Parking could be limited or banned beneath a glass-facade mall that’s proposed to be built along an economically devastated strip of Market Street.
Most of the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of CityPlace — a mall planned amid a sea of vacant storefronts between Fifth and Sixth streets — relates to parking.
The mall could rejuvenate a prominent but crime-ridden section of the busy east-west thoroughfare that has nearly fallen into a state of utter neglect.
The downtrodden mid-Market Street area is an awkward hinge that connects the low-income Tenderloin neighborhood — where quality retail outlets are hard to find — with the glitzy downtown tourist-driven shopping district.
"The fact that this site has laid fallow for so long has really hurt the Tenderloin community," neighborhood activist Randy Shaw said during a hearing.
But the potential of the mall to add more traffic to Market Street — where city officials have experimented with bans on cars — has put approval of the garage in doubt.
Developers proposed building a three-level garage with 188 parking spaces beneath the mall, arguing that parking will be critical to tenants’ marketing efforts.
Some off-street public parking would be removed to allow cars to enter the garage.
The parking spaces would help customers lug heavy purchases home, but city officials and others argued that they are inappropriate for the mid-Market neighborhood, where existing garages are underutilized.
The Planning Department recently proposed a new compromise that could see two garage levels built beneath the mall instead of three.
Under the compromise, which is outlined in new environmental review documents, parking beneath the mall would be limited to 80 cars and 23 bicycles, with two additional spots set aside for a car-share service.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to select from the three alternatives May 27, when it rules on permit applications. Any decision could be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
Commission President Ron Miguel said the reduction in parking spaces might not be enough to secure garage approval.
"There’s the question that exists in this city as to whether or not we need to encourage more auto traffic," Miguel said Sunday. "It’s a very philosophical argument."