SFPark Mission Bay Plan Sees Backlash from Potrero Hill Residents

An SFMTA plan to put a rational price on car parking around the developing Mission Bay area has run into fierce backlash from residents and merchants from the Potrero Hill, Dogpatch and northeastern Mission neighborhoods.

Image: SFPark

The SFPark program’s Mission Bay Parking Management Strategy is “meant to address the existing severe parking availability issues and to get ready for the future,” said SFPark Manager Jay Primus, who sat in on a three-hour hearing on the plan at City Hall today. “These are neighborhoods where we’re going to see the majority of the city’s growth in the years to come.”

The plan was approved for recommendation to the SFMTA Board of Directors, save for a few blocks which the hearing officers recommended for re-evaluation.

Included in the plan’s Mission Bay “Parkingshed” area are existing and planned developments that are drawing more and more commuters, including the University of California San Francisco, AT&T Park, and Caltrain stations at 22nd and Fourth Streets. It also encompasses impacted “buffer areas” like the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, and SFPark expansions are also planned in the Mission around a park that’s set to replace a parking lot at 17th and Folsom Streets.

But among the complaints, residents defended subsidized free parking, claiming meters would impose an undue burden on drivers in areas with poor access to transit and more residential and industrial uses than retail.

“No doubt these are complex neighborhoods,” said Primus, “but they’re predominantly commercial, mixed-use PDR [production, distribution and repair] areas. That doesn’t mean that MTA should leave this parking utterly unmanaged. This is parking that is close to BART, Third Street light rail, and that businesses depend on for their economic vitality.”

But even some supporters of SFPark, like Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association President Tony Kelly, criticized the SFMTA for a lack of outreach to neighbors.

“We do not have space for everybody in their car to drive to work, so we need parking management,” said Kelly, “but for god’s sake, if you’ve got 2,000 people in the neighborhood saying you haven’t talked to us, then maybe you need to talk to us.”

Primus defended the outreach efforts, saying staff does its best “to engage with every individual.”

“We’ve reached out to every large group we could in these areas,” said Primus. “It’s impossible to reach everyone. Judging by the meeting today, clearly, the word has gotten out there, and that’s great. This is part of a healthy process for SFMTA.”

“Sometimes you feel like you could send an engraved invitation and people would still say they’ve never heard about it,” said Cheryl Brinkman, a member of the SFMTA Board of Directors. She pointed out that even though flyers were put on every door in the outreach for the Masonic Avenue redesign project, some still complained it wasn’t enough.

“I think as city dwellers, we sometimes underestimate what people are willing to do for free parking,” she added.

Among the organizations supporting the plan are Livable City and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who sent letters to the SFMTA this week encouraging staff to move it forward.

“The expansion of metered spaces will provide the parking turnover that neighborhood-serving businesses need,” wrote Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich in his letter. “SFPark metering and pricing will also reduce cruising for parking in these neighborhoods. Cruising for parking generates traffic which delays Muni, produces greenhouse gas emissions, and distracted drivers making multiple turns endanger pedestrians and cyclists in these increasingly pedestrian- and cycling-oriented neighborhoods.”

But ending the subsidy of free parking rarely comes without a fight, and opponents seemed geared up to return when the plan goes before the SFMTA Board of Directors for final approval in February. Contrary to the doomsday predictions of critics, Primus warned that the plan’s approval will be crucial to the success of those neighborhoods.

“Mismanaging parking in this area is going to hold back the economic growth and vitality in the city,” said Primus, “and that would be a shame.”

We will be off for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Have a great weekend, and we will see you back here on Tuesday.

  • murph:  Yes, we’re in agreement.  I’m pretty sure the locals would adjust to the change better if enforcement was ever mentioned in the plan.  I personally don’t know that paying for more enforcement is the right way to spend our money.

    Jeffrey Baker: 
    It doesn’t appear that the SFMTA site map is correct, none of today’s
    Dogpatch X Permit area is marked here: 
    http://www.sfmta.com/cms/pperm/documents/rpp_85x11_webformpdf_000.pdf  I’ve seen these areas marked on some of the maps of where the new meters are to go in recently.

    I believe the X Permit areas were set up in early-to-mid 2008, I know there were petitions in my building encouraging everyone to sign so we could have restricted parking. There seemed to be ~75% of the same level of resident buzz about protecting our local parking rights with the restrictions against others as there is today about rejecting the restrictions that could affect us.  There’s more fear now, certainly, whereas then is was more about claiming our rightful territory.

    They established areas and I signed up for the X Permit for my car, several months later the permit showed up (~August 2008) and eventually the signs went up.  Between pre-enrollment and the signs going up (or possibly after) several businesses balked and the X Permit area was removed.  In 2009, I get the renewed permit in the mail and have ruined the car that it was going to go on.  Change cars, but now that parking isn’t restricted on my street, I can’t get the permit moved to my new car–I did already pay for it, and it is handy for parking further down the street or on the next one when midnight street cleaning makes things tight. Put X Permit on my bicycle.

    Now it appears that because we’re no longer in the X Permit area and there’s a couple printing presses on either side of us, we’ll have meters outside our building and won’t qualify as residents.  Perhaps this is wrong, but certainly no one has said anything concrete–and the track-record doesn’t indicate a lot of hope there.  I’m not sure how special of a case we are.

    I’m not terribly worried–my building has 2 doors and 2 addresses, at most I’ll just need take a couple days off of work to change the address for my car registration, etc, to the other door and get an X Permit again.

  • Guest

    jd-x:  Although I don’t disagree with the premise about the cost of cars, I think your opinion about how to correct the problem is naive.
    As was argued repeatedly in the public hearing, there are two ways to encourage changes in behavior, the carrot and the stick, incentive and disincentive.  If you think that the best way to modify behavior is to only create a disincentive, then you don’t understand human nature. Do think intentionally making the citizens’ lives difficult is good public policy? In this particular case, you are taking away the option for car usage (for the residents) without offering a reasonable alternative. Public transit to and from the Dogpatch is limited and slow. There are people with small children, or who otherwise might still need to use a car because our society is not sufficiently organized to function without one. If you try to socially engineer cars away with this particular disincentive, you will drive those residents away and out to the suburbs, shifting the problem elsewhere.
    In this scenario, the only people driving around and parking in these metered spaces will be those same suburban dwellers, along with the upper class who can afford off-street parking at their residences. Is that what you want? The residents will then suffer all of the ills of car usage, but afford none of the benefits. If you really want to get rid of cars, get rid of them. Don’t just remove parking, ban cars from the streets and neighborhoods altogether. That would actually be worth the pain.
    Whose taxes are subsidizing free parking (residential permits are not free, by the way)? I think it is mine, and all the other residents. You as an individual don’t get to decide where every dollar of your taxes is spent. My taxes support public schools, but I don’t have children. They support public services that I don’t use.
    I am a bike rider. I have commuted to work by bicycle for the last 15 years. I am intimately familiar with the problems of cars. However, attacking the resident’s ability to own a car (which is what this will do) is not the right way to move this issue forward.
    Finally, no one is suggesting that the areas around the Caltrain station that have no residential or commercial businesses should have residential permits. The problem with the MTA’s plan is that it puts meters everywhere else, all over Dogpatch. If this was really targeting the commuter parking problem, the residents would be happy.

  • marcos

    The real dysfunction here is that the argument from the “livable streets” and “alternative transportation” folks is that either you accept the plan that staff put forth or you if you don’t, clearly you are an anti=environmentalist car loving bike hating zealot who wants free subsidy for their crime spree and hates the earth and trees.

    In San Francisco, staff recommendations, for all intents and purposes, hold the force of law.  Rarely will staff change their recommendations in response to community requests.  And rarely will commissioners, directors or supervisors cross staff on this.  If decision makers cross staff then staff slow walks all interaction with the decision maker.  Decision makers served fixed terms, often limited.  Not so for staff.

    Advocacy groups are similarly constrained, either you play ball with staff or you don’t get access.  People and groups don’t get designated as a stakeholder unless they’re suitably deferential and respectful of staff power.

    San Francisco residents, fortunately, are under no such constraints.

  • Johngarrney

    Im actually in that neighborhood every single day, and the amount of people driving there is beyond ridiculous.

  • Anonymous

    @45be3e2a2ae3d37a75b9a3fcf0e9eb53:disqus So, people won’t get out of their cars if there isn’t alternatives, but there is no money or effort to create these other options because everybody drives and doesn’t care about alternatives. So how do you break the cycle?

    I think it is a combination of both stick and carrot. If you read my post, I’m obviously all about making driving more expensive (the stick), but I also want to see Muni improved massively (the carrot). Right now there is only carrot (free parking and all the other externalized costs of driving) and absolutely no stick. I actual think it’s naive to think that we will ever get good public transit if we continue this system. I also think it’s naive to presume that anything good has every been done at a social level without sticks. For example, how many people would break the laws if there was no punishment for doing so?

    “If you really want to get rid of cars, get rid of them. Don’t just
    remove parking, ban cars from the streets and neighborhoods altogether.
    That would actually be worth the pain.”
    Come on, like that is even an option. If we can’t make people pay a couple bucks a day for parking, you really think everybody is going to be okay with just outright banning cars? That is a non-starter.

    “However, attacking the resident’s ability to own a car (which is what
    this will do) is not the right way to move this issue forward.”
    Oh yes, thanks for reminding me: the sacred motorist must never have their almighty convenience and their cost-externalized lifestyle at all questioned. Ridiculous. Cars have caused massive damage to our environment, to our health, and to the livability of cities (and, by the way, when this post-WWII infrastructure was created, nobody had to do an environmental review like we do now to add bike lanes), and attacking anybody’s opinion that this is somehow okay is absolutely one way to move this issue forward. When you externalize a cost, you don’t have to be responsible for any negative consequences and hence absolve yourself from guilt. This is what we have done for at least 60 years and are still doing. But we are slowly at least realizing that this is not okay (even if we haven’t changed it yet). As we begin to understand the true cost of a car-centric lifestyle, I think it’s very hard for somebody to pretend like their annoyance of having to pay a couple bucks idea trumps the health of others.

    “There are people with small children ….”
    By the way, having small children has got nothing to do with this. What is this all the sudden where people can’t walk a few blocks because they have children? That is utterly ridiculous and half the reason we have an obesity epidemic. They first have to drive everywhere in the damn car, and then they start flipping out when they have to walk a couple blocks from where they parked their car. Are we really this lazy and this unhealthy? This is exactly the problem with cars. Too many carrots (er, more like ridiculously buttery and sugary cake making everyone fat) and not nearly enough sticks.

  • peternatural

    magnuson, no, I didn’t mean to be tongue-in-cheek by saying that taxpayers would benefit. Regardless of whether (all things considered) the plan is a good idea, if the taxpayers get paid where before they were giving it away for free, that’s a win for them. You claim that there is so much available parking in the residential section of Potrero (a small part of the overall plan) that with meters, drivers in that area will simply choose to park elsewhere, so taxpayers won’t get paid in any case. I don’t know the Potrero area… maybe you’re right. (Though it does sound hard to believe that the new metered spots would be almost totally unused!)

  • peternatural

    Marcos is all about building a “climate of respect”. Hence the absurd characterizations of those he disagrees with.

  • marcos

    I do not drive save for carshare once every 3 weeks and a rental trip to nature twice a year.  I ride a bike almost always except when I take Muni or BART.  I live the alternative transit dream and have a very small carbon footprint.  I am making fun of people who say they want everyone to have the same carbon footprint I do via making sustainable transportation choices precisely because the way they are trying to force everyone into the lifestyle I’ve chosen will not work.  In fact, not only will it not work, it risks moving us further away from mutual long term goals.

    I understand how stinging my absurd characterizations are when compared to the shrill denunciations here that motorists demand free subsidy of parking when they are clearly open to a RPP district, or when property taxpayers, either homeowners or renters, are told that they are expecting curbside parking for free when the Mission Area Plan calls for curbside parking to be managed for the benefit of existing residents.

    Another way that power coopts popular movements is for it to give zealots everything they want with the intent to provoke a backlash.

    We would not be having this conversation right now had the SFBC not gone all Ahab on Healthy Saturday Golden Gate Park street closure.  Having lost at the ballot box, Leah Shahum pressured former supervisor Jake McGoldrick to achieve as little Saturday closure as possible by Any Means Necessary.  Of course the policy is reasonable and sane.  But the politics were not reasonable and sane, and they were not played reasonably and sanely.  We are practicing politics in a hell from which there is no exit, and hell is other people.

    McGoldrick and Shahum’s partnership resulted in a backlash in D1, where merchants and others organized a recall campaign.  As the campaign was simmering, along came an EIR studying the impacts of market rate housing on the Eastern Neighborhoods.  McGoldrick had always been a reliable vote on housing justice.  But with the recall simmering, Alex Clemens holds a fundraiser for Jake on the night before the EIR vote, and lo and behold, McGoldrick goes south on us the next day, opening up our neighborhood to rapacious luxury condo developments billed as TOD but with parking adjacent to freeways that will slow down transit.

    Those new luxury condos are why the parking plan extends as far north as it does and why I’ve taken an interest in city staff’s contempt for existing residents as evidenced by their proposals.  Progressive supervisors like Jane Kim and David Campos appear to agree that there are concerns here.

    It is said that no good battle plan survives contact with the enemy.  Over the past 12 years that I’ve worked in electoral politics, I’ve learned that no good idea in San Francisco survives contact with friends and allies.  When so-called sustainable transportation advocates take steps to promote their agenda in a way that risks engendering a backlash for the centrality of all sustainable transportation–making Muni a reliable, rapid, accessible and safe system–then that needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

    So long as transit is not an appealing, viable, competitive option for commuting, the use of sticks will make it more difficult for us to come by carrots.

  • Ari – you have just approached this problem all wrong. This AM I rode from Cesar Chavez to 22nd Street and *EVERY* spot from CC to 22nd was taken. EVERY spot on 23rd from Penn to Iowa was taken. *EVERY* spot on Iowa was taken. I had a few minutes so I checked, 22nd – all taken, Minnesota was bogged up as far as I could see.

    How does that not cry for parking management of some sort? There are no residences there – and the only business is a storage facility. The arguments for Pennslyvania going up the hill are fine and other truly residential streets, yes. If the people “advocating” for meters around the Caltrain agree with you, then your hand is strong. I absolutely do not believe that the MTA is some ostrich with their head in the sand but when you characterize them as such and use hyperbole and start using THE ELDERLY! THE SICK! THE CHILDREN! then nobody will listen to you because you come off as a crackpot. And then you lose.

    There needs to be change. “Nobody goes to Potrero Hill anymore – it’s too crowded!”

  • Anonymous

    Yep, like @murphstahoe:disqus said, I also ride down Cesar Chavez to 22nd St Caltrain every single morning, usually on the later side (around 9am), and every single day, without fail, all the “commuter spots” (the ones that don’t have time limits) are 100% full (I have never once seen an open spot at this time). There absolutely is an opportunity to start charging for parking here until you get some open spots, per SFPark’s very purpose.

    As I keep repeating, the reality is that the vast majority of people “up in arms” about this issue don’t have any legitimate reason whatsoever to not be paying for parking here. They simply are pissed they suddenly have to after getting away without doing so for a long time. It’s just base emotion with absolutely no thought. And that should *never* be how we decide policy. The good news is, once you sit down and talk to these people who are just having an emotional response, most people will agree with rational policy (like charging for parking in a city where it is at a premium and where we know most costs of driving are already externalized).

  • Anonymous

    I will mention that I remember seeing an SFPark map which explicitly designated Clement St. as a “control”, so I presume they’ll be taking surveys and collecting data to gauge differences in local opinion– “do you think the it’s easier to find parking now” and the like, to compare the areas with SFPark and without.

  • Anonymous

    To address some of Guest’s points– w.r.t the “quality of life” issues, many of those are practical rather than fundamental. For example, re waking up at 7: I believe that the new meters allow you to pay before the metered time starts, so if you park at 9pm, you can drop a dollar in, and it’ll pay for parking starting at 7 am the next morning. There’s a trial now (I think) to allow people to add time to their meters by cell phone, so they don’t have to go back to feed the meter.

    I think they should go further and allow people to pay for indefinite time, where you run a card once to start the meter, and run it again to end it, so you don’t have to worry about how long you’re staying, and you don’t have to worry about overpaying. That’s not happening yet, but it seems technically feasible.

    As far as the residential parking permits are concerned, I do think that limiting the number issued, possibly by raising the price, would be a fine way to deal with overcrowding. Unfortunately, I believe that this is forbidden by state law.

  • marcos

    @mikesonn:disqus we are not seeing new curb cuts into existing residences or garage conversions in the North Mission where the SF Park proposal is applicable.

    @google-b4610b92810b55bfee0be46cc2c11586:disqus I agree that the TOD notion of upzoning around transit corridors is just kicking the car can down the road.  Anyone who is locked into servicing a note on a new luxury condo in SF is not going to be spending the equivalent of 40% of their workday taking transit to work.  That the upzoned transit corridors all just happen to occur near ramps to I-80 and US-101 is pure coincidence, I’m sure.  Sustainable transit advocates were sold a bill of goods from SPUR and the HAC that upzoning around transit corridors would actually result in people abandoning their cars to take Muni to BART, BART to CalTrain and SamTrans/AC Transit/Valley Transit to their work places.  That is pure fantasy.  Absent a twelve figure investment in a rapid, reliable regional transit network, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Yet Planning and the MTA are foisting all of the negative impacts on existing residents while allowing developers to make their money and fly by night.  If the EN delays 9 Muni lines, then imagine how many people-minutes that adds up to people-hours and people-days of delay over the life of this plan will be the cost of these new developments.  Yes, we’ll probably see new condo owners organizing ten years down the road for RPP, but if we take a stand now, at least those of my neighbors who have lived here for some time, who did not, as Sonali Bose says “move into an up and coming neighborhood.”  Our community is One Big Opportunity Site for developers, the designated stakeholder nonprofits having long since abandoned the fight for housing equity.

    It makes no difference whether it is a social services nonprofit or a sustainable transportation nonprofit, if paid advocates cross paid city staff, then they are no  longer allowed a seat at the table.

    @jd_x:disqus I agree with Leah Shahum (write it down) when she said 2 years ago that she opposed new resources for Muni until it got its fiscal and governance houses in order.  Let’s see how her position evolves, I’d wager much closer to staff, now that she’s on the revenue panel.  I’d oppose new revenue for Muni until there is governance reform, until it plugs its fiscal leaks, until it makes sure that when it does stop consolidation, that the needs of seniors and disabled are taken into account.  Do you know that when they plan to remove stops, they have no intention to ensure that there are the same number of shelter seats at remaining stops?  Seniors and the disabled will have to walk twice as far to stand because there are only half as many seats.  This is shifting the decimal point from seniors and disabled onto the coffers of developers who slow down the system as the MTA tries to dig out of its deepening hole.  And this is slated for Mission Street, where you’ve got BART rapid rail, the 14L limited stop bus, 49L proposed and the 14.  You’d think that they could keep the 14 serving every block so that seniors and disabled who are shopping don’t have to schlep any more than necessary while affording those in a hurry transit options.  Options are made available, only to a point, and only to transit choice riders.

  • mikesonn

    @86883e1d8289f5b704d6504ff6f52ab9:disqus That area hasn’t had any curb cuts or garage conversions since 1908?

  • marcos

    @mikesonn:disqus I wrote “we are not seeing new curb cuts into existing residences or garage
    conversions in the North Mission where the SF Park proposal is

    And then you asked:

    “That area hasn’t had any curb cuts or garage conversions since 1908?”

    What part of the definition of “new” eludes your steel trap of a mind?

  • mikesonn

    *washes hands* I’m done with this guy.

  • marcos

    troll = troll – 1

  • mikesonn
  • Sebra Leaves

    The attitude that we should not expect to park for free on the city
    streets that we paid for with our taxes is pretty outrageous. The
    streets and the sidewalks are public property not a new source of
    government revenue. Who came up with the idea that the best way to create more parking is to eliminate parking spaces and install meters for more turnover. Cars are either parked or moving. As it is now, you can park on the street for days and walk or take public transit until you need to drive. Who is going to pay to park their car all day so they can walk or take public transit?

  • mikesonn

    Aaron, we really need a side bar filled with basic arguments so that we can respond to a post like this by going:

    “You are wrong on every level. See sidebar and educate yourself.  >>>>>>”

  • Francis

    Park is an EPIC FAILURE! Jay Primus and the rest of the SFMTA are not listening to the residents!! SF Park came through my neighborhood in SOMA and replaced half of the Residential (Y) Zone parking with meters.
    The end result is that taxpaying city residents can no longer park their cars near their homes, apartments, and businesses. The epic failure is that **NO ONE IS PARKING AT THE
    METERS** along the Caltrain line Near Townsend and 6th street. Residents on Bluxome Street now
    have to park our cars up to 4 blocks away from our homes or pay $2.00 an hour to park at the meters to bring on groceries or off load our children. Is it any wonder why families have given up on San Francisco?

    It is a huge
    inconvenience to the businesses and residents in my neighborhood and
    it’s has made SOMA a less desirable place to own real estate, or operate a business. The residents see this as a money grab by the SFMTA who rammed these meters through without regard for the needs or input
    of our neighborhood. The city takes away street parking from
    hardworking residents so that the SFMTA can build useless parking apps. Seriously, people should not need to use software to park their cars.

    Residents in other parts of the city should fight this fascism and not allow these meters to be installed. The people who implemented this bloated poorly run project should be ousted from their Ivory Towers and replaced with people who are willing to work with residents.

  • marcos

     Do you live in the Palms?

  • peternatural

    Sounds terrible. There’s nowhere to park because all the spots are… vacant.

    In my neighborhood, street parking is free. As a result, residents have to park up to 18 blocks from their homes because there are absolutely no free spots closer. The alternative is pay the landlord $300/month for a spot in the garage. If there was an SFPark meter out front charging 25 cents / hour (because no one ever parks there, so demand is low), then I could park in front of my place for only $0.25 per houir X 24 hours X 30 days = $180 / month. (Assuming I never move the car.) That’s jolly steep^H^H^H^H^H cheap! Someone tell my landlord he’s ripping me off!!

    Speaking of landlords and ripoffs, taxpayers (all of us, no just you) are the landlords of the street parking spaces. Giving it away for free is the real rip-off here.

  • The meters by Caltrain you are talking about don’t appear to be part of the SFPark program.  Other than the little strip in front of Walgreens right across from the train station, the meters on both sides of the street further south aren’t variable rate.  (I wish SFPark included their prices in their web/phone tools, though.  Are they cheaper than the SFPark areas or not?) Since they’re mostly empty now, I also wish they’d be variable so the price could be reduced.

    I know it’s certainly made walking past the habitation vehicles, encampment less disturbing–I can’t think of the last time a co-worker complained of witnessing a sex-act on their walk from Caltrain to the office.


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