Remember the halcyon days of free Sunday parking in San Francisco when the government just for once could get off your back and give you a break already?

Well, come Sunday, those happy days are here again. At the very bottom of the SFTMA traffic and transit advisory for the July 4th weekend:

“Starting Sunday, on-street meters and off-street parking meters will not require payment on Sundays, except meters on SF Port property.”

The agency says exceptions will exist in areas where meters already operated on Sundays when the shift to paid parking went into effect, in January 2013. Aside from port property, these include meters at Fisherman’s Wharf and these other off-street metered lots, as listed by SF Weekly:

  • 8th Avenue at Clement Street
  • 9th Avenue at Clement Street
  • Geary Boulevard at 21st Avenue
  • 18th Avenue at Geary Boulevard
  • 8th Avenue at Irving Street
  • Pierce Street Garage (between Lombard and Chestnut streets)
  • Felton Street at San Bruno Avenue

And, as the Weekly reports, “parking meters around AT&T Park will continue to operate on Sundays during special events and Giants game. So on Sunday, July 13, you will have to plug the meter for that Giants home game.”

While the return to free parking may be popular with many drivers, not everyone was on board.  As KQED’s Bryan Goebel reported in April, the SFMTA will lose an estimated $9.6 million annually.

“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,” Goebel wrote.

Lee said in his State of the City address in January that there had been a torrent of complaints about having to feed Sunday meters.

“Nobody likes it. Not parents. Not our neighborhood small businesses. Not me,” Lee 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, as Goebel reported, a post by SF Streetsblog in March described a distinct lack of documented public backlash against the policy:

(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.

The post did note, however, that church leaders strongly backed ditching paid parking on Sundays.

In any event, the debate is all over now. The SFMTA voted in April to go back to the old ways.

So save that lose change for doing laundry.

  • Bruce

    This is shameful. Fiscal issues aside, Sunday metering had cut by MORE THAN HALF the amount of time to find a space, from over 10 minutes to about 4. How does it benefit drivers, exactly, to go back to the bad old days? Not to mention the increased congestion and carbon emissions. Ed Lee is kowtowing to the “autos uber alles” crowd and the SFMTA should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Lee to bully them this way.

    • upscalebohemian

      You are a complete idiot. Why should we have to go out every 2 to 4 hours to feed a meter or move a car and NEVER be able to relax or enjoy our lives without constant pressure and needless stress? You are a complete mindless drone of a nothing.

      • Bruce

        Because you aren’t the only person who wants to use that spot! Street space is a public resource that doesn’t belong to you for all eternity just because you parked in it.

        And if it bugs you so much to feed the meter, use the app and you can extend your time without having to go back to your car.

        • dinkydoo

          That app you refer to doesn’t let you re-feed. After the maximum two hours you get a message that you cannot reload the meter for 30 minutes giving the SFMTA a half hour to ticket your car. The only way to do it is to return to your car and feed it quarters. I for one, am happy to see Sunday meters go. I can shop, dine, hang at the local watering hole, maybe see a movie.

          • Bruce

            You can do all of those things without driving… and if you’re hanging at the local watering hole for more than two hours you probably shouldn’t be driving anyway 🙂

          • tbatts666

            I don’t think the purpose of the metering is to stop people from driving. It’s to allocate parking spaces more efficiently, and make money for improving the district0.

            If there isn’t0, there should really be an easy option for long term parking. Quite often districts create larger mixed use parking structures to handle the demand for long term parking.

            It is definitely a legitimate complaint that you can’t re-feed electronically.

          • tbatts666

            That is pretty crazy. Your should be able to pay easily.

            Coins are so inefficient.

          • Len Conly

            Requirements for parking lots at bars is one of the great ironies.

      • Feeding your meter is against the law, actually.

      • Jamison Wieser

        You seem to be really stressed by owning a car, but there’s no need to lash out at others. If your errand is takes you longer than the 2 or 4 hours, then simply don’t park in zones with 2 or 4 hour limits.

        There are garages if you need to store your car all day without getting so stressed. They aren’t always so closely spaced, but on the walk to and from the garage you can take some time to relax and enjoy your life knowing you won’t need to rush out every couple hours to illegally feed the meter.

      • Len Conly

        The new meters accept debit or credit cards. In some cities you can use your cell phone to pay for your meter space. If you have to use cash, you will have to return to the meter every so often, but the number of people without a card of cell phone is shrinking every day. Eventually time limits will go away altogether, since their main purpose has been to ensure parking for customers. If a 15% vacancy rate is maintained through proper meter pricing, spaces on every block will always be available and there will be no need for time limits to ensure free spaces.

  • MeterMaidsEatTheirYoung

    Go Eff yourself Bruce. FCK meters on Sundays and FCK anyone who supports them.

    • Bruce

      Oh, I’m so glad we could have a civil conversation. Give me ONE logical reason why there should be a special day of the week where we just give away our public street space for anyone to occupy all day long while the rest of us circle the block for hours on end? The original reason for no Sunday metering (most businesses were closed on Sundays) no longer applies. It’s time we moved into the 21st century. Or are you so cheap that you can’t pay $2 an hour to store your $20,000 (at least) hulk of iron? You spend FAR more than that in gas, insurance, and maintenance. Parking meters are a drop in the bucket, which benefits us all by increasing turnover.

      • dinkydoo

        Valid point Bruce but answer me this one: Why oh why are they enforcing meters on July 4th when most businesses really are closed and the financial district is totally empty? Personally I used to spend Sundays in the Mission or the Castro or the Haight. Since Sunday meters, I haven’t done that even once. So yes, it is hurting business as well as leisure time for SF citizens and tax payers.

        • Bruce

          I agree with you on that one. I’ve never understood why July 4 isn’t a meter holiday.

        • Bruce

          All of those neighborhoods (especially the Mission and the Castro) are easily accessible by BART and Muni. Why would you need to drive to enjoy those things?

        • tbatts666

          I think one of the major points of the meters is to manage the demand for parking optimally.

          We all like free stuff, me included.

          It would be so great if apples were always free at the grocery store, but they aren’t because there is a limited supply. The street space is for everyone, and maintenance of spaces cost in the range of $125/month. People who don’t drive shouldn’t be expected to subsidize driver’s life.

        • Len Conly

          San Francisco, and eventually most cities in the world, will switch to parking demand management. Meters will work in real time in the near future – the technology exists. Prices should be set so that 15% of curb spaces should be free at all times. This reduces “cruising for parking” which is a significant cause of congestion, air pollution, and wasted fuel. If more than 15% of the spaces are empty, meter prices will drop. If no one is parked at all on a block, meter prices will drop to zero. We are not quite there yet with the application of the new meter technology, but it is coming. I believe that San Francisco re-evalutates meter prices once a month in order to maintain the 85% occupancy rate.
          With proper meter pricing, cities will be better places to live. See “The High Cost of Free Parking,” by Don Shoup (APA).

    • Len Conly

      Why don’t we just provide free gasoline on Sunday as well. What is so special about Sunday? Why not Saturday as well?

      • Alex

        Why there is weekend? Why don’t people work everyday. What is special for the holidays to have free parking? The answer is that we are human, human need a colorful life mixing with work and relaxation. Free parking on Sunday make Sunday a holiday for relaxation for a hard- work week.

  • JD17

    There is no such thing as free parking. Those parking spaces have direct costs, maintenance costs, and opportunity costs associated with them. For a news organization to report this as “free parking” is incorrect. The article should be titled:

    This Weekend, San Francisco Returns to Subsidized Sunday Parking

    Giving away space for automobile storage should not be the function of a city. ALL parking on public streets should be metered.


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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