Today’s Headlines

More headlines at Streetsblog Capitol Hill

  • mikesonn

    SFMTA fails again, not because charging a business is bad policy for the reasons listed in the article, but because charging a business for a parking spot will be passed onto all customers. The ones who really suffer in all this are customers who arrive via a mode other than private auto. Again, pushing the true cost of car ownership onto the masses and not onto the people actually using them.

  • HI Mike,

    I have to disagree with you on this one.  We know free parking induces driving.  Charging a congestion-inducing fee on free parking spots (although this is not what they are calling it) will most likely encourage businesses to get rid of parking spots  or charge for the parking. If a business truly believes most of their customers drive to do business with them, they may indeed pass the costs along to all customers in the form of for price increases or locate themselves outside of the city. But if they believe that the bulk of their customer’s don’t drive (or could easily potentially not drive with moderate encouragement), then they are likely to charge the minority who do drive for the added value they are getting via guaranteed close parking.

    If I were the MTA, I would for now impose parking spot fees only in the congested areas of the city where 1) a high percentage of the population already doesn’t own cars and lives within walking distance for obtaining most goods and services, 2) public transit makes the area easily accessible without a car, and 3) the real estate is valuable enough businesses need only a nudge to realize they are better off without the free parking. If businesses were smart they would keep a couple of spaces for customers to use to pick up large items and develop the rest of their valuable real estate into a more lucrative money maker.  (Off the top of my head, the congested areas would be the Financial District, Chinatown, parts of the Mission, parts of North Beach, parts of the Castro. Others?)

  • mikesonn

    Yes and no. Sadly, most businesses feel that a majority of their business arrives via private auto. Why else would they continue to fight expanded bike lanes, bus bulb outs, etc? This means that they will probably continue to offer “free” parking, which we all know isn’t free at all (regardless of this fee). Muni pays dearly for “free” parking in increased traffic congestion and driving customers themselves pay dearly in lost time because there is little to no turnover.

    In North Beach, the only business I can see having an issue is Trader Joe’s. Safeway might have an issue since they validate parking, but I’m not sure what this fee would do with that specific issue. I’ve long thought that TJ’s should charge for parking as there is often a line of cars idling in the garage, they need better turn over.I think we agree Karen, and some of the confuse was probably based on my laziness of not typing out a full comment.And while I’m here, I totally agree with your statement about remaking their valuable real estate, but then we get into another grey area of parking minimums. Maybe the city needs to rethink that policy first before they then charge a business for having parking that the city forced upon them.

  • The reality is that the “bulk” of most retail customers in SF drive to the market and elsewhere to shop, which is why the city itself owns a number of large parking lots that provide a lot of much-needed revenue to the city.

    A lack of parking causes more traffic jams than an excess of parking.

  • mikesonn

    “A lack of parking causes more traffic jams than an excess of parking.”

    You’re wrong.

    And those large parking lots were built to meet planning minimums not market needs. And since those lots are there, many people drive instead of taking transit because of the false belief that parking will be readily available at both ends of their trips.Furthermore, studies done in the city fairly recently showed that while customers who walked/biked/Muni’d bought less per trip, they shopped more often. In so much that their total expenditures outweighed that of car drivers. It’s in a businesses best interest to appeal to customers who arrive via a mode other than private auto.

  • M8R-gl6yoi

    “You’re wrong”

    Citation Please.

  • David

    “Bulk” is putting it mildly for the massive waste of space dedicated to placating drivers. Maybe if parking cost some money we’d wind up pissing less of it away.

  • Mario

    Rob, you need to substantiate your claim that “most retail customers in SF drive to the market and elsewhere to shop”.

    If anything, the data points otherwise:

  • mikesonn

    @9d878d6681255c68c53e0198c8ab11f5:disqus I’m too lazy, the argument has been made again and again. You can read some Donald Shoup if you need some background. Plus, engaging Rob isn’t a worth while endeavor.

    But in short, road space is limited and the cars must be driven to and from the parking structure. You could put a million spaces in downtown SF but there is only so much throughput our streets can handle.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think the city should charge businesses for their parking lots. Curb cuts, maybe. But it should be enough to give businesses permission to use their parking lots for other purposes, including building on it. Then they can decide for themselves what the best use of the land is.

  • Okay, I can’t verify the percentage of retail shoppers who drive to city stores, but it must be a lot, since the city itself owns more than 40 off-street parking lots, including large lots at Union Square (985) spaces, Japantown (920 spaces), and Fifth and Mission (2,585).
    Go to the MTA’s site (, click on “Parking,” and then click on “Public Garages.”

    All the supermarkets in SF have parking lots. As does the Trader Joes at Geary and Masonic, where the parking lot is so busy they have two parking attendants directing traffic in and out of the lot. By the way, the shopping complex where Mervyn’s used to be at that intersection—and where Target will be next year—has more than 600 parking spaces.

    The Galleria mall at Stonestown does a brisk trade, with parking underneath the mall and a huge surface parking lot.

    It’s just silly to pretend that parking isn’t important to retail business and many other businesses in SF.

    Mario cites a SFCTA study by folks who are pushing a congestion pricing “scheme” for San Francisco. Unfortunately for the anti-car movement, opinion polls have shown so far that they people of SF don’t like that idea.

    Mike Sonn hates the idea that someone can drive downtown and easily find a place to park, but retail businesses and restaurants like that idea.

  • By the way, all those parking lots make a lot of money for the city: parking garages, parking meters, and parking tickets brought in more than $180 million according to the MTA’s latest Transportation Fact Sheet.

  • Anonymous

    It doesn’t make sense for the city to pretend like what businesses do
    with their land has no consequences to the city at-large. There is a
    cost to the city (for example, with increased traffic) based on the
    decisions businesses make (for example, to add parking lots), so the
    city very much should have a say in how businesses develop their land.
    We have zoning requirements for a reason, and there’s no reason part of
    these requirements can’t include charging a fee for parking (a cost
    which is already mostly externalized in our society).

  • mikesonn

    jd_x, totally agree. However, most of the parking at businesses was put in per city code that mandated parking minimums. If we don’t change that first, and allow ample time for businesses/land owners to adjust, as much I as I want to make sure every space is charged, how can we justify that?

  • mikesonn

    I don’t hate the idea, but if that helps you put me in a category you can easily put down, more power to you. I don’t think most people understand (including yourself) that cars don’t just appear in parking lots, they must be driven over congested city streets. Like I said, you can have a million parking spaces under downtown, but there is no way that all those cars will be able to get to/from them. Muni is slow because we encourage private auto use through parking minimums.

    Also to your point about ample parking downtown: why did you argue for MORE parking for the city center mall? There already is plenty within several blocks so there is no need to add more. The extra cost of building that parking will increase rents and therefore increase prices, something that every customer (driver and the more likely non-driver) will have to shoulder.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed: we need to update the zoning requirements so there is no minimum (and instead a maximum). And sure, it’s more than reasonable that businesses have time to adjust. Unfortunately, that’s not the issue Garcia (and some commentators here are making): they are against the idea in general, not the details of how to implement it. I wish the discussion was about how to implement fees for parking rather than should we even have it ….

  • mikesonn

    jd_x, you hit the nail on the head. It’s “FEES?!!?! FU SFMTA! Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

    Reasoned discussion has long since left the building.

  • Mike:

    I supported parking for the City Place mall because that project will replace three empty buildings on a blighted part of Market Street, which is a very good thing. I also support the tax breaks for Twitter for the same reason. Before people talked about doing something positive about Market Street without any realistic proposals to actuall do something.

  • Anonymous

    You write this as if it’s a favor we should be grateful for. The city owns thousands of acres of some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It has a responsibility to see to it that they get used productively and for the benefit of its citizens. Collecting rent from people who want to store their vehicles there is one way to do that. Giving it away for free to some people while letting others waste time searching for a free spot, on the other hand, is stupid and wasteful.

  • mikesonn

    @9d878d6681255c68c53e0198c8ab11f5:disqus Here you go (h/t to Aaron and his commentary, I need to bookmark that).

  • Mike Sonn links a Streetsblog story that shows once again how oblivious the anti-car people in SF are to the need small businesses have for neighborhood parking. Gee, why can’t everyone in the city just ride bikes to shop?

  • mikesonn

    Parking meters were were installed to create turnover. If businesses are open until 9 pm, then parking meters in the immediate area should operate until 9 pm.

    Those drivers circling for the free spot that will never open up are slowing down the bus that I’m on. Price parking accordingly and they’ll park, stop circling and shop (maybe they’ll spend close to what non-driving customers already do).

  • peternatural

    Gee, why can’t drivers pay for their lifestyle with their own money, instead of screaming for taxpayers to cover the bill for them?

  • If we replaced the parking lot with a 4 story building with mixed retail residential,it would bring in a hell of a lot more money in sales and property taxes than a garage ever would. It would also add more housing which impacts cost of living by lowering housing prices for everyone.

  • Mike:

    Parking meters were also created to raise money. According to the MTA, the city raised more than $38 million from parking meters alone last year.

  • mikesonn
    “Magee’s invention caught on quickly: Retailers loved the meters, as they encouraged a quick turnover of cars–and potential customers”