SFMTA chief hopes to calm the parking meter furor at supervisorial hearing


San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director Ed Reiskin faces a tough challenge tomorrow (Thu/2) at the Board of Supervisors Neighborhood Services and Safety hearing that Sup. Mark Farrell has called on expanding parking meters into new neighborhoods, where Reiskin is expected to face a hornet's nest of SFMTA critics stirred up by the loss of free street parking and perceptions that the agency is mismanaging public spaces and transit. [UPDATE: Read what happened here.]

Reiskin needs to quell some of the anger that is erupting in the northeast Mission District, Potrero Hill, and other areas slated for new meters enough to prevent increased supervisorial intervention into his independent agency and ensure a transit improvement bond measure planned for next year has a chance of passing – which the agency desperately needs to make improvements to Muni.

“We appreciate the opportunity to share information on how we're trying to create more parking availability and ease congestion,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us.

Jay Primus, who manages the SF Park variable price meter program for the SFMTA, told us he's seen the presentation that Reiskin will be giving and finds it compelling, even though he knows better than anyone that, as Primus said, “Parking is always a difficult subject, particularly in an area as dense as San Francisco.”

It's hard to imagine what might satisfy the SFMTA's staunchest critics, who have created websites blasting and lampooning the agency's every action and formed opposition groups that use militant rhetoric.

Mary Eliza is the spokesperson for Eastern Neighborhoods United Front, which has whipped up critics of the parking plans with calls to “FILL THE HALL. Raise your flag and wear your colors.” Speaking to the Guardian, she cited a litany of complaints and deep, conspiratorial suspicion of the SFMTA and its agenda, which is why she said critics have appealed to the supervisors.

“We're not dealing much with the MTA anymore, we're dealing with the supervisors because we think it's our best chance to get anything accomplished,” Eliza told us.

They seem to have found a sympathetic audience with Farrell, a conservative from the westside, where pro-car ideologies are strongest. “Even as a transit first city, San Franciscans deserve to have reasonable parking situations in their neighborhoods. With plans under discussion to expand SFMTA's number of parking meters citywide, every potentially affected neighborhood deserves to have extensive input into and thorough understanding of SFMTA's upcoming plan,” Farrell wrote in calling for the hearing.

Primus said the SFMTA does try to be responsive to community concerns, noting that when its plans for new meters in the northeast Mission, Potrero Hill, and Mission Bay ran into strong community opposition in 2011, officials delayed the plans to gather more data and do more community outreach, separate the proposals, and remove them from the SF Park pilot program.

They are now finishing work on the Mission plan, which should come out this summer, after they do more work on solving issues raised by car repair and other light industrial businesses. But Primus said parking scarcity and good transit access in the area make it “an area where good parking management is all the more important.”

Then comes Potrero Hill, where the anti-meter furor appears to be strongest. But with increased development planned for the area, Primus noted that the community and Board of Supervisors have already called for more active parking management by the SFMTA: “All these parking policies were called for in the Eastern Neighborhoods plan, so it was already approved by the supervisors.”