Plan to Extend Hours Would Impact Residents' Parking, Too
By Thomas K. Pendergast
A proposal to extend the hours that parking meters charge fees is creating an uproar among some merchants and residents in the Sunset District, while at the same time creating an unusual alliance of organizations that support the idea.
Mayorhas come out against the plan and said he will veto it. However, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority is looking to create more revenue for an aging, and some say ailing, bus system, making it possible that the mayor's veto will be overridden by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
"I don't see how having more meter hours helps a neighborhood like ours," said Doug Marschke, president of the Outer Sunset Merchants and Professionals Association, who owns a business on Irving Street between 19th and 20th avenues. "Parking is difficult for most drivers in the City. Weekends are the best source of income for local businesses. I have a sports bar and people come for three hours to watch a football game and if they get a ticket because they didn't go feed the meter after an hour, I don't think they'll want to come back again to watch a game.
"The big problem that we have is that they really didn't have proper outreach and research for this area. So, at this point we're opposed to this proposal. They just decided to do it anyway and then said: 'Oh, by the way, we're going to do this and we're letting you know about it.'"
"The only people who pay for tickets are people who make silly mistakes," said Howard Strassner, chair of the Transportation Committee of the Sierra Club's San Francisco chapter, which supports the proposal. "You don't have to get a ticket."
Many restaurant owners are concerned.
"I think it will mostly affect the dining crowds at night. It will be very inconvenient for people to come here and park and they still have to pay for the meter all the way to midnight on the weekends. I think that's going to kill my dinner crowd," said Jared Miao at The-Go CafŽ and Restaurant on Irving, between 19th and 20th avenues.
"It's inconvenient, it's an extra fee and, of course, there's going to be resentment towards the City because the people that come here to this kind of restaurant to eat are middle-class customers. They will not be able to spend too much money anyways, so it's just putting more pressure on them.
"The parking is an issue already, so with that it's going to be even worse," Miao added. "The residents, they don't have any choice, they still have to park at the parking meters. That's just how it works. The City should just find somebody who knows how to budget things instead of just taking money from us."
Strassner said that if there were also no overall time limits for meters, then paying for parking would become strictly a function of the market, based upon how much someone was willing to pay.
"The next step is no time limits on the meters, then vary the price according to the location or time of day. Then, people will only stay as long as they really have to. Muni's budget goes on and they need to operate. We need to decide whether we'll allow good parking to the few or good bus service to the many," said Strassner. "It's not the 11th Commandment to get a free parking space."
Minmin Defevere is the co-owner of the Tennessee Grill restaurant on Taraval Street, between 21st and 22nd avenues. She said this will just make things harder on many of her customers who are elderly and living on a fixed income because often they have little choice but to drive to her establishment.
"Elderly people from the neighborhood come and they can't walk very far uphill and downhill and they have canes," Defevere said. "So, it will be too much for them. They have a very limited income. At eight minutes per quarter a lot of people will be unhappy about it. People come here for at least an hour so you need to bring a roll of quarters. Even now people complain that they have to go out and check the meters so they don't get a ticket."
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has also come out in support of extending the parking meter hours.
"This isn't some new thing that the MTA has come up with to shake down drivers. This is a really important part of Muni's efforts to manage the buses," said Andy Thornley, program director for the bicycle coalition.
"I'm always shocked that business people would take something so valuable and give it away for free. San Francisco's first parking meters in 1947 were put in to help merchants. They wanted parking meters," Thornley said. "Short-term parking near attractive things should be more expensive than long-term parking away from attractive things. The way it is now, when parking is really valuable, it's free. That's not a very productive way to do things."
Andre Yazbek, a Sunset resident and owner of Andre's foreign car service, located at 27th Avenue and Taraval Street, doubts the meters on that street are as valuable as the proponents of extending meter hours think.
"The problem is nobody wants to park all night (in metered spaces) in this neighborhood," Yazbek said.
"I don't see busy meters overnight, when I'm driving back home sometimes at 10 or 11 or 12, because the people who live in this neighborhood, almost everybody has parking in front of his house. It's not an issue at all because Taraval Street is the main street and if you drive at nighttime, you only see a couple of cars," he said.