San Francisco Parking Battle Shows Limits Of Smart Planning

Neighbors are in uproar over a 71-unit affordable housing project planned on a bus-turnaround in a residential area of San Francisco because it provides only 7 parking spaces. Is smart growth planning getting ahead of itself by becoming top-down?

Almost 500 residents signed a petition opposing this project (proposed to be built on land owned by the transit district) primarily because its felt that the lack of parking would exacerbate the existing parking shortage in the neighborhood. While the 'transit-first' policy, devised in 1973, is cited as the reason for the limited parking as well the project being 100% affordable, other neighborhood planning areas allow for ratios of one parking stall for two units.

"Parking is the battleground in the transit-first world of San Francisco development. Planners and environmental activists argue that limits on parking are the only way to keep congestion from strangling city streets, while developers and many residents complain that the tough new rules reflect a hazy vision of some car-free urban utopia and not the reality of life in a major American city."

"Without limiting parking, people will choose an auto-oriented lifestyle and continue to drive," says a "Parking and Better Neighborhoods" report on the city Planning Department's website. "Traffic will continue to worsen."

Apparently, the neighbors think otherwise....

Thanks to John Holtzclaw

Full Story: Housing plan sets off S.F. parking debate



We've got to try it

I think there is a difference between having a policy saying no parking for any development, and having a few zero or ultra low parking developments. Its kind of an experiment. One society has to have if we are to move forward. What will the 7 stalls be used for? Car share vehicles hopefully. When people buy or rent these units, they will be aware that parking is not available. Therefore they will appeal to people who want a vehicle owning free lifestyle.

The article says there is a parking shortage in the neighbourhood. I assume they mean on street parking. If there is a permit system, and residents of this building are eligible to apply for one, then that could be a problem. One solution would be to have a covenant on the building that makes residents ineligible for a permit. I've not heard of this anywhere, but there's no reason why it couldn't work.

Tim Barton

Irvin Dawid's picture

5 vehicle parking spaces, 1 car-share space, 1 ADA space;

plus 36 bicycle spaces.
Tim, you asked about the residential parking district possibility - wasn't mentioned in article to my knowledge - but I agree - this is a key tool to deal with parking complaints/concerns by neighbors.

allocation of the 7 spaces

Thanks Irvin. Only one car share space and five 'general' spaces. How would they be allocated? I would have thought better to have them all car share. Then everyone knows they can't have their own car.

Tim Barton

Irvin Dawid's picture

Anyone Know About Economics Of Car Share?

You suggest having more than 1 car share spot for this 71-unit, affordable housing project. Now I know little about car share except that in SF, there are 2 companies: non-profit City Car Share, and for-profit Zip Car. Some time ago, car-share came to my town, Palo Alto - downtown (where I live). However, the company pulled it, saying that PA didn't have the density to support the service. My point, providing space is one thing, cars is another when those cars need to be utilized.
I think a key element of car share is it being accessible to the widest population possible - of consumers who may not have access to a car.
Now I know little of this area near City College - but it appears to be predominantly single-family - not exactly the type of clientelle that would utilize car share.
It's funny - but car share is a lot like public transit - very density dependent, and works better with lower income population that may not own a car. Would like to hear from folks who use or manage car share though.... Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

car share economics

Hi Irvin,
I was thinking the car share spots would need to be accessible to everyone in the neighbourhood. As you say, it doesn't work if they're for the building only. I am not familiar with the density in this area, so don't know whether all those cars would be utilised. I live in Vancouver. It is the same as in SF in that there is a not-for-profit, Cooperative Auto Network, and ZipCar. I have dealt with both companies on several occasions for specific projects. If the cars are paid for by the developer it reduces the cost and therefore risk, to the operator. I'm not sure whether saying car sharing is for low income earners is accurate. In the West End, in downtown Vancouver, car sharing is very popular, and it has very high real estate prices.

Tim Barton

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