to Parking Changes Proposal
By Jonathan Farrell Nov 13, 2009
Merchants and Residents from all over the City showed up in solidarity to voice concerns over the proposal to increase parking meter fees and to extend meter hours of operation. SF Municipal Transit Authority that now oversees the responsibilities of the Dept. of Parking and Traffic held an informal hearing regarding this proposal on Oct. 20 at City Hall.
Room 400 was overflowing on that Tuesday as dozens lined up to speak. Residents and merchants from some of the most densely populated neighborhoods of the City like the Mission District, North Beach, and South of Market areas were among the most vocal.
Regina Dick-Endrizzi said on behalf of The Office of Small Business, “take a look at small businesses and private sector jobs.”
CNNMoney.com listed San Francisco as among the “best places to launch a business in 2009.” Currently there are over 115 thousand small businesses in the City, with an average per capita income growth of 32 percent since 2007.
Endrizzi told the SFMTA that the small business community opposes the proposal.
SF Supervisor Carmen Chu was among those within city government who requested that the SFMTA provide a more thorough impact study. “This (proposal) does affect small business,” said Cammy Blackstone, a legislative aide who represented the supervisor at the hearing.
Increasing fees is one obstacle for residents and businesses. But to extend the hours of parking meters well into the night up to 10 p.m. in some areas and on Sundays seemed to really get locals very upset.
Tina Landis, who spoke before the SFMTA panel on behalf of the local chapter of ANSWER Coalition, told the commission that this proposal was “just another tax upon the people.”
A.N.S.W.E.R. is an acronym for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. ANSWER was among several groups who attended the hearing. ANSWER has been a nationwide coalition at the grass roots level founded in 2001advocating for workers and everyday citizens on a variety of issues.
“The City is pushing this onto the working class people, (so to fill the budget shortfall). “Tax the corporations, she said, not the working class.” “This proposal will not solve the City’s budget problems,” Landis said.
In addition to raising transit fares SFMTA wants to follow through with this proposal because the budget deficit is widening. Currently SFMTA manages approximately 24,000 on-street metered parking spaces, most of which are operated from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
SFMTA officials say that the extended hours proposal would generate an additional $8.8 million per year in net revenue for the SFMTA after accounting for costs such as Parking Control Officers. One-time implementation costs would be $2.5 million.
In its 37-page study that was presented at the hearing, SFMTA states that the proposal if implemented would create more parking availability. This would deter motorists from parking in one spot for most of the day. The extended parking meter hours would support economic vitality by helping business customers find parking when they need it, according to the proposal.
Residents, especially from the Mission District view this perspective of the study as preposterous and are skeptical that the proposal would improve the economic flow for local business. Residents fear it will only create more hardship in an already difficult economy.
The two-year study that was initiated in 2007 noted that the demand for on-street parking is high in the evenings and on Sundays. This results in parking occupancies that are often higher than 100 percent due to illegal parking. It is hardest to find available parking spaces after 6 p.m. and on Sundays, when parking at meters is currently free and unrestricted.
When San Francisco’s meters were first introduced in 1947, many businesses kept traditional hours, usually from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. And, were closed on Sundays. SFMTA representatives speaking at the hearing noted that current parking policies have not kept in step with present-day business hours and trends.
Today, many businesses are open late in the evening and all day on Sundays, which creates demand for parking at times when parking meters do not currently operate.
Many cities and towns across the nation operate their parking meters Monday through Saturday until 10 p.m., midnight, or 2 a.m., as well as on Sundays, noted the SFMTA study.
Yet while news reports have emerged about cities either proposing or establishing parking meter fee increases and extended hours, the reaction from the people has been much the same as here in SF. People are not happy and view the increases as negative.
From Somerville, Massachusetts to Naples, Florida, meter fee increases and extended hours are an approach to raising more revenue for recession-economy afflicted municipalities. They all claim budget fee hikes are necessary to manage budget deficits.
According to the Chicago Tribune and the SF Chronicle, in February of this year fee hikes for more than 36,000 parking meters across Chicago went into effect. At an increase of up to $3.50 an hour parking in some zones meters are estimated to far exceed the usual $20 million annually for the “windy city.”
Like San Francisco Chicago had not changed its meter fees of 25 cents for decades. But unlike San Francisco, Chicago has privatized its parking meters with a private operator in a 75-year lease. The Tribune reported that Chicago received an up-front payment of $1.15 billion from the private company to collect meter fees.
Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley sees the privatization of parking meters as innovative. Privatization of the SF Zoo over the past 15 years has not worked according to some experts.
The word of privatization has not been mentioned in this proposal. Our transit authority in SF wants to run the entire show. Recently the City of Oakland proposed parking meter fee hikes. But protests and calls to political action resulted.
As the Oct. 20 hearing was informal and very long, no decisions on the proposal were made. If it were to be implemented it would be in trial periods and be adjusted every two years. The hearing was simply an effort to gather more public comment and dialog.
Endrizzi told the Mission Dispatch she will do all she can on behalf of the Office of Small Business to work with the SFMTA on this.
The SFMTA still insists the principle of the proposal is to increase the availability of parking.
To give feedback on the Extended Hours and Fee Increase for Parking Meters, please call 311 or e-mail email@example.com.
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