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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 Frida [2]y [2], 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 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] 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 [6] 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 [7]-- 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.