Garages gear up for change

City-owned parking garages have long been worth their weight in gold, but even these traditional moneymakers have begun to feel the effects of age, understaffing and the downturn in driving caused by sky-high gas prices.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board will hear a plan to revitalize The City’s 40 parking lots and garages, which generate more than $80 million in gross revenue annually.

“Almost every aspect of parking garage management is being evaluated and is changing,” SFMTA spokesman Judson True said. “We expect to see significant capital investments to make sure they will serve our customers well and provide a continuous source of revenue for years to come.”

A report released last week says that more than half of the facilities are at least 40 years old and are in need of rehabilitation. The disrepair has been exacerbated by lack of staff in SFMTA’s Off-Street Parking Division to perform inspections and ensure routine maintenance. The department currently has a 75 percent vacancy rate, according to the report.

Occupancy levels decreased up to 10 percent at most facilities for January through June of this year compared with the same period in 2007, according to the report. The report points to the decline in business on the soft economy, slightly higher unemployment rates and reduced travel as the result of rising gas prices.

A June 2007 examination of city-owned garages found the need for better record-keeping and more financial scrutiny of operators.

The City is now poised, however, to make major improvements to the aged structures and lots, which are leased to both private companies and nonprofit organizations that manage day-to-day operations.

Three contracts are in the works for new parking management, providing better financial oversight of operators. City officials also plan to contract a structural-engineering firm to develop a capital improvement plan for the structures, the oldest of which was built in 1941.

The firm will evaluate everything from the structural and seismic strength of the facilities to their pedestrian safety and landscaping. The information will be used to develop a plan to improve the facilities during the next 20 years. Most critical, the report said, is the hiring of city staff to regularly inspect The City’s parking structures.

Lavelle, a supervisor at The City’s biggest and busiest garage at Fifth and Mission streets who declined to give his last name, said business is still booming at his lot despite the economic downturn.

“We’ve been doing quite well, especially within the last month,” he said.

City-owned parking

19 Garages
21 Parking lots
683 Spaces
14,455 Stalls
$80 million: Annual revenue from city-owned parking

Garage name … Address … Opened

Civic Center … 355 McAllister St. … 1958
Elis O’Farrell … 123 O’Farrell St. … 1964
Fifth & Mission … 833 Mission St. … 1957
Golden Gateway … 250 Clay St. … 1965
Japan Center … 1610 Geary Blvd. … 1965
Lombard Street … 2055 Lombard St. … 1988
Mission Bartlett … 3255 21st St. … 1983
Moscone Center … 255 Third St. … 1984
Performing Arts … 360 Grove St. … 1983
Polk Bush … 1399 Bush St. … 1993
Portsmouth Square … 733 Kearny St. … 1960
S.F. General Hospital … 2501 23rd St. … 1996
St. Mary’s Square … 433 Kearny St. … 1952
Sutter Stockton … 444 Stockton St. … 1959
Union Square … 333 Post St. … 1941
Vallejo Street … 766 Vallejo St. … 1969
North Beach … 735 Vallejo St. … 2002
16th & Hoff … 42 Hoff St. … 1996
1660 Mission St. … 1660 Mission St. … 1994

Source: SFMTA

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