Presidio to charge for parking

Visitors driving to The City’s Presidio national park often bring a lot of things: hiking boots, picnic baskets, kites. Now, they may have to carry a roll of quarters with them as well.

Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton said recently that the Presidio would begin rolling out a plan to charge for parking in the sprawling national park and construct new lots in anticipation of the park’s facelift as Presidio officials plan to turn a 7-acre parking lot at the center of the park into a grass-and-granite thoroughfare.

Machines currently collect money at Letterman Drive and Ruger Street for about $6 a day, but several more machines are on the way. Parking is free after 5 p.m., but there is a monthly fee for residents.

According to a Presidio spokeswoman, the money collected from parking is part of the Presidio’s plan to become self-sustainable. Within four years, Presidio officials expect the site to be a new tourist destination with several museums, a hotel lodge and cafes.

But visiting the park can be a public-transit headache. Officials are talking with the Municipal Transportation Authority about adding more bus lines to the Presidio. Three bus routes service the area, but the lines don’t connect to The City’s tourist-heavy areas such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square.

Middleton said he is also looking into parking lots at each of the four roads that lead into the park’s main area. He also said the Presidio is considering underground and aboveground parking garages.

Residents of the park and surrounding San Francisco neighborhoods are not thrilled about the parking plan. In addition to paying monthly fees for extra vehicles, residents often look to Pacific Heights and other neighborhoods for parking.

Vince Vazquez, who left his Presidio home in June after 2½ years, was so sick of paying $20 a month that he circulated a petition against it. Walking door to door, he found that practically every resident felt they were being pinched.

“Living in a national park is a great experience,” he said. “But you’re completely dependent on a car. When you’re nickeled and dimed over time, it just gets old.”

bbegin@examiner.com

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