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Who’s Not Against Cars-First Prop L? Supes Tang, Farrell, Yee, and Mayor Lee

Supervisors Tang, Farrell, Yee, and Mayor Lee have not opposed Prop L, a Republican-crafted measure to enshrine cars-first policies. Photos: Aaron Bialick

With only a few days left until the election, four elected officials have yet to take a stance on Proposition L, the Republican-crafted measure that misleadingly urges San Francisco to “restore transportation balance” by giving priority to private automobiles and free parking.

Supervisors Katy Tang, Mark Farrell, Norman Yee, and Mayor Ed Lee apparently see no need to come out against the measure, which has been renounced by the other eight supervisors and almost all of SF’s political establishment, including their own SF Democratic County Central Committee.

We reached out to each of their offices to explain their position three days ago, and not surprisingly heard no response from Farrell or Lee.

Supervisor Farrell launched a campaign against parking meters, which led to the supervisors voting to hamstring the SFMTA’s ability to expand them. Yet even his most vocal ally in that battle, Supervisor Malia Cohen, came out against Prop L after her district’s Potrero Hill Democratic Club became the first neighborhood group to do so.

As for Mayor Lee? Well, he’s done more than anyone at City Hall to keep driving cheap, even if that means streets are more dangerous and congested. Lee reversed Sunday parking meters, even though they reduced traffic, and dropped his support for putting a vehicle license fee increase on the ballot. Then, he vowed to punish the supervisor majority who put replaced it on the ballot with Prop B, Supervisor Scott Wiener’s alternative transit funding measure.

The only public statement Lee has given about Prop L was this cryptic dismissal, in an interview with the SF Chronicle editorial board: “I’m not worried about it.”

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Sorry, Sean Parker: Fighting Safe Streets With Prop L Won’t Help the Poor

We may never know why Sean Parker decided to pour tens of thousands of dollars into Proposition L, a measure crafted and funded by Republicans who want to enshrine 20th-century car-centric policies in San Francisco. With his contribution, Parker decided to amplify this “primal scream from motorists,” as the Bay Guardian put it.

Sean Parker. Photo: Sean Parker/Twitter

On Tuesday, the measure will go to voters, who will either approve an advisory measure that contradicts SF’s 41-year-old Transit-First Policy, or send a signal that they want to put the era of automobile-centric streets behind us.

If Parker’s recent interview with Fortune Magazine is to be believed, his donation to Prop L was motivated by the sorely misguided belief that it will help less affluent San Franciscans:

It’s hard to figure out Parker’s own politics. His own priority is inequality. His political team – yes, he has a political team – flagged the referendum, called Proposition L, because it struck them as a hidden tax on the poor…

“I have a long-standing frustration that the only people who are significantly disadvantaged by onerous DMV regulations and parking tickets are the working poor,” Parker says.

“However,” as Fortune’s Shalene Gupta explains, “Parker’s enthusiasm is wildly out of sync with San Francisco’s politics.”

He’s also out of sync with the growing body of research that indicates the working poor in San Francisco are more likely to walk and ride Muni than own cars.

A “Yes on L” flyer.

Fifty-three percent of Muni riders identify as low-income, according to a recent SFMTA survey [PDF]. And while there’s limited data available on the income of car owners, a congestion pricing study by the SF County Transportation Authority found that 95 percent of drivers to, from, and within the downtown area during the morning rush are from households making more than $50,000 annually.

Meanwhile, free and underpriced parking causes drivers to circle around for spots, creating traffic that slows down Muni and its mainly low-income ridership.

“It’s manipulative to say this policy supports low-income workers,” Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider told Fortune.

Not that Prop L’s proponents care about truth or accuracy. They misleadingly tout a false statistic (erroneously reported by SFMTA, and since corrected) that 79 percent of SF households own cars, seemingly arguing for majority rule. The actual number [PDF] is 69 percent, and 41 percent own only one car, giving SF a solid car-light majority.

Most San Franciscans use multiple forms of transportation, and by making it easier to get around without a car, policies that improve transit, biking, and walking also make it easier for San Franciscans to shed the enormous costs of owning, maintaining, insuring, and fueling a motor vehicle. This can drastically lower household costs for working families, but Prop L’s proponents attack efforts to make non-driving choices more attractive.

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Eyes on the Street: New On-Street Car-Share Parking Spots in Action

A pair of new Zipcar spots at 20th Avenue and Irving Street. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The first in a new wave of on-street car-share parking spaces are on the ground, kicking off the eventual roll-out of 900 spots planned by the SFMTA.

I spotted the pair of Zipcar spots above on 20th Avenue at Irving Street in the Sunset on Saturday, and they were apparently already being used. The first time I passed by, the spots were both empty, but later one car had been returned.

As more locations like these make car-share more convenient and visible, car ownership is expected to decline: each car-share vehicle replaces nine to 13 privately-owned autos, on average. It’s a statistic we’ve continually reported, and it means these spots will make more parking available — but that’s still often ignored by those who call these space conversions “privatization.”

SF has already had a dozen on-street car-share spots in place for a couple of years ago as part of an SFMTA pilot, but now the real proliferation has begun. If you spot others, feel free to share photos in the comments.

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Tuesday: Support Needed for a Car-Free Bike/Ped Path on the Marina

Photo: SFDPW

One year after community planning meetings began, plans finally appear to be moving forward for removing the 51 parking spaces in the middle of a walking and biking path along the Marina — the only stretch of the 500-mile Bay Trail with cars on it. But Marina boat owners aren’t giving up, and car-free path supporters need to turn out to a community meeting next Tuesday to ensure progress on this no-brainer plan.

Some of the boat owners arguing to keep the often-empty parking spaces have apparently used their connections to delay the project for several months — the city’s final proposal for the path was originally due in March. If the plan is approved this fall, the parking spaces would be removed next spring, according to a September 30 presentation [PDF].

In a letter to SF Recreation and Parks [PDF], the SF Bicycle Coalition’s Janice Li pointed out that a permit issued to the city by the Bay Conservation Development Commission requires that the plan pursue “a design of a Bay Trail segment that provides a high quality bicycle, pedestrian, and general visitor experience.”

“The only way to properly meet the Bay Trail standards and provide that experience is by creating a car-free path,” wrote Li.

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Streetsblog LA
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New CA Database Shows How Much Parking Costs and How Little It’s Used

TransForm’s GreenTrips Parking Database provides an unprecedented level of data on the costs of building parking — and how much it’s used — in multifamily housing developments in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zoning laws in California usually require new developments to come with a minimum number of parking spaces. Housing, restaurants, stores, movie theaters — everything requires some number of parking spaces, theoretically based on the best available data.

Each of these empty underground parking spaces typically costs about $80,000. Image: Pixabay.com

Usually that data is whatever is listed in the Institute of Transportation Engineer’s (ITE) Parking Generation Manual. Since that manual has long been the only source of data on parking usage in the country, planners rely on it to help them figure out how many parking spaces a project should include.

But there are serious limitations with the ITE data, as is noted in the manual itself. As Professor Donald Shoup, UCLA’s “parking guru,” explained in a paper [PDF]: Providing too much parking encourages driving, thus contributing to congestion, and discourages walking and bicycling (unless you love walking across hot expanses of pavement to your store).

Plus, building parking is expensive.

A new tool, the GreenTRIP Parking Database, can help by providing better data on actual parking usage at multifamily housing units. This is only one of the many land use categories about which planners seek data, but it is a key one.

The database, created by TransForm, an Oakland-based advocacy group that focuses on better land use and transportation policies, tracks more than just parking usage. Data is available about the number of parking spaces per unit, how much of that parking sits empty, what percentage of the building is affordable housing, whether residents pay for parking separately from their rent, what level of transit service is available nearby, whether residents are offered transit passes or carshare membership, what if any parking management exists on surrounding streets, and other data relevant to parking usage.

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Eyes on the Street: Drivers Blatantly Park in the Oak Street Bike Lane

If the tow trucks stowed in the Fell Street bike lane weren’t enough a blatantly dangerous abuse of space for people on bikes, the situation on its Oak Street counterpart can be even more egregious. Patrick Traughber recently tweeted the above photo of five vehicles parked in Oak’s curbside, buffered bike lane, squeezing bike commuters alongside passing motor traffic in the door zone.

These drivers don’t even get to try the Ted and Al’s Towing excuse, i.e., limited space to store their trucks while they’re queued to pull into the garage.

Of course, we’re still awaiting a row of partial, protective planted islands that will separate the Fell and Oak bike lanes from motor traffic, which would send a stronger signal that the lanes are not to be parked in. The SFMTA is currently building bulb-outs and rain gardens in the area, also partially blocking the bike lanes in the process, as another part of the project. Maybe that’s a sign that the islands will be built in this decade.

The SFMTA initially installed temporary plastic posts to separate the Fell bike lane, but they were removed with a re-paving and never replaced. The Oak bike lane never got them at all.

Traugher’s suggestion for a short-term, seemingly no-brainer measure? “The curb needs to be painted red.” Some more enforcement from SFMTA and SFPD might also work, too.

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The (Not-So) Odd Reasons Why SFPD Parks Cars All Around Park Station

This path outside SFPD’s Park Station is blocked by an SUV — for an unusual reason. Photo: Aaron Bialick

A few years ago, SFPD’s Park Station in Golden Gate Park started storing police trucks and vans on a short section of pathway adjacent to the station’s fence. I first noticed this while biking on Kezar Drive several years ago, and since then I’ve never seen the path without a police vehicle and/or barricade in the way. The section is at a fork between a pedestrian-only path and a shared ped/bike path, so people can still walk around the barricade to take the fork.

The explanation for the SUV storage, however, was unusual — stay with me and we’ll get to it below.

Around the same time, I also noticed stencils on the clear part of the bike/ped path, warning pedestrians and bicyclists to watch out for drivers entering and exiting the station — putting the onus on the vulnerable users going straight through, rather than the trained police officers making a turn. This absurdity wasn’t too surprising, given former Park Station Captain Greg Corrales’ reputed low regard for people on bikes. He was known, for instance, to order his limited enforcement staff to conduct stings of bike commuters rolling stop signs on the Wiggle. The “watch out” stencils on the path have mostly worn off by now.

But there’s another, more blatantly egregious use of park land nearby. Private automobiles, apparently owned by police officers, have long been parked on a patch of dirt (would-be grass), next to the footpath outside the station. Police cruisers also routinely drive down the path to get to the Stanyan and Waller Street intersection — circumventing the closure of Waller Street to all other motor vehicles years ago, when it was disconnected from Kezar inside the park.

Officers’ private cars are stored on park land. Photo: Aaron Bialick

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Leave it to KTVU to Sensationalize One Car-Share Parking Space

KTVU reporter David Stevenson is at it again, with a new report about reserving one on-street parking spot for car-share vehicles. With Stevenson’s history of muckraking about lawfully helmet-less bicyclists, and a handful of re-purposed parking spaces, this sort of scandalous scoop is right up his alley.

Somerville and Stevenson bring you the latest parking scandal. Image: KTVU

Stevenson glosses over the fact that car-share vehicles open up more parking spaces, since each can replace nine to 13 privately-owned cars. He knows that, if you find enough uninformed people on the street to quote, the real story will come out: “Drivers and businesses in the neighborhood tell us they’re bracing for the impact,” he says.

That’s right. A single parking space, at Clement Street and 24th Avenue in the Richmond, is poised to be used more efficiently. So naturally, “Some people are saying changing just one parking place can disrupt an entire street,” as KTVU anchor Frank Somerville said to introduce the story.

There will indeed be an “impact,” and it may even “disrupt” the street, in the positive, tech-culture sense of the word. More residents can either sell their cars, or forego buying one, since they’ll have more convenient access to car-share. A nationwide study from UC Berkeley confirmed this.

But it’s probably a safe bet Stevenson didn’t explain that to people on the street, since otherwise he might not have elicited the sort of soundbites that fit his narrative: “a waste of a parking spot,” one man says. “I think it’s ridiculous,” one woman says.

“Everybody kills each other for parking out here, so it’s going to have a huge impact,” says a grocery store owner.

Let’s hope it does.

StreetFilms
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Looking Back at San Francisco’s Second Park(ing) Day in 2006

Gasp, was it really eight years ago PARK(ing) Day San Francisco 2006 happened? It only feels like a few years have passed. I’ll never forget being in Oakland visiting a friend and learning that PARKing Day was happening the following day. I got up early, jumped on BART with my camera and went looking for all the spots inspired by Rebar, a unique and awesome art and design studio in San Francisco.

What a day. I never had so much fun as an in-the-moment filmmaker. I shot for almost eight hours straight and by the end was exhausted and nearly dehydrated. But as I saw the energy and the diversity of the spots – and the underlying message in Rebar’s mission – I knew I had to churn out a film fast. Thirty-six hours later the above film debuted on-line. It was easily our most popular film for the next two years until Bogota’s Ciclovia Streetfilm surpassed it.

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Costly New Parking Garages Still Gobbling Up Land at BART Stations

Oakland and BART officials cut the ribbon Monday on a new parking garage for a “transit village” being built at MacArthur Station. Photo: BRIDGE Housing/Twitter

BART continues to encourage the construction of multi-story parking garages at its stations, despite the exorbitant costs and lost potential for valuable land that could be put to better use.

On Monday, Oakland and BART officials held a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony to tout the opening of a 481-space parking structure at MacArthur BART station. The structure was built at a cost of $15,371,000, or about $32,000 per space (based on a 2012 figure), and is part of a “transit village” housing and retail development. But like most park-and-ride fortresses, it will mostly sit empty when commuters aren’t using it to store cars, which is most of the time.

The only media coverage of the MacArthur press conference was a San Jose Mercury News photo slideshow showing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, two BART board members, an Oakland council member, and a developer rep cutting the ribbon, before heading up to the empty rooftop to take in the views.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich, who sits on the BART board, said he’s “appalled that we wasted tens of millions of dollars building a commuter garage at an urban station like MacArthur.”

“Ridership kept growing at that station despite the reduction in parking during construction, which demonstrates that we could have done perfectly well without it,” he said. “Many of our highest-ridership stations — Balboa Park, Berkeley, 19th, 16th, 24th, Glen Park — have little or no commuter parking. At stations like MacArthur, Ashby, West Oakland, and Lake Merritt, we should be phasing out parking as we build transit villages, and enhance walking, cycling, and local transit access instead of building structured parking.”

Only 10 percent of people using MacArthur station drive there, the Mercury News reported in 2011, and five shuttles operate in the station area.

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