Livable City: Extra Parking for Car-Share Could Be Abused

Update 3/5/13: This bill was finally approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Developers would be allowed to skirt limits on car parking if they devote the extra spaces to car-sharing, under a proposal approved unanimously by the SF Planning Commission yesterday. The bill [PDF], which advocates warn could be abused as a loophole to expand private parking, would apply to residential and commercial buildings. The legislation must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Even as demand grows, car-share parking spots are disappearing as gas stations and parking lots are redeveloped. A proposal would allow developers to exceed parking maximums to add car-share spots, but advocates say it could be abused to expand private parking. Photo: City CarShare/Twitter

Under the proposal, developers who want to build the maximum number of private parking spots permitted by the planning code but aren’t willing to devote any of those spots to car-share would be allowed to add up to five extra car-share spots in a building of 50 residential units or less. For buildings larger than that, which are required to provide at least one car-share space, up to eight could be added. To be eligible for the exemption, a developer cannot apply for a conditional use permit to exceed the maximum allowance for private parking, according to Andres Power, an aide to Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the proposal.

Advocates say that letting developers exceed parking maximums undermines the purported spirit of the bill. “Car-share is meant to reduce demand for residential parking, so car-share spaces ought not be over and above the maximum number of residential spaces,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. “Using car-share to justify excess parking is cynical greenwash, and nothing more.”

Proponents argue that the bill would make it easier for car-share companies to provide spots evenly distributed near residences, which is becoming increasingly difficult as sites like parking lots and gas stations, where many car-share spots are located, are redeveloped for housing and other uses.

Power cited studies showing that, on average, every available car-share vehicle replaces eight to ten privately-owned cars while encouraging the use of transit, walking, and biking. Essentially, he argued, car ownership would be more effectively reduced if developers build extra spaces for car-share than no car-share spaces at all.

“We want to make not having a car as easy as possible,” said Power. “While we want to encourage access to car-share, the planning code doesn’t always do this. Currently, if a developer wants to include car-share spots in their projects, these car-share spots are treated in the same way as private vehicle parking spots are when counting towards parking maximums. This is not an incentive for including car-share.”

If a car-share company abandons a spot, Power said, the proposal prohibits that spot from being converted to private parking, though it can be converted to bike parking. However, advocacy organizations including Livable City and the Sierra Club say building owners could abuse the allowance without proper enforcement, and argue that any new car-share spaces should replace private parking spaces. A better solution, they said, would be to convert more on-street parking for car-share, which the SF Municipal Transportation Agency is planning to do.

In response to those concerns, the legislation was tweaked to prevent abuse, with a new requirement for signage that includes a phone number for residents to direct complaints, Power said. Wiener is also considering introducing another proposal that would allow the SFMTA to enforce the requirement, he added, which is currently done by the Planning Department only in response to complaints.

The proposal saw broad support from Planning Commissioners, though for different reasons. Commissioner Michael Antonini saw it as a way to preserve private parking, while Commissioner Gwyneth Borden said it would provide car-share companies a way to meet growing demand, which could lead to the construction of less parking down the road. “I think as we see more people using car-share in the future, there’ll be more developers who will decide they don’t need to provide as much parking because they can see that car-share is really viable,” she said.

The proposal is expected next to head to a committee of the Board of Supervisors before being approved by the full board.

  • Abe

    “these car-share spots are treated in the same way as private vehicle parking spots are when counting towards parking maximums. This is not an incentive for including car-share.”

    Why is it not an incentive? Why does it need to be an incentive? Car-share companies pay to use these spaces, right? Then why does the city need to do anything? If car-share companies need more spots in a location they can pay more for them.

  • Because the number of parking spaces which are used for private vs. shared cars (and the resulting number of cars on the road) is a matter of public interest.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like on-street metered spaces would be ideal for this — the 1-2 hour usage periods could be converted to metered time for the empty parking space.  

    I suggested the on-street idea to D5 candidates before the election, and they seemed interested. Where we live on Lower Haight I was hoping we could move some car-share slots over from the upper Market building sites.

  • Abe

    If so, then why add more parking spaces and hope that reduces the number of cars? Why not just mandate a percentage of car-share spaces?

    To clarify my previous post, why do anything to developers’ parking rules (either the proposed increase or what I just said above) for the sake of increasing car-share? Why not convert city-owned spaces?

    This seems like an extremely generous offer for developers (more profitable parking) and for car-share companies (more guaranteed parking) all in a way that would add cars to the local streets.

  • David Baker

    I’m am advocate for limiting the number of new private parking spaces and cars in San Francisco. Allowing a few extra spaces restricted to Carshare use in new developments will help lower auto use in SF. Developers do need an incentive, as private parking spaces are valuable, Carshare spaces not so much, very much depending on the locaton. In fact Carshare providers want pods subsidized in many neighborhoods. Big picture thinking here folks, please.

  • Once upon a time all new building had to have one parking spot per unit – this is not the case anymore. Developers are not including ANY parking spots in the majority of new buidings…

    To me this is a red herring.

  • >>Proponents argue that the bill would make it easier for car-share companies to provide spots evenly distributed near residences, which is becoming increasingly difficult as sites like parking lots and gas stations, where many car-share spots are located, are redeveloped for housing and other uses

    If you’ve noticed – most of the new building being built at in hayes valley, lower castro etc – don’t have any parking in the first place. Ironically, these lots used to be places where car sharing programs kept their cars (for instance the old gas station on market near safeway used to have parking for 8-10 car shares.

    Given that every car share elminates 8 to 10 cars I don’t see how you can feel this way? Particularily when at most they’d be replacing spaces that were formerly there in the first place?

  • @yahoo-2J2S5LDR7OCRCGP4ZNAVE7N75Q:disqus “Developers are not including ANY parking spots in the majority of new buidings.”

    Many readers here probably wish that were true.

  • >>San Francisco eliminated minimum residential parking requirements in certain areas that are well-served by transit and went even further by instituting residential parking maximums in these areas, which set a cap on the amount of parking that developers can provide. 

    In my neighborhood most of the new buildings have zero parking places. What’s more these formerly vacant lot’s where hubs for car shares…

  • @yahoo-2J2S5LDR7OCRCGP4ZNAVE7N75Q:disqus Yes, many parking minimums have been reduced or removed, with maximums set, since private parking is an artificial incentive for driving and car ownership, increases the cost of housing, and often goes unused (a study found that half of the residential garages in the Mission are not used to store cars).

    But if you watch developments as they go through the Planning Commission, it’ll quickly become clear that it’s the norm for developers to include substantial amounts of parking. Many developers still push toward the maximums, and some apply for conditional use permits to exceed the maximum. In fact, the very novelty of the parking-free 1050 Valencia project was the premise of a recent story I wrote.

  • Many others have no parking at all. For instance the new complex at the corner of valencia & 14th. Any of the buildings being built along market (market and page, the buildings from around market and 14th several hundred housing units with no parking….. Ironically all of these places used to have spaces for car shares (when they were vacant lots) and now they don’t . the orginal premise of the article was that car sharing spaces would be abused…. how is this possiable when car share spaces have been eliminated by all the building? Additionally, if you were going to build a building would you chose to up the building costs but putting in very expensive subtreanian parking when you didn’;t  need too? I think not.

    I understand biking is part of the city, always has been – the tone of posts are like you think SF is going to become some amish community… not likely.

  • @yahoo-2J2S5LDR7OCRCGP4ZNAVE7N75Q:disqus 299 Valencia has 0.75 parking spaces per unit, granted with a CU permit to exceed the 0.5 ratio set in the Market-Octavia plan. Please don’t spread misinformation.

  • ah… my mistake – however, it’s by far the smallest development of the 5 that I mentioned the rest have no parking.

    Once again every spot I mentioned in previous post –  had car share parking prior to constuction. They no longer do.

    So the question stands – if they’re elminating car share parking and car sharing is apparently a good thing. How is it abusive to have dedicated car share parking?

  • sparky – if you prefer to not drive in SF, why are you so opposed to cycling being safer and MUNI being more efficient?

  • @murphatahoe – Fundamental fairness. Drivers and parkers have seen a 100% increase in both fines and meters. Along with the reduction of parking more me@murphatahoe:disqus ters etc.

    The article above would be a good example – objecting to more parking spots in a building? What’s the point? SF has always been a walking city first, muni, bikes and cars etc. I don’t see SF becoming an amish community anytime sooon, some of us need cars for work and our families.

    Interesting fact – parking fine revenue peaked in 2006 that was BEFORE they doubled the fines.. (they still haven’t broken 100mm in fine revenue). 

    Drivers have gotten rid of their cars, changed their behavior, and the SFMTA keeps inventing additional reasons to add more meters and increase fines. Bottomline, san francisco is a congested city, it make a lot more sense to walk, rider or ride muni when possiable – but this isn’t always a possiable – I think the war on drivers is more about revenue than anything else (Muni’s budget in 2007 was 700mm… this years budget is 830mm). Have you seen any improvement?

    If people have corrected their behavior, gotten out of their cars etc… why do keep increasing the penalities and meter rates?


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