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.

  • James Figone

    Each household is allowed 4 permits? 2 would be an appropriate number at much higher cost than the current $98/year.

  • JD

    I’m not a big fan of this move since I agree that it sets the idea that we still put the automobile first, especially since I believe that making a child care provider either walk a little further (god knows we all need more exercise) from their car or have the child care provider’s employer provide driveway or garage parking space is a good and fair thing.

    If we’re going to subsidize child care providers, why not give them discounted Muni (or Bart) passes?

    However, that being said, there are much, much bigger issues to fight that will do much more towards getting people out of their cars and re-designing our cities around people rather than automobiles. I’m saving my effort for those battles. So fine, the nannies can have their residential parking ….

  • Nick

    Are they going to have a separate law written for mannies? The MTA Board is bordering on ridiculous with this one. Bread and circuses. If the Board becomes a joke, will they have any pull left to get the real business done?

  • Charles

    So the MTA will allow rich folks’ nannies to park, while charging the working class folk who make the transit system run (and that means arriving at work at 4:30 or 5am! when there isn’t much service).

  • Gary

    It will be like the disabled plate where everyone but the disabled has one. It’s chaos waiting to happen. Again, fools creating a nightmare.

  • thielges

    I agree with Gary, this is ripe for abuse unless there’s a solid way to verify that the nanny is authentic. On the surface this proposal seems pretty reasonable : give employees access to parking near their employer. Instead this seems to open up another loophole.

    The other two decisions are positive, reducing the incentive to vandalize parking meters and for SFMTA employees to drive.

  • Morton


    I think you’re both missing the point here. At least part of the purpose of this is that nannies don’t just commute to someone’s home and spend all day working there.

    Rather they take the kids out. And insofar as that requires a vehicle, then the nanny needs to have her car with her (suitably fitted out to transport children safely and legally, of course).

    Now, when we hired a nanny, we let her use our second vehicle. And she didn’t own a car anyway. But that’s not the point – many families expect the nanny to have her own, suitable vehicle. And of course she will need to be able to park, else she will spend all day driving the kids around, just to avoid tickets.

    I agree it is reasonable to ask for some proof of employment. A letter from the employer should be sufficient, along with some penalty for lying.


    Various classes of City employee already have this amenity, such as school teachers. There’s nothing new here.

  • patrick

    I’m fine with it if they charge at least $5000 a year for the permit. Other workers don’t get these permits, why should nannies?

  • Sean H

    Another unfunded mandate? The wealthy employers should pay well over the ‘resident rate’. If the nannies need to leave via car so bad, why not use carshare/zipcar?

  • Transit first?

    Please tell me, how is reserving on-street parking permits for one group of drivers (residents, nannies, teachers etc) and excluding others (workers, bus drivers, etc) considered “transit first”?

    A true transit-first parking policy would abolish all parking permits and charge the same MARKET PRICE for everyone. This is what Paris has done. Then the SFMTA board would not need to focus on nanny parking and could focus on the real transportation problems that plague our city, like late buses, pedestrian safety, bike lanes, etc.

  • Jeff B

    SFMTA Board, please examine our failed parking policy:

    When parking demand exceeds supply, SFMTA gives residents essentially free ($98/year) parking, and non-residents are SOL. What happens? Demand still exceeds supply, drivers still circle looking for a parking space, and pedestrians and Muni still suffer from unnecessary congestion. How is this “transit first”?

  • Jane Bearstein

    The cost to store your car on the public street is $98/year (if you live in a permit zone, otherwise it is free).

    Compare that with the annual price of other uses of a similar size:

    Restaurant tables & chairs (8’x20′) = $873
    Flower market = $830
    Display merchandise (8’x20′) = $1,371

    Transit first??

    Source: http://www.sfdpw.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=244

  • Morton

    I don’t understand all this animosity towards resident’s parking permits. Here are the facts:

    1) RPP’s don’t increase the number of cars in the City. Nor do they change the number of street parking places. They don’t let you park free at meters or anywhere else where we chose to make drivers pay to park.

    2) RPP’s do discourage car journeys, however. There is no need to move your car just to avoid getting a ticket, if it’s in your zone. It discourages out-of-towners from driving in and parking in our residential neighborhoods.

    3) RPP’s are revenue-neutral in that the permits are issued “at cost”. There is no “unfunded mandate”. There is some extra revenue from parking tickets written for cars parking without a valid RPP.

    If RPP’s were all abolished tomorrow, not one car would vanish from the streets, and we would not become overnight any more “transit first”. Aren’t we tilting at the wrong windmill here?

  • EL

    The nanny permit is a complete joke. And for Board to require neighborhood approval of 51% is an even bigger joke. How would you like to be the blacklisted neighbor who kept the nanny out?

    And if I’m a part-time nanny for 2 different families in 2 different parking areas, am I now allowed to have 2 stickers (in addition to the sticker area that I may live in)?

  • EL

    I just thought of something else:

    There’s nothing that prevents a nanny from driving to work, parking on street, and using the family’s vehicle. After all, there’s no guarantee that a nanny is going to be able to park directly in front of their workplace.

  • “And for Board to require neighborhood approval of 51% is an even bigger joke. How would you like to be the blacklisted neighbor who kept the nanny out?”

    I predict that “Everyone without a nanny” will be the blacklisted neighbor who kept the nanny out. So does the woman leading the charge on this issue – watch the interview on Channel 7. There were no non-mothers speaking at the SFMTA meeting in favor of this measure. But one of the neighbors of the Russian Hill ladies did show up to protest that it will be harder for her to park.

    The opponents of the Noe Valley P2P project – most of whom are many years beyond child-rearing days – didn’t really care much about being the people that killed the “Park in Noe Valley that’s just for kids and dogs” – repeatedly berating us for “Playing the kid card”.

    And if there is a family vehicle, your thinking is spot on EL. We have someone helping out occasionally with our son, and she drives to our unpermitted street. If she needs to take him somewhere in the car, she takes our car – because our car already has the child car seat installed in it. Experience shows that this requirement happens… almost never.

    The fulltime nanny that we share with another family takes the bus to Noe Valley and if she takes the kids anywhere, she does so in a double wide stroller. The need for a car is way overstated for any but a child with specific health care needs – which could be covered under caregiver status.

  • Alai

    1) RPP’s don’t increase the number of cars in the City. Nor do they change the number of street parking places. They don’t let you park free at meters or anywhere else where we chose to make drivers pay to park.

    Oh, poppycock.

    There is an eyecatching car in my RPP neighborhood (an old classic, though one that has seen better days) which spends its time sitting in one spot on the street, and moving to another when the street sweepers come. I have no doubt that without the dirt-cheap parking permit, the owner would suddenly discover that he doesn’t mind storing it at his parents’ in the boonies, or cleaning out his garage, or even that he’s not that excited about hanging on to it forever. I also don’t doubt that there are many more nondescript cars that spend their time in the same way. Need a second car once every two weeks? For $98 a year, you can have it stored nearby–no need to spring for zipcar. Hell, my own family’s been guilty of this in the past (after all, why not?).

  • Morton


    That kind of behavior, i.e. storing cars on the street but not using them, isn’t a symptom of RPP’s at all, since you can perfectly easily do that in area’s without RPP’s. That kind of behavior doesn’t suddenly start happening only when a new RPP zone is created.

    The only place you can’t “store” rather than park a car is a metered spot. So you’re not arguing against RPP’s at all – you’re arguing for everywhere to be metered. And if that’s what you mean, then why not put it that way?

    Oh, and by the way, I’ve also been guilty in the past of storing a classic car on the streets. And here’s how to really do it – park it on a street with no street cleaning, which is any very hilly street. You NEVER have to move it at all.

    Technically a car cannot be parked on the street in the same place for more than 3 days. But that is only enforced by street-cleaning, or if a resident of that street calls it in as abandoned.

    So RPP’s aren’t causing the problem of too many cars. They’re there anyway.

  • Alai

    Ah. Yes, I suppose I am. Mind you, I don’t mean that there should be parking meters everywhere, but that parking permits could be sold at a market rate instead. Or, if the technology exists, maybe residents could be charged based on actual usage instead of annually. That way they retain the advantage over nonresidents, but still have an incentive not to use the street for storage.

    To put it another way, if the stated purpose of RPPs is to reduce parking congestion, then it’s obviously going to be a failure if you give out more permits than there are spots. It’s not the RPPs that are causing the problem of too many cars, it’s their way-under-market cost.

  • Morton


    You state:

    “if the stated purpose of RPPs is to reduce parking congestion, then it’s obviously going to be a failure if you give out more permits than there are spots.”

    AFAIK, RPP’s are given out to anyone who qualifies, without regard to availibility. I’d assume the reason it’s fairly “cheap” (around $100 p.a.) is precisely because it doesn’t do anything to help you park – it just makes the theoretical possibility of finding a street parking spot not illegal!

    It’s my understanding that it is NOT the purpose of RPP’s to reduce congestion.

    Nor is is to generate revenue, or generate any type of market-based charging for parking.

    RPP’s simply exists to give priority for parking to people who live in that residential area. And increasingly, as we see here, to people who legitimately work in that residential area, in at least some socially-desirable vocations.

    While those who neither live nor work in the RPP zone can still park there for 2 hours, or overnight, or at week-ends.


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