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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.

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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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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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Parking-First “Save Polk Street” Crowd Attacks Van Ness BRT

A rendering of Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. Image: SFMTA

“Save Polk Street” has aimed its parking-first agenda at Van Ness Bus Rapid Transit. A couple dozen speakers protested the project an SFMTA hearing last week, distributing fearmongering flyers [PDF] claiming that removing some parking and banning left turns would “kill small businesses,” back up car traffic, and make the street more dangerous.

Dawn Trennert at a meeting about Polk Street last year. Photo: Paul Skilbeck, Examiner.com

The long-delayed Van Ness BRT project was already approved two years ago by the boards of the SFMTA and the SF County Transportation Authority. Last week’s hearing was on specific street changes [PDF], like removing parking for station platforms and pedestrian bulb-outs. No action was taken by the hearing officers, but the street changes are expected to go to the SFMTA Board of Directors for approval in October.

The speakers and the fliers distributed weren’t explicitly associated with Save Polk Street, but many of the same faces and familiar inflammatory rhetoric could be found at the hearing.

Dawn Trennert of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, who has been seen at past meetings wearing a “Save Polk St.” t-shirt, spoke at the Van Ness hearing and echoed many of the same refrains calling for the preservation of parking and unfettered car movement.

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Personal Garages Become Cafes in the Castro, Thanks to Smarter Zoning

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This used to be a garage. Photo: Tom Radulovich

Three new cafes and restaurants in the Castro have been created in spaces formerly used as personal parking garages. Driveways and dark garage doors on 18th Street have been replaced with storefronts and inviting patios filled with people.

A few years ago, this would’ve been illegal.

Reveille Coffee Company and Beso, a tapas restaurant, were able to move in and convert these garages this year, thanks to changes in the SF Planning Code’s zoning laws in 2011 proposed by Livable City and former Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. The provision to allow garages to be converted into shops, housing, and service spaces in “Neighborhood Commercial” zoning districts was part of a package of parking-related reforms.

In addition to the first two garage-to-business conversions on 18th, a third is currently under construction nearby.

“These new businesses are helping make a more walkable (and sittable), vital, and convivial 18th Street,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. He pointed out that the curb space in front, formerly reserved to ensure private garage access, have also become public street parking spaces.

The idea seems to be spreading: Radulovich said the Ocean Avenue Merchants this week endorsed allowing conversions of garages to storefronts in their district, which is zoned as “Residential.”

Radulovich said the 2011 ordinance “also allows the addition of a single [residential] unit to an existing residential building without a new off-street parking space, so long as that unit meets the other requirements of the code, including density limits.”

The entrance to Beso. Photo: Tom Radulovich

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Car-Free Households Are Booming in San Francisco

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Image: Michael Rhodes

San Francisco is quickly adding residents, but very few cars.

Between 2000 and 2012, the city has seen a net increase of 11,139 households, and 88 percent of them have been car-free. That’s according to an analysis of U.S. Census data by Michael Rhodes, a transportation planner at Nelson\Nygaard and a former Streetsblog reporter. One net result of this shift is that the proportion of San Francisco households who own zero cars increased from 28.6 percent in 2000 to 31.4 percent in 2012, the fifth-highest rate among large American cities.

The stats show that the city’s average car ownership rate is declining, even as the population is growing. The data don’t distinguish where specific households are foregoing cars, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that the residents of all the new condo buildings going up are car-free. But the broader effect is reverberating throughout the city, whether car-free residents are moving in where car-owning residents previously lived, or residents are selling their cars.

This finding flies in the face of complaints from NIMBYs who protest new housing developments that forego parking, based on a faulty assumption that new residents will own cars anyway and take up precious, free street parking. That’s one of the arguments heard from proponents of the cars-first Proposition L, who complain that “the City has eliminated the time-honored practice of creating one parking space for every new unit.”

“A lot of people who are moving here are choosing it because it’s a place you can get around without a car,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “People will self-select. If convenience for an automobile is their criterion, there’s a lot of places in the city and elsewhere” to live.

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DCCC Joins Quickly Growing Opposition to Cars-First Prop L

Prop L was slammed by the SF Democratic County Central Committee last night, via an almost-unanimous vote against endorsing the measure to “restore transportation balance” for motorists. The DCCC’s endorsements hold a lot of sway, and its resounding “no” vote on the measure was a key litmus test to see whether the Republican-backed measure would garner any sympathy from SF’s political establishment.

The SF Transit Riders Union’s Peter Straus testifies against Prop L at the DCCC. Photo: Thea Selby/SFTRU

All but one of the DCCC’s 32 members, which include six supervisors and a full roster of veteran SF office holders, voted against or abstained from endorsing the proposition. The only “yes” vote came from Carole Migden, formerly a senator, assemblywoman, and city supervisor. Current office holders who voted against it include Supervisors Malia Cohen, David Campos, Eric Mar, Scott Wiener, John Avalos, and David Chiu, as well as Senator Mark Leno. Supervisor London Breed also opposes it.

Cohen and Campos, who have criticized parking meter expansions and developments without parking, hadn’t made their positions on Prop L known until now. The only supervisors who have yet to weigh in are Katy Tang, Norman Yee, and Mark Farrell.

Mayor Ed Lee hasn’t spoken up on Prop L either, although it’s funded by one of his major campaign backers, tech billionaire Sean Parker.

The DCCC joins a quickly growing roster (listed below) of endorsements from influential people and organizations in SF. The DCCC also endorsed Prop A, the $500 million transportation bond measure, and Prop B, Supervisor Wiener’s measure to tie funding for Muni and safer streets to population growth.

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Prop L Proponent Makes False Accusations Against SFBC, SFMTA About Polk

Chris Bowman, a Republican proponent of the Prop L “Restore Transportation Balance” ballot measure, aimed false accusations at the SF Bicycle Coalition and pro-bike SFMTA officials in a panel discussion this week.

Chris Bowman, right, with Supervisor Scott Wiener at a panel discussion this week. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Bowman and Supervisor Scott Wiener were featured at the forum, organized by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, to discuss Prop L. The proposition claims to promote motorists’ interests, calling to enshrine free parking and build more garages. Prop L is funded by tech billionaire and Mayor Ed Lee backer Sean Parker and the SF Republican Party.

Even though nobody else at the meeting brought up the SFBC in discussing Prop L’s implications, Bowman devoted much of his speaking time to attacking bike lanes, and making false claims about the SFBC and SFMTA Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman.

Bowman said that the SFBC urged a boycott of certain Polk Street merchants who had opposed removing car parking for protected bike lanes: ”The Bicycle Coalition, to add insult to injury, got the transcripts from [an SFMTA Board] hearing and put on their website, ‘these people testified, these are their businesses, boycott them because they’re anti-bike’… That is hardball politics and that does not create a respectful dialogue. That never should have been tolerated by anyone.”

In fact, the SFBC did the opposite — the organization has “actively encouraged our members, and the broader bike community, to frequent Polk Street businesses — and show support for biking to local businesses on popular bike routes,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. ”Those claims are absolutely untrue.”

As to where such misconceptions could come from, Shahum noted that the SFBC did hear from individual members, who had urged the organization to launch a boycott through social media posts on Facebook. She said she suspected that those spreading the lie could have misconstrued such messages, although they were written by individuals who don’t speak for the SFBC.

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