Mayor’s Office to MTA Directors: Back Off on Parking Meters

Bruce_Oka.jpgBruce Oka vows to remain firm on parking meter extensions. Photo by Michael Rhodes.

It’s no secret who controls the MTA budget, and the pared down solutions that wind up on the table to solve the agency’s worsening deficit, so it comes as no surprise what happened yesterday at City Hall in Room 200 when the Mayor’s office called in three members of the MTA Board of Directors who so boldly expressed an interest in extending parking meter hours at their last meeting. Directors Jerry Lee, Cameron Beach and Bruce Oka were apparently told to back off. At least one of them, however, is bucking the Mayor’s wishes.

"I don’t respond well to threats," said Director Oka, who wouldn’t reveal the exact details of his discussion with the Mayor’s chief of staff, Steve Kawa, but confirmed the meetings. "Before yesterday, he and I got along quite congenially."

"I don’t know if you’ve heard this about the Mayor’s office, but they tend to be a little aggressive when they want people to be in line with the Mayor. Now, I know I should be a good soldier and go along, but I’m not going to do that."

The defiant Oka, who, along with the rest of the MTA Board, is appointed by the Mayor, said he plans to press ahead with demands to extend parking meter hours in San Francisco to help Muni close its $16.9 million deficit now and in future years despite the Mayor’s persistent opposition.

"Unlike me, the others on the Board need to keep their jobs. To be honest, if I lost this job I have other things to do. But I’m not going to let us stick it to the transit rider. The transit rider pays four times more than the automobile driver, and they don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. We’ve raised our fares a lot compared to what we’ve done to parking meters, parking garages, and the like."

Oka, who spends a lot time riding Muni, and believes private auto use is a privilege and not a right, said Muni riders are just not getting their $2 worth. "If you’re going to put $2 in the fare box, you better get clean buses, you better get buses that are on time, and you better get operators who don’t give you attitude."

And given the draconian proposal to slash Muni service by 10 percent, why doesn’t the Mayor want to budge on this one, and potentially pull in an estimated $9 million a year by extending parking meter hours?

"I know why the Mayor is so adamantly opposed to it, and he’s afraid he’s going to lose the business community. He’s afraid he’s going to lose business and that’s the whole thing," said Oka. Nevermind the "pathbreaking" study the MTA did that predicted businesses would see a higher turnaround, or that most people in San Francisco don’t drive to shop.

The latest Muni budget document released today does not include extended parking meter hours as a solution, despite MTA Chief Nat Ford’s promise to Streetsblog at the last meeting that he would put it back on the table because Oka, Beach and Lee had asked for it. We can only assume Ford was told not to do that by the Mayor’s office.

Beach and Lee did not return phone calls seeking comment. Neither did the Mayor’s press office.

  • Props to Bruce for hanging strong. Lets hope the rest of the board follows suit.

  • Nick J

    Never give up, never surrender! Go get em Bruce!!!

  • Go Bruce. And the “Mayor” can go f*ck himself. What a douchey little jerk.

  • soylatte

    Oka for Mayor!

  • Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!

    I’m with Greg. Next time someone sees Newsom, he has to be told that parking meters have to enter the equation at some point.

  • Nick

    The Mayor must recognize that “sticking it to auto drivers” is not good policy considering the city already penalizes motorists a good deal already. Ask any motorist and they will tell you it is not easy, cheap, or convenient to drive in the city.

    There is no law that says that the amount you pay to travel has to be commesurate to the damage it causes to the community.

    MUNI has to find a long-term way to become fast, safe, and affordable. I think most riders will settle for at least one of these.

  • Virginia Lee

    Hang tough Bruce! Don’t be a toady like the rest of the board members.

  • AP

    Bruce, we stand behind you!

  • Nick, you confuse me. Expand on that. Because what you have written isn’t true. It only costs $76/YEAR for a residential parking permit. How is that not cheap? Maybe it isn’t easy, but it is easier then waiting and waiting and waiting for a bus that may never come – and when it does, it’s packed to the gills.

    And yes, there is no law saying travel should include damage to the environment/community in its cost, but there should be one.

  • Taxes and fees should penalize things that we want to discourage, like car driving, and reward things we want to encourage, like taking public transportation.

  • Nick

    I guess I meant to say motorists incur a high “cumulative cost” to drive in the city. In addition to the fees the City imposes upon them, they have to pay for insurance, gasoline, emergency and preventative repairs. Then vehcile registraion, smog fees, parking permits, tickets, and finally never ending curbside meters fees.

    My point being: if the city imposes additional marginal fees for an act as symbolic of government graft as parking meters fees, then there will be a popular backlash against the current adminsistration. It’s the last straw for may people before they start seriously considering a recall.

    How about a citywide gas tax as a source of equitable and stable funding for transit operations?

  • Diane

    Nick, it’s actually pretty easy to get to most places in the city on Muni. I own a car, and pay all of the expenses that you mention. But when I go to an area of town that Muni serves well (like downtown, or most of the “shopping” streets), I take the bus, thus avoiding the hassle and expense of finding a parking space and then having to pay for a garage or feed a meter. I think that we SHOULD have to pay more money if we choose to drive (especially alone) instead of using public transit.

  • Robo

    How much does it cost to put in a garage, and a curb cut? The city practically gives away the street space when someone removes parking to install a driveway. The city should consider the true value of a parking space: in most neighborhoods $200/mo X 12 = $2400/yr, X, say, 30 years (the life of the average loan) = $72,000. That should be the price for a permit to remove a public parking space to install a curb cut and a garage. That could go far to closing the gap, and also dissuade homeowners from butchering the fronts of their houses.

  • Sean

    Nick,

    Those “cumulative” costs are a factor for drivers to consider when opting to continue to use their vehicles given that there are other options (although those are getting progressively worst by the month). If you find driving too expensive, then quit driving.

    The problem with a gas tax is that it unfairly (assuming for a moment that the environment is not the -only- reason to encourage transit use) penalizes those drivers with less efficient cars. Lack of space is the biggest problem, and it doesn’t really matter if you get 5 or 50 mpg, your car still takes up roughly the same amount of valuable space.

  • I just want to say, in response to Nick, that I own a car in the city and I find living and parking here to be incredibly inexpensive. I don’t own a garage and I park on the street. The real estate value of my parking space alone is far more than the paltry amount of money I pay for a yearly permit. Just about the only thing that actually costs me real money in terms of parking here is paying my street sweeping fines, and those are 100% preventable.

    I’d gladly pay a reasonable amount of money for my parking permit in exchange for decent MUNI service. Or, rather, if we had decent MUNI service I’d probably not feel the need to own a car in the city.

  • I should add that Bruce seems like an awesome guy who takes the responsibilities of his job seriously. Any suggests on how to help him when/if Gavin tries to bully him or push him out of his office?

  • Sue

    Bruce Oka rocks! We should all turn out to support him at the SFMTA meetings, when we can.

  • Stick to your guns, Bruce!

  • bs

    Way to go Bruce! If Newsom does fire you (or even if he doesn’t), I suggest you run for mayor!

    As for Newsom, I will NEVER vote for him again if he ever runs for any office. Nor do I plan on visiting any restaurants, wineries or whatever businesses he owns. I hope his people tell him how much his stance is costing him.

  • James Chionsini

    Thank you Bruce. We need more directors like you.

  • Laura

    Keep it strong, Bruce!

    Bullying and silencing is no way to “improve” any scenario.

    Large investor political funding should be abolished. Cronyism is moneyism.

    >> MAKE SURE TO VOICE YOURSELF, REGARDING FARE HIKES!!

    sfmtabudget@sfmta.com
    http://www.sfbike.org/transit
    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/home/sfmta.php > Service Charge Feedback. Or call 311. (The process is a bit of a pain in the ass, but 311 is super serious about their claims / feedback.)
    gavin.newsom@sfgov.org — Mr. Newsom, himself.

    We, voices and voters, make a difference en masse!