In what may have been the final opportunity to overturn a decision to revert to free Sunday parking in San Francisco, an appeal by transit advocates to require a full program environmental review was rejected by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
While the abolishment of Sunday parking meter enforcement is set to take effect, the vote exhibited the ongoing conflicts between drivers and transit riders as well as the ongoing political tensions over Muni funding decisions.
"Rolling it back is not a step towards a transit-first city," Supervisor Eric Mar, who supported the appeal along with Supervisor John Avalos, said of the Sunday meter program. "I feel like it's a step towards a car-dominant city."
Earlier this year, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bowed to Mayor Ed Lee's call to stop Sunday metering, which generates approximately $11 million annually. Enforcement had been in place since January 2013. The supervisors also voted to postpone for at least two years a vehicle license fee increase, which would have generated $1 billion over 15 years.
Supervisor Scott Wiener, who rejected the appeal, said he finds fault with the transit funding decisions.
"Systemically the elected officials in this building have not prioritized funding, period [for the SFMTA]," Wiener said. Among the challenges facing the agency are a poor on-time performance and a massive backlog of maintenance needs.A recent agency survey of 22,000 riders found that one in four riders earned under $15,000 annually, and 60 percent are below the Bay Area's median income level of $71,000.
Livable City, a nonprofit which discourages automobile trips, and the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, an organization representing a group of Muni riders, filed the appeal arguing that the decision to scrap Sunday meter enforcement should have undergone review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
"There are huge environmental implications for how we manage parking in our city and yanking an entire parking program on Sundays has environmental implications," said Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City.
Some have been more than happy to see the end of Sunday metering. Christopher Bowman, who is leading an effort to place a November ballot measure to create an official anti-Sunday parking meter policy, said that greenhouse gases are being emitted because drivers are leaving San Francisco to do their shopping where parking is free. Supervisor David Campos said even if the appeal were granted it wouldn't address the fundamental problem of the mayor effectuating transit policy changes. "I think the solution is to actually reform the way that this agency is governed."
Currently the transit agency's board of directors are appointed by the mayor. It would take voter approval to change the governance.