New parking restrictions in Marina District cause alarm for those who sleep in cars

San Francisco transit officials are exploring how to offer safe parking at night for people who sleep in their cars after a recent ban on parking along some Marina District streets prompted an outcry by homeless advocates.

Concern that those who sleep in their cars will be displaced arose after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously approved parking restrictions from midnight to 6 a.m. daily on a limited section of city streets in the Marina.

The parking restrictions will be imposed on vehicles longer than 22 feet and taller than 7 feet. The restrictions apply along both sides of Marina Boulevard between Laguna and Buchanan streets; both sides of Buchanan Street between Marina Boulevard and North Point Street; and both sides of North Point Street between Laguna and Buchanan streets.

These vehicles not only take up valuable parking but can become hygiene and safety issues, prompting neighbors to complain and call for restrictions.

And as San Francisco grows, space for parking vehicles as well as housing is becoming more acute, said Andy Thornley, a SFMTA senior analyst for parking and sustainable streets. The growth has left some of The City’s most vulnerable residents living on streets and some in their vehicles.

“We are very concerned about the possibility of expanding this failed strategy,” said Kelley Cutler of the Coalition on Homelessness in response to the parking restrictions.

SFMTA board directors acknowledged they would benefit from guidance from other agencies that have better expertise in homelessness.

“I won’t vote for any more [resolutions] going forward,” said director Gwyneth Borden, who approved the pending restriction. “We won’t be entertaining these issues in the future.”

Board Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman described the issues as an “ongoing problem with no solution in sight.”

Thornley said a bigger policy solution is needed involving the Departments of Health, Homelessness and the Environment. He said when parking restrictions are applied in one neighborhood, the problem reemerges in another neighborhood.

One solution, Thornley said, may be to develop a safe parking program where vacant parking lots are identified for safe overnight parking. Seattle, Santa Rosa and Long Beach have similar policies.

He explained that vehicle occupants would need to be screened for safety reasons, and they would also be required to leave in the morning. He added that The City might be able to bring in other supportive services to aid those living in their cars.

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