Following fierce opposition that led the SF Municipal Transportation Agency to roll back its first attempt to expand car parking meters in the northeast Mission, the agency re-started a community process last night to develop a plan for managing parking demand in the area. The meeting was seen as a litmus test for the public’s openness — and the agency’s tact — which will be key to implementing parking meters and permit restrictions to reduce cruising for parking in a dense, complex neighborhood where parking problems are only expected to get worse.
The area is centered around a 220-space parking lot at 17th and Folsom Streets that’s set to be closed within months and converted into a new park and affordable housing development. As it is, the SFMTA said the area is basically a vacuum of free, unregulated parking surrounded by streets with meters and permit restrictions, making it a magnet for car commuters and long-term car storage that fills parking spots to the brim during the day. A presentation explaining the data and the rationale for using parking pricing to manage demand was made by Jeffrey Tumlin, a principal at Nelson/Nygaard, a consultant firm working on the project with the SFMTA.
“Everyone knows that you can park free all day, all week — you can leave your car here and go to the airport,” Tumlin told the audience, noting that drivers in the area reportedly circle for parking for a half hour, on average. “People are coming from all over to park in your neighborhood.”
Unlike the original planning process, SFMTA officials didn’t present any proposed parking plan at the first meeting — its stated goal was simply to present the block-by-block parking data collected in recent months and field input from residents to help inform a future proposal.
Tumlin explained that planners aim to account for the mix of land uses in the neighborhood, including residences, retail shops, and “production, distribution, and repair” businesses — many of which, unlike retail merchants, prefer free vehicle storage over the elevated parking turnover that meters bring. “It is the most complicated mosaic of land uses that I’ve seen, really, in any place I’ve worked anywhere in the world,” he said.
That the SFMTA didn’t adequately account for that complexity was one of the major sources of complaints against the original parking meter plan, which had been presented to residents as part of a larger plan to expand the SFPark smart meter program to manage parking in and around Mission Bay, where major developments are expected to bring an influx of car commuters into the area. The SFMTA took SFPark meters out of the equation, opting for conventional meters instead, to address skepticism voiced by opponents about the efficacy of SFPark. The agency also plans to eventually re-start the planning process in the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, which were also included in the original plan, “one neighborhood at a time,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose.