Restaurants fear alienating customers with parking fees

Restaurateurs at Fisherman’s Wharf say their businesses will be undermined by a plan to raise parking revenue from a lot that’s used for free by customers.

A coalition of 11 restaurants surrounding the 286-car parking lot between Taylor and Jefferson streets and The Embarcadero operates the triangular lot.

The restaurants charge $2.50 per 30 minutes for parking, but customers of surrounding restaurants and businesses can park there for free. The rates are set in consultation with the Port of San Francisco, which receives some income from the lot.

In March, the Port began searching for companies interested in obtaining the parking lot lease, along with the leases of a handful of other northern waterfront lots.

Port commissioners were recently poised to approve a contract with a parking lot operator that would see Port revenue from the lot more than triple to at least $97,000 per month.

It would be impossible for all of the restaurants’ customers to continue parking for free if revenue climbs so steeply, Alioto’s restaurateur Joe Alioto told Port commissioners during a hearing.

Competitors will continue to provide free parking for their customers using other parking lots closer to their own restaurants, according to Alioto.

“Without the support parking, it’s going to be awful hard competing with everyone,” he said.

The vote was postponed after restaurateurs and a union official argued that commission Chairman Rodney Fong should have recused himself from a March vote that authorized Port staff to seek parking lot bids. Fong runs a wax museum at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Legal advice is being sought regarding Fong’s March vote, according to Port Executive Director Monique Moyer.

Free parking on the lot won’t disappear, according to Moyer. The new parking lot operator will be required to provide free parking during certain hours to shoppers and diners at Fisherman’s Wharf, she said.

Moyer said the new company will operate the lot more efficiently than the restaurants.

But Nick’s Lighthouse restaurant owner Jeffrey Pollack told The Examiner that the restaurants want to continue operating the lot to ensure that their customers continue parking for free, and to avoid long queues of cars they fear will result from a proposed redesign of the lot.

“All they [the Port] had to do was come to us and say, ‘We want to raise the rates,’” Pollack said. “We believe, realistically, that the rates are probably low, but we didn’t set them.”

The Board of Supervisors is ultimately responsible for deciding whether the new contract will be awarded.

jupton@sfexaminer.com
 

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