SFMTA Board Repeals Sunday Parking Meters

Get ready for the return of Sunday traffic dysfunction and double parking. Photo: Aaron Bialick

The SFMTA Board of Directors today caved to pressure from Mayor Ed Lee by removing Sunday parking meters, a move folded into its approval of the agency’s two-year budget.

The Sunday meter reversal was supported by all but one of the SFMTA’s board members, who are appointed by the mayor. Board member Cristina Rubke said she thought reversing Sunday metering is “a mistake.”

But the change went unopposed even by other progressive board members, like Cheryl Brinkman and Joél Ramos, who had supported Sunday parking metering when the policy was approved in 2012. Brinkman and Ramos said they agreed with Mayor Lee’s stated strategy of bringing back free Sunday parking to win support for transportation funding measures headed to the ballot in November, and that SFMTA needed to do more education about the rationale behind parking metering.

“I know Mayor Lee has some of the best political minds in the city working with him in his office, and that they are very focused on helping to solve the city’s transportation funding issues,” said Brinkman, who is up for re-appointment at the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday. “It sounds like the mayor’s office is certain that this is going to help us in November.”

Brinkman said she’s “calling upon the mayor’s office to work with the MTA Board around education and community involvement in San Francisco’s parking problems. I feel we need to step back and find a way to work with our communities to really explain the reasons behind, and the need for, progressive parking management.”

“We have failed, frankly, to convince the great majority of people” of the benefits of Sunday meters, said Ramos. “You can listen to Matier and Ross, or read the papers, and see that the general sentiment of it is a negative one.”

Mainstream news reporters who have covered the Sunday metering issue, like columnists Phil Matier and Andrew Ross at the SF Chronicle and CBS affiliate KPIX, typically don’t mention that the SFMTA found that meters cut cruising times for parking in half and increased turnover for businesses by at least 20 percent. Instead, parking meters have typically been framed as a way to collect revenue, even in the Chronicle report on today’s vote.

Mayor Lee issued this statement about “reinstating free Sunday parking in San Francisco”:

Repealing Sunday parking meters is about making San Francisco a little more affordable for our families and residents on Sunday, plain and simple. Paid Sunday meters were implemented in 2013 as a response to record budget deficits at Muni, and I thank the SFMTA Board of Directors for moving a budget forward today that eliminates this practice. Instead of nickel and diming our residents at the meter on Sunday, let’s work together to support comprehensive transportation funding measures this year and in the future that will invest in our City’s transportation system for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and drivers alike.

As we reported, there’s no evidence to support Mayor Lee’s claims that anyone besides church leaders have pushed to give away Sunday parking. Indeed, the only speakers who showed up to encourage the SFMTA Board to repeal Sunday meters were the same church leaders who campaigned against the policy in the first place, including SF Interfaith Council Executive Director Michael Pappas.

Two church ministers who did speak seemed more worried about double parking tickets than parking meters, although enforcement was not on the agenda. Reverend Arnold Townsend complained that after a non-Sunday service at Third Baptist Church, located at Pierce and McAllister Streets, “Two parking control officers were outside rudely telling [churchgoers] that if they did not move their cars immediately, they would be towed or ticketed.” Typically, drivers at Third Baptist double park on McAllister, a Muni and bicycle route. Townsend said the parking enforcement director had “assured” the SFMTA Board earlier that day “that they would not be pursuing double-parked cars outside churches.”

“We are here because of our concerns about fair and equitable treatment,” said Reverend Keva McNeill from El Bethel Baptist Church on Golden Gate Avenue at Fillmore Street, which has no parking meters on its street front, but where congregation members typically double park on Sundays. “The churches have been engaged in the practice of double parking for over a half century. The previous agreement did not present any opposition until recently, it seems.”

Notably, Supervisor John Avalos showed up to the SFMTA board meeting to support Sunday parking meters — the first elected official known to have publicly done so in recent years. “We talk about being a transit-first city… but we don’t always live up to that,” he said. “We’ve seen that Sunday meters actually has been a success. I think it works for our commercial corridors. You’ll see cars not spending all day sitting in front of a shop, but actually rotating in and out.”

Supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos, and an aide for Supervisor Jane Kim also pulled away from a Board of Supervisors meeting to speak to the SFMTA Board, but they didn’t mention Sunday parking meters. Each spoke in support of expanding the free Muni pass program to low-income 18-year-olds, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Of the dozens of speakers at the board meeting, the vast majority testified in support of those programs, and the budget was approved with an extension of the free Muni for youth program to 18-year-olds. Sunday meter advocates noted that the estimated $9.6 million to be lost from the meter repeal could’ve gone towards funding such programs.

Noting that the continuation of the free Muni for low-income youth program was funded by a $6.8 million donation from GoogleMario Tanev of the SF Transit Riders Union pointed out that “you’re essentially going to have Google sponsor free parking, instead of free Muni for kids.”

Tanev said the parking meter reversal “violates all semblance of competence in government and public process. Your own report shows that meters are beneficial to businesses and shoppers, reduce congestion and increase pedestrian safety.”

“Sunday meters were passed in collaboration with many stakeholders, including the Chamber of Commerce. It is a betrayal that they are revoked without the same process applied when they passed.”

“You’re nobody’s puppets,” Tanev told the SFMTA Board. “You work for free. Be willing to be fired, do the right thing, and let the politicians take the blame if they interfere in your work.”

Sunday parking metering is scheduled to end in July.

  • I am also finding some great inspiration amongst the populace in Calgary:


  • FWIW, my reply on SFGate:

    That strategy would more accurately be described as removing the encouragements that fuel driving. No need to actively discourage it, just stop propping it up with insane policies and tons and tons of cash.

  • It is completely insane to base policy on a pair of dishonest gossip columnists and the people they choose to quote.

  • “if Chinatown had free parking you’d see more traffic heading through North Beach to get there, and the 30-Stockton would get bogged down in even more traffic.”

    That’s the current situation. There is no meter enforcement in Chinatown, double parking is rampant, and traffic is at a standstill, then add in that there is barely any enforcement or that businesses feed the meter all day.

  • What

  • M.

    Karen, as of quite a while ago you were invited to participate in our discussions with the SFMTA to push these measures through. And we’re looking forward to seeing you at City meetings, e.g. the numerous VisionZero hearings, to do same and get them funded.
    Easy to hold forth about what can be done, but it takes actual effort to make things happen.

  • M.

    Sounds like you should find a city that isn’t growing, and move there.

  • Why must you continually kick your allies? Do you need us to thank you and shower you with gifts for doing what most of us on here already do? Congrats, you go to meetings – so do we!

  • M.

    A mystery: why paint, one of the cheapest commodities for the street, is used so sparingly here. It took repeated pointed demands to get a promise to stripe the entire length of Polk simultaneously. We’re still fighting for through-intersection striping. Any of you are more than welcome to participate in that effort

  • jonobate

    Yeah, that’s kinda the point. No-one seems to be enraged at the Port meters operating Sundays and evenings, but when SFMTA does the same thing everyone loses their shit.

    Look, I don’t disagree that SFMTA should be able to set metering policies without political interference. Unfortunately, that’s not the case right now.

  • M.

    Glad we can agree, Mikesonn. What missing from this discussion is that the City hangs the MTA out to dry all the time. The instigators of the Save Polk backlash were recently rewarded with an IIN grant of at least $15K. When I inquired, the reply referenced what poor communicators the MTA are (so presumably the vicious pushback was all their fault). The MTA can put out state-of-the-art proposals but the City doesn’t have their backs and their response can be anything from resounding silence and no funding to active undermining and deflection of blame from them to the MTA.

  • M.

    Nonsense. Pop in to a meeting some time, those who are pushing for us appreciate seeing you there. Many of them run way past business hours so you should be good.

  • Sparafucile

    You’re nuts. Everybody parks in Chinatown for free already. Have you ever even been there? 95% of the available parking is occupied by a vehicle with a dubious handicapped placard hanging from the rear view mirror.

  • M.

    Real activists do what they do because it matters and we take a huge amount of heat, other than that emitted by our laptops. And we certainly don’t work for remotely submitted accolades. We all need you to stop blowing egotistical hot air (and nasty Twitter trolling) and be active. And stop blinding yourself to how destructive your grandstanding can be. Case in point, the early baying here for a boycott of Polk merchants would have punished progressive merchants – if it were anything more than empty words. How do we know there are progressive merchants? We actually visit them and have even got some to take the stupid signs out of their windows and have collected letters from them. And we challenged the Small Business Commission with them. Will any of it work? We don’t know. But just talk certainly won’t.
    We stay out of your Twitter mentions. Extend the courtesy and do the same for us.

  • jonobate

    I’m highly skeptical of personal anecdotes related to parking occupancy.

    If you’re correct, that’s a separate problem related to corrupt issuance of handicapped placards, rather than a problem with meter hours.

  • Jamison Wieser

    A single-occupany donkey.

  • Sparafucile

    It is both a well-known problem, and one I’ve personally observed every single time I walk down Clay St or up Sacramento. the point is, though, that no number of meters is going to improve Chinatown parking, so long as “duration of stay” is not enforced. Hell …. virtually nothing is vigorously enforced in Chinatown, from health codes, including food safety, to (remember the original Chinatown exemption) “plastic bag” laws, to parking placard fraud. Then add the inherent corruption that comes with allowing vehicles with handicapped placards to park for free, and you invite fraud.

  • timsmith

    People contribute in different ways. No need to squabble.

  • Jamison Wieser

    Actually… bike boxes do have instructions for car drivers, complete with diagrams and callouts. You might have easily missed the though since they are posted on the side of the road in 48pt type.


  • Mario Tanev

    Haha, I am flattered but we need strong advocacy that will push against the ever enveloping political corrupted group-think spineless city family culture. A few days ago you might have said Ramos or Brinkman for mayor, but see how that turned out — and I am not saying they’re bad, just affected by the politics. You need strong citizenry as a corrective to such bad policy.

    Frankly, it does seem to me that Scott Wiener is more principled than any of the other politicians right now, but unfortunately he doesn’t believe in this specific issue. Avalos has the courage to take up this political hot potato, so I admire him for that, but he is so often on the wrong side or completely absent and I think he’s easily swayed by the politics. David Chiu is spineless although everyone knows where he really stands on issues (more progressive than Wiener on transportation issues in personal views), but he’s unwilling to defend and advocate (as Wiener does really well).

    Either one of those would probably be better than Lee. As for the other supervisors on the board – they’re either unproven (Yee, Tang), worse than Lee (Farrell), panderers (Campos), wild-cards (Breed) or too localized in their policy making (Mar, Kim, Cohen).

  • Mario Tanev

    BTW, Scott Wiener was absent at the meeting, but his last take on this was:

    “We need to be shoring up Muni; we need to be expanding its capacity. We are in a deep hole and we need to dig ourselves out. I hope the mayor can explain how $10 million to $15 million is going to be replaced”.


    Not exactly a ringing endorsement and we haven’t heard from him since, but certainly, a change of tone relative to his past opposition to Sunday parking meters.

  • jonobate

    “no number of meters is going to improve Chinatown parking, so long as “duration of stay” is not enforced.”

    I’m with you there 100%. Any metering scheme (in fact, any law period) needs consistent enforcement in order to be effective.

    The most annoying part of the hearing yesterday was the baptist minister raging about the fact that PCOs were telling his parishioners after the service to move their double parked cars or get towed. It’s the law, for fuck’s sake! You should be glad that the PCOs gave you a warning rather than just towing you.

  • keenplanner

    Chillax people! Mayor Lee and the SFMTA Board are not having sex, as far as I know. I don’t think they’re even dating.
    File this seemingly unwise vote under “campaign strategy” and “foresight.”
    Since there is a very big MUNI bond on the ballot in November, one that will require a 2/3 margin to pass, the SFMTA Board thought it was unwise to piss off driving voters before the election. I think they figure that most of us non-drivers will support the bond either way, but they need the car owners to swing 66.6%
    I’m sure this matter will get revisited, probably at the first Board meeting after the election, Ed Lee be damned, and then we can start enjoying watching drivers pumping rolls of quarters into meters all over town again.
    Lesson: When you hear those familiar rants from the Guardian or SF Weekly, there’s always more to the story. To quote Rosanna R. Danna: “Nevermind.”

  • Dark Soul

    Free or Paid Meters have different prospective regardless of the paid research was made.

  • Guest

    The VLF, as I understand it, actually requires a 2/3’s vote of the Board of Supervisors to place it on the ballot, and then a majority vote on the ballot.

  • Guest

    Sorry I misread your comment.

  • L_Mariachi

    If they were concerned about fair and equitable treatment, they should be lobbying for unenforced double-parking for everyone, all the time, not just their parishioners during services.

  • Jack Edwards

    I like Humps. Everyone I go over- I honk. Some streets have two on one block- and I get to honk twice. Everyone honk! its fun!!

  • Ilya Feldman

    When does the vote actually go into effect? I’m very much looking forward to the day, when I no longer have to start rummaging around for quarters while enjoying a casual Sunday date with my girlfriend.

  • Sean Rea


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