At Car-Free Marina Path Meeting, Parking-First Boaters Balanced by Sanity

Image: DPW

Update 12/19: DPW now has an online survey you can take about removing parking on the Marina path.

Marina boat owners riled by the prospect of removing underused car parking from the Marina Boulevard bicycle and pedestrian path got a bit of a reality check at a meeting last week. Some neighbors in attendance made the case for moving the parking, and planners presented some enlightening data about the path’s use.

Unlike the first meeting, the open house format didn’t lend itself to loud rants from boat owners in defense of their entitlement to car storage on the path. In the open Q-and-A session of the previous meeting, attended by about a dozen people who mostly appeared to be boat slip lessees, one man argued that ”the bicyclists are out for whatever they can get” and that “the marinas on the east coast, where I also live, have adequate parking.” One woman asked whether or not parking was open space.

At the latest meeting, I did get into a discussion with someone who had a more reasonable defense of using the path for parking. He made the case that boat slip renters are entitled to the parking on the path as part of their contracts, and that the stretch in question, between Baker and Scott Streets, wasn’t a destination worth improving.

But the 57 parking spaces — the only ones directly on the 500-mile Bay Trail — just aren’t essential. They sit adjacent to just 91 of the 350-some-odd total slips in the Marina basin, and occupancy ranges between 40 and 68 percent, according to city counts done throughout 2011. And yet a quarter of the path is devoted to auto storage, while another quarter is deemed a “shared” driving lane, which undermines any sense of safety and comfort for people walking and biking — who comprise 98 percent of the users on this segment of the path.

The Marina path as it exists today. Photo: DPW

“Parking is not the highest and best use of this space,” said Maureen Gaffney, Bay Trail planner for the Association of Bay Area Governments. Gaffney said she was encouraged to see a broader representation of residents at the meeting, along with more comprehensive data and options for parking removal.

“I understand the concerns of the boat owners,” said Marina resident Bruce Halperin, “but I think this is some of the most scenic and expensive real estate in the city, and a substantial 40 or 50 percent of that space shouldn’t be used for private car storage.”

Of the several options presented by DPW staff, only one, Option 2B, would completely eliminate car access on the path, while others would remove some spaces, but still allow driving. Each option would move some or all of the 15 spots reserved for slip permit holders by converting existing public parking spaces in the adjacent lots.

“We want to enhance the experience of people using the Bay Trail in this area,” said DPW planner Cristina Calderón Olea. A goal of the project is “to provide uninterrupted access and views of the Bay along the waterfront. This is an urban waterfront — it’s not the middle of nowhere.”

Under DPW’s proposals, permitted parking spaces would be moved to other existing lots nearby by converting public parking spaces. Image: DPW

One proposal presented but “not recommended” by DPW is to move the parking lane toward the roadside edge of the pathway with a “rolled curb” that motorists can drive up on to. Aside from the fact that the path would still not be entirely devoted to non-motorized uses like the rest of it, the rails underneath the pavement there are deemed historic, making curb re-construction difficult, DPW says. Meanwhile, room would still be required to safely open car doors on either side.

Halperin said he’d favor an option not presented — re-striping Marina Boulevard to remove a traffic lane and make room for a parking lane on the roadway, where bike lanes were previously planned, but never implemented because “we hadn’t gotten full support,” according to Olea. The idea hasn’t been studied yet, but could be considered, she said.

The next community meeting on the project is expected to be held in March. See more on the parking removal options in this PDF.