S.F. parking: Full coffers, no empty spots

San Francisco has not built a new parking garage in five years, despite having a multimillion-dollar fund to help create parking in a city that hosts 750,000 cars during peak times.

Although a fund to create parking totaled more than $27 million last year, the last city-built parking garage was opened in 2002 in North Beach, and was only the second to open since the parking fund was created.

As the debate boils as to whether San Francisco should relax its restrictive policies on adding parking spaces, Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier is raising questions about why The City has not built a new parking garage in the hopes of alleviating pressure on city streets, particularly in neighborhood commercial areas such as Chestnut and Union streets, which are in her district.

There are 320,000 on-street parking spaces in San Francisco, 20 parking garages with 15,000 spaces — of which 11,400 are in the downtown area — and 20 metered parking lots with about 600 spaces, according to Bond Yee, director of the Department of Parking and Traffic.

Since the 1970s, The City has restricted the number of parking spaces that could be created in an effort to promote use of alternative modes of transportation.

Alito-Pier said the restrictions are not reducing the number of cars and the lack of available parking is hurting businesses. Her comments come as voters will decide this November whether to approve a ballot measure that would allow for more parking citywide.

During a Monday hearing on parking issues before the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee, Alioto-Pier questioned why the money that accumulates in The City’s so-called Parking Revenue Fund is not being used to build parking facilities.

In fiscal year 2005-06, the fund totaled $27.5 million, according to a report from the Budget Analyst’s Office. The fund annually receives money from such sources as parking garages.

Yee was unable to offer details on the use of the money in the fund, although he said: “It’s all gone into operation of [Municipal Transportation Agency] as well as debt financing and all these other things that are required.”

Alioto-Pier said she will hold a follow-up hearing in September to address unanswered questions about the parking fund.

City parking by the numbers

» 450,000: Registered cars in San Francisco

» 35,000: Additional cars in The City every day

» 320,000: On-street parking spaces

» 23,000: Total metered parking spaces

» 20: Parking garages, totaling 15,000 spaces

» 11,400: Garage parking spaces in the downtown area

» 20: Metered parking lots with a total of 600 parking spaces

jsabatini@examiner.com


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