Are residents angry at bureaucratic bungling — or just with the loss of free street parking?
There are myriad ways that the plans are flawed, say their critics: Meters were proposed on some residential streets in initial plans, despite SFMTA policies to the contrary; traffic surveys had too small a sampling and weren't realistic; residential permit districts would be replaced by meters, or meters would be placed where districts might work better; transit service on Potrero Hill is too bad to expect people to use it; live-work spaces were inappropriately treated like retail outlets; and meters near the 22nd Street Caltrain station could actually discourage the use of public transit.
"There's not that much disagreement, but where there is, it's really important," said Tony Kelly, president of the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association. "I'm someone who supports parking management, and I'm frustrated that the MTA is so tone deaf with this. We've been through a lot of fake public outreach efforts and this is looking like one of those."
Janet Carpinelli, president of the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, said her members feel like the SFMTA is ramming this through without regard for the needs or input of that neighborhood.
"The real issue is it's a very big inconvenience to the businesses and residents in this neighborhood and it's not really helping anything. It's just a revenue grab by the MTA," she said.
Potrero Hill resident Jim Wilkins was so outraged by the proposal to install meters along Pennsylvania Street outside his home that he started an online petition against the proposals that has so far garnered about 1,300 signatures. "We're forming an organization to resist these proposals," he told us.
Lum was already a member of the 17th Street Coalition, which formed in 2010 to oppose the renewal of a liquor license at the local Gas'n'Shop, but more recently organized opposition to the meter proposal. It attracted Caroligne, and now they've formed a new group, Northeast Mission Neighbors, which held a joint organizing meeting with the Dogpatch and Potrero groups on Jan. 23. They're all determined to delay and modify the SFMTA's proposal, which had been scheduled for adoption by the SFMTA Board of Directors Feb. 7.
Lum said the proposed changes are tough to accept: "I don't think this is about free parking, it's about living and working in a community with certain things and now those things are changing."
CHANGE IS HARD
The biggest target of critics' ire is Jay Primus, who runs the SFpark program for the SFMTA. He maintains that he's done extensive outreach and gathered community input that has shaped the plans. "These are still proposals and nothing has been approved yet," he told us.
For example, Wilkins told us his campaign continued even after the meters in front of his house were eliminated from the proposal last month. Primus also noted the proposed meters allow for all-day parking at just 25 cents an hour in most places, so it isn't really such an inconvenience or financial hardship. And Primus just announced that the Feb. 7 hearing is being pushed back by at least two weeks to heed more community input.
But most of the opposition to the proposals isn't surprising, and Primus thinks it comes more from the idea of charging for street parking than with the specifics of the proposal.
"Parking is always an emotional and delicate issue in San Francisco, as it is in most cities," Primus said, citing protests against charging for parking going back to when the first meters were installed in 1947. "This has happened at every block that has gotten meters."
But now, there are even more benefits and ease of use with modern meters, which motorists can pay with a credit card or even remotely. Variable pricing is also used to ensure more parking based on demand, although it's being kept at a very low rate in areas where businesses or residents still need all-day parking.