Parking meter proposal hit from the right and the left


By Steven T. Jones
The politics of parking in San Francisco has always been intensively visceral, particularly among those who assert a right to park their cars on public property at little or no cost (and who often have a hard time finding a spot). So yesterday’s San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency hearing on its proposal to extend parking meter hours was bound to get heated.

MTA chief Nat Ford anticipated the high emotions to come when he said in his introductory remarks, “It’s not easy to find parking in San Francisco, and it’s not easy to talk about parking in San Francisco…We know this study is creating a lot of discussion and feedback from elected officials and the general public.”

And just as predicted, representatives from the business community, landlords, westside residents, and other conservative interests decried the parking proposal as an unfair tax on motorists and an unnecessary intrusion of government do-gooders.

But the real surprise of the hearing was the angry opposition from a handful of leftists – self-described socialists, poor students, and other young members of the anti-war ANSWER Coalition – who blasted the proposal as a tax on working class motorists and called for the city to tax the rich and big corporations instead.

“The working class is being driven out and I hope this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” said ANSWER’s Forest Schmidt. “Someone else needs to pay for the budget deficit that giant corporations created.”

Fellow ANSWER member Frank Landa, who said he was also representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation, said, “Government and corporate institutions cannot keep justifying the robbery of workers’ wages.”

ANSWER’s Tina Landis said, “The hikes are just another attack on the people,” while Michelle Schudel said of her group, “Students Fight Back is against parking meter hikes because it’s a regressive tax…Like the common people of Oakland, we will continue to speak out against these hikes until we win.”

Progressives and urban planning activists who supported the proposal were surprised at ANSWER’s approach, and many responded angrily that these activists – who weren’t involved in actively opposing the MTA’s doubling of Muni fares in recent years – were suddenly opposing a measure to get millions of dollars from drivers as a means of preventing more service cuts and fare hikes for Muni, whose riders are far more often working class than are motorists.

“I wonder if the ANSWER Coalition is embarrassed to be in bed with landlords and the Chamber of Commerce,” progressive activist Fran Taylor said at the hearing, later adding, “The real working class and the real poor are on the bus and we need this.”

What the leftist critics of the proposal didn’t seem to understand was that the SFMTA has just two constituencies under its purview: drivers and public transit users. It can’t levy taxes on big corporations or wealthy individuals, and if the money to close the deficit doesn’t come from drivers, then it will come from Muni.

“People said we should tax the corporations, but I think it’s important to understand what authority this body has,” MTA chair Tom Nolan said after public testimony. “We have to find the revenue somewhere.”

Yet that kind of zero sum game – which is largely a product of longtime conservative opposition to new general revenue sources, such as taxes on the rich -- is clearly frustrating to San Francisco residents of all political stripes. Rich and poor, left and right, the speakers expressed utter exasperation with being nickel and dimed by government.

That’s understandable, but what’s less understandable was the mixed messages from opponents to the proposal who equated parking with a right and user fees with a tax – and who complained about the lack of parking in the city while blasting a proposal designed to create more of it.

“The whole reason behind this is to increase the availability of parking,” said SFMTA financial officer Sonali Bose, who reasonably and methodically laid out how they took a detailed, data-based approach to proposing new meter hours, how other comparable cities have extended meter hours with no detrimental effect (even the Port of San Francisco quietly pushed its meter hours back to 11 pm earlier this year), and how the proposal would benefit businesses and drivers while helping the SFMTA’s desperate budget situation.

Yet in the end, it didn’t matter. Opponents grumbled loudly as she spoke, and then they testified about how drivers would have to constantly plug parking meters (even though the proposal calls for four-hour time periods and easier payment methods), how businesses would suffer (even though there would be more street parking spots available close to them, and despite studies showing drivers spend less at each business than those who visit by other modes), and how unfair it is to deny drivers the free public parking to which they’ve grown accustomed.

But Ford seemed unbowed by the criticism and said that the agency will, as planned, do aggressive community outreach in the coming months (particularly to businesses), address perceived shortcomings in the study, and try to find consensus around increasing parking meter revenue: “I’d like to get everyone together on some kind of proposal.”


San Franciscans historically reject appeals to parking selfishness. I'd imagine that they'd not get fired up about an extension of meter hours several hours enough to create this auto populist revolt you envision, especially with a campaign run against it.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

Well, Marc, since ANSWER is undemocratic, and we can both agree that democracy and accountability are fundamentally good things, what do you say we put this up to a vote before imposing this proposal on the city?

If it turns out that I'm wrong and the citizens of San Francisco want more parking tickets, and want to put change into the meters well into the night rather than coming home from a long day at work and unwinding... I'll shut up and go along with the program.

Being such an advocate of democracy and process, would you do the same if you're wrong and you find out that you're fundamentally out of step with the vast majority?

Posted by greg on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 9:51 am

Greg, we DID put this all to a vote and elected officials to do the bidding of the people. This is what they asked for and this is what they'll probably implement.

Instead of putting extended meter hours on the ballot, like we did not put fare increases on the ballot, why not put a legitimate revenue measure on the ballot which will address Muni's structural revenue dilemmas?


Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

C'mon Marc, who are we kidding? Prop A was a bastardization of democracy. It was a package deal that a lot of people supported because it supposedly had good things for MUNI. But hidden inside the details, were devlish things like giving full decisionmaking authority to an unelected board. No one envisioned this when they voted for it. But I did, which is why I didn't support it.

The second paragraph, I agree with. Yes, let's put it all on the ballot. The fare increases truly suck. And lest you think I'm just a driver looking out for my self-interest, it should be said that the other half of my household rides MUNI to work every single day, so we get nailed on both ends. The MUNI rider in our household gets hit just as hard by that parking ticket as the driver does. Except that just *one* $250 parking ticket is as bad as the impact of the fare increases over a whole year.

The real solution, of course, is more revenue. And on that fight, I'm right there with you. But what this does is pit one segment of working people against another. And that's wrong from so many angles. If you succeed in ramming this through, it will backfire so badly your head will spin.
1. It will probably be reversed, because you're going to see enormous outrage.
2. Local businesses really will suffer, because while it's true that business passes on many costs to consumers, the one cost they can't pass on, is the cost of business that's lost. of course people have to get their food and clothes somewhere -they'll just go more to places with free parking, like Safeway, Trader Joes and Stonestown.
3. You're going to have nasty consequences for progressives at the ballot box, because the Chronicle will waste no time blaming it on us (and to a certain extent, they'll be right).

So in one fell swoop, you'll nail working families for hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars a year, give big businesses and malls a helping hand while crippling small independent businesses, deliver the death blow to the progressive majority, and in the end, it won't even stand because the outraged majority that you'll piss off will find a way to reverse it.

There might be a better way to do more damage to the city and annihilate more progressive priorities in one single act, but if there is, I can't think of it!

Posted by greg on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

If it passes we'll just put something on the ballot to repeal it - and we'll win.

When are bicyclists going to start paying for the roads they drive on? How long do they expect the free ride to continue? Imagine if we were to charge a bicycle licensing fee of $21 per year, how much money we could raise to keep that safety net whole and to make sure the residents of the Tenderloin are kept safe and warm in their SROs. See - I'm even proposing it be used for something other than road repair - that's how magnanimous I am.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 21, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

When I used to drive back in the day, I rarely had problems finding parking when out running errands.

TO put it another way, rarely did the time it took to find a parking space last longer than the average wait for a Muni vehicle.

I do not believe that it is possible to put a measure on the ballot which overturns a MTA decision, the City Attorney would probably shut you down on that, unless, of course, Herrera viewed it as instrumental in his mayoral race, in which case you get a green light.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 4:53 am

Or they could just, you know, stop driving to places that are dirt easy to get to on public transit.

At bare minimum they should change the meters around BART and Muni Metro stations.

Free parking is not really free. And really, the cost of free parking is the destruction of walkable communities, and through that the destruction of a healthy society.

Posted by SFHope on Oct. 21, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

Hey Lucretia Snapples,
You're an idiot. Bicyclists DO pay for the fucking roads they ride on in the form of taxes and the fact of the matter is the majority of cyclist own cars to which they have to pay for in terms of all the wonderful fees that come along with owning a car.

You're comparing the damage a car does to the road to the damage a bike does NOT do to the road?? Give me a break. As someone who owns a car and a bike, I actually feel like this tax is probably a good thing. Anything that will push me towards getting rid of my car and out from under the debt it causes me with repairs, fees, gas and the freakin' headache of always thinking about where i parked it and how long i can keep it there, is a good thing.

Once again, cyclist do pay their fare share for use of the roads. I'm not sure what planet you live on, but there's some education for you.

Posted by Capp on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 5:20 am

As far as A.N.S.W.E.R. goes, human beings are the capitalists of the earth, whether we are rich or poor, we participate in the enclosure of and expropriation of habitat and of the exploitation of the earth's resources in a way that sucks the life out of it.

Far be it for Stalinists like A.N.S.W.E.R. to be thinking of anything but their little corner of the working class struggle. With such sectarian thinking and action as we see from A.N.S.W.E.R., we might as well have the antiwar and antipoverty movements being run directly by COINTELPRO. Let's keep these would be iron fisters away from the environment, unless Eastern Europe is your idea of ecological paradise...


Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 6:04 am

Seriously, where were the Stalinists when Muni fares were being raised by 100% over the past 5 years and service has been cut? Marc Norton has been one of the sectarian leftists who has pushed this line over the years, and to his credit, he did try to fight a fare increase back in 2003. However, the resistance of Stalinists to environmentalist concerns about driving and parking ended up fracturing any coalition opposed to fare increases.

Until these sectarian leftist relics acknowledge that the working poor in San Francsico take transit in numbers much greater than those who drive and calibrate their activism accordingly, they will continue to be irrelevant as agents of change, and will end up siding with the capitalists down at the Chamber of Commerce to screw the planet in order that Americans might enjoy the divine right to convenience.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 6:37 am

Don't be surprised by the progressive opposition. Trust me, there's more where that came from. And Marc dismissing progressive opponents as "Stalinists" and such, doesn't help either. In Oakland, opposition was led by the owner of the Grand Lake theater, who's actually quite progressive, and it brought out a wave of opposition from all corners. You're going to see that in San Francisco as well. Electorally, the worst thing that can possibly happen is if progressives manage to push this through just in time for the 2010 supervisorial elections. I know that it's not up to the supes, but the media will frame it as "progressives vs car owners and small business," and we will be SO SCREWED.

Look, I understand the reasons for this, and some of them are good ones, but what you guys need to understand, is that there is a real sense that the parking gestapo is out of control in this city. What you're doing with this proposal is essentially condemning people to getting more parking tickets in increments of $80, $150, $250... punishments completely out of proportion to the "offense" committed, at a time when people can least afford it.

Two things will happen if this passes... 1) Yes, people will drive less, as Hope says. But she only has it partly right. When you live on the west side, biking over the hills for an errand on the east side isn't an option; nor is riding MUNI for 45 minutes when all you want is some vegetables and maybe lunch at your favorite east side spot. So you'll just think twice about going there, and you'll see a precipitous drop in local business (unless you're Whole Foods and you have free parking). 2) People will be furious, and take it out on progressives at the polls.

It really sucks that we can't seem to raise tax revenue any other way, and I totally agree that MUNI needs more money. But this is putting the cart ahead of the horse. Improve MUNI first so that it's viable, THEN you can put more pressure on reducing cars.

And incidentally, this is exactly why I voted against prop A in 2007. The MTA has now become this unelected star chamber body, free to do as it pleases and shielded from public accountability. Whatever side of this you're on, I would hope we could all agree that this is an important decision, and it should be done transparently, by elected officials. I thought accountability was a progressive value, right?

Posted by greg on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 7:20 am

"[T]he parking gestapo is out of control in this city"? What city do you live in Bub? Or what city do the people you're talking about who have this ridiculous impression live in? Some virtual city that somewhat resembles San Francisco? I can't count the number of times I've had to walk into the street to get around a car that some jerk parked on the sidewalk. Yet DPW has illegally created a regulation that allows people to do that during street cleaning, in clear violation of state law that prohibits parking or driving on sidewalks under any circumstances.

It is the drivers in this city who are out of control, and they should be slammed as much as possible. One thing about Marcos's comments you clearly don't get: it's an anti-progressive position to oppose making people pay more for parking, even if it harms businesses. You are correct that the owner of the Grand Lake theater is usually progressive, but he was dead wrong on this issue, siding with the selfish drivers instead, probably out of self interest for his own business.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Apr. 24, 2010 @ 12:06 am

Bicyclists do not pay "taxes" which go for road repair and usage. The taxes that do fund those things are paid through gasoline and vehicle registration fees. So the argument that bicyclists "pay taxes" (which you don't specify anyway, are you talking about income or sales taxes?) is ludicrous. Besides, over 50% of people in the US don't pay any taxes anyway - which kinda blows a hole in your theory that bicyclists are "paying taxes" for road repair.

It's time for the free ride to end. Bicyclists should pay a yearly license fee to ride on the roads for which they currently do not pay. It's only fair, it's only progressive.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 7:57 am

You're right, it's time to end the free ride. Gasoline needs to be taxed at least $10/gallon, because that's the true cost of it. Paying for oil wars and the hideous pollution and other environmental harms driving causes -- to the extent the latter can be paid for -- is something that drivers should be doing. And parking on public property should never be free. Meters should be everywhere and should always be paid. I'm so beyond sick of you self-entitled drivers, thinking you should get a free ride from the rest of us and the planet!

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on Apr. 24, 2010 @ 12:00 am

You all obviously missed physics class. Were you home schooled?

Force = mass x acceleration.

If one has an auto that weighs 1500 kg, and the acceleration is 9.8m/sec2 due to gravity alone, then the force on the road for that auto is 14,700 newtons.

If one has a bicycle that weighs 12kg, and the acceleration is the same 9.8m/sec2 due to gravity alone, then the force on the road for that bicycle and cyclist is 124 newtons.

We could try to add in the acceleration generated by starting and stopping, but they would not materially change the relative numbers, so I won't.

100*(124/14700) = 0.84%

So the wear and tear placed on the public roadway by a bicycle is .84% that of a private auto.

Assume a vehicle registration fee of $369.00 for a 9 year old car purchased new at $25K.

.84% of $369 is $3.09.

In that instance, the cost of administering a licensing program for bicycles would be more than the revenue recovered, if the cost to the taxpayer for the impacts of the bicycle were were assessed at an equivalent rate as the cost to the taxpayer for the impacts of motorists.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 7:59 am

The MTA has already raised motorcycle/scooter parking by 180% in the last month. The cost to park my scooter downtown has gone from $2.50 to $7/day. It is rather shocking. Both because of the incredible tax raise, but also because it seems to fly in the face of the stated objectives of the board and mayor in terms of reducing gridlock and traffic with green solutions. There was a large and growing scooter commuter work force. My scooter weighs 300lbs and gets about 70mph and can park in a two foot slot. One would think this would be something that would be encouraged not crushed. But like most things out of SF, this plan has back fired. What was a cash grab against a small minority has not turned out well. From what I can tell, utilization of the motorcycle/scooter spots downtown are down to about 20% from about 100% a few months ago and will probably settle in around 5% once people figure out what to do. It would take about 37% utilization to create extra money from the parking increase for the board to waste. That is not happening. The problem is that the local garages only charge about $80/month for prime Financial District parking vs what would be about $150/month for commuters using the city's uncovered parking spaces. So the end result is that the city has screwed over the kind of people that were making a real change for the better in SF and now the city is making less money in the process. Bravo MTA

Posted by ramon on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 8:04 am

Sales taxes are deductible from the federal income tax Steven. Proving, once again, that most of the whiners here (including yourself) don't PAY any taxes in the first place and probably haven't paid a single cent of taxes for many, many years.

Stop the giveaway. It's only fair and just that bicyclists begin paying for the roads they use. Why the attempt to avoid helping maintain our infrastructure? Everyone should do their part to pitch in, even the freeloaders who don't pay taxes to begin with.

Posted by Lucretia the Troll on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

So should we tax pedestrians for the sidewalks they stroll on as well? Taxing bicyclists for use of the road is the dumbest idea I've ever heard of. Tax people that are being green and helping the environment, that's the spirit!
I agree that drivers are feeling a bit to entitled these days. Have we all forgotten that driving is a PRIVILEGE and NOT A RIGHT... Especially in this city where I get around by mostly walking and riding Muni. Pass the bill on to drivers who overcrowd the city with their gas consuming heaps. There is no more room for cars in the city and extending meter hours to turn parking around a bit more is fine by me and the real POOR & WORKING CLASS who walk or ride public transportation to work every single day!!!

Posted by Tracksf on Apr. 25, 2010 @ 12:23 am

Everyone (except Lucretia the Troll) has made some excellent points, and this is truly a complicated issue that I'll be exploring more in the upcoming Guardian. Although I'm trying to get better about not feeding the trolls, I do have just a bit of factual info for LS: almost 100 percent of citizens pay sales tax, which is a major source of transportation funding in California.
And to everyone else: keep this good discussion rolling.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

Sales taxes are deductible from the federal income tax Steven. Proving, once again, that most of the whiners here (including yourself) don't PAY any taxes in the first place and probably haven't paid a single cent of taxes for many, many years.

Most people don't itemize their taxes and cannot take advantage of sales tax deductions.

I bet it must be very painful to feel compelled to live in a world of order and discipline, even if it means imposing inanities like a bicycle registration system that costs more to implement than it collects in fees so that we bicyclists can pay our fair share.

Continuing on the science geek thread, when I learned chemistry, we were told to disregard the weight of the electron in assessing molecular and atomic weights because hadrons were three orders of magnitude heavier than electrons.

Bicycle fees would be rounding error, a basket full of electrons, when weighed against the impacts of bicycles on city streets.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

$21 a year for a bicycle licensing fee is not that much to ask. Nothing is free. Bicyclists take up space on the roads - they can pay a small amount for that privilege.

I'm surprised more people don't itemize. I always find itemization to he quite helpful in reducing my overall tax burden. But since I actually pay taxes (unlike Steven and the other freeloaders here) I guess I actually have a reason to try and reduce their impact on my life.

Posted by Lucretia the Troll on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

I am under the impression that the City cannot charge a new license fee that is greater than the cost to the taxpayers to provide the service to the licensee or it is approved by the voters. Thank the conservative tax revolt for that.

I'd be much more interested in determine the full costs to the City of private automobiles and charging those fees back to motorists based on the weight of their vehicle.

Maybe if you pay your fair share for the wear and tear your private autos visit on our streets, the costs of which are largely socialized to a non-auto owning majority through property and sales taxes, we can start to talk about bicyclists paying $21.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

=v= Lucretia understandably feels put out by the high out-of-pocket expenses that go into driving a car, and like many, is obviously unaware of the vast array of hidden subsidies that prop up that transportation mode. You'd think it would be obvious that paving half the planet and dragging more than one ton of steel per person would be an outrageously costly thing to do, but our society is set up to insulate us from the true costs. Witness the attitude that parking is something that just exists on the planet, for free, like air.

All this contributes to the sense of entitlement exhibited here.

But the real bottom line is that motorists' out-of-pocket expense don't cover the cost of their impacts, nor do their contributions to the general fund, the bonds, the bond debt, etc. The difference is made up by those of us who choose other transportation modes. In short, WE are subsidizing YOU. Show some gratitude.

Posted by Jym on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

=v= Don't mistake A.N.S.W.E.R. for "progressives," and please don't hold them up as an exemplar of "the left." Certainly they speak the lingo, but who, exactly, do they actually represent?

Posted by Jym on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

Greg - why can't the people on the east side shop on the east side? I totally don't get that. That's what I do, I don't own a car & I do most of my shopping locally. The local merchants love me - ironically, the very ones who rail against paying higher parking fees.

And, Lucretia - drivers don't pay a fraction of the true cost of operating a car. Every single aspect of it is subsidized, from ridiculously low gas prices, to our overinflated defense budget spent on keeping those prices artificially low, to the cost of road repair. These costs are disproportionately borne by those who don't drive. Factor in increased emergency vehicle response times due to traffic congestion & the cost of maintaining all that "free" parking, plus a host of other hidden expenses I bet you've never even thought of, & you've got an activity which is so subsidized that if you took away even a fraction of the tax dollars propping it up only the wealthiest elite would be able to afford it. So I have a proposal for you: you start paying $12/gal. for gasoline & pay for your true share of all the potholes out there, plus all the ER visits by victims of car crashes, and all the other things I've been unfairly paying for out of my tax dollars every year, & I'll gladly pay the $3.09/year in damages that my bicycle causes. Do we have a deal or not?

P.S.: I don't deduct sales taxes from my income tax. Either I'm overpaying my taxes or you're underpaying yours.

Posted by Katherine Robert on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

Sorry, my last name is "Roberts," not "Robert."

Posted by Katherine Roberts on Oct. 22, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

International ANSWER Me! is more like it.

And, yes, I own all of the original ANSWER Me! releases. The best one was a bit by Adam Parfrey about being forced to "do" the late heterosexual feminist separatist anti pornography activist Andrea Dworkin:


Posted by marcos on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 5:31 am


My thoughts exactly. The MTA shot itself in the foot with motorcycle rates...especially since a private garage is now half the monthly price of parking on the street. Like Steve said, it's a complicated issue. And as others have put very elegantly, this is a symptom of a larger issue: the inability of the city to raise money from those who can most afford it. Working people of all stripes, motorists, transit riders, homeowners (and, by extension, renters), are all getting nickled-and-dimed to death by the city. And the least fortunate among us are bearing the brunt of it.

Posted by JWM on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 8:12 am

Ramon, everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

The truth is that San Franciscans pay much lower taxes and receive much greater levels of services than most other jurisdictions. Just check out the NYT real estate section that says what kind of home you can buy for $xxx,xxx, to see how much more expensive property taxes are elsewhere.

The voters passed Prop E in 1999 which did many things, including granting the MTA independence and creating a set-aside of funding for the Muni. After Prop A passed 2 years ago, Newsom reprised Dianne Feinstein and Frank Jordan by treating the Transit Fund as a piggy bank by using "work orders" to siphon cash from Muni to his pet projects such as 311.

Had the will of the voters been respected and Dennis Herrera not enabled the theft of dedicated funding from Muni, then the MTA would be in much better fiscal health.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 8:29 am

I agree -the people on the *east* side most certainly can shop on the east side, but that's not what I said. It's the people who live on the *west* side that have a much harder time. Most of the best places to shop and eat, most of cultural and musical events, most of the political organizing events, meetings, etc., are on the east side -and riding a bike over the hills in the rain for an hour isn't feasible for everyone. Neither is riding MUNI, which is generally OK if you're on the east side, but can take an hour to go 5 miles if you're on the west side. The easy answer would be to flippantly tell us to move, but of course it's not that simple in the real world.

Your knowledge of physics is impressive, but there are a few problems with your argument. For one thing, I think the biggest impact on our roads comes not from bicycles OR cars, but from the weather. Think about it... ever see an old road that's been out of use for 20 years... maybe an old fire road in a state park? Usually the asphalt is cracking, weeds are growing over it, etc. It actually doesn't take long for the elements to do that to a road that isn't constantly repaired, and cars probably don't speed up the process by much.

But there's a much more central point that you guys are missing by focusing the argument on relative impact of bikes vs cars. And that is that cars are a *necessity* for the majority of people, including most San Franciscans. What you're proposing is a massive tax increase on a necessity for working people.

What's worse, let's make this clear -this isn't really about longer meter hours. The real revenue that the city hopes to collect will come in the form of outrageous parking tickets. If you were to tax drivers in the amount of extra revenue you hope to receive from increased meter hours, I'd be more or less OK with that. MUNI needs more money. But when meter rates are increased to the point where people aren't likely to carry that much coin in their pockets, simultaneously increase the hours, and simultaneously increase parking tickets to confiscatory rates, its a huge whammy. Basically, there's an ancient principle of jurisprudence know as "let the punishment fit the crime." Once upon a time the punishment for not getting to meter on time was a generally appropriate $25 or so. But now that city government has decided to use tickets as a revenue generating device, and a parking ticket is basically a week's worth of food for the whole family -maybe a month's worth of food, it's become completely out of proportion to the offense and you're going to see some righteous indignation no matter whether you're conservative, or a diehard progressive like myself. And by the way, obscuring the issue and focusing the debate on meter hours and pretending that parking tickets aren't part of the equation -that won't work. It's pretty transparent to those of us getting reamed.

While ANSWER doesn't speak for all progressives, neither does Marc. ANSWER is in fact one segment of the progressive movement, and demonizing them doesn't help. The opposition to this will come from all corners, like it did in Oakland, and dismissing it as some fringe group is just going to backfire, because in fact the great majority of residents are probably opposed to this. We're talking about basic issues here -accountability, proportional punishment for infractions, the loss of revenue to small neighborhood businesses (though the big chains will do just fine, and probably come out ahead)... and just basic fairness.

Posted by greg on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 11:11 am

Greg --

I live where I live, in Cole Valley, partly because it's possible to get around town from here without a car. Also because it's possible to walk to the post office, bank, newspaper stand, bookstore, etc. Why I left suburban Atlanta & never went back is pretty much the same reason -- I never wanted to live anyplace where I had to drive everywhere ever again.

San Francisco is virtually unique in this country in that living here without a car is even possible. It is also why tourists love it, whether they know it or not -- it's a rare example of an American city that hasn't been completely destroyed by automobiles, although a lot of people seem dead-set on trying. I often wonder, no joke, why those people don't just move to those parts of the country where cars are taken for granted. They have so many places to choose from. Instead, they try and drag the suburbs here, & destroy the one thing about San Francisco that sets it apart from everywhere else & makes it unique.

The truth is, we are heading towards a future where oil is neither so cheap nor so plentiful, and our current unsustainable transportation choices will be an impossibility. We might as well start preparing for that sooner rather than later, and San Francisco is an excellent place to start. The MTA's proposals are an incredibly modest step in this direction. And hey, if you don't want to pay what you see as outrageously high parking fines, you always have a choice: either don't drive, or if you do drive, park legally. I can't offer up a lot of sympathy for parking fines, when the whole situation is so easily avoided.

Posted by Katherine Roberts on Oct. 23, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

A.N.S.W.E.R. is the pilot light politburo, always on at a very low intensity no matter what goes on around them, only providing a spark when someone else provides the fuel. There are reasons why, as A.N.S.W.E.R. has held the "anti war movement" in their Stalin death grip that turnout for actions has dwindled since the war began, as opposition has snowballed.

Nobody has any standing to claim to speak for working San Franciscans' transit issues when they only object to parking enforcement but were silent on fare increases. Where was A.N.S.W.E.R.for working San Franciscans over the past five years when fares have doubled and services cut? Apparently with their new friends over at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

We pay 100% more in fare when we obey the law.

Greg is arguing that we should take steps to help people who break the law.

The funny thing about the weather in San Francisco is that there is hardly any. It never freezes here. It is never too hot here. Are you suggesting that the friction of the fog clearing to the coast by midday tears up city streets? Or might the 400K+ 2 ton autos registered in SF and the millions registered within 100 miles of here have more of an impact than the grueling range of temperatures we face that runs from the low 50s all the way up to the mid 70s 90% of the time?

Or would it be the 22 inches of rain we get each year that is washing away our roadway infrastructure?

Maybe it is the refusal of the City to generate revenues from those who degrade them to keep the streets, the brain numbingly simplest of all capital infrastructure systems, maintained over time.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 7:37 am

I guess the answers are simple when you live in a world of such moral clarity. Unfortunately the world I inhabit is a bit more nuanced.

One thing that we do agree on... if I don't want to pay high parking fines and fees, I can choose not to drive. And that's exactly what people will do. In Oakland, you saw a 40% drop in business after this was enacted, and that's exactly what will happen here. Oh, sure, the dogmatic anti-parking crowd will argue that we have better public transportation, closer distances, etc., and they're partly right. But if meters hours go to 9:00, I'll think twice about every trip to the east side. Will I stay home every time? Of course not. 1 out of 3 or 1 out of 5 times? Absolutely. So maybe it won't be 40%. Maybe it will be just 20%. Tell that to your local businesses who operate on very small margins.

Posted by greg on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

One thing that we do agree on... if I don't want to pay high parking fines and fees, I can choose not to drive. And that's exactly what people will do. In Oakland, you saw a 40% drop in business after this was enacted, and that's exactly what will happen here.

This was the refrain whined ad nauseum by the North Beach and Chinatown merchants when the Embarcadero Freeway was being torn down a decade ago. The auto facilities were removed and business remained constant.

You can pay for good transit now, or you can pay later and pay more for not doing it sooner, but there can be no free lunch for motorists when transit riders are being socked with fare increases for worse service.

According to business, it is NEVER a good time to ask business to pay its fair share for anything. Business will ALWAYS try to shift costs off of their balance sheet onto the commons.

Small business pays no taxes in San Francisco except for their business license. They are required to provide certain benefits and pay certain wages. But they pass through all of their taxes, income and property, onto their customers.

Either come up with a proposal to plug the structural budget gap for Muni or deal with an increase in meter hours.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

I find it ironic that you dismiss those opposed to your position as "Stalinist" when there's a distinctly undemocratic air about all this. I'm the one arguing that this should be done by elected officials with an opportunity for the public to weigh in. Or let's have a ballot measure and see where the people of San Francisco stand. You're the one who wants an unelected star chamber to decide what's best for all of us.

As for breaking the law, I could give you multiple examples of unfairly issued tickets -it would take too much time to go through examples here. But let's put it this way... I've gotten about 60% of tickets and 80% of the monetary value dismissed over the years, which should tell you something about the bogus-ness (I believe that's the correct legal term) of some of these tickets. But then, I have a personal policy of aggressively contesting any and all tickets. For those who don't have the time, the tenacity, the language skills to craft a written and oral argument -those are the folks who are going to be more victimized by the overzealous enforcement of parking regulations.

Posted by greg on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

"This was the refrain whined ad nauseum by the North Beach and Chinatown merchants when the Embarcadero Freeway was being torn down a decade ago. The auto facilities were removed and business remained constant."

Except we saw it happen in Oakland in real time. I tend to be skeptical of business arguments like this, but this is one time when I think they're right.

"Either come up with a proposal to plug the structural budget gap for Muni or deal with an increase in meter hours."

Marc, that's a valid criticism of someone else, not me. I've supported every progressive initiative to fix MUNI I can remember. I support higher business taxes to pay for MUNI, I supported the gross receipts tax and increasing the real estate transfer tax. I correctly predicted that getting rid of the VLF would be an economic disaster. I opposed higher MUNI fares, and supported more bike lanes too. I think congestion pricing is an interesting idea that deserves a closer look. But on this one, you lost me. And if you're losing people like me on this, then you don't have a prayer of winning the center.

Posted by greg on Oct. 24, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

Either San Francisco's small business community steps up to the plate and identifies new funding sources for the Muni system that taxpayers subsidize to bring customers to their enterprises or they shut up.

Business always strives, and who can blame them, to shift all costs off of the balance sheet and to resist new costs being shifted onto them. That is their job.

Our job is to strive to ensure that business is made to pay its fair share. Although business goes apeshit when this happens, and shouts to the world that they think we don't love them, business is really raging at their customer base and at taxpayers who subsidize the infrastructure that allows them to shift costs off of the balance sheet as if they were entitled to us laying rose petals in their path.

San Francisco has a higher population density and more intense transit service than Oakland, and thus most NCDs in SF are more proximate to more people than Oakland's NCDs. Perhaps this is why Chinatown did not fall into the sea economically after the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down and why Oakland's NCDs saw a drop off in sales.

Many other economic circumstances that hold for San Francisco do not hold for Oakland and vice versa. Parking hours are one of them.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 6:27 am

I find it ironic that you dismiss those opposed to your position as "Stalinist" when there's a distinctly undemocratic air about all this.

Greg, the reason why I describe ANSWER as stalinist is because they are stalinists, old school sectarian leftists who believe that they are the vanguard of the working class struggle because they are the Leninist party.

I have no problem with Marxist or Leninist approaches to private property. But I do have problems with the anti democracy of Stalinism which ANSWER practices because instead of asking folks what they think, they hold that all close to the vest and forge forward with their internally decided positions irrespective of whether that represents anything but themselves. I think we have sufficient data points to demonstrate that self proclaimed vanguard parties of the working class simply aren't.

ANSWER is not a democratic group that is grounded in the community and represents the democratic positions of San Francisco's working class communities. Since auto ownership in San Francisco's working class neighborhoods is so low, and since ANSWER was silent on Muni fare increases, and since ANSWER whines about parking meter enforcement hours demonstrates, one might reasonably conclude that auto ownership is more prevalent amongst the ranks of ANSWER cadre than the community at large, hence ANSWER's position is one that benefits their cadre rather than the community at large. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, "Its good to be the vanguard."

I live next to the Redstone building where "The International Action Center" is headquartered. Perhaps I should do a photo shoot of ANSWER cadre driving to work and parking in my neighborhood for illustrative purposes?

Stalinism in and of itself is antidemocratic, and ANSWER is Stalinist.


Posted by marcos on Oct. 25, 2009 @ 7:16 am

They just want our money. They don't care about us.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2010 @ 2:56 pm


So should we tax pedestrians for the sidewalks they stroll on as well? Taxing bicyclists for use of the road is the dumbest idea I've ever heard of. Tax people that are being green and helping the environment, that's the spirit!
I agree that drivers are feeling a bit to entitled these days. Have we all forgotten that driving is a PRIVILEGE and NOT A RIGHT... Especially in this city where I get around by mostly walking and riding Muni. Pass the bill on to drivers who overcrowd the city with their gas consuming heaps. There is no more room for cars in the city and extending meter hours to turn parking around a bit more is fine by me and the real POOR & WORKING CLASS who walk or ride public transportation to work every single day!!!

Posted by Tracksf on Apr. 25, 2010 @ 12:25 am