Noe Valley Voice December-January 2001

Supes OK Parking Permit Zone Despite St. Luke's Objections

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

It's taken 2 1/2 years, but pending one last signoff--from Mayor Willie Brown-- it looks as if residents in "Baja Noe Valley" (where the Mission overlaps Noe Valley) will be getting the residential parking permit zone they have lobbied so passionately for.

Despite last-minute pressure from St. Luke's Hospital, the Board of Supervisors at its Nov. 19 meeting voted 10 to 1 to set up the zone, labeled Area Z. Supervisor Tony Hall cast the lone dissenting vote, explaining that he had too many unanswered questions about the impact on St. Luke's.

Area Z will restrict cars without permits to two-hour parking in any one spot from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. As currently drawn, the zone includes 47 blocks bordered roughly by San Jose Avenue, Mission, Duncan, Church, and 22nd Street.

Once the mayor approves the zone, the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) will notify residents by mail as to when Area Z will go into effect and how to obtain a special permit sticker, costing $27 per year per vehicle.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome," says Lori Oshiro, a Guerrero Street resident who spearheaded the effort. "We have followed the rules to the letter to obtain this permit zone, and we are finally getting what is due us."

Still, given the long delays and the opposition from St. Luke's -- which has argued that the new zone will severely restrict parking for its employees, visitors, and patients, many of whom St. Luke's says cannot afford to park in the hospital's garage on San Jose Avenue -- Oshiro is cautious. "This is not in the bag yet," she says. "Mayor Brown could still veto it."

On Saturday, Nov. 17, two days prior to the supervisors' meeting, Oshiro and her husband Don met with hospital representative Darcy Brown (who joined St. Luke's Hospital a month ago following its affiliation with Sutter Healthcare) to discuss ways in which the hospital could address the parking crunch in the neighborhood.

The sit-down had been encouraged by Supervisor Aaron Peskin at a Nov. 8 meeting of the Housing, Transportation, and Land Use Committee (HTLU). At that time, Peskin had proposed that Area Z be sent to the full Board of Supervisors, but that the seven blocks immediately surrounding St. Luke's Hospital be temporarily excluded from the permit zone. Peskin explained that he hoped St. Luke's would work with neighbors to consider alternative remedies. He also requested that representatives from St. Luke's and the neighborhood return to update the committee at its Nov. 29 meeting.

In addition, he and other supervisors urged St. Luke's to come up with a comprehensive transportation program for the hospital, similar to those created by California Pacific Medical Center and San Francisco General Hospital, which have car-pooling programs and programs that subsidize their employees' public transportation costs.

St. Luke's Brown told the Voice that her meeting with Lori and Don Oshiro went well and that "I thought it would be the first of many meetings with residents. It's going to take us a few years to begin to make capital improvements to the hospital, which could include more off-street parking. But until that point, I wanted to figure out what options were available to us."

Ironically and unfortunately, unbeknownst to Brown, the day following her meeting with the Oshiros, members of the Community Coalition to Save St. Luke's Hospital, a nonprofit group formed earlier in the year to keep the financially strapped St. Luke's from closure, distributed flyers under residents' doors, encouraging them to call the Board of Supervisors and request that St. Luke's patients, visitors, and workers be exempted from Area Z.

That Sunday, Oshiro heard from many enraged neighbors who received the flyers. One wrote in a letter, "Instead of trying to thwart the will of the people -- the residents of this neighborhood--St. Luke's would be better channel its energies toward finding solutions.... I have to say that my empathy with St. Luke's parking problem has evanesced. BART is two blocks away. Muni cobwebs the streets around St. Luke's. Let the staff take public transportation like the rest of us. No neighborhood should be held responsible to provide free parking for a commercial entity in its midst."

When the supervisors got wind of the flyers on Monday morning, they too were angry about the behavior of the St. Luke's Coalition.

"The neighbors have worked on this proposal for many years," noted Supervisor Peskin at the Nov. 19 meeting. "They do not deserve to be held hostage. I am rather taken aback about St. Luke's behavior and that they have not dealt in good faith. When it comes to strong-arming attempts, I say all bets are off."

The board then voted to approve the entire zone, as originally proposed, including the seven blocks surrounding St. Luke's.

"The old St. Luke's didn't have the resources to come up with a transportation plan for the hospital," said Peskin, "but the new St. Luke's [now affiliated with Sutter Health] does. I am not seeing the spirit of compromise on the part of St. Luke's that we urged at the Nov. 8 meeting. Therefore, I am changing my vote."

Meanwhile, back in Noe Valley, the more neighbors who learn about Area Z, the more who start gathering names on petitions to include their blocks. If they aren't part of the permit zone, they fear that nonresident parkers will spill over onto their streets. Already, three new blocks -- Cesar Chavez between Church and Sanchez, Clipper between Church and Sanchez, and 28th Street between Dolores and Guerrero -- have submitted petitions to the Department of Parking and Traffic requesting permit parking.

At its Nov. 29 meeting, the Board of Supervisors HTLU committee was to consider adding those blocks to the existing Area Z.