Sunday Meter Repeal Needs No CEQA Review, Say SFMTA and Planning Dept.

An appeal claiming that the repeal of Sunday parking meters is an action that requires environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act is baseless, according to responses issued by the SFMTA and Planning Department this week.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The appeal, filed by Livable City and the SF Transit Riders Union, is set for a hearing and vote at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The board will not vote not on the merits of running parking meters on Sundays. Instead, the board will vote on whether CEQA would require an environmental impact report for the SFMTA’s new budget, which directs the agency to stop charging for meters on Sundays. The supervisors’ decision is expected to be largely informed by the recommendations of the SFMTA and the Planning Department.

The policy change is expected to remove $11 million per year in transit funding, as well as double the average time that drivers take to find commercial parking spaces on Sundays, according to an SFMTA study [PDF] of the benefits that Sunday meters garnered in their first year. The appellants argue that impacts like increased traffic congestion and pollution, reduced parking turnover for businesses, and lost transit funding warrant an EIR.

“Our appeal insists that CEQA doesn’t allow an exemption for lowering of parking fees, when such an action would clearly impact the environment,” said Mario Tanev of SFTRU.

But the SFMTA maintains that the act of removing fees (e.g., Sunday meter fees) fits within a CEQA exemption meant to allow for speedy municipal budget balancing. The agency argued in its memo [PDF] that the loss of $11 million is not of significant impact because Muni fares, parking ticket fines, and parking permit fees for construction contractors were increased to make up for it:

Even though the SFMTA’s decision to eliminate Sunday parking meter enforcement may have a budgetary impact through the loss of some parking meter citation fines and fees, the SFMTA Budget raises many other rates, fees, and charges which more than offsets the reduction in revenue from operating parking meters on Sundays.

“SFMTA’s crass excuse is that because they also raised the Fast Pass and Muni cash fare, it all balances out,” said Tanev. “It balances out on the back of riders, by their own admission.” Over the next two years, monthly Fast Passes will get nine percent more expensive, while downtown parking fines will increase five percent and annual contractor parking permits will increase by two percent.

The Planning Department, meanwhile, declared that the “SFMTA is not required to analyze the potential impacts to traffic and air quality which are concerns raised by the appellants” because the budget is “statutorily exempt under CEQA,” and thus “no further environmental review is required, regardless of the possibility of environmental impacts.”

The SFMTA’s study “does not constitute substantial evidence of any significant adverse impact on the environment,” the Planning Department’s environmental review officer, Sarah Jones, wrote in a memo [PDF]. “Further, this study is not an environmental review document prepared for the purpose of studying the environmental effects of eliminating parking meter enforcement on Sundays.”

“Even if the environmental impacts of eliminating parking meter enforcement on Sundays were required to be evaluated under CEQA, eliminating Sunday parking meter enforcement is unlikely to have significant environmental impacts,” Jones wrote. “The SFMTA’s decision not to collect parking meter fees on Sundays does not result in any direct physical change in the environment. Any indirect impacts would be speculative and varied; for example, with less parking turnover and less availability, some individuals might choose to avoid automobile use.”

At a forum on transportation issues hosted by the SF Bay Guardian yesterday, Supervisor Scott Wiener was asked for his stance on the appeal. Although he said he was “critical” of the Sunday meter removal for taking funds from Muni and reducing parking turnover, the Board of Supervisors would only “make a decision on whether CEQA was violated, as we do with every CEQA appeal.”

Notably, the board rejected a CEQA appeal in April which claimed that the SFMTA’s pilot program to test private shuttle regulations required a review.

  • murphstahoe

    But the SFMTA maintains that the act of removing fees (e.g., Sunday meter fees) fits within a CEQA exemption meant to allow for speedy municipal budget balancing.

    Typically that is something used as an emergency to *increase* revenue, not cut it. Sheesh.

  • murphstahoe

    Although he said he was “critical” of the Sunday meter removal for taking funds from Muni and reducing parking turnover

    Reject the budget on policy grounds. QED

  • Bing Wu

    “$11 million is not of significant impact”… IIRC that’s more $ than the SFMTA spends on ALL bike infrastructure in a year, hence not that insignificant!

  • murphstahoe

    Also, more than the Free MUNI for low income youth cost. If you recall the debate about that issue, as far as Sean Elsbernd was concerned, that amount of money was going to bankrupt MUNI.

  • sebra leaves

    Your information on what the SFMTA spends on bike infrastructure not based on facts. If you read the agenda for next week’s Supervisor Meeting on Tuesday, where this matter will be heard, you will find that a lot more than $11 million is being granted by the state for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Project. (See agenda item # 19 – 140564 – Accept and Expend Grant – State Transportation
    Development Act, Article 3 – Pedestrian and Bicycle Project – $881,721).

  • murphstahoe

    State grant for bicycle infrastructure. Doesn’t count. Unless we are going to start pointing at you and counting the billion plus Doyle Drive… I think we win that argument.

  • gb52

    This is ridiculous! This is not a CEQA action, just like how the TEP should not need a multi-year study to optimize transit lines. BUT just based on merits, Sunday metering is warranted, and IT WORKS! Businesses agree, patrons agree, and there is nothing that says you have to drive and park at a meter. Keep the rates congestion priced and set it up to be effective during events, and utilize parking garages and lots. Maybe even run a shuttle from a garage to an event. We have options out there.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Don’t engage her. @sebraleaves:disqus has repeatedly proven that she’ll make up whatever “facts” she think will support her cause.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Maybe repealing meters without an environmental report is a way to buy drivers votes for the Muni funding measures this fall.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Is that a solid fact I can quote?

    Something else to consider is the four years during the injunction under which the SFMTA made no bike infrastructure projects (one exception being the bike signal at Fell and Masonic)

  • theqin

    Ed Lee stopped supporting that measure and it’s no longer on the ballot, so we got tricked.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Not everyone got tricked. I wasn’t stupid enough to vote for him in the first place.

  • Jamison Wieser

    One of the reasons for the TEP taking so long was putting it on hold in 2010 in order to conduct an environmental review for the 10% service and staff cuts in 2010.

    It was a slight tweak on the standard SFMTA practice of making Muni service worse by cutting funding; instead putting money into purposefully making Muni service worse.

  • Bing Wu

    This is the SFMTA’s budget proposal for 2013 and 2014:

    https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/BudgetandFinanceMTABudgetMay2012.pdf

    Scroll to page 17. They planned for $2.5M in 2013 and $3.3M in 2014 for bike infrastructure. Basically if they earmarked Sunday meter revenue for bike infrastructure we could have 3-4x as many projects a year.

  • J

    Seriously??? So let me get this straight: the bike master plan had to go through an environmental review before a single bike lane, sharrow, or bike rack could be installed, but removing parking meters citywide for 52 days of the year requires no review? What weird alternative universe do we live in?

    Shame on the Planning department and SFMTA. This is a backwards policy move and EVERYONE knows it.

  • coolbabybookworm

    Bad laws cannot stop bad policy.

    I’d like to know what Brinkman and Ramos think about Sunday meters now that they aren’t getting the VLF on the ballot. Maybe they think the GO bonds alone are worth the parking disfunction and loss of sustained revenue from reversing Sunday meters and better parking policy in general.

  • sparky

    Works? Based upon – 47 million in Ticks? It favors very large business like Trader Joes and Safeway (that have parking) and hurts small bizes that lose customers to Daly City where, like the other 99% of the country, don’t ticket people on Sunday.

    Further, ride along south of market where 40% of metered spaces are not used on the weekend and tell me this “works” (translation – it works for you).

    I rarely go near my car on the weekend, greatly perfering to walk or ride. But this law was always about $$ not good policy..

  • Dark Soul

    Bring back Sunday meters than get more cars roaming around causing more negtive impacts….slowing muni….

    Leave it as no meters than we okay.