City residents need to reject proposals for more parking fees

Ken Garcia’s Tuesday column, “Plan to add more parking meters is wrongheaded” and the Oakland revolt against extended hours for meter enforcement should both be eye-openers for San Francisco officials.

The Municipal Transportation Agency (which runs Muni and the Parking and Traffic Department) and the Board of Supervisors (sitting as The City’s Transportation Authority) have been eyeing increased parking meter rates, residential parking-permit fee hikes, ticket fines and any other revenue sources they can think of. Residents and small-business owners need to say that enough is enough.

Even though state law says that government-issued permits cannot be priced more than the actual cost of issuance, residential parking permits that once cost $10 a year now cost $76. The City has added the cost of enforcement to the price of the permit, rather than funding enforcement from ticket revenue. And now there is talk of charging parking meter-style rates to park in front of your own home.

Residents need to tell City Hall that we are not going to pay hundreds of dollars more a year for the privilege of parking on the street in front of our own houses.

Parking meters were first installed in U.S. cities more than 70 years ago to encourage turnover of parking spots in front of small businesses. Revenue from the meters was secondary to the goal of encouraging a healthy retail environment. One- or two-hour parking limits for curb parking do just that. But extending parking meters from 6 a.m. to 9, 10 or 11 p.m. and allowing a person to “buy” three or four hours of parking time does nothing to further the purpose of meters on city streets. It is just a way to collect new revenue, in many cases from nearby residents forced to park during the evening in neighborhood commercial districts.

The only proposal that may make sense to some neighborhood merchants is meter enforcement on Sundays. Years ago, businesses were closed Sundays, thus meters were only enforced Mondays to Saturdays. That’s no longer true in most neighborhoods. While you can drive to a hardware store on Clement Street and find a place to park on Saturdays, I dare you to try to find a spot on Sundays. But this needs to be looked at on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.

It is no secret that the MTA is having a tough time funding Muni service, but placing those costs on the backs of residents and neighborhood merchants hurts our quality of life — just ask the citizens of Oakland as they go to war with the City Council.

Jim Lazarus is senior vice president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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