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Aaron Peskin Consulted With Polk Street Bike Lane Opponents on Lawsuit

District 3 supervisor candidate Aaron Peskin provided consultation for Polk Street bike lane opponents earlier this year on filing a lawsuit over the street’s redesign.

Aaron Peskin at a taxi workers forum. Screenshot via Taxi Town SF/Youtube

Despite his recently-declared support for full bike lanes along Polk, Peskin confirmed his one-time involvement with Save Polk Street, a group of merchants which has fiercely opposed protected bike lanes to preserve car parking.

Peskin said that he had let Save Polk leaders know “what their rights and options are” when they’d considered filing a lawsuit against the city in anticipation of the plan’s approval in March, even after it was heavily watered down.

Streetsblog asked Peskin to clear the record on the rumors last week at a campaign event hosted by the furniture store Flipp. Flipp’s owner, Dan Kowalski, has been the primary press spokesperson for Save Polk since the group formed over two years ago. Peskin said he’d only met Kowalski for the first time that evening.

Peskin said he didn’t encourage Save Polk to sue, but that he’d provided advice about legal rights:

I always let everybody know what their rights and options are, the same way that I let tenants know that they can disappear into the middle of the night, but they also have options. If you’re asking whether I encouraged anybody to file a lawsuit, no, but people will say, Do I have rights of appeal? Yes, you’ve got rights of appeal. These are the things that you can do. I’m always clear with people what their rights are. It’s important that people know what their rights are. That’s part of the way you bring people together — you let them know, these are the powers you have, these are the powers these people have.

Peskin defended his record on improving bicycling, walking, and transit as a former supervisor, and said his position on the Polk bike lanes has not changed recently.

As Streetsblog highlighted last week, Peskin wrote “yes” on an SF Bicycle Coalition questionnaire which asked D3 supervisor candidates if they will “commit to supporting continuous, protected bike lanes on the High-Injury Corridor segments of Polk Street when the Polk Streetscape Project is next reviewed.” He added that he “was disappointed by how contentious the Polk Street process became.”

Efforts from public representatives to “bring folks together and build some consensus” were “unfortunately lacking,” Peskin told Streetsblog. But “in the months and years to come, we’ll see what we’ve seen all over the city, that [street redesigns like Polk’s] actually work, that business will continue to not only survive, but thrive.”

Supervisor Julie Christensen, Peskin’s opponent, did not respond to the SFBC’s question about committing to expanding Polk’s bike lanes. She wrote that she’d “worked to sustain a compromise that does not preclude future adjustments, but will allow the significant bike safety portions of the current project to move ahead.”

When Christensen was appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to the office in January, “The plan was in jeopardy,” she wrote.

Peskin served two terms as D3 supervisor from 2000 to 2008, and acted as board president from 2004 to 2008. In 2011, he was nominated for appointment as interim mayor by the Board of Supervisors when Gavin Newsom vacated the office. The board instead appointed Lee as mayor, who was then elected to remain in office. Lee faces re-election in November along with the D3 candidates.

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Drivers Lose a 27-Cent Parking Subsidy – KPIX and KTVU Lose Their Sh*t

The sky is falling! San Francisco drivers paying parking meters with credit cards will no longer get their 27-cent credit card transaction fees bankrolled by the SFMTA.

Image: KPIX

Image: KPIX

For KPIX and KTVU, this was the scandal du jour. “It’s already pricey to park,” said KPIX anchor Elizabeth Cook. “How bad is it really going to get?”

“We’re talking 27 more cents!” reporter Mark Kelly responded. “When word got out parking in San Francisco would cost even more, upset drivers weren’t hard to find.”

Is it ever hard to find upset drivers?

Reporters also had no trouble finding drivers unaware of key facts. Like that the cost of transaction fees was previously subsidized, or that drivers who pay by phone will actually drop from 45 cents to 27 cents per transaction, or that 90 percent of street parking in SF is free at all times.

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Someone Finally Figured Out How to Fix Parking Forever. Blame Canada!

Who’s taking your parking space now? Delaware and Canada!

Car owners in Hayes Valley will not stand by as “their” parking spaces are usurped by safe streets measures and “foreign” car-share “corporations” from places like “Delaware” and “Canada.”

That’s according a couple of bizarre anonymous flyers spotted recently around the neighborhood that appear to take aim at the arrival of on-street car-share parking spaces and plans to make crosswalks safer with daylighting and sidewalk bulb-outs.

On the subject of car-share spaces — each of which, by the way, helps people let go of owning a private car — one barely-coherent flyer has this to say:

STREET PARKING BELONGS TO HAYES VALLEY RESIDENTS NOT TO FOREIGN (CANADA– GETAROUND—ZIPCAR HERTZ A DELWARE CORPORATION EXEMPT FROM PARKING TICKETS

At the risk of taking this all too seriously, a quick Google search reveals that Getaround, which lets people rent their cars to their neighbors, is based in San Francisco, though its vice president of marketing was born in Canada (A-HA!). ZipCar is based in Boston, and owned by New Jersey-based Avis, not Florida-based Hertz — but we digress.

No word yet on whether the car owners who take up the other 99 percent of Hayes Valley’s curb spaces are 100 percent native San Franciscans with a legitimate birthright to free parking.

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Fisherman’s Wharf Parking-Free Street Revamp Boosts Sales, Will Expand

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Two years after the city gave Fisherman’s Wharf a people-friendly redesign on two blocks of Jefferson Street, business is booming. Despite merchants’ fears that removing all car parking on the blocks would hurt their sales, they now say it had the opposite effect.

The second phase of the project, which will bring a similar treatment to three blocks of Jefferson from Jones Street east to Powell Street, is taking a step forward. D3 Supervisor Julie Christensen and other city officials announced today that $1.7 million has been allocated for design and engineering for the expansion. The rest of the funds for the second phase, totaling $13 million, haven’t been identified, but it could be constructed as early as 2017.

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman's Wharf CBD

Gross sales of businesses on Jefferson Street compared between 2012 -2013. Image: Fisherman’s Wharf CBD

In June 2013, the two blocks of Jefferson between Hyde and Jones Streets were made safer and calmer with wider sidewalks, textured pavement to calm motor traffic, and the removal of curbside car parking. One-way traffic was also converted to two-way.

Since then, sales on the street have risen. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District surveyed 18 of the 33 businesses on those blocks, and they reported month-over-month gross sales increases between 10 to 21 percent on average:

From July through November 2013, these 18 businesses generated an additional $1.5 million dollars in gross sales from the previous year. This added approximately $140,000 more in sales tax for the city during this 5 month period.

“People are staying longer and spending more money,” said Troy Campbell, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf CBD. “Drivers are a little more cautious, I would say.”

Removing car parking to widen sidewalks provided more room for crowds and made storefronts more visible, said Campbell. “You look down the street, and you don’t have a string of cars that are part of the landscape. The businesses become the landscape.”

“A lot of the merchants came back to me and said, you know what, I thought losing the parking was going to be a problem, but I feel like people can actually see my windows now, and they’re engaging with us more.”

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TSP Rebooted: Bureaucratic Revamp Could Boost Transit and Livable Streets

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Photo: Sergio Ruiz via SF Planning

Photo: Sergio Ruiz via SF Planning

San Francisco agencies have re-introduced the Transportation Sustainability Program, a bureaucratic overhaul that could dramatically expedite improvements for walking, biking, and transit, while discouraging car parking in new developments.

In developing the program, SF planners are also nearing completion of the nation’s first major study showing that dedicated car parking encourages driving.

The TSP is three-pronged: It would overhaul SF’s development fee system to fund sustainable transportation upgrades, set mandated targets for developers to reduce driving caused by their projects, and replace the automobile-centric metric known as Level of Service (LOS), which would make environmental reviews both faster and more “meaningful,” planners say.

“If you’re moving people out of cars, you need to have the infrastructure for them to do things otherwise,” said Sarah Jones, the SF Planning Department’s director of environmental planning. “Each of these components can operate on its own, but we are working on them in an integrated way, because each of them really enhances the other.”

Originally expected to be adopted in 2013, the program has been fine-tuned since it was put on hold in late 2012 primarily for two reasons. At that time, the Board of Supervisors rejected a new fee system after a misinformation campaign, and the California legislature since passed a bill calling for the replacement of LOS as the state’s transportation metric.

The SFMTA, the Planning Department, and the SF County Transportation Authority are preparing to launch public outreach on the TSP within the coming months and institute the program in stages by the end of the year, said Jones.

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Phil Matier’s Shameless Bid to Drum Up Resentment About Parking

Phil Matier is apparently perturbed at the “rapid” pace at which SF plans to re-purpose less than 0.5 percent of its curbside parking spaces.

In keeping with his habitual windshield perspective, Matier used both his SF Chronicle column and air time on KCBS radio today to spin a narrative about motorists getting “a giant middle finger” because a sliver of curb space is being used for bike lanes, transit lanes, wider sidewalks, and parklets instead of car storage.

Phil Matier. Photo: KCBS

The outlook for motorists is dire, according to the lede of today’s Chronicle column, which Matier writes with Andrew Ross:

From the Financial District to the Fillmore, parking spaces along San Francisco’s streets are vanishing at unprecedented numbers — and for those who drive, the situation is only going to get worse.

Okay then, let’s do the math. The 1,600 parking spaces “scheduled for removal” make up an exceedingly small share — less than 0.5 percent — of the 280,000 on-street parking spaces that occupy the vast majority of the city’s curb space.

The areas poised to get safer streets and better transit — or “the hardest hit parts” of the city, as Matier said on KCBS this morning — are South of Market, North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Financial District. “Last year, 180 spaces were taken out of service in the downtown area alone,” went today’s column.

Census data shows that the downtown and Civic Center area has as many as 35,000 publicly-accessible parking spaces per square mile — the highest density in the city. Matier and Ross also neglected to mention that none of these figures include SF’s uncounted private parking spaces, estimated to be as many as 800,000.

On KCBS radio this morning, Matier told the hosts they only had to look out their window to see a recently daylighted intersection — where parking spaces were removed near street corners to make people more visible when they enter the crosswalk.

Leave it to Matier to make this simple safety measure sound more like a kidnapping:

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How Freeway Removal and Zero Parking Can Fend Off SF’s Triple Threat

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Upzoning in the eastern portion of the Market and Octavia Plan area without allowing any parking has great promise to bring more affordable housing to the center of San Francisco. Photo: Jason Henderson

There is an urgent triumvirate of crises looming over San Franciscans. With median rents now exceeding $4,200, hyper-gentrification is tearing lives apart. Except for those surviving on rent control, the city is no longer welcoming to teachers, artists, and the entire middle class. Things are looking difficult in the East Bay, as speculators and realtors spread their tentacles of greed around every BART station.

Meanwhile, on the city’s streets there’s an onslaught of untenable motor traffic, visionless drivers imposing violence and rage on the streets, Ubers blocking bike lanes, private buses grabbing Muni stops. It’s not just hard to get around. It’s deadly.

And in the back of every decent thinking person’s mind there’s the specter of climate change. What kind of Mad Max world comes with a 4° increase in global mean temperatures? How can we stabilize at 2°? Will the Bay Area be viable as Sierra snowpack dries up and the seas rise? What can we do here? Now?

Many people feel despondent at what is unfolding. In San Francisco, a proposed moratorium on new market rate development in the Mission has gained traction and will be vetted at the Board of Supervisors. In Oakland, a city hall meeting was bum rushed and shut down by activists.

Sustainable transportation activists push a Vision Zero agenda to tame traffic but the mayor defends parking over human lives. And affordability and the traffic mess are tangled up in a planning quagmire, with the impotent Plan Bay Area the only coherent climate strategy in town.

There’s a lot to grapple with here, and not much time to make a difference. But lately a few planning ideas — zero parking, freeway removal, and upzoning for affordability — have come to my mind as ways we can quickly, practically, and deliberately address this converging madness — right here, right now.

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Another Day, Another Driver Blocking Muni’s Busiest Metro Line

N-Judah riders can’t get any relief from idiots who leave their automobiles in the way of Muni’s busiest line.

The entire length of the metro line was shut down for at least 40 minutes Thursday, starting at about 2 p.m., after the driver of an extra-wide pick-up with a raised chassis parked at the curb on Carl Street. The vehicle was so big it obstructed the train’s path, clearly marked by a white stripe.

The SFMTA’s Twitter account reported that the line was blocked at 2 p.m., and that it was cleared by 2:38 p.m.

This time, there were no superhuman feats from N-Judah riders to clear a path — the truck was eventually towed.

Until the streets on the N’s route get improvements like separated transit lanes and car restrictions, riders can continue to expect routine shutdowns caused by clueless motorists. The list of recent causes: Parking a vehicle that’s too wide, attempting to drive into a visibly-marked train tunnel, an angry passenger throwing out the vehicle’s keys, and the most common one — double-parking on the tracks, as exhibited below on Ninth Avenue:

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Menlo Park’s Plan to Ruin Downtown With Parking Garages

Menlo Park's popular Parking Plaza 3, one of three sites proposed for a new public parking garage. Photo: Andrew Boone

Menlo Park’s Parking Plaza 3, one of three sites proposed for a new public parking garage. Photo: Andrew Boone

Building new parking garages in downtown Menlo Park will cost tens of millions of dollars while clogging streets with more traffic. But that’s what municipal leaders are seriously considering in an attempt to boost business, apparently oblivious to modern parking policies that have paid off for other Peninsula cities.

Last month, the Menlo Park City Council voiced support for building a new five-level parking garage on top of one of the city’s surface parking lots, called “parking plazas.” The project is estimated to cost between $29,000 and $43,000 per parking space — adding up to several million dollars. The council is also considering extending time limits for downtown parking spaces, having concluded that the current time limits on free parking discourage shoppers from visiting businesses on Santa Cruz Avenue.

Menlo Park maintains 1,595 free parking spaces in its downtown core (the area bounded by El Camino Real, University Drive, Oak Grove Avenue, and Menlo Avenue). The current time limits, set in 2011, are 15 minutes, one hour, or two hours, depending on location. In some spaces, drivers can exceed the two-hour limit by paying $1 per hour after it expires. Also available are $10 daily permits and $592 annual permits.

The council proposed doubling the time limits on the 15-minute and one-hour spaces and extending the two-hour spaces to a three hour limit, with the intention of giving customers arriving by car more time to spend at Santa Cruz Avenue businesses.

“We have the foot traffic, and then we take a stick and chase [customers] away as soon as they finish lunch,” said Mayor Catherine Carlton of the current time limits.

“I just want to make it as easy as possible for families and our seniors to patronize our local business and our restaurants downtown,” said Council Member Ray Mueller, who described the current time limits as outdated, based on parking data collected in 2009 during an economic recession.

But what’s really outdated is the idea that giving away more free parking will be good for downtown. Time limits are a blunt and ineffective means to ration access to parking. For years, UCLA professor Donald Shoup, the nation’s leading expert on parking policy, has counseled cities to instead manage parking by pricing it properly, so that some spaces are always available.

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All Meters Now SFpark-Ready — More Demand-Based Parking Pricing to Come

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Image: KPIX

The SFMTA recently upgraded all of SF’s 29,000 parking meters to “smart meters” that are enabled for demand-based price changes throughout the day, a la SFpark. Now, the SFMTA plans to expand its smart pricing program that has curbed car traffic to more existing meters.

“SFpark showed that demand-based pricing can improve parking availability without increasing double parking, congestion, or parking citations,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. “Our next challenge is to figure out the right mix of pricing and real-time information to make SFpark work in every neighborhood in the city. We’ll be working with stakeholders to find a win-win that creates less frustration, smarter travel choices, and fewer citations for every neighborhood.”

Under SFpark, the SFMTA has used “demand-responsive” pricing at about a quarter of the city’s meters since 2011. During a two-year pilot phase, the federally-funded program proved that by adjusting prices to demand, enough parking spaces could be made available to eliminate the need to circle for a spot.

Once the SFpark pilot phase ended, the in-ground sensors used to measure parking occupancy were shut down. But the SFMTA can still measure occupancy using the smart meters, albeit with slightly less accuracy, since they transmit payment data.

By all measures, SFpark successfully proved Professor Donald Shoup’s theory. At the meters included in the program, cruising for a spot was cut was cut by 30 percent, and meter-related parking tickets cut by 23 percent, according to the SFMTA’s report. Average on-street meter rates dropped by 4 percent, and double parking dropped 22 percent (compared to 5 percent in control areas).

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