Turning point - Page 3

Parking is quietly becoming the year's big issue

A lot of the discussions we've had are now being studied."

Most recently it was the citizens committee that developed the Market-Octavia Plan — one of the first to cap how much parking developers may build along with the projects — that sought guidance about what the city could legally do to recover the full costs associated with automobiles.

"There were a bunch of questions that came up about parking as an issue," she said of the Market-Octavia process. So the Planning Department and other city agencies began to explore the cost of parking as part of the city's update of the Transit Impact Fee that is charged to new development, with the idea of expanding that to include impacts to all modes of transportation.

"We are looking at parking as a land use and its impact to the [transportation] system," she continued. "This is a city that really wants to support other modes than just transit."

The contract for that parking nexus study was awarded to Cambridge Systematics earlier this month with initial recommendations expected by the end of the year. That study is expected to show that developers and drivers don't come anywhere near paying for the full cost of the automobile to San Francisco. "These nexus studies usually suggest a much higher fee rate than is feasible to provide," she said.

In other words, drivers and developers would freak out if asked to pay for their full impacts, arguing that that doing so would stifle development, hurt the economy, punish those who need cars, etc. So the fees will likely be set lower than needed to cover the city's costs.

Even in the short-term, simply extending meter hours into the evenings — as SFMTA is now studying to help the city deal with its budget deficit — is likely to trigger a pitched battle between progressive supervisors and politicians who side with some merchant groups that consider parking sacrosanct.
David Heller, president of the Greater Geary Merchants Association, will be one of those leading the charge. By way of argument, he criticized San Francisco as "a very business-unfriendly city" compared to competitors like Colma and Burlingame and laid out this scenario: "After 6 p.m., there are no power lunches going on. People want to relax. Imagine you sit down to a nice dinner. You've got your wine and are enjoying your appetizer and in the middle of your meal, you have to get up and feed the meter. When you return, the ambiance has been lost. What are the chances you'll return to that restaurant?"
And so it goes with the politics of parking, where pressing realities clash with visceral reactions, driver prerogatives (such as the "right" to feed the meter, which actually isn't legal), and other distracting entitlement issues.