Want More Parking in SF? Be Careful What You Wish For

Why shouldn’t SF build a parking garage next to the Painted Ladies? Image: Tony Wessling/The Upright Biker

The backers of Prop L think San Francisco can “restore balance” to its transportation system by, for example, building more parking garages.

So what would SF’s neighborhoods look like, if only they dedicated more real estate to hulking monoliths of automobile storage? Tony Wessling used his photoshop skills to simulate that reality, and posted the “frightening yet amusing” renderings on his blog, The Upright Biker.

The thinking entrenched among the pro-parking garage set apparently goes like this: Just replace some of SF’s prime real estate with more concrete fortresses, and SF’s parking problems will go away. SF doesn’t need that space now being used for housing, businesses, or any of those other more productive uses that actually make cities worth living in — so just replace those with parking garages.

Frighteningly indeed, some potentially influential, car-obsessed people in SF have espoused this idea, such as a recent Small Business Commission president. The Chamber of Commerce has also endorsed Prop L.

Never mind that building a parking garage in SF is currently estimated to cost $22,096 per space [PDF]. Never mind that existing parking garages are heavily underutilized — occupancy at public garages peaks at about 70 percent on average, for about one hour on weekdays [PDF]. (Imagine if more than 30 percent of the city’s apartments were empty.) Never mind that San Francisco has a severe housing shortage, and that building parking both increases the cost of housing and prevents more from being built. And never mind that parking garages only induce more driving and create gridlock on the streets below.

No one has conveyed the idea quite as well as Allan Jacobs, the former director of the SF Planning Department and professor emeritus of city planning at UC Berkeley. We have to pull his quote once again:

No great city has ever been known for its abundant supply of parking.

See Wessling’s visualizations of how would parking garages would fit right in in the Castro and North Beach after the jump.

The Castro Theater need not lack for convenient parking. Image: Tony Wessling/The Upright Biker

New garages might open up some space along North Beach’s quaint streets, but they might be so quaint afterwards. Image: Tony Wessling/The Upright Biker