Update, 5:50 p.m.: The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board unanimously approved its budget this afternoon, and voted to repeal Sunday parking meters. It would take effect July 1. The agency’s two-year spending plan must still be approved by the Board of Supervisors, which will consider it May 1. The board would have to reject the entire budget in order for the Sunday parking reversal to not go into effect.
“I feel we need to step back, and really work with our communities to really explain the reasons behind and the reasons for progressive parking management, “ said SFMTA Director Cheryl Brinkman. Director Cristina Rubke was the only member who opposed the repeal. She called it a mistake.
The SFMTA would lose an estimated $9.6 million annually.
The board voted to extend the free Muni program for low-income youth to 18-year-olds, although it wouldn’t take effect until November “because of Clipper Card limitations,” said Brinkman. Directors agreed to begin planning to extend that same program to low-income seniors and people with disabilities. The soonest that would happen is January. “It’s not a question of if, but when,” said Chair Tom Nolan.
There seems to be a growing consensus among many public policy stakeholders that Sunday parking meters are a good thing for San Francisco. Everyone from former Mayor Willie Brown to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to transit advocates agrees that the city should keep the meters functioning on Sundays because they create more parking turnover in commercial neighborhoods and bring in much-needed revenue for Muni.
Of course drivers do not necessarily agree, and under pressure from Mayor Ed Lee, the SFMTA Board of Directors could vote to repeal Sunday meters today when it considers a new budget. Lee is betting on a political strategy he hopes will win votes for a package of transportation funding measures expected to appear on the November ballot.
In his “State of the City” address” earlier this year, Lee suggested that drivers were being gouged and that there was a torrent of complaints.
“Nobody likes it. Not parents. Not our neighborhood small businesses. Not me,” he said. “Let’s stop nickel-and-diming people at the meter and work together to pass a transportation bond and vehicle license fee increase in 2014 instead.”
But a merchant who submitted a sunshine request found there was no backlash against Sunday meters, according to Streetsblog San Francisco:
The records, furnished to Streetsblog by Ed Rosenblatt, a hardware store merchant who supports Sunday meters and filed the request, indicate that no one emailed the mayor’s office about Sunday meters between March, 2013, and this January, when Lee announced his push to repeal them. What’s more, of the January emails, 17 were in support of keeping the parking meters, and only seven were against it. The policy is also supported by many merchants and the Chamber of Commerce since it allows more driving customers to use the limited supply of parking.
The purported Sunday meter revolt was also not evident in calls and emails to 311. According to the SFMTA’s December report [PDF] on Sunday meters, 311 received just 41 calls and emails about the policy, with 23 of those in support of meters.
Of course, calls and emails aren’t the only ways to complain to City Hall. But if there’s really a popular revolt driving Lee’s sudden push to undo smart policy, you would expect to find some trace of it in the easiest ways to lodge a complaint with the city. And there is no such trace.
A study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency showed that Sunday meters are ameliorating a notorious dearth of parking spots. Since metering was implemented in early 2013, the SFMTA found that it’s easier to park in commercial neighborhoods:
Prior to operating meters on Sundays, it was hard to find parking in almost every commercial area in the city. Now parking availability is much higher, so it is easier for drivers—many of whom are likely customers of neighborhood businesses—to access commercial areas. Between 2012 and 2013, the average parking availability on Sunday doubled during metered hours, increasing from 15 percent to 31 percent.
SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin, who manages the agency, originally proposed a compromise: keep Sunday meters but back off on enforcement. That, he said, should satisfy the mayor’s main concern that too many drivers were getting citations on Sundays. The agency would “significantly redeploy our resources away from Sunday meter enforcement. We have a lot more higher-pressing needs, particularly during the week during the evening rush, for example.”
But Reiskin’s position changed last week, and he’s now recommending that the entire program be repealed. Whether the SFMTA board will go along with that is unclear, but all members are appointed by the mayor and not likely to go against his wishes.
Parking meters currently run from noon-6 p.m. on Sundays. The SFMTA hopes to replace nearly all of the old meters with new electronic meters this year so that drivers have more convenient options to pay.