Will SFMTA’s Board Buck Mayor Lee, Keep Sunday Parking Meters?

It’s hard to believe that San Francisco officials are seriously considering repealing Sunday parking metering, and thus abandoning the entire basis of its lauded parking management program.

SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

But next month, the SFMTA Board of Directors could send us back to 1947 — the last time parking meter hours were changed, before they were updated last year — and undo a simple move that has both cut traffic and boosted commerce by increasing turnover. According to the SFMTA’s own report, Sunday metering has cut the time drivers take to find a parking spot in half.

Apparently, the backwards proposal is on the table because Mayor Ed Lee has made a poorly-calculated bid to win the political support of church leaders, who bristle at the idea of having their congregants pay for on-street car storage and worry about losing double parking privileges. As we recently reported, there’s no evidence to back up Mayor Lee’s claims that San Franciscans have revolted against Sunday meters, but he’s pushing the SFMTA Board for repeal anyways.

The mayor wields power over SFMTA’s board, since he appoints all of its members. Yet when the board considers the agency’s two-year budget at meetings starting tomorrow, its members can stand up to Lee’s political antics. There’s no need to make our streets more dangerous and hurt local businesses, just to try and please an influential group with an irrational policy stance.

Mayor Lee has continued to ignore the SFMTA’s report about Sunday meters, which estimates that removing them would:

  • Double the average time drivers take to find a commercial parking spot on Sundays.
  • Reduce turnover by at least 20 percent, meaning that fewer customers can park in each space.
  • Cut the availability of commercial parking during Sunday business hours in half.
  • Reduce occupancy of underutilized parking garages on Sundays by 13 percent.

The hypocrisy in all this is painfully glaring. We’ve heard the benefits of metering high-demand parking spots espoused by Mayor Lee and SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan, who has said he supports the mayor’s push “to make living in San Francisco more affordable.”

Just listen to Nolan and Lee preach the gospel of demand-based parking pricing in praising SFpark, which works on the same principle as Sunday metering:

  • In 2009, Nolan told Streetsblog he’s a fan of UCLA Professor Donald Shoup’s book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” and added: “I say charging for parking during weekday nights, [and] as far as I’m concerned on Sunday as well, is a small price to pay for the overall good of the entire city.”
  • In February 2012, Mayor Lee defended against opposition to SFpark’s expansion into the northeast Mission, Dogpatch, and Potrero Hill neighborhooods: “To really thrive and generate job growth, we need businesses in those areas that need great access. It needs to be easy for people to get there, as well as for goods to be delivered… For those who have to drive to make pickups and deliveries, it can be hard to find a space during the day.”
  • Back in 2011, early in Lee’s tenure, the mayor lauded SFpark’s launch: “How many of you have been dumb in your past? How many you have acted dumb? I know I have. You know, when you’re driving around looking for a parking space and you’re double parking and you’re running around trying to see whether something will open, you’re dumb.”

Dumb, indeed. But we know that the SFMTA Board is smarter than that. Its members approved Sunday parking metering in 2012, after an extensive public process, because they knew that free parking hurts SF. In fact, Chicago’s mayor has already backtracked on a similar move and reinstated Sunday meters, following an outcry from neighborhood businesses. Unlike in 1947, in 2014 most businesses are now open on Sundays, and it doesn’t make any sense to bring back a policy crafted in a vastly different era.

We don’t have explain the rationale any further. Let’s leave that to Nolan, speaking at the SFpark launch press conference in 2011: “Any casual observer can notice any day the difficulty caused in the city by people circling, trying to find a place to park. The results are four-fold: An endless hunt for parking spaces that blocks and slows down transit, puts pedestrians at risk, and means even more pollution.”

  • bobster1985

    Let’s hope the SFMTA grows a pair and keeps Sunday metering. Mayor Lee is way off-base on this one.

  • gb52

    As unpopular as this sounds, let DEMAND determine when meters are needed and let the market determine the price. It’s not hard to support Sunday metering when (after vehemently opposing it) many merchants are in agreement that metering helps! Sure, no one likes to pay for meters and everyone loves to immediately find a space, but there is only so much that can be done. (no more subsidized free parking).

    Meanwhile meter hours still end too early as they really should run through the 8pm hour to match commercial hours on weeknights but only with the provision that it is SFpark, with demand based pricing, and extended hours (no more interrupted meals, no more excuses)

  • Mario Tanev

    Here’s a compromise: repeal Sunday meters near churches (a small part of parking) and instead make the other meters start at 9 am like God intended (since the 12 pm start was done to appease churches). The blocks near churches will get filled up by the free overnight parkers and the church people will ask for metered parking back.

    My expectation is that they will allow for a two tier Sunday parking policy where parking meters don’t apply in some low demand areas to appease some. Or alternatively they will follow the Chicago example and keep parking meters in areas where businesses ask for them.

  • Rampant double parking near churches is a tradition. It could continue (without penalty) whether or not Sunday meters are in effect. So I don’t see a problem!

  • If we were worried about demand, I doubt we’d be using so much public space for the minority of people who drive in this city.

  • Kevin J.

    Double parking is bad enough, but religious parking zealotry doesn’t stop there. I like leaving notes for the especially egregious violations:

    “What would you god think of you parking in a crosswalk?”, “Isn’t there a commandment against blocking thy neighbors’ driveway?”

  • Greg

    I heard a podcast of a recent interview of Mayor Lee at the Commonwealth Club recently and he pretty clearly spelled it out that his position against Sunday meters is solely to get enough voters for a Fall ballot measure for another many million dollars for SF city streets/road repair. His fear is that Sunday metering before this ballot measure would anger enough voters that his ask for another few hundred million for road repair (after the last recent bond measure for this was passed with no noticeable improvement to our horrible roads) would fail. The implication is that once this measure is passed he will go back to supporting Sunday meters. That was my read of his message. Of course what actually should be done is Sunday metering enacted now and SF pay for fixing the roads out of its operating budget. But SF is SF.

  • Bob Anderson is my uncle

    Can you link to the podcast?

  • lasttoknow

    How about the notion that one day a week, we the citizens should be free of the yoke of the burden of government. Sunday parking meters are a stick in the eye of the basic notion of fairness. Perhaps one day government can make the case that they are spending our tax money in a reasonable and rational fashion. The plain and obvious fact is they are not. There is so much pork in the local budget if we, the citizens, even had the foggiest idea of how much money gets wasted, it would make our heads explode. To you knee jerk snobs think it is REASONABLE to pay 4.25 an hour to park on the street in the Mission on Sunday, then take my quarter and you know where to shove it, and that will get you all of 3 minutes. I used to do a Sunday Mission run to about 3 different little shops, but it has become so expensive because of the parking nazis, I just take my business else where. And from personal experience the notion that it is easier to park, is a bunch of crap.

    Funny thing is, that it is our tax dollars that paid for the streets. We pay taxes when we buy our cars, we pay money every year to register them and smog them, we pay for insurance and gas and taxes when we buy gas, and somehow it seems fair to charge us to park on the streets we have already paid for? And this so we can pay government employees and consultants six figure salaries a year, with benefit packages unheard of in the “real world”. But most of the people who are in favor of parking meters on Sunday are folks who don’t have cars, probably don’t pay property taxes or income taxes. Everything is just great as long as someone else is paying for it.

    Sunday parking meters have been the biggest government slap in the face to its citizens in a long long time. When did everyone forget that government is supposed to serve the people not the other way around. If Ed Lee runs on a platform of ending Sunday parking I would vote for him even though I don’t care for him or his policies. Down with Sunday Parking, Down with intrusive government. Free the quarter. yes.

  • Dork Dork

    Wow, I’m liking Mayor Lee more and more these days. I bailed on Sun shopping along Chestnut long ago, because of the meter hassles. The Mission and the rest of the City would be such a nicer place with a meter haven for just one day a week.

  • iamjared

    “the SFMTA Board of Directors could send us back to 1947— the last time parking meter hours were changed, before they were updated last year” – so you actually mean back to 2012? What a strange way of writing.

    Believe it or not, I’m on your side, but when you choose your words to make people seem more evil than they are, I don’t think you help the cause. Not even a little.

  • murphstahoe

    I used to do a Sunday Mission run to about 3 different little shops,
    but it has become so expensive because of the parking nazis, I just take
    my business else where.

    Presumably somewhere that the parking is free but you give $4 to the Exxon Nazis.

  • lasttoknow

    Actually about 25% of what I pay for gas also goes to the government, and at least when I give a gas station money I get something in return. Not sure about you, but money I give to the government doesn’t seem to give me personally much, if anything, in return. FYI to travel 2 or 3 miles by car costs me about 35 cents.

  • gneiss

    The taxes you pay on gas and for your vehicle fees do not go towards the road construction and maintenance budget in San Francisco. That money goes to the state, which uses it to pay for state highways and roads and CHP. Property and sales taxes, and whatever revenue SFMTA brings in from fines, parking meter revenue etc instead do. It doesn’t matter how expensive it is to run your car in the city, that’s not what’s paying for roads here, so it’s irrelevant to bring that up as a reason why you shouldn’t have Sunday metering.

    The primary reason to have meters is to control demand for on street parking, which has become increasingly scarce as the population in the city has gone up from 776,000 in 2000 to 837,000 currently. In addition, the habits of people have changed. We drive and shop more on Sundays then in the past, which puts increasing pressure on commercial districts. It’s no surprise that the Camber of Commerce has come out in favor of Sunday metering, as it means more turnover on commercial streets to encourage shopping rather than long term storage.

  • lasttoknow

    If you truly believe this has anything to do with something more then the government trying to raise more revenue I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Simple truth is that the government spends OUR money with reckless abandon, and lines the pockets of over paid government employees, union workers etc. If I had ANY sense that the government was not wasting our money in epic ways, I would have absolutely no resistance to taxes, fees, Sunday parking etc. The truth is they are gauging us silly. Corporations on one side the government on the other. They pay lip service to doing public good, helping the poor etc, but far and away the reason they don’t have enough money is that they are spending it like it is someone else’s money. Oh that’s right it is. As an example they made a big push to raise teachers salaries, but there was no money. So they turned into a parcel tax amendment and made this sad story push on how the money would help new teachers and poor districts. Big Lie. It was an across the board pay hike for all teachers, and did almost nothing to address issues they cried about. And it was set up so that 70% of the city residents didn’t even have to pay for it. My friend a teacher making about 78K a year plus benefits got a 3K raise out of that one. Recently they had an amendment to change the way they collected business tax fees, making is sound like it would be more fair, they neglected to tell everyone that smallest and most vulnerable businesses would have their fees TRIPLED..yes tripled. I think the majority of folks who support all these government imposed fees and taxes, simply are those that are not affected by them. If YOU had something to lose I’m sure your support would be considerably less enthusiastic. Taxes, fees, et al are just GREAT, especially if someone else has to pay them.

  • murphstahoe

    at least when I give a gas station money I get something in return

    I read this as you got to spend 15 minutes on I-280, whereas if you gave $4 to the parking meter you’d get to shop in the Mission. If you consider that “getting something in return” your utility function is badly broken.

  • gneiss

    Actually, I own my home in the city and am acutely aware of how much in taxes I pay. And I understand how you believe that the city is misusing funds that it raises for various purposes, for I also believe that. However, that’s a totally separate discussion from managing parking demand in a city which has seen a population increase of over 61,000 people in 10 years.

    If you think the Chamber of Commerce is motivated by something else than getting more people into small businesses, then you need to go back to Econ 101 and take that course again. More turnover on city streets = more people visiting shops. Metering is about managing turnover, nothing more. Before you go off on a diatribe about general taxation, remember that this is a site dedicated to streets and streetscapes – not malfeasance in government.

  • lasttoknow

    I don’t see how you can have one discussion without the other. But the bottom line is that parking meters on Sunday is mean spirited. I personally believe that we the citizens should have one day a week, free from government intrusion. It is simply the government acknowledging that it IS a burden, and one day a week was not too much to ask, to leave us the f**K alone.

  • coolbabybookworm

    That’s a great idea. I especially don’t pay for muni on sundays, or any tolls. And don’t get me started on water and the sewer system, I’ll never use those on the sunday. Get these pipes out of my house! No visits to the library and don’t come to me about an emergency, because 9-11 is off limits as well.

  • gneiss

    We pay sales taxes seven days a week. And why Sunday and not Saturday? And why should parking be free and not MUNI? Your argument about ‘getting gov’mint off my back’ has no rational basis if you notice all the other inconsistencies in your argument.

    Sounds like you’re just upset that a perk you’ve enjoyed for years, if not decades is now gone and you’re upset about it. If you were focused on making MUNI free on Sundays as well as parking, then maybe you’d have a better argument. But instead, this is all about you, isn’t it.

  • lasttoknow

    It’s actually become cheaper to go to whole foods, or Safeway, then it is to buy fish or veggies in the Mission on Sunday.

  • lasttoknow

    You are comparing apples and oranges. I’m not complaining about stopping at red lights on sunday. The things you are referring to are all services that you get something in return. Paying to park on a public street is not a service it is a tax. Just like one accepts the fact you don’t get mail on Sunday, its not that it wouldn’t be useful it represents a “day of rest”. Same with Sunday parking, simply a “day of rest” that was taken away.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Paying to store private property is not a tax, especially in areas like commercial districts in which the businesses rely on turnover. This is why meters were first used, to create turnover in high demand areas, and as previously mentioned the chamber of commerce supports Sunday metering for this reason. Sunday is no longer a “day of rest” in the United States, unlike other countries where the majority of businesses are closed on Sunday, businesses are open in the US 7 days a week. We have a parking policy that reflects this.

    If you don’t want to pay the city for parking, you can park in a private garage, or maybe you’d insist that they should provide their services for free?

  • lasttoknow

    Then here is a great idea. Since our bicycles use our roads and side walks, and cause accidents and have even known to kill people, why not regulate and charge fees to the bike riders? I say we license all bikes in SF, that the parking the city provides currently for free on sidewalks should be metered. That should raise a good chunk of change and seems equitable to me. So why is that you wouldn’t support this idea? Perhaps you ride a bike, and have been getting off scott free all these years? Seems like a “perk” to me.

  • lasttoknow

    All I know is that 99.5% of ALL cities seem to be able to do fine without sunday parking, and SF seemed to be doing just great without it for all these years. In every neighborhood where there are businesses there are also residences. For every store there are probably 20 or 30 apartments. Hey you want to support sunday parking that is fine with me, the only thing I ask is if you don’t have a car then perhaps you don’t quite get it. If you do have a car and don’t mind getting reamed by the city, you are entitled to that. But I am certainly entitled to have my opinion about a city that seems to have no limits on their ability to spend and waste money, and therefore are always strained to find new ways to get revenue, rather then fix the underlying problems of government largesse.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Well fortunately for you those other cities are needing population a lot more than SF and SF is getting by just fine with Sunday metering. If you have such problems with SF city government in general, maybe it’s time to try living in the other 99.5% of other cities.

    I have no problem paying to park when I drive. I always know where I am going to park and make sure I have the money for it. What I don’t like is not being able to find parking and that’s why I appreciate the increased turnover from the meters or I park in a garage.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Great idea, we can start that program as soon as cars pay for damage caused by air pollution, collisions, and parking.

  • gneiss

    Actually, based on the city’s own numbers, only 3.5% of trips are done by bicycle and the city spends less than 0.5% of the SFMTA budget on ‘improvements’ to bicycling infrastructure. By some measures, SFMTA spends more on paper and office supplies then then do on bicycle infrastructure.

    But, because such a small percentage of people ride bicycles regularly in the city, licensing cyclists, which, I venture to guess you haven’t figured out how to administer in the first place, won’t raise anything more than symbolic revenue. In fact, it could end up costing more to administer than the amount of revenue it brings in. Then you have to ask yourself – what’s the point?

    Also, last I checked, while there is a parking crunch for cars in commercial districts, that’s not the problem with bicycle parking….

  • Greg

    You can find it here – http://tunein.com/radio/Commonwealth-Club-of-California-p1060/

    It’s the Mayor Ed Lee: What’s Next for SF program

    You have to read between the lines on this when he talks about Sunday meters (which is a small part of the discussion) but this was my take from it.

  • Greg

    Start at 15:50 minute mark if you want to skip to the transportation section he talks about. 17:40 minute mark is specifically about the Sunday meter hint, hint I reference above

  • lasttoknow

    So I see. Everyone that disagrees with you (a clear pillar of wisdom) or takes issue with the way the government acts towards its citizens should just pack up and leave? That is your answer to issues worthy of debate and discussion? I actually like living in SF and will continue to do so, and I also plan to raise my voice in protest to things that I find pig headed and unjust. Clearly you are a much finer human being then I am, with an evolved sense of civic pride and service. Me I’m just a regular guy who calls things the way I see them.

    But quite frankly, I don’t think the problem is me, after all the ENTIRE concept of democracy is the intelligent debate of issues, I think the problem is with people like you, who don’t really seem to question much, but accept whatever BS the wonderful city government throws your way. Just look around genius, and you think the city is doing great, or that our politicians are leaders worthy of our respect and loyalty? Give me a break San Francisco is a bloody mess, and politicians here give lip service to doing good, but almost every single one of them has their eyes on higher office and getting beyond this provincial berg. Don’t you get it? They talk as if they care about issues, when in fact what they care about is getting elected and staying in office until they can work their way up the “largesse ladder”. To stay in office they just have to play to the same old knee jerk BS, that has passed itself of as “progressive politics” for years. What do we have to show for it? A town where the poor and middle class are getting squeezed out, a town where police and firefighter leaders make more money then similar jobs in much bigger cities like LA. Where union bus repair guys walk away with lifetime 150K a year pensions, where home ownership is a lower percentage then ANY city in all of the US, and where money is just flushed down the drain. For example they recently wanted to name SF Airport Harvey Milk Airport, and ill conceived idea from the get go. So when it was clear there was no public support they decided to name a terminal after Milk. So what is the first thing they do? Form a 75K “steering committee” to research which terminal to name after Milk. That’s a lot of damn quarters isn’t it? So no I”m not leaving, and I feel no shame in having a different opinion then you and stating them with passion. Unlike many folks here I am certainly willing to change my opinion when given facts to convince me, I see no real facts here just political talking points.

  • murphstahoe

    “the ENTIRE concept of democracy is the intelligent debate of issues”

    “the citizens should be free of the yoke of the burden of government”
    “a clear pillar of wisdom”
    “pig headed and unjust”
    “Clearly you are a much finer human being then I am”
    “accept whatever BS the wonderful city government throws your way”
    “Just look around genius”
    “same old knee jerk BS”
    “money is just flushed down the drain”

  • lasttoknow

    and your point is? That my opinionated points of view are not a starting points for discussion? Personally I take great offense when someone responds to criticism with the response “if you don’t like it leave town”. Personally I don’t see much original discussion here, just folks who have adopted a point of view, and don’t seem to appreciate there is almost always two sides to an issue. So again, not sure what your point is?

  • coolbabybookworm

    The point is that you take everything personally and provide examples of yourself doing everything you critique.

  • lasttoknow

    What i don’t see here, is anyone arguing the opposing point of view. There is some blind spot here that doesn’t acknowledge that these overblown parking fees, hurt working, poor and older folks. If this was just about turnover of spots, then the fees would not be so horrendous. If you have parking meters the spot “turns over” whether the fee is a dollar per hour or 5 an hour. My basic argument is that the streets are public property that were paid for by the citizens, and created for automobiles and other forms of transportation. The idea that it is just a few people with cars demanding special privileges to park, is, I think, not a fair representation of the facts. In SF more then 75% of homes have automobiles. The streets were built and paid for with tax dollars, specifically for public use of their own autos. By making parking more difficult and expensive, comes out of the notion that cars are bad and public transit is good. Sadly public transit in this town, is plain awful, and the entrenched powers keep it bad and overpriced for what they deliver is not changing any time soon. And taking aim against private autos when there is not really viable alternative for many is, I think, ill conceived.

    I still don’t see any clear proof that sunday parking is anything more then another money grab by the city. And I stick to my original point that it wouldn’t be necessary if the city didn’t waste our money in epic ways. Also from personal experience it is no easier finding a parking spot on Sunday’s to the places I used to shop then it is now. The only difference I see is that the outrageous prices make it not worthwhile to shop at the small places I used.

    I know this site is by and for people who have a different opinion then me. However I think it a bad and dangerous thing, when folks ban together with only one point of view and no dissent. I volunteer to be the dissenting point of view, and have no resistance to whatever criticism comes my way. How about asking working and poor folks what they think about 4.25 an hour parking on Sunday? One of my gripes is that I often see white, privileged kids taking up positions that supposedly help the poor and working class folks, but in fact do no such thing. Don’t get me started on rent control..

  • murphstahoe

    I don’t have a point of view that I am trying to confirm. I seek information and draw conclusions from that.

    Your writing indicates that you have a conclusion and are trying to produce arguments to support that conclusion.

    For example “asking working and poor folks what they think about 4.25 an hour parking on Sunday”. This argument is made up out of thin air because all of the research shows that the majority of SF residents overall, and specifically the poorer amongst us – DO NOT HAVE A CAR TO PARK – no matter what the price. If the working and poor are your concern, you should be campaigning for free MUNI on Sunday, not free meters.

  • lasttoknow

    Actually the statistic shown by this very site is that 69.5% of households in sf own cars. Also I don’t see the connection between muni and the use of public streets. The streets were paid for with tax dollars for citizens, and their cars. Once built cement and blacktop require very little care. On the other hand muni busses need, fuel, drivers, maintenance, some electricity etc. So not sure the comparison is fair. Personally I am for subsidizing almost any public service as long as it includes some kind of means testing.

    Yes I do have a point of view and I am trying to make my case. My point of view is that the city spends too much of our money in a careless fashion. That by and large the ongoing solution always seems to be to find ways to get more money out of the public, but that there is no scrutiny over how the money they already have is spent. As I’ve said before, if someone could make the case that the city was not basically robbing us blind, then I would have no issue at all.

  • murphstahoe

    Once built cement and blacktop require very little care.

    Well then, let’s go get those people who spent 10 billion dollars on just Doyle drive and the bay bridge in the last decade, because they were already built and needed little care.

    Aside from that large scale example, you are pulling that put of your tail. The thinking that roads do not need maintainance is the reason out roads are in such disrepair.

    How the city spends money is orthogonal to how it is collected. My position is that It would be better to cut spending and thus lower MUNI fares than to cut spending and remove Sunday meters

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