Street Fight: Are some progressives screwed-up on parking?
Enough has been written about how 8 Washington was a symbolic battle for the soul of San Francisco. But during the campaigns, the lack of attention to parking was curious. Notably, progressive-leaning transportation organizations like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Walk SF, and Transform sat out the election despite the project's excessive 327 underground parking spaces, which violated hard-fought progressive planning efforts to make the waterfront livable. The Council of Community Housing Organizations also sat it out, despite benefitting from the progressive parking policies that 8 Washington violated. It appears that despite their transit-first rhetoric, progressives made a tactical calculation to keep parking out of the campaign.
The progressive victory came with a Faustian bargain which involved ignoring parking. To ensure 8 Washington was defeated, conservative voters were folded into the opposition. Groups like Eastern Neighborhoods United Front (ENUF), the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods, and the Republican Party came out against 8 Washington and yet, ironically, all are opponents of progressive parking reform.
Moving forward, whatever happens at the 8 Washington site must include progressive parking policies. Don't expect this from the unimaginative leadership at the Port, which speciously demanded the excessive parking. Don't expect it from the developer, who steadfastly insists that the rich must have parking. And don't expect conservatives to latch on to a waterfront scheme that is both publicly accessible and genuinely transit-oriented. It is progressives who will need to muster political will for a zero-parking project at the waterfront and set the tone for consensus among the other factions in the waterfront debate.
Meanwhile on the same day 8 Washington went down, 1050 Valencia barely made it out of a tortuous Board of Supervisors hearing in which progressives seemed to be the antagonists. As the first car-free market-rate housing proposal on Valencia under progressive parking reforms, this 12-unit mixed use building seemed an obvious win for progressives. It would be a walkable, bicycle-friendly urban infill mixed-use project with on-site affordable housing, all of which the city needs more of.
Yet since 2010, when the project first went to the Planning Commission, conservative rhetoric has been deployed to stop the project. Significantly, the Liberty Hill Neighborhood Association objected to the transit-oriented characterization of the project. It claimed that the 14 Mission and 49 Mission/Van Ness are filthy, crime-ridden, and unreliable and so 1050 Valencia must have parking.
Unlike progressives, who also decry shortfalls with Muni but propose solutions, the Liberty Hill opponents offered only secession from public transit, insisting on driving in secure armored cocoons instead of addressing Muni reliability, and they also expect free or cheap parking in the public right of way.
You would think that progressives at the Board of Supervisors would see through this thinly veiled bigotry against the 14 and 49 buses. But instead, four self-professed progressive supervisors — John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar — voted against 1050 Valencia.
They may argue that they were more concerned about the neighboring Marsh Theater, which has concerns about construction noise (and also parking). The noise issue can be worked out, and why the progressive supervisors did not work this out in advance is a mystery. But if you watch the hearing closely, the Marsh basically opposed the development — period — and thus a modest car-free development that included affordable housing at an appropriate location. And so did four progressive supervisors. It's baffling.