In a trailblazing move that advances sustainable transportation policy in San Francisco, Supervisor Mark Farrell successfully changed an outdated and mostly unknown law that prohibited San Franciscans from using their residential garages to store anything besides automobiles.
That’s right — until now, an archaic law in the city’s Housing Code required that garages be used solely for car storage. Of course, this law has never been known to have a noticeable impact on storage habits — or known of much at all, for that matter. But Farrell heard from attorney Gary Rabkin, who said a landlord was “giving grief” to a friend about storing her bike in her garage, apparently citing the Housing Code.
“We all know we use our personal garages for much more than just parking our cars, if we even have one,” Farrell said at a recent committee hearing. “I know I have more strollers and bouncy houses than I can seem to care about in my own garage.”
Rabkin “felt it was discriminatory against bicyclists, and didn’t make sense in a city that’s trying to encourage alternative forms of transportation,” Farrell said with a grin. “Obviously, I agreed, and acted by introducing this law.”
The SF Chronicle first reported on Farrell’s endeavor in January, which is part of his larger campaign to “abolish ridiculous laws.” The effort appears driven less by Farrell’s passion to reform transportation policy and re-purpose car space for more efficient uses, and more by a general desire to bring city codes up to date. This forgotten law happened to be brought to his attention.
There are certainly other outdated parking policies, with far greater impact, that Farrell and other leaders at City Hall could get on board with. Take, for instance, the elimination of parking minimums citywide, so that unwanted and unused garages and don’t get built in the first place — freeing up space to house people, instead of bouncy houses. Or take parking metering on Sundays and evenings, which would drastically reduce the amount of time drivers circle around to find a parking spot on the street.