Drivers with disabled placards may have to pay at meters in SF 

click to enlarge CINDY CHEW/2008 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Cindy Chew/2008 S.F. Examiner file photo

Motorists with disabled placards would have to pay for parking and be subject to time limits at meters under a proposal.

Drivers with a blue placard can park for free at any space in The City  and they are not subject to any time limits.
But  since 2001 there has been a 100 percent increase of the placards in the Bay Area, leading some disabled advocates to question whether the permits are being abused. Every year, about 1,800 placards are confiscated in The City for fraudulent use, but permits continue to be issued out.

With so many placards — there are twice as many permits as metered spaces in San Francisco — disabled residents are increasingly finding it hard to find a spot to park their car.

To address those concerns, a panel convened by the Mayor’s Office of Disability and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has recommended a series of reforms.

Card-holders would have to pay for normal parking rates and be subject to four-hour time limits at meters. The committee — comprised of leading advocacy groups and business organizations — also recommended expanding the number of blue zones for disabled motorists in The City. Under its proposal, 470 new blue zones would be added to San Francisco, a 70 percent increase. The SFMTA would then ramp up enforcement at those spots by hiring more parking control officers.

Ed Reiskin, executive director of the SFMTA, said removing the placard incentive of free parking for life would greatly reduce abuse and open up disabled parking spaces for those who need them.

Bob Planthold, a disabled activist who served the committee, said there were concerns about implementing a fee, given that many residents with placards are on fixed incomes. Case studies in other cities, though, showed extra enforcement was effective only if paired with parking meter charges.

Jessie Lorenz, executive director of the Independent Living Resource Center, an advocacy organization, noted that free parking was created in the 1970s because disabled motorists had a hard time accessing meters, which were coin-operated and difficult to reach at time.

“I was one of those people who pushed back at first about the idea of paid parking,” said Lorenz, who is blind. “But this program wasn’t created to entitle someone to a lifetime of free parking. It was about access issues, and we’ve made the technical advances to address those concerns.”

Several of the proposals, like paid parking and time-limit restrictions, would require approval from the Legislature. Reiskin said the additional blue zones could be added by the end of the year. Provided there is support at the state level, the news rules about disabled parking placards could be implemented by 2015.

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Will Reisman

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