Newsom Parking Meter Story is Not a ‘False Controversy’

The kerfuffle continues to intensify over the draft study the MTA recently completed on extending parking meter hours in commercial districts around the city, a study which, as we first reported last Friday, the Mayor doesn’t want MTA Chief Nat Ford to broadcast too loudly.  

When Newsom was asked about our story by the Examiner on Friday, he offered up a very nice ad hominem against us and the veracity of blogs in general, saying that our reporting was "factually incorrect" and that "blogs often are" (funny, I don’t think he would paint his own Huffington Post soap box in the same colors, do you?). He went on to accuse us of stirring a "false controversy."

So now that Matier and Ross have essentially written the same story we did, I wonder what the excuse will be from the Mayor’s office? They are too-mainstream media to get it right?

In the meantime, The Snitch at SF Weekly does a very nice job filling in some of the details of the story today, highlighting the severe budget shortfall the MTA will have to address in the next few months. The Snitch also asserts, rightly, that comparing San Francisco’s meter study to the situation in Oakland is not apples to apples (a friend suggested to me it’s more like comparing apples to unicorn berries…):

[Supervisor] Avalos, meanwhile, took issue with Newsom’s media message — as evidenced in this morning’s Chronicle story
that he wants to avoid a parking meter debacle like the one across the
Bay in Oakland. While Oakland officials arbitrarily decided to raise
the enforcement hours without consulting anyone, Avalos noted, San
Francisco’s plan had the backing of the Chamber of Commerce and other
business interests, would only target certain meters in strategic
areas, and wouldn’t take effect prior to the aforementioned study.
What’s more, added the supervisor, while Oakland’s additional revenue
was just tossed into the city’s general fund, San Francisco officials
hoped to use the funds specifically for parking and transportation
issues.

The simple fact is that Mayor Newsom could avoid the specter of bad publicity by firmly embracing his own traffic professionals’ data-driven study to explain to the public that increasing meter hours in commercial districts would be good for business. By extending time limits and matching the supply of parking spaces with the demand for parking spaces (i.e. creating turnover in commercial districts where businesses are open on Sundays and later than 6 pm on weekdays), Newsom could be a champion of small businesses. The issue shouldn’t be viewed as "forcing people to plug meters until 9 o’clock," it should be pitched as freeing up valuable curbside spaces so that customers can be sure they will have a spot to park.

Time and again, through MTA fare hikes and budget battles, our Mayor gives the impression that he cares less about ensuring a robust transit system in San Francisco and more about the possibility of losing driver votes in Orange County or Fresno. But with a deepening MTA mid-year budget crisis, and the likelihood the issue could come down to increasing parking meter revenue or making additional service cuts, we can say with certainty this issue is not going away anytime soon.

  • jarichmond

    Oakland had meetings for weeks discussing the possibility of raising parking rates and extending hours! They most certainly did not do this without consulting anyone!

    It is true that it’s still not an apples to oranges situation, since Oakland explicitly did this to raise money for the general fund, but it simply isn’t true that the city council blindsided everyone by suddenly deciding to make this change.

  • the friend

    To be clear: I meant ‘unicorn berries’ because, well, there wasn’t really any ‘revolt’– just one whiny guy who happened to own a very large marquee. So, like unicorn berries, the ‘Oakland Parking Revolt’ Gavin so fears never actually existed.

    Alas, I’d really hoped that Gavin’s realization that Market Street changes didn’t result in (basically ANY) outcry from motorists would’ve made him a little less afraid of his own shadow.

    Gavin- it’s pretty simple: until car drivers start paying their fair share in this city, us transit riders will continue to pay higher fares while car drivers block transit.

  • ZA

    “The simple fact is that Mayor Newsom could avoid the specter of bad publicity by firmly embracing his own traffic professionals’ data-driven study to explain to the public that increasing meter hours in commercial districts would be good for business.”

    Yes, but that logic doesn’t sell in Orange County, and Newsom wants to be Governor, remember. There comes a time in every politician’s career when their constituency are the eggs to their ambitious omelet.

  • Reading this is so satisfying. By the way, I do think sometimes here in the Bay Area we’re crippled with fear that changing anything will result in passionate outcries. I’m personally of the mindset that if it’s done with the correct intentions and messaging in mind, most of our fears of mobs upset about parking meters or walking one more block to a bus stop are largely overblown. Let’s not make something a problem until it actually becomes a problem.

  • Newsome hasn’t been in the city for months (dare I say years?). I doubt he talked for the city when he started, but I can definitely say that he does not speak for the city now. Why doesn’t he just wash his hands of San Francisco and let us move on. If we want to try some crazy thing like making people pay for parking, we’ll just take the responsibility and he can go on with his uphill gubernatorial campaign.

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The Mayor is now apparently willing to consider Sunday metering. Photo by Bryan Goebel. After months of opposing an extension of parking meter enforcement hours, Mayor Newsom may be finally open to a limited proposal that would help reduce Muni’s staggering budget deficit. The Chronicle’s Heather Knight  and The Appeal’s Chris Roberts report that Newsom […]