Parking-tax hike back on the table 

Despite an attempt that failed miserably four years ago, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is again supporting a ballot measure to increase The City’s tax on operators of private garages and lots.

By raising the off-street parking tax from 25 to 35 percent, the chronically cash-strapped SFMTA could see a dedicated funding stream of roughly $16 million per year, according to department documents.

The SFMTA is capable of putting the measure on the November ballot, but if it does so, the tax would be considered a special-order initiative, thus requiring a two-thirds vote for passage.

With that in mind, the SFMTA board of directors sponsored a resolution Tuesday urging The City’s Board of Supervisors to put the off-street commercial tax increase on the November ballot.

If the Board of Supervisors introduces it, only a simple-majority vote would be needed for passage, giving the SFMTA $16 million annually in dedicated funding. In the past year, the agency has raised monthly Fast Pass fares twice and undertaken two major service reorganizations to make up massive budget imbalances.

Tim Leonoudakis, chief executive officer of local parking management company City Park, called the off-street parking tax proposal “punitive.” He said the SFMTA should further explore other funding measures, such as the agency’s new variable-parking price program, SFpark, before resorting to a new tax.

In 2006, four members of the Board of Supervisors placed the same off-street parking tax measure before San Francisco voters, but it was soundly rejected.

If the Board of Supervisors wants to pursue the matter again in November, it must submit a proposal to the Department of Elections by June 30.

It could be one of several measures concerning the SFMTA. There are efforts under way to ask voters to reform how the board of directors is appointed and to change work rules for Muni operators.

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Will Reisman

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