San Francisco parking ban called success, expansion planned to address shifting problem

After three months, San Francisco’s crackdown on overnight parking of campers and other large vehicles is being hailed as a success and is likely expanding. However, that might just be to catch scofflaws who have simply moved to nontargeted areas.

With the help of 300 signs and 74 citations issued, overnight parking of oversize vehicles is nearly nonexistent in the 11 targeted areas in the Sunset, Richmond, Bayview and Potrero Hill neighborhoods, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Along La Playa Street and the Great Highway, for example, 21 oversize vehicles were known to park. But after three months of enforcing the new law, just two were counted in October. Sunset Boulevard had 17, but zero after enforcement began.

The one drawback is displacement. Streets adjacent to the areas where the law applies experienced an uptick in parking of oversize vehicles. But that could be stamped out by extending the restriction, which the SFMTA’s evaluation recommends.

There’s also another type of displacement occurring: homeless people who are living in their vehicles.

“As a result of the pilot program, oversize vehicle parking has been nearly eliminated in most pilot locations,” said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose. “We will continue to work with various city agencies to ensure that those who may live in their vehicles receive proper outreach and services, while also helping them avoid fines and penalties.”

The evaluation notes that San Francisco is not alone in grappling with such issues:

“The challenge of balancing concerns about ‘vehicularly housed’ people with the need to address public health, public safety, and other community concerns exacerbated by inhabited vehicles on city streets has been a decades-long debate in San Francisco, as it has been in other cities and towns.”

It’s not entirely clear what the impact of the law is on homeless people. In the target locations, half the oversize vehicles were deemed “habitable,” but it was unclear how many were actually being used as housing or simply being stored on the street.

The City’s homeless count earlier this year found 13 percent of those surveyed lived in a vehicle, up from 3 percent in 2011.

During the three-month evaluation period, there were 74 citations issued, of which 19 were for mobile homes or buses. Fourteen were issued to vans, including three to the same van. Another 26 were issued to pickups or other trucks.

No oversize vehicle was known to have been towed, according to the SFMTA.

The law prohibits a vehicle more than 22 feet long or 7 feet tall, and expressly motor homes, from parking between midnight and 6 a.m.

The SFMTA produced 1,000 oversize vehicle parking restriction signs for $19,200 and the labor cost to install 300 of them was $16,200. The citation costs $103. The law was approved last year by the Board of Supervisors in a 7-4 vote.

The SFMTA’s board of directors later approved 11 enforcement areas that included sections with an abundance of oversize vehicles on the west side of The City, such as along the Great Highway and Sunset Boulevard and around Golden Gate Park. Problems areas targeted on the east side include Seventh and 16th streets and Industrial Street.

The evaluation said the SFMTA could not make enforcement exceptions for those who are “needy,” but that expanded enforcement should be coordinated with homeless services “to ensure that vehicle dwellers receive non-threatening outreach and information … and to help them avoid fines and penalties, especially having their vehicle towed.”

The Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee is expected to hold a hearing Thursday on the SFMTA’s evaluation.


Increased problems with oversize vehicles parking were reported in:

North Potrero Hill (south of pilot area)

Holly Park perimeter

Panhandle perimeter

Sunset district streets between 45th Avenue and the Great Highway

Sunset school cluster perimeter (37th and 41st avenues; Ortega, Quintara, Rivera streets; Lakeshore Drive perimeter)

Junipero Serra Boulevard

Criteria SFMTA will use in proposing future overnight parking bans for oversize vehicles:

Park edges

Schoolyard perimeters

Residential streets with limited on-street parking

Streets with vehicles subject to graffiti, dumping, other blight Areas where other parking management measures (i.e., meters, time limits) are not indicated or planned

Source: SFMTA

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