San Francisco residents win fight over parking spaces at Palace of Fine Arts 

Following January’s temporary closure of a parking lot shared by the Exploratorium and the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco hoped to construct 23 new parking spots on a triangular plot of land at Palace Drive and Lyon Street. But neighbors of the 9,000-square-foot space were protective of the once-wooded lot.

Demanding that The City keep the land as is, they showed up to public meetings and replanted trees where pavement was about to go down.

“The neighbors were up in arms,” said Patricia Vaughey, the president of the Marina-Cow Hollow Neighbors and Merchants organization. “People just thought it was awful.”

On Thursday, the neighbors prevailed.

When Recreation and Park Department  officials unveiled a new plan to spend $1 million creating and rehabbing parking spots in the area, the triangular lot was excluded.

The dispute was caused by delays in the Exploratorium’s planned relocation from the Palace of Fine Arts to Pier 15. The museum broke ground on its new site in October, but the opening has been delayed to 2013.

Then in January, the Doyle Drive reconstruction project cost both museums a 258-space parking lot.

“We didn’t anticipate this overlap,” said Jeff Hamilton, the art and science museum’s director of government relations.

At present, parking for the two museums is scattered throughout the area. There are 50 newly repainted spaces near the San Francisco Yacht Club and 11 angled spots along Palace Drive. It is hoped that 50 spaces on the original lot can be restored as early as April.

The Exploratorium has had to adjust to life without the parking lot.

Up to 30 buses a day typically drop off hundreds of children for field trips, Hamilton said. Usually, the kids are dropped off in the parking lot and escorted to the museum.

But since losing its lot, the Exploratorium has had to secure an exemption that allows charter buses on surrounding streets and hire a parking-management team to guide the buses to stop in appropriate areas. The triangular lot would have made life easier for the museum.

Vaughey said she expects some neighbors to continue their tree-planting campaign. And one satirist recently posted a sign warning pedestrians not to approach or feed the neighborhood’s dinosaur population.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

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Kamala Kelkar

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