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Posts from the "Parking Meters" Category

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MoveOn.org Apologizes for Promotion of “Stop SFMTA” Free Parking Petition

Screenshot from MoveOn.org

An online petition against parking meters in San Francisco has been gathering thousands of signatures ever since it was launched two years ago on MoveOn.org, a website that claims to host petitions that support “progressive” causes. It’s pretty easy to collect signatures from disgruntled drivers who have been stung by parking tickets, and who glance at a petition without being informed about the benefits of demand-based parking pricing. But MoveOn has actually been promoting the petition, helping to get the 4,000-some signatures it has today.

Last week, MoveOn finally sent out an email announcing that its endorsement was a mistake.

“We messed up,” read the subject line of the email posted in a screenshot on Twitter by Roy Mckenzie, editor of the blog The Castro Biscuit. The email was authored by Maria Tchijov, MoveOn’s platform campaign director.

The petition, bluntly titled “Stop SFMTA,” was originally started by the Eastern Neighborhoods United Front to oppose the proposed expansion of SFpark meters into the Dogpatch, Potrero Hill, and northeast Mission neighborhoods. The SFMTA later ended its plans for meters in those neighborhoods, except for the Mission, where plans were first delayed and then watered down. Since then, the petition’s content description has been revised to adapt to the latest fads sweeping the free-parking-for-all crowd. Today, the petition lists its support for Proposition L, crafted by the SF Republican Party and funded by tech billionaire Sean Parker.

At this point, the vague petition is basically an amorphous snowball that’s swept up any and all anger against parking tickets in SF, and ditched any specific goals it originally claimed to have. The target of its anti-SFMTA, anti-meter campaign is routinely moved, with the only apparent end in sight being the enshrinement of free parking (the goal of Prop L).

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SF Will Never Build the Ed Lee Parking Meter Monument

In some parallel universe, San Francisco may replace the Alma Spreckels monument with Mayor Ed Lee on a parking meter. But not in this world. Credit: Aaron Naparstek and Carly Clark

Ed Lee isn’t the first San Francisco mayor to go to bat for free parking. But maybe he’ll be the first to realize that this is no way to leave a lasting legacy — the city will never build a monument to his crusade against parking meters.

The beautiful renderings in this post, depicting a Mayor Lee statue on top of a giant parking meter where the Alma Spreckels’ monument now stands in the middle of Union Square, were created by Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek and visualization wizard Carly Clark.

The idea came to Naparstek as he delved into the current state of sustainable transportation policy in San Francisco, preparing for his keynote speech at the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Golden Wheel Awards earlier this month. After watching New York implement breakthrough after breakthrough under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Naparstek concluded that Mayor Lee’s lack of leadership is one of SF’s great obstacles to creating reliable transit, safe bikeways, safer streets for walking, and attractive places to gather.

By the time he left office, Bloomberg could point to bold measures like the pedestrianization of Times Square and the multi-modal redesign of First and Second Avenues in Manhattan. Ed Lee, meanwhile, can say that he kept parking free on Sundays and threatened elected officials who tried to increase funding for transit and safer streets.

“No 21st century big-city mayor will ever be honored or memorialized for being the guy who preserved cheap, abundant, on-street parking,” said Naparstek. “There is no mayoral legacy to be had.”

Credit: Aaron Naparstek and Carly Clark

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Cars-First “Restore Balance” Measure Funded by Ed Lee Backer Sean Parker

Mayor Ed Lee with Facebook-founding billionaire Sean Parker (right) and Ron Conway (center), both major campaign donors. Photo via The Bay Citizen/Center for Investigative Reporting

Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook and a major contributor to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, has spent $49,000 of his personal fortune to propel a ballot initiative that seeks to enshrine free parking as city policy, according to the SF Chronicle. Parker gave $100,000 to Lee’s mayoral campaign in 2011.

The ballot initiative, which proponents frame as an attempt to “restore balance” to city transportation policy, first surfaced in April. While the measure would be non-binding, if it passes it could further slow much-needed policies to prioritize transit and street safety in San Francisco. One stated goal of the campaign is to kill Sunday parking meters for good. The SFMTA Board of Directors, which is appointed entirely by Mayor Lee, repealed Sunday metering in April, after Lee made unfounded claims about a popular revolt against the policy.

Parker on the cover of Forbes.

Several veteran opponents of transportation reform in San Francisco are aligned with the ballot initiative. And, in addition to the backing from Parker, another $10,000 for the measure reportedly came from the San Francisco Republican Party.

Parker’s funding for the ballot initiative apparently helped pay petitioners to get out and collect the 17,500 signatures submitted last week to place the measure on the ballot. Two Streetsblog readers reported being approached in Safeway parking lots by petitioners who falsely claimed that the SFMTA had not repealed Sunday parking meters. A flyer distributed for the campaign [PDF] claims the measure calls for “restoring free parking at meters on Sundays, holidays and evenings.” Campaign proponent and previous Republican Assembly hopeful Jason Clark told SFist that the allegations were “hearsay,” but that the non-binding resolution would “ensure [SFMTA] can’t” bring back Sunday meters.

Parker has a reputation for selfish extravagance at the expense of the public realm. In February, he denied accusations that he had workers bulldoze snow from in front of his $20 million home in New York City’s Greenwich Village onto the street. The snow was reportedly cleared so a high-speed internet cable could be hooked up to the home. Last year, he was fined $2.5 million for damaging a Big Sur redwood grove that served as his wedding backdrop.

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Did “Restore Balance” Petitioners Lie About Sunday Meters for Signatures?

Two people said they’ve seen “Restore Balance” petitioners in Safeway parking lots claiming Sunday parking meters are still in effect. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Petitioners for the “Restore Transportation Balance” initiative aimed at enshrining cars-first policies apparently made false claims about the state of Sunday parking metering to collect signatures.

Backers of the Republican-crafted ballot measure turned in 17,500 petition signatures — well over the 9,000 required for it to qualify for the ballot this November, the SF Chronicle reported yesterday. But according to two separate reports from Streetsblog readers, petition collectors seen outside Safeway stores made false claims that the mayor had not repealed Sunday parking metering, and that the ballot measure would “restore” free parking.

A flyer [PDF] posted on the initiative’s website states that the measure calls for “restoring free parking at meters on Sundays, holidays and evenings.” Parking is currently free during all of those times, and there is no serious proposal from the SFMTA to change that.

According to a “Restore Balance” petition flyer, the intitative calls for “restoring free parking on Sundays,” even though it’s already free. Image: Restore Transportation Balance

Patrick Carroll, one of the readers who was reportedly approached by a petitioner in a Safeway parking lot, said he told the petitioner that he’d understood that the SFMTA Board of Directors had already repealed Sunday parking metering at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee. The petitioner then claimed that “the mayor had backed off.”

The SFMTA Board did, in fact, vote to repeal Sunday parking metering in April, pressured by the mayor, who made unfounded claims about a popular revolt against the policy.

In a city where the vast majority of street space is dedicated to moving and storing private automobiles for free, the initiative’s proponents seem to be inventing a struggle in their bid to “restore balance” for motorists. Last month, right-wing author Bill Bowen also penned a Chronicle op-ed pushing the measure that was rife with misinformation.

As Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich told the Bay Guardian today, “The idea that anyone who walks or cycles or takes public transit in San Francisco would agree that these are privileged modes of transportation is rather absurd.” The coalition is “co-opting the notion of balance to defend their privilege. They’re saying the city should continue to privilege drivers.”

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SFpark Releases Pilot Report, Considers Giving Revenue to Local Streets

SFpark cut car traffic by nearly 30 percent — just one of the program’s numerous benefits. Image: SFMTA

SFpark has released new comprehensive stats collected during its two-year pilot program phase, documenting the numerous benefits that it garnered by pricing parking according to demand. SFpark is being watched closely by cities around the world, since it’s the first program to thoroughly test demand-based parking pricing principles first professed by UCLA’s Donald Shoup. But the SFMTA hasn’t yet adopted one of Shoup’s key recommended strategies: Giving some of the revenue to local community benefit districts to help win support for parking meters.

An SFpark multi-space parking meter behind City Hall. Photo: SFpark

In the areas where SFpark was tested — Civic Center, the Embarcadero, Downtown, the Mission, the Fillmore, the Marina, and Fisherman’s Wharf – the SFMTA found that SFpark resulted in cheaper parking prices overall, more readily available parking, many fewer parking citations, and much less time wasted by drivers circling around, looking for open parking spots:

  • Average on-street meter rates dropped by $0.11 per hour, or 4 percent;
  • Average garage rates dropped by $0.42 per hour, or 12 percent;
  • Target occupancy of 60-80 percent was met 31 percent more often;
  • Blocks were full (i.e., no available parking) 16 percent less often;
  • Average time spent searching for parking decreased by 5 minutes, or 43 percent;
  • Meter-related citations decreased by 23 percent; and
  • Vehicle miles traveled, and greenhouse gas emissions from cars circling for parking, decreased by 30 percent.

SFpark has been widely lauded wherever it has replaced existing, flat-rate parking meters, but it’s a different story when it comes to expanding parking meters to new areas. Due to fierce neighborhood resistance, the agency abandoned its plans to install SFpark meters in Potrero Hill and Dogpatch, and watered down and delayed its plans in the northeast Mission. In each of these areas, street parking is mostly free and nearly saturated, with drivers circling for an average of 27 minutes during weekdays in the northeast Mission.

Sharing some meter revenue with neighborhoods could help debunk the prevailing assertion that parking meters are just a revenue ploy for Muni. But the SFMTA has never seriously considered the idea because, as then-SFMTA CEO Nat Ford put it to Streetsblog in 2010, “Our financial situation is so dire that I need to get every penny that we have.”

But the SFMTA’s current chief, Ed Reiskin, told Streetsblog yesterday that “it’s something we’re going to look at.”

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Supes Reject Appeal for CEQA Review of Sunday Parking Meter Repeal

The Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 yesterday to reject an appeal, filed by sustainable transportation advocates, to require environmental review of the SFMTA’s repeal of Sunday parking meters. Although the vote was not on the merits of Sunday parking metering, but rather whether the SFMTA violated the California Environmental Quality Act in repealing it, the hearing shed some more light on the political stances of some supervisors.

Photo: Aaron Bialick

All supervisors, except John Avalos and Eric Mar, voted to reject the appeal. Supervisor Scott Wiener argued that, even if supervisors opposed removing Sunday meters and the SFMTA governance structure that allowed Mayor Ed Lee to push it through, CEQA must be applied consistently. “I have enormous respect for the appellants in this case,” he said. “I work with them regularly in our joint quest to adequately fund our public transportation system and have smart transportation policy in San Francisco… but this is about whether the SFMTA correctly applied a CEQA exemption.”

Wiener has been a proponent of reforming CEQA to curb frivolous appeals, which are often used by opponents to delay even environmentally beneficial projects, like bike lanes. Since the Sunday meter repeal was approved as part of the SFMTA’s budget as a whole, and budget adjustments have a statutory exemption from CEQA review, Wiener argued that upholding the appeal would mean it would have to apply to other changes, like the free Muni for low-income youth program.

“Rejecting a correctly applied statuary exemption because one might disagree with the underlying policy decision, and trying to force it into a higher level of CEQA review, has profound implications not just for this issue but for the many, many other situations that MTA and other agencies deal with — situations [like] fees, fines and fares,” Wiener said.

But the appellants, representing Livable City and the SF Transit Riders Union, disagreed. They argued that removing Sunday meters comes with a particular set of impacts, particularly increased traffic congestion, since the SFMTA’s own studies showed benefits such as cutting in half the time that drivers take to find a commercial parking spot.

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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:

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SF Chronicle Regurgitates Misinformation From the Free Parking Crowd

Does this parking lot in the Fillmore reflect a more “balanced” SF in the eyes of op-ed writer Bill Bowen? Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SF Chronicle printed an op-ed this weekend, written by the Republican-backed group that aims to “restore balance” on San Francisco’s streets. And by “balance,” they mean enshrining a status quo where cars, not people, get the lion’s share of the public streets, in the form of more pavement and more traffic.

Unfortunately, the Chronicle didn’t seem to have a problem reprinting the misinformation that plagues the column, which was written by right-wing author Bill Bowen. Given that the Chronicle failed to challenge, or even “balance,” Bowen’s unfounded claims and factual errors, we thought we’d clear some things up.

Transportation policy has been set by the agency’s governing board, whose members are appointed by the mayor. By law, a majority must be regular riders of Muni.

The loudest voices? The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and those who envision a “car-free” city, despite the fact that 79 percent of households have a motor vehicle and nearly half of those commuting to work do so by car.

This is a misleading and hyperbolic way to misrepresent policies aimed at giving San Franciscans better alternatives to owning cars. Another way to look at car ownership stats: 37.1 percent of households own only one car, so 58 percent of households own one or zero cars. Despite having a solid car-light majority, San Francisco already devotes most of its street space to moving and parking cars — mostly for free — and furthermore has long mandated off-street parking with every new building even while demonstrable shortages exist of many other land uses (notably housing). Meanwhile, most of those cars stand still most of the time: only 36.6 percent of San Franciscans drive alone to work, with most accomplishing their daily tasks by foot, transit, or bike.

The assertion that the SF Bicycle Coalition is responsible for the SFMTA’s shift away from car-centric policies might be flattering to the organization, but SFBC doesn’t call for a “car-free city.” Instead, they sensibly advocate safer streets, to make bicycling a safe and comfortable option for more residents and more trips.

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Many Motorheads Backing Measure to “Restore Balance” for Cars

The backers of the ballot initiative to “restore balance” on San Francisco’s streets are beginning to emerge. The “balance” they speak of would enshrine free parking and give over large parts of streets to cars.

According to the list of endorsements posted on its website, the “coalition” (which apparently dropped its “Free the Streets” title) is thus far populated by hefty amount of Republicans — yes, a few do exist in San Francisco. There are also three former supervisors, but no current elected-office holders. And, of course, the list is speckled with some of the usual opponents of parking meters and bike lanes, whose names should ring bells.

It’s hard to say yet whether any of these folks have any real political punch. The measure itself does not seem to — it wouldn’t be any more binding than the existing Transit-First Policy, adopted by supervisors in 1973 and re-affirmed by voters in 1999, when they expanded the policy to include pedestrians and bicyclists.

So unless the “coalition” gets some serious money and political players behind it — which is possible — this may be nothing more an out-of-touch, last-gasp attempt to hold on to a bygone era. (Not that a resolution is really needed for City Hall to keep parking free). The Republican crafters of this initiative at least seem aware of their agenda’s growing irrelevance. They couch it in vague language about “ensuring our streets are safe, well maintained, and efficient to use for everybody.”

Since the vast majority of San Francisco’s street space was devoted primarily to moving and storing private automobiles, all for free, over most of the 20th century, most San Franciscans can probably see that more “efficient to use” streets won’t involve more of the same approach. (Notably, the cover photo on the initiative’s website even features a streetcar on Market Street — pretty much the opposite of the actual car-clogged vision these folks are pushing).

Here’s the list of proponents taken from the website, with some footnotes I added in brackets:

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Avalos “Disgruntled” Over Paying for His City Hall Parking Perk [Updated]

Update: Avalos said on Twitter that his email was meant as a joke.

Supervisor John Avalos sent out an email today complaining about the $173 he pays monthly for a reserved parking spot in front of City Hall. That’s even though he pays less than half the $395 going price for a reserved parking spot at the Civic Center garage. The $173 fee is apparently set to offset the cost of lost revenue from the meter occupied by a reserved spot.

Supervisor John Avalos. Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Responding to a notice sent by City Hall’s building services manager to the Board of Supervisors about the annual parking fee agreement, Avalos said the fee “is totally messed up and makes no sense policy-wise,” since parking used to be a free perk for supes. Avalos’ email was sent to all supervisors, their staff, and SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin.

Dear Government Overlords:

The City Hall parking fee for elected officials is totally messed up and makes no sense policy-wise. For years the policy was a parking space for elected officials as part of holding office. What’s next? Will we be paying rent for our offices at City Hall?

I don’t drive every day, but often I don’t have much of a choice as I have to be in multiple places, often mixing work with driving my kids around, over the course of the day. When I go on errands with my car, I pay for parking meters and garages and even pay for tickets and towing when I mess up, so I am not getting special privileges beyond what comes with holding elective office and being very busy with my family and service to the city.

Signed,
Disgruntled Supervisor

It would be disappointing to hear Avalos divulge such a retrograde stance about his personal parking spot, particularly since he’s one of the only elected officials in recent years to have supported Sunday parking meters. In 2009, he also supported installing parking meters in Golden Gate Park, and as he noted in his email, Avalos is known for sometimes walking, biking, and taking Muni to work. He even campaigned for mayor on a strongly pro-bike platform, has pushed for better Muni service for low-income riders, and wrote the ordinance requiring secure bike parking in downtown office buildings.

On the other hand, Avalos also introduced the SFMTA meter contract amendment that hamstrung the agency’s ability to install new meters over the next five years.