A panel of disability advocates, the SFMTA, and other entities has recommended that handicap parking placard holders no longer be given free parking at meters.
As the SF Examiner and the Chronicle reported, the policy recommendation came out of a committee formed to tackle the growing problem of placard abuse, which deprives legitimately disabled drivers of reserved parking spaces close to their destinations, cheats the SFMTA out of revenue, and lets drivers occupy high-demand parking spots all day with no incentive to limit their stay.
“Current disabled parking placard and blue zone policies are failing to increase access for people with disabilities, and reduce parking availability for all drivers,” said Jessie Lorenz, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco, in a statement.
As we’ve reported, lifetime free parking for placard holders — an incentive for abuse — is enshrined in state law, and repealing it would require a bill to be passed by the state legislature. There’s no word yet on which senators or assemblymembers might take up such a bill, but city officials said potential legislation could either call for the free parking repeal statewide or for SF only, and that they hope to pass it by 2015.
Carla Johnson, interim director of the Mayor’s Office of Disability, said California is one of only 15 states to have such a law in place. When it was enacted in the 1970s, she said, the limited parking meter technology at the time made payment more physically challenging, and the law was intended to help disabled drivers get around that obstacle. “Back then, we had to use coins, we had to manually turn a dial, we didn’t have curb ramps that allowed you to get up onto the sidewalk,” said Johnson. “Things have changed since then.”