Parking drives many San Francisco residents to despair

As a second-year law student at the University of San Francisco, Arthur Gaus should have plenty of work to occupy his time. However, instead of dedicating all his hours to the intricacies of our legal system, he spends much of his day worrying about where to park.

Gaus lives in the 600 block of Irving Street, a commercial area dotted with parking meters. He cannot park his car on the street due to the meters. And he is prevented from parking for more than two hours on all his neighboring streets because they are part of a residential parking zone — one he was initially ineligible for.

So if Gaus wants to keep his car from piling up citations, he must either pony up large sums of meter change, move his car every two hours in a residential-zoned area or park six blocks away on one of the streets without meters or permit restrictions.

“When I lived on Haight Street and had residential parking, I’d keep my car on the street and ride my bike everywhere,” Gaus said. “Now I drive my car all the time, because I know I’ll have to move it soon anyway.”

Gaus said he understands driving is not the most responsible mode of transportation, and he shares San Francisco’s goal of promoting public transit.

“I see the benefits of disincentivizing driving,” Gaus said. “But making it a complete pain in the neck for me to have a car is not the way to go.”

Gaus’ Inner Sunset neighborhood is not the only area where residents are dealing with the parking problem. Mixed residential-commercial arteries such as Geary Boulevard, Clement Street and Polk Street offer the same frustrating scenarios.

Meters were installed in San Francisco to encourage vehicle turnover at spaces in front of local businesses. The residential parking program was created to prevent out-of-town motorists from parking all day at free on-street spaces.

Deena Hilliard, a longtime resident of the Tenderloin — which is only sparsely populated with residential parking zones and is filled with meters — said she had to sell her car because she had no viable parking option in the neighborhood.

“I understand that not a whole lot of people in this area have cars,” Hilliard said. “But The City is basically telling us that they don’t care about the ones who do have cars.”

There are some options for residents in Hilliard’s and Gaus’ shoes. They can petition to become part of the closest residential parking zone. However, they must have more than half the people in their unit sign the petition, then wait at least six months for a public hearing, according to Bond Yee, the parking director for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which manages parking in The City.

After waiting to hear from the SFMTA for more than a year, Gaus and his housemates are scheduled for a public hearing next week — not a moment too soon in his eyes.

“When I asked the MTA what I should do about my car, they told me to find a garage,” Gaus said. “I told them that I was a student and that would cost $200 a month. They didn’t care.”

Street diversity

The following roadways are both residential and commercial:

– Clement Street
– Geary Street/Boulevard
– Irving Street
– Polk Street
– Van Ness Avenue

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