SFMTA Abandons Parking Meter Plans in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill

The SFMTA has given up on its neighborhood-scale plans to install parking meters in the Dogpatch and Portrero Hill, while parking meter approvals in the northeast Mission move forward at a snail’s pace. After two years of tangling with the city, the defenders of dysfunctional free parking have effectively caused a huge setback for progressive transportation policy — meaning more traffic and slower transit in the future. Hooray for San Francisco.

Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick
Potrero Hill and Dogpatch will continue to be saddled with car traffic circling for free parking spots for an indefinite period of time. Photo: Aaron Bialick

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told the Potrero View this month, “Any parking changes in the [Portero and Dogpatch] area are likely to be ‘small in scope and iterative, with the goal of addressing parking on the busiest of commercial blocks, where customers are currently having a challenging time finding parking spaces. A comprehensive approach is not likely.'”

Rose told Streetsblog that down the road, the SFMTA will try to incorporate comprehensive parking management into longer-term area plans such as its Waterfront Transportation Assessment, a guide for development and transportation planning in areas near Dogpatch and Potrero Hill. “We are taking a step back to better work with the residents and merchants in the area to implement necessary changes,” he said. “While every block will not be considered at once, we do want to implement more efficient strategies that address parking on the busiest of the commercial blocks where customers are currently having a challenging time finding spaces. We received significant feedback requesting that any parking discussions occur in the context of other major transportation and development projects in or near the area.”

As for the parking-crunched northeast Mission, the first of the three neighborhoods where the SFMTA initiated its drawn-out parking outreach, only a small fraction of the planned meters are moving through the approval process — nearly half a year behind the schedule presented at a public meeting in March [PDF]. The initial meters were delayed even further by meter opponents who protested the wrong hearing ordinance.

The baby-steps approach “should help create pockets of availability in some otherwise parked-out areas of the neighborhood, making it easier for visitors, customers, employees, and residents to find spaces,” the SFMTA said in its latest email update on the plan. “Although this approach is a significant reduction in scope from previous parking proposals, it will still help open up some key spaces around the neighborhood. The changes outlined in this approach will give the SFMTA and neighbors the opportunity to see how a few blocks of parking meters and extended [residential parking permit] work and evaluate their effectiveness over time.”

Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City, said the SFMTA shouldn’t have abandoned the neighborhood-scale planning approach in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill, as it “makes a lot of sense.”

“It’s better to implement parking changes — parking meters, or residential permit parking — on the blocks where there is consensus than to do nothing at all,” he said. “However, while an incremental approach may address problems on particular blocks, it may increase parking pressure on the unmanaged blocks nearby.”

In an op-ed in the Bay Guardian this week, Jason Henderson, author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco, lamented city leaders joining “the bandwagon of pandering to motorists,” with a recent Board of Supervisors vote “to block the expansion of parking meters, a proven source of revenue that could help avert future fare hikes or service cuts.”

“It is also a key to managing the public right-of-way as Muni seeks to implement important improvements,” Henderson wrote. “What seems to be happening now is that the supervisors are taking transit riders for granted while pandering to a conservative ideology of unfettered free parking.”

By no means, however, does the anti-meter crowd appear to be pleased with the way SFMTA is scaling back its plans. Free parking activists like Eastern Neighborhoods United Front leader Mari Eliza are still attacking the SFMTA in Potrero Hill. Residents like Eliza want a permit system so they can park for free, and employers want a permit system so their employees can park for free.

This is par for the course. ENUF and its ilk have made it clear that they won’t be satisfied until the SFMTA guarantees they won’t have to pay to park on the street, basically asserting free parking as a fundamental right. The SFMTA’s first move to quell anti-meter sentiment in these neighborhoods was to remove the SFPark brand from the plans, since opponents were attacking the program as a federally-funded imposition. This appears to have only emboldened the opponents of parking reform, however.

Meanwhile, former Potrero Boosters president and supervisor hopeful Tony Kelly continues to promote the idea of exempting car-owning residents from meter payment — an absurd concept that would negate the purpose of metering spaces to ensure turnover. Residents also continue to call for the expansion of the RPP program to limit the number of commuters parking on streets, but it’s up to residents themselves to initiate RPP petitions.

“Conservative ideology holds that the government accommodates unfettered, cheap automobility at all costs,” Henderson wrote. “The impacts on Muni, on pedestrians, on bicyclists, and on the planetary environment are secondary to free parking. But progressives are becoming increasingly disoriented on this issue. While they decry parking meters, they haven’t offered a way to better manage streets so that we can improve Muni, bicycling, and walking.”

  • Tony Kelly

    That would totally count, murphs – but there has been zero indication from MTA that that would happen.

  • Jake Wegmann

    I think that would be good policy but probably not good politics. I’m just going to take a wild guess that the people most vociferously opposing metering don’t view Muni service in the area as something that’s relevant to them.

  • David D.

    This article has a fatal flaw: It equates parking meters with progressive transportation policy. One does not necessarily beget the other. In fact, installing parking meters willy-nilly does absolutely nothing to improve transportation but can have detrimental effects to adjacent land users.

    Can parking meters be an integral part of a comprehensive strategy to improve transportation? Absolutely. Does simply installing a set of parking meters solve everyone’s problems? Absolutely not. In fact, parking meters are absolutely useless if useful alternatives to private automobiles are not available. Where is the improved Muni service, bike sharing, and car sharing? Without those things, the people of Potrero Hill and Dogpatch are not going to give up their cars.

  • murphstahoe

    Without those things, the people of Potrero Hill and Dogpatch are not going to give up their cars.

    Does this imply that with those things – the people of Potrero Hill and Dogpatch are going to give up their cars? If not, you are simply throwing out a logical fallacy.

  • gb52

    Go Fish.. If the streets weren’t clogged with traffic and double parked vehicles, MUNI would benefit tremendously! I mean really; aside from breakdowns, the biggest cause for delay is TRAFFIC, and because of traffic, traffic lights! It all works together!

  • DanM

    what missing for me in all this is an honest assessment of the economic impacts of unavailable street parking in Showplace Square & Dogpatch. What I see is a simple tradeoff that prioritizes free unmanaged (all day) vehicle storage (largely for commuters) vs parking management programs designed to provide available parking to support neighborhood small businesses that rely on prospective customers being able to park. It basically goes to the question of what kind of neighborhood do we want? The status quo or one populated by a variety of small businesses that cater to residents, daytime workers and visitors?

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