SFMTA Board Urges Board of Supervisors to Put Revenue Measure on Ballot

IMG_1248.jpgPhoto: Myleen Hollero/Orange Photography

For the first time in its 10 year history, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board is officially pushing for a ballot measure that could bring a revenue infusion to Muni -- to the tune of over $16 million annually in the form of a 10-percent increase to the commercial off-street parking tax.

By a 4-1 vote, the agency's directors approved a motion today urging the Board of Supervisors to put such a measure on the November ballot, and explore the possibility of an increase in the vehicle license fee, if state law changes to allow such an increase. In going through the supervisors instead of putting the measure on the ballot directly, the SFMTA will reduce its cut of any new revenue, but will also face a much less daunting political scenario, since the measure will require simple majority voter approval instead of the two-thirds supermajority of voters required for SFMTA-dedicated measures.

While a 10-percent increase in the commercial off-street parking tax is projected to bring in a total of $20.4 million annually to the city, the SFMTA currently gets 80 percent of such tax receipts, meaning the increase would net the agency about $16 million of that. That's not a huge sum compared to the agency's $700 million annual budget, but it could, for instance, help the agency avoid future Muni service cuts or even increase Muni service, since each five percent of Muni service costs the agency about $14 to $15 million annually.

"[The SFMTA Citizens' Advisory Council] has wisely suggested there be a nexus between whatever we put on there and transportation," said SFMTA Board Chairman Tom Nolan, who pointed to the commercial off-street parking tax and the vehicle license fee as the two revenue options that best match that description.

The one director who voted against the resolution, Malcolm Heinicke, said he wanted to see more analysis of a commercial off-street parking tax increase's impact on businesses.

Tim Leonoudakis, Chief Executive Officer of City Park, said parking operators would oppose the measure. "It's punitive, it discriminates," he said. Instead, Leonoudakis suggested looking to demand-based on-street parking models for revenue.

Nolan called the SFMTA Board's vote an "advisory" recommendation to the supervisors. "My intent is it would go to Board of Supervisors with a strong recommendation that they support it," he said of the commercial off-street parking tax increase. Nolan called the SFMTA Board's vote on supporting the revenue measures "a historic moment."

"I think we're exercising our responsibility put forward in Prop. A to put a ballot measure in front of people," said Nolan.

If the Board of Supervisors accepts the SFMTA Board's "advisory" resolution on the commercial off-street parking tax increase, it has until June 8 to introduce a motion in support of putting it on the November ballot.

If they don't bite, Nolan said the SFMTA Board isn't likely to try to put the measure on the ballot itself. "I don't think we can get two-thirds" of the vote, he said.

Fell St. Arco Station Treatment Approved

The SFMTA Board also approved a temporary solution for the hazardous situation at the Arco Station at Fell and Divisadero Streets, where long queues of drivers waiting to get cheap gas often obstructs the bike lane on Fell.

As we reported in April, SFMTA traffic engineers decided to convert the two parking spaces closest to the station from residential parking to a 24-hour tow-away zone. The next four spaces to the east will be a 7 a.m.-7 p.m. tow away zone, reverting to residential parking at overnight. A green bike lane may go in eventually once the city finishes collecting data and testing different options to improve the queuing situation.

"We're excited to see the city moving forward with these changes, which are important first steps to fixing this dangerous situation on busy Fell Street," said SFBC's Marc Caswell. "The green pavement is a bold treatment that could help ensure that people walking and biking have a safe path of travel."