Supervisors Give Golden Gate Park Meter Study the Go-Ahead

410050_25b2a8b15d_o.jpgCould parking meters ruin this view? Flickr photo: morganthemoth
In a vote that signaled both San Francisco's new direction on parking policy and the severity of current budget shortfalls, the Board of Supervisors yesterday approved an ordinance giving the MTA authority to study installing parking meters in the eastern portion of Golden Gate Park.

By a unanimous vote, the Board indicated its support for the ordinance, though the supervisors reasons differed. The vote only authorizes creating a parking plan for Golden Gate Park, not its implementation, which the MTA will need to seek later.

The Recreation and Park Department, the MTA, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, and Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos have expressed strong support for the measure in the past, since it will generate funds for the MTA and the Rec and Park Department, and is consistent with the city's Transit First policy.

After yesterday's vote, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he still has "major reservations" about installing meters in Golden Gate Park, including the meters' aesthetic impact on the park. Elsbernd also expressed concern about whether the meters would "create residual parking problems" in surrounding neighborhoods, such as the Inner Sunset, the Richmond, and Haight-Ashbury.

Elsbernd said he also worried that charging for parking could drive park users away. "We want to encourage people to go to parks, we don't want to discourage," said Elsbernd. "I wonder if meters are going to do that."

Supervisor Carmen Chu, who represents the Sunset, also was concerned about parking spillover. Asked whether she could potentially support installing meters, Chu said, "to me there's still a lot of unknowns about what that would look like, what the meters would look like, what the rates would look like, how are we going to deal with disability issues, and also what the surrounding impact on the communities would be. So these would all be the things that I would take a look at when we have the report."

Chu did acknowledge that "there are some individuals who are unfortunately taking advantage of the park," and said the city "should think about what things we can do, what strategies when can do to address that issue."

She remained concerned about neighborhood impact regardless, however. "Whether it is a parker who is parking all day or a parker who is parking there for an hour," said Chu, "the impact of having parking meters installed inside the park will be that there will be an impact on the neighboring community."

Supervisor Eric Mar, while also sensitive to neighborhood concerns with parking spillover, called installing parking meters "a good way to insure that we have more promotion of the Transit First policy for the city," and said he's "open to parking meters in the park."

"I know that the pushback will come heavily in districts like mine, the Richmond District, and the Sunset, and a little bit in parts of District Five, so I'm going to be listening to residents, and trying to minimize the harm to the neighborhoods," said Mar. "But I think that in general, parking in a reasonable part of the park will insure that we have more public transit use. But I don't want to see kind of ugly meters in the park that destroy the environment for people too."

To limit the visual impact, the MTA has said it will use meters that cover 10-15 spaces each, with about 130 meters total.

The Board also gave final approval to putting the Safe Streets and Road Repair General Obligation Bond on the ballot for November. As we've written before, the bond measure would direct $368 million towards rehabilitating the city's aging streets and sidewalks, and would pay for streetscape enhancements, including enhancements to sidewalks and bicycle infrastructure. If voters support the measure in November, funding would be distributed over the next five years, with each issuance requiring Board of Supervisors approval.