Parking breaks

Supervisors and angry citizens fail to deter the SFMTA from managing on-street parking


This was the moment these indignant motorists had been waiting for. The elected supervisors were finally going to get the unelected bureaucrats at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to back off of plans to manage street parking and install new parking meters in their Western SoMa, northeast Mission, Potrero Hill, and Dogpatch neighborhoods.

Anger and frustration over the parking program has been building for more than a year (see "Pay to park," 1/24/12), and when Sup. Mark Farrell called a May 2 hearing before the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee, SFMTA's critics put out the call and dozens showed up to voice their displeasure.

Farrell opened the hearing with a clear statement about where he stands on the issue: "I am very much against expanding parking meters into our residential neighborhoods." He also expressed opposition to the SFMTA's extension of meter hours to evenings and Sundays and said that would be the subject of another upcoming hearing.

"I think we're frankly on the wrong track," said Sup. Malia Cohen, who isn't on the committee but showed up just to voice the frustrations of her District 10 constituents and to help grill SFMTA head Ed Reiskin. She repeated the populist criticisms of the SFMTA, calling its goals "unattainable" and its critics "reasonable," and accusing the agency of not having a comprehensive parking management plan.

"I look forward to you saying, 'I quit, you win, no more parking meters,'" Cohen said to Reiskin, throwing red meat to the seething crowd, which erupted into loud, raucous, sustained applause and shouts of appreciation at the comment.

Those comments frame a defining problem in San Francisco: The city can't get to its sustainability and climate-change goals without reducing car use (see "Zero-sum future, p. 12) -- but even mild attempts to reduce parking create populist furor.

When Reiskin took the podium to deliver his presentation, he struck an even, diplomatic tone, saying that he understands people's concerns about the issue. "Parking is a challenging, sensitive, and difficult issue. Parking matters to people," he said.

But then he went on to explain that voters and previous supervisors charged the SFMTA with managing the city's entire transportation system — Muni, cars, bikes, cabs, pedestrians, and parking — in accordance with the city's Transit-First policy, which calls for active promotion of alternatives to private automobile use in this dense and growing city.

Then he responded directly to Cohen's challenge: "I would have to respectfully decline the suggestion that we don't manage parking. We have an obligation under the Charter to do so."


Reiskin rejects the frequent accusation that SFMTA is anti-car — and the suggestion that the agency should focus on improving Muni before it can realistically expect people to rely less on private automobiles. The reality, he said, is that the city can't make Muni or bicycling more attractive without regulating automobiles in general and parking in particular.

He said drivers who circle the blocks looking for parking spots constitute 20-30 percent of traffic in this highly congested city, and they are the worst sorts of drivers to have on the roads. They clog traffic by stopping frequently or double-parking, they drive in bike lanes, they do dangerous U-turns, and they are often inattentive and distracted, presenting a danger to pedestrians and cyclists.

The agency's SF Park program tries to alleviate some of that problem by using market-based pricing at meters and garages to promote turnover in high-demand areas and to ensure the availability of parking spots.


Progressive government is to do whatever it wants in spite of the citizens involvement.

Posted by Matlock on May. 08, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

Citizen involvement in the form of Prop E a few years back merged dpt and muni to create the politically independent sfmta so that they could make the hard choices that need to be made to accommodate a future population of 900,000.

Posted by Guest @jwinstonsf on May. 09, 2013 @ 5:34 am

you said it. so they can make the hard choices that need to be made. And that's the fact, except that they made the decision and that politics took over anyway. Time to stick to it, run it as a pilot, see what the market rate would be, and if all else fails you can always return to the status quo. EXCEPT you will never know if you dont ever try. People are afraid of change, they dont look at the whole picture, and like anyone, who would want to pay if they used to get it free. Well time to grow up people! We cant all drive all the same time, else no one will get anywhere.

People dont live here to live in a parking lot, and it simply is inefficient to fill our world with cars... sitting...

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

Hilarious. This is SF.

Posted by Matlock on May. 10, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

Why does "manage traffic" always mean "take from the motorist and give to SFBC?" Why does "manage" mean eliminate parking without mitigation plans for alternative parking locations? Why does "manage" mean putting bike lanes onto the busiest streets, thus creating new dangers? Why does "manage" mean forced increases in the cost of living in the City? Why does "manage" mean that cyclists never have to pay for anything, including the revenue of which their cycling deprives Muni of millions? It all sounds like Pogrom to me.

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

Watch the hyperbole or you'll be sewing messenger bags in Pelican Bay! I've been biking in SF for 13 years and these changes have very little effect on my cost of living. In addition, how do you define "never have to pay for anything?" There's a Bridge and a New Bore of the Caldecott that I would like to sell my tax dollar share of - are you buying?

Posted by SFBayBiker on May. 09, 2013 @ 3:33 pm

"This was the moment these indignant motorists had been waiting for."

- Steve Jones.

"The soccer project has been repeatedly approved by city agencies despite strong opposition from some neighbors and environmentalists, who say it conflicts with a Local Coastal Plan that calls for it to be a “naturalistic” setting. "

- Steve Jones

Posted by Matlock on May. 10, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

"I look forward to you saying, 'I quit, you win, no more parking meters,'" Cohen said to Reiskin, throwing red meat to the seething crowd, which erupted into loud, raucous, sustained applause and shouts of appreciation at the comment."

That incident was a psychological ploy between two of the the Israelis running San Francisco.

Everyone hates Reiskin so what does he care if Cohen attacks him? They will kiss and make up at the synagogue later.

Cohen gets loads of positive publicity for saying what she did that will help her when re-election time comes around.

Reiskin will go ahead and do what they all do. Maximize profit which in turn maximizes human suffering.

I bet he is salivating at the prospect right now.

Posted by guest on May. 25, 2013 @ 8:24 am

SFMTA sucks on a good day. Time to put it in the hands of the Stupidvisers who are elected by the people.

Posted by Guest on May. 31, 2013 @ 9:42 am