San Francisco eager to simplify parking program’s current jumble of zones 

The City’s residential parking program, in place for more than 35 years, could be in line for a major overhaul.

Designed to keep out-of-town commuters from parking all day in residential neighborhoods, the program lets permit holders park on city streets for 72 hours without having to move their vehicles. Since it was created in 1976, the program has evolved to include 27 zones of varying sizes spread unevenly throughout San Francisco.

As part of its strategic plan, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates parking, is pursuing ways to make the program more uniform and streamlined.

Currently, the only way a residential parking zone can be established is if a group of neighbors petition The City. Parking zones can be expansive or tiny — Area S covers wide swaths of neighborhoods just north of Market Street, while Zone Y is a tiny sliver in South of Market. On some blocks, one side of the street is part of the residential zone while the other is not.

“Right now, we just have a hodgepodge of different zones,” said Sonali Bose, the SFMTA’s chief financial officer. “As the parking management entity of San Francisco, we should be proactive about establishing more strategic residential zones.”

Bose said the agency will focus on community outreach before making recommendations for residential parking zones. The program will continue to base rates on a cost-recovery basis, making a major price change for the permits unlikely,  Bose said. They currently cost $104 apiece.

Tony Kelly, a Potrero Hill resident who has established a community group to protest parking policies in eastern neighborhoods, said removing the grass-roots element of the residential parking program could be troublesome.

“If the SFMTA is in charge, they’re going to reverse-engineer their findings from community outreach to match their policies,”  Kelly said. “It’s the same approach they’re taking with parking meters, and we can clearly see that’s not working.”

Jay Primus, who oversees parking management at the SFMTA, said the agency will be reviewing its policies over the next two years. Any changes would be small and incremental.

“There is a fundamental mismatch between supply and demand for residential parking spaces,” Primus said. “There is a finite supply and a lot of demand, from both residents and nonresidents. Any future strategy will have to address that issue.”

The SFMTA will discuss policy reforms at its Board of Directors meeting later this month. The reforms will be part of a larger overall effort to review current parking policies and determine how they need to be shaped for the future—which will include a large emphasis on The City’s long-enshrined transit-first philosophy.

a spot

  •  1976: Year residential parking program was established
  • 27: Residential parking zones in S.F.
  • 61,556: Residential parking permits
  • $104: Annual fee for residential parking permit

Source: SFMTA

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