Some city workers abusing parking perks

As a plan moves forward to extend meter hours late into the night to generate revenue for Muni, city workers are able to park their cars for free in many places, and other employees are exploiting parking rules.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is in charge of parking as well as running Muni, is studying extending the operating hours at The City’s nearly 24,000 meters — in some cases as late as midnight.

But while drivers will likely be paying more to park in the future, local transportation regulations that date back to 1998 allow for several departments to provide placards to city employees, allowing them to park at meters and other paid spots for free.

Workers at San Francisco Superior Court as well as the employees at City Hall receive placards that allow them to park at meters outside the buildings without paying.

Police officers, firefighters, sheriff’s officers, Muni workers and Department of Public Works employees all have exemptions from paying to park for at least city-owned vehicles — and in some cases personal vehicles.

Those privileges, however, are in some instances being abused.

For example, outside the Fire Department headquarters at Second and Townsend streets last week, at least six personal vehicles displaying placards were parked at expired meters for hours.

The vehicle code that allows for parking with placards at that site does not cover personal vehicles.

Inside the six vehicles spotted by The Examiner were a variety of placards carrying the Fire Department seal. One such placard was signed by Paul Tabacco, who served as acting chief of the department in 2001.

The Fire Department gives out the placards to visitors at department headquarters, according to Deputy Chief of Operations Patrick Gardner. The headquarters is where the Fire Commission holds its biweekly meetings as well as its administrative offices. But Gardner said Fire Department employees are parking at their own risk when it is at a metered spot or in a red zone outside a fire station.

“As far back as I can remember, it’s always happened,” said Gardner, who has spent about three decades in the department. “The department has never condoned it. It’s up to [the Department of Parking and Traffic] to ticket them.”

A spokesman for the MTA, Judson True, also pointed to the fact that each department is responsible for the placards it distributes. True said the MTA is looking into the various parking regulations throughout The City.

Gardner told The Examiner that he sent out a reminder to everybody last week about the parking restrictions around department headquarters.

They can park there

Legislation allows for certain city departments to permit its employees to be issued placards, which can be used for parking personal vehicles in meters for free. Other departments issue the placards on a limited basis.

Location: Various streets near the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St.
Rule: Free parking for any vehicle displaying a permit issued by the chief of police

Location: Intersection of 24th Avenue and Santiago Street
Rule: Free parking for city-owned police vehicles or vehicles displaying a permit issued by the chief of police

Location: Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place (City Hall)
Rule: Vehicles with a permit issued by the Department of Administrative Services can park for free

Location: Elm Street and Polk Street
Rule: Vehicles of Superior Court personnel can park if displaying a permit issued by the chief administrative officer

Location: 933 Grant Ave.
Rule: City-owned San Francisco Police Department vehicles or an SFPD officer’s private vehicle can park if displaying a permit issued by the chief of police

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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