SF drivers may be hit with fees

Driving in San Francisco could get more expensive if higher vehicle taxes are approved to help combat The City’s growing budget deficit.

Two measures to increase registration fees are being prepared for the November ballot. One would increase the state vehicle license registration fee and would allow San Francisco to keep the cost difference. The second would be dubbed a “congestion fee,” a flat $10 rate tacked on to each car that is registered in The City.

If voters approve both measures, the cost of registering a $15,000 car in San Francisco would jump from $238.50 to $376, an increase of nearly 60 percent.

The measures are the latest in a bevy of potential cost increases facing San Francisco motorists. Local drivers also must contend with the possibility of higher toll prices on the Bay Bridge, extended parking meter hours in The City and gas prices that are currently 36 cents above the national average.

“It’s like one nitpicky thing after another to fix a system that is utterly broke,” San Francisco resident Aaron Gallardo said. “Eventually, it’s going to get to a point where they drive people from the state.”

The $10 fee proposal is the result of a state Senate bill authored by Oakland Democrat Loni Hancock and passed by lawmakers in October. It allows individual counties to impose a “congestion management” fee of up to $10, with the proceeds going toward traffic abatement measures.

On Tuesday, city officials mapped out a plan to move forward with the $10 increase on The City’s 530,000 registered vehicles. It’s expected to raise $5 million a year and fund street and road rehabilitation, transit improvements, bike and pedestrian projects, and traffic signal coordination, according to Luis Moscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the local agency in charge of implementing the fee.

Gerald Creed, a lifelong resident of the Sunset district, supports the fee increases.

“People want government to provide service, but they don’t want to pay for it,” he said. “I think car registration fees are good solutions to our budget problems.”

Along with the $10 congestion management proposals, local politicians are working on another car-related fee increase. Backed with near-unanimous support from the Board of Supervisors, state Sen. Mark Leno is authoring a bill that would allow local municipalities to raise the state vehicle license fee and keep the difference.

If passed by the state Legislature, San Francisco officials propose hiking the fee from 1.15 to 2 percent.

Proceeds from the fee, which is a percentage of the value of the car, are projected to top $40 million, which would likely go toward city infrastructure improvements, according to Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.

Since both the vehicle license and congestion management measures are technically fees and not taxes, they only need a simple majority to pass. If the measures make it onto the November ballot and pass, they would go into effect by July 2011.

 

Price of owning a vehicle in San Francisco

Registration fees for a car worth $20,000:

                                  Now    2011*
Basic registration fee    $34    $34
California Highway Patrol fee    $22    $22
Local fees    $10    $10
Vehicle licensing fee    $172.5    $300
Congestion management fee    0    $10
Total    $238.50    $376
* If ballot measures pass

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles

 

Next steps toward ballot

What’s ahead for the $10 registration fee proposal:

January: County Transportation Authority report on revenue projections from plan

February: Authority report on expenditure plan from fee revenues

April: Authority draft report on expenditure plan

May: Expenditure plan goes for approval before authority’s board of directors

June 15: Deadline to place measure on ballot

Nov. 2: General election

July 2011: Implementation of fees, if approved

Source: San Francisco County Transportation Authority

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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