A proposal from Board of Supervisors President London Breed would create off-street parking for scooters in places like residential garages. (Kevin Kelleher/Special to the S.F. Examiner)

Scooter riders in SF could receive parking boost

Scooter use in San Francisco has apparently become popular enough to consider boosting special off-street parking.

As San Francisco contends with a growing population and congested roadways, scooter users are seemingly on the rise. That demand has been tapped into and encouraged by Scoot, an electric scooter rental company.

Last year, Scoot worked out an agreement with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make it easier for people to park scooters in on-street spots. Now, the rules for off-street parking may change as well.

Board of Supervisors President London Breed has introduced legislation that would create off-street “zero emission” scooter parking regulations in San Francisco’s planning code for places like residential garages. The change would benefit Scoot as well as scooter owners.

“Ultimately, the legislation is aimed at helping everyone who travels in San Francisco by encouraging cleaner, less space-intensive travel, which reduces both pollution and congestion,” Breed’s legislative aide Conor Johnston told the San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday. “Specifically, President Breed’s legislation will help people convert excess parking spaces or even unused parts of large garages to spots for scooters.”

Under the proposal, owners of off-street parking can lease parking spaces for scooters “without changing the nature of the permitted parking use, and without requiring any additional permit or approvals from The City” in four different cases.

A building owner, for example, may use parking spaces for scooters if those spaces exceed the minimum parking requirements under the planning code. If a building only has a maximum parking requirement, 50 percent of the existing parking spaces could be turned into scooter parking under the proposal.

Any parking spaces in excess of minimum requirements for commercial and retail businesses could be used for scooter parking as well as any residential garage space “that is not currently in use as [a] parking space or for tenant amenities, including but not limited to space that is used for tenant storage space or laundry facilities.”

The planning code currently considers scooter rentals like Scoot on private property as automobile or rental use, and the appropriate permits are required. The vast majority of residential zoning districts, however, simply do not permit an Automobile Sales or Rental use.

The legislation defines scooters as “light two-wheeled open motor zero emission vehicles on which the driver sits over an enclosed motor with legs together and feet resting on a floorboard.”

Johnston said that there “are a ton of scooter users” in the district Breed represents who became “quite engaged” with Breed and her staff when The City was proposing on-street residential parking regulations for Alamo Square and North of Panhandle that could have made scooter parking more difficult.

“We want to help electric scooter users and encourage this mode as much as we can,” Johnston said.

Johnston confirmed that Scoot was part of discussions around the proposal. Scoot, which has a fleet of about 500 electric scooters, was founded in 2011 and charges $3, or $5 during commute hours, per 30 minute rentals. Scoot did not return calls seeking comment.

Last year, the SFMTA worked with Scoot on a policy to not ticket electric scooters for parking in residential areas for time restrictions, instead exempting them from the time restrictions (like cars with the proper area residential parking permit) if the scooters were parked in motorcycle stalls or perpendicular to the curb.

“San Francisco is committed to expanding sustainable modes of transportation, adopting the Transit First policy over four decades ago and establishing a goal to have 50 percent of all trips made through sustainable modes by 2018,” the legislation reads. “Emission-free scooters occupy far less space and consume far less energy than private automobiles. They are a sustainable mode whose use San Francisco seeks to encourage.”

The proposal will go before the Planning Commission for a vote sometime next year.

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