MTA likely to raise parking garage rates to help fund Muni 

The cost to park in San Francisco’s city-owned garages is expected to increase next year to help make up Muni’s budget shortfall, but a proposal to increase parking fines and some meter rates has been taken off the table — for now.

Last week, Muni officials told the Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors that, according to a preliminary forecast, the agency faced a projected budget deficit of approximately $11 million for fiscal year 2007-08.

The board was subsequently given a list of options for addressing the deficit, including a $5 across-the-board fine increase for parking and street-sweeping violations, as well as a 50-cent meter rate increase on streets away from the downtown core and Fisherman’s Wharf areas.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the MTA board, however, the agency’s executive director, Nathaniel Ford, said that due to some belt-tightening of expenditures and the elimination of Muni positions that have been vacated for a significant amount of time, he felt the proposed increase in parking fines and meter rates could be avoided.

Sonali Bose, the agency’s financial officer, spoke a bit more cautiously.

"We’re not recommending looking at increasing the citations and parking meters now," Bose said. "However, to the extent the state budget comes in, we may need to revisit those additional fees and fines."

Muni’s budget officials are recommending that the MTA board approve an increase in garage-related rates, which is expected to generate an additional $3 million to help decrease the deficit.

According to Muni documents, the parking increases would range from a 25-cent increase per hour — from $3.25 to $3.50 for one to two hours — at The City’s Japan Center garage, to a $40 per month increase — from $260 to $300 — to park in the Fifth and Mission garage.

Representatives from various merchant associations spoke out against the proposed parking garage increases, including Linda Mjellem, executive director of the Union Square Association, who said other cities had attractive shopping areas that came with free parking.

"Do not set rates that will drive shoppers out of The City," she said.

In addition, a proposed increase in auto tow fees from $188.25 to $238.75, along with an increase in daily storage rates for towed vehicles from $36.75 to $50.00, will bring an additional $1.6 million to the agency, officials said.

The agency’s deficit will also be reduced by a recently approved allocation of $3 million, which came as a result of a voter-approved provision that requires an increase in The City’s general fund appropriation to Muni for new services, in this case, the Third Street Light Rail, Bose said.

With 50 new parking control officers slated to be hired within the next year, the agency is also counting on an assumed $2.7 million increase in parking fines resulting from the improved enforcement.

Staff writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.

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