SFMTA Board Approves Pilot for Child Care Provider Parking Permits

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA Board of Directors approved several parking policy changes Tuesday, including a pilot program to provide residential parking permits for child care providers. The board also decided to end free parking for SFMTA employees and establish a 2-hour time limit for broken parking meters.

A number of people testified for and against allowing nannies to be eligible for use of their employers’ residential parking permits. The testimony swayed some directors to favor a pilot program with some conditions, including requiring neighborhood approval, tighter restrictions on the children’s ages, and strict penalties for fraudulent applications.

Directors Cheryl Brinkman and Bruce Oka were originally opposed to the idea of expanding subsidized parking accommodation in the face of the city’s Transit First policy. “Every car trip we add negatively impacts every single one of our transit riders,” said Brinkman. “We can’t talk about increasing [Muni] efficiency and saving money without recognizing that the only way to do that is to get our buses out from behind the car traffic that’s out on the streets.”

Several directors spoke of a dilemma they felt between supporting both a Transit First and a family-friendly city. “I do believe in San Francisco and the Transit First policy, and I think it’s critical we review that policy and understand it,” said recently inaugurated Director Leona Bridges. “However, I also…think the children of San Francisco are important, and I also think we should think about the elderly and the disabled.”

Catherine Stefanie, a mother and aide to Supervisor Mark Farrell, argued in support of the proposal. “It’s not ‘Transit First’ versus helping working families,” she said. “I think a lot of working families try ‘Transit First’ and use their cars when necessary. It doesn’t mean [it] won’t be an option for these families.”

Still, the conventional wisdom of transporting children by car is questionable, as is the need for child care providers to drive at all. “I raised my two kids on Muni,” said Bob Planthold of the Senior Action Network. “I wonder why these folks who have the capacity to hire a nanny can’t allow their driveway or garage to be used by the nanny’s car, or they can’t allow the nanny to drive one of the family cars, or why they expect their kids have to be taken around by cars.”

Under the current proposal, each household within a residential parking permit area would be allowed to issue approved caregivers a number of their allotted four permits, very few of which are regularly used, according to SFMTA Sustainable Streets Director Bond Yee.

Aiming to avoid “painting with a broad brush,” Director Jerry Lee proposed a trial of the program on a “block-by-block” basis that would require residents to garner a 51-percent approval from their neighbors in the same way that residential parking permit areas are already established.

The directors came to a consensus on piloting neighborhood-approved programs for nine months while also lowering the children’s age limit from twelve to six and imposing a thorough approval process to be amended into the proposal’s language before implementation. Strict penalties for fraud, such as revoking all permits from a household, will also be discussed in future meetings.

The board also voted to begin charging SFMTA employees for parking at a below-market rate of $80 per month, a price set by adding $10 to the cost of a Muni Fast Pass, according to SFMTA CFO Sonali Bose. Options for hourly, daily, and weekly permits will also be available, and the fine for violations will be $55.

In addition, a 2-hour time limit at all broken meters was approved following concerns that vandalism could increase when SFPark is fully implemented in March.

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