Driving us crazy

Street Fight: Are some progressives screwed-up on parking?


STREET FIGHT Parking reform is one of the most radically important elements of making San Francisco a more livable and equitable city.

In this geographically constrained city, parking consumes millions of square feet of space that could be used for housing, especially affordable housing in secondary units. Curbside parking in the public right of way impedes plans to make Muni more reliable for hundreds of thousands of transit riders. Parking in new housing and commercial developments generates more car trips on our already congested and polluted streets, slowing Muni further while bullying bicyclists and menacing pedestrians.

Fundamentally, parking is a privatization of the commons, whereby driveway curb cuts and on-street parking hog the public right-of-way in the name of private car storage. The greater public good — such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing public safety through bike lanes, wider sidewalks, public green spaces, and transit-first policies — is subsumed to narrow private interests. These are among the many reasons why, for over a decade, parking reform has been a key part of progressive transportation policy.

Yet lately, it has been disappointing to watch progressives, especially on the Board of Supervisors, retreat from that stance. In Potrero Hill and North Mission, a vitriolic reaction has slowed rollout of nationally acclaimed SF Park, which raises revenue for Muni and is a proven sustainable transportation tool. Yet there are murmurings that some progressive supervisors might seek an intervention and placate motorists who believe the public right-of-way is theirs.

On Polk Street, some loud merchants and residents went ballistic when the city and bicycle advocates proposed removing curbside parking to accommodate bicycles. The city, weary of Tea Party-like mobs, ran the other way, tail-between-legs. Progressive supervisors seem to have gone along with the cave-in.

Along Geary, planning for a desperately needed bus rapid transit project drags on. And on. And on. And on. The lollygagging includes bending over backward to placate some drivers who might be slightly inconvenienced by improvements for 50,000 daily bus riders.

One thing that is remarkably disturbing about this backpedaling is that, in an ostensibly progressive city by many measures (civil rights, tolerance, environmentalism), the counterattack is steeped in conservative ideology. That is, conservatives believe that government should require ample and cheap parking, whether in new housing or on the street. This conservative ideology, shared by many car drivers and merchants — and even by some self-professed progressives — is steeped in the idea people still need cars. This despite the evidence that cars are extremely destructive to our environment, socially inequitable, and only seem essential because of poor planning decisions, not human nature.

Progressive backpedaling has become more confusing with the recent debate over 8 Washington, defeated at the polls Nov. 5, and on the same day of a convoluted Board of Supervisors hearing on a proposed car-free housing development at 1050 Valencia. Both of these projects highlight the muddled inconsistency emerging among progressive supervisors.


except for angry car haters and bureaucrats at MTA who want to squeeze every last dime out of SF taxpayers.
Let's see... moderates don't like you, progressives don't like you (admittedly, to your great astonishment) conservatives and liberals don't like you.
Face it Jason, the universe is telling you to pick a new hobby and quit trying to control other people's lives.
Nobody likes a nosy wiener.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

Jason writes, "parking consumes millions of square feet of space that could be used for housing, especially affordable housing in secondary units."

First, thanks to the previous posters who've pointed out that the designations of "liberal, conservative and progressive" have become meaningless over the years. People who use these terms and assign them any meaning are often lazy thinkers. With hundreds of issues that define an individual's belief system, it's a fools game to designate individuals or groups as "progressive" or "conservative" or "neoliberal". For example, I believe in very limited government, maximum personal freedom that doesn't encroach on others, and the extreme protection of the environment, including keeping entire biosystems intact. Thus, although I might call myself a conservative, I know from experience that many people who consider themselves conservatives are opposed to most of my viewpoints. These terms lost meaning years ago, if not decades ago. San Francisco and California deserve better than sloppy thinking and simplistic terminology.

But I come here to mainly bash Jason over his statement that "secondary units" will equate to "affordable housing." No newly built privately owned housing in San Francisco will ever be affordable, including mirco-units built in a garage or a basement. The cost of admission to San Francisco is reserved for the wealthy or those with high incomes. Even the dumpiest basement unit will rent for thousands a month, far beyond the income levels of the vast majority of people who live in the Bay Area. And the 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house that currently sells for $1.4 million will cost closer to $2 million if it includes a rentable secondary unit, pushing the cost of ownership housing even further out of reach of most households. The world doesn't need more private landlords; indeed, the world needs about 99% fewer private landlords.

The current agenda of Scott Wiener, SPUR, other supposedly "do-gooder" groups, and apparently Jason, who are promoting secondary units, is primarily a means to add more high-income residents to SF, create thousands of new landlords in the city, and greatly increase the wealth of current homeowners who add a new unit or units to their property.

"Affordable housing" will only be created by non-profit groups, land trusts, or by adding deed restrictions to properties in perpetuity that limit the qualifying incomes of the households owning the properties, similar to the excellent model used by Habitat for Humanity. This notion that adding 100,000 housing units in the city will do anything to increase housing affordability for the vast majority of Bay Area residents who want to live in SF needs to end, or at least it should be summarily dismissed as laughable by the writers and editors of the SFBG.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

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Posted by Anonymous on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:35 am

Parking is needed, yes 8 Washington had lots of parking spaces, don't see anything wrong with that. Transit in San Francisco is not that great, it really doesn't take you to that place called work, unless you live and work in the city.

If you are one of those who have to work in Santa Clara county, commutes to work, got news for you transit supporters. Driving a car is the only way, unless your company provides buses hasn't gone to well in the city. Google might be coming to Mission Bay, which means MUNI might be able to gain extra riders.

Posted by Garrett on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:32 pm


Cars, BART, the central subway and private buses are our best hopes for the future.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 19, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

So tired of people from outside my neighborhood trying to drop in parking meters on me for whatever BS reason.

Jason Henderson: Do not suggest that I or other people who live or work in the NE mission want parking meters. WE DO NOT. Your arguments are invalid in light of this very simple truth.

We the residents and members of ENUF have made our feelings known at city meetings time and again there will be no parking meters in the NE Mission.

So thanks for all your bullshit. And go blow your dad.

Thanks, Sean McCommons.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 2:38 am

I understand where you are coming from in regards to general street overcrowding which can appear to be seemingly induced by cars and motorized vehicles. However, this article seems to be blaming the "rich conservatives" for fighting to have use and parking for his or her vehicle.

We must remember that we, San Franciscans are also Americans. As Americans the meaning, the feeling and the symbol of the automobile is ingrained in our history. From the 1930s model T-ford, to the hot-rods of the 1960s to current day Nascar racing, Americans in general value the automobile. The automobile is something which continues to mark an important shift in both capitalism and technology.

Although I agree with the fact that gas emissions only continue to deplete our natural resources and hurt our environment, consumers have demanded and car companies have responded to the need for more eco-friendly cars. From the Prius to the Nissan Leaf and Tesla, we are evolving to ensure we can have our automobile while making smarter consumer decisions.

Lastly, I want to touch upon something you said, "This conservative ideology, shared by many car drivers and merchants — and even by some self-professed progressives — is steeped in the idea people still need cars." My response is that people still do need cars in most areas of our country, the metropolitan areas being the exception. So the notion that is "an idea" is more of a reality. Being that SF is comprised of mostly transient residents, I think this is something most of us can identify with or know a family or friend who lives in an area which has unreliable or no public transit options. Again, cars are valued and ingrained in our culture.

In addition, the money which pays for many of the improvements San Francisco needs is funded in part by the money Tourism brings to our city—this includes people coming in from other parts of California or nearby states. Are we to deny them driving into our City to help fund these much needed projects? The disabled, the elderly, the mother with two young children—all of these people greatly benefit from the use of a car and parking.

Ultimately, this is not an issue of cars and parking, but rather an issue of the gap between the rich and the poor becoming larger here in San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. The rich have been able to afford the luxury condo with covered parking, where the college student, teacher, cook, secretary must commute by public transit perhaps longer distances. We live in an unfair world, the best we can do is fight for what we believe in, but as it stands today, I would argue cars are something most Americans believe in and won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 10:50 am

And if money didn't get you better stuff, nobody would bother showing up at work.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:09 am

And a similar number is projected for 2014.

Cars are not going anywhere.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 09, 2013 @ 11:18 am

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