Noe Valley Voice July-August 2001

City Puts the Brakes on Permit Parking Zone

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

Early last month, permit parking looked like a done deal for residents in the southeastern part of Noe Valley. But that was before 20-plus people showed up to have their say at the June 14 meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Housing, Transportation, and Land Use Committee.

For almost two hours, committee members Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin, and Chris Daly listened to residents pick apart "Area Z," a residential permit parking zone proposed by the city's Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT). The zone would restrict cars without special stickers to two-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

As presently mapped out, Area Z includes 47 blocks, and stretches from Guerrero and 22nd as far south as 29th Street. It also covers several blocks around St. Luke's Hospital, including 27th Street from San Jose Avenue to Sanchez.

DPT had forwarded the plan to the supervisors' transportation committee in May, expecting the committee's rubber-stamp approval. But after hearing from residents, many of whom weren't aware of the permit zone until they'd read about it in the June Noe Valley Voice, the three supervisors basically decided to send Area Z back to the plant for retooling.

Many residents showed up June 14 to request that their blocks be added to the permit area, but not necessarily because they thought the zone was a good idea. Rather, they were afraid that if their blocks remained outside Area Z, they would bear the brunt of the overflow of cars from non-residents no longer able to park on nearby streets.

"I see the parking permit area as an all-or-nothing proposition," said James Hackett, who lives on 26th between Sanchez and Noe. Hackett explained that he'd just learned of the permit area a couple of days before the meeting and hadn't had time to put together a petition to include his block. "It already takes me 45 minutes to find a parking space. I don't want permit parking to be established on all the blocks around my street, and then the rush of demand is on my block," he said.

"The houses on our street don't have any garages," said Lisa Spiegel, a resident of 27th between Sanchez and Noe. "I'm a mom with two kids, and if I can't find parking near my home during the day, it would be an unbelievable hardship. There's very little parking as is. I ask if you do this, that our block please be included."

Added Siegel's neighbor Ron Kaaz, "I took a petition around to 37 neighbors, and 37 neighbors signed it. People already use our block to park and take the 24 Muni line and the J-Church streetcar. Now, with the block above ours already in Area Z, there is going to be even more pressure on our block."

People who came to the microphone also called for a more comprehensive plan.

Many, like Cesar Chavez resident Matthew Siroka, believe that Area Z is "a piecemeal proposal" and that there are "natural boundaries in the neighborhood where the permit zone should begin and end."

Siroka suggested Noe Street as one border, since Duncan, 27th, and other streets in that part of Noe Valley dead-end at Noe. Another boundary could be 30th Street, "because it's the demarcation between Noe Valley and Glen Park," Siroka said.

"What we have now is a cookie-cutter solution," he said, "and it needs to be much more nuanced, more customized to the needs of the neighborhood."

Howard Fallon, a 15-year resident of the 300 block of 27th Street, concurs. "We need a strategy that takes the whole community into consideration," he said.

But that didn't stop Fallon from "jumping on the bandwagon," as he put it, and circulating a petition on his block when he heard that the 200 block of 27th Street had been included in Area Z. "If they get it, then we need it," he explained. He noted that many senior citizens on his block had not signed his petition because they are on fixed incomes and do not want to pay a $27 yearly fee to park on their own street.

Fallon also doesn't believe that permit parking is an appropriate fix for the neighborhood's parking crunch.

"Having parking permits isn't going to buy relief," he said. "The parking problem is after 7 p.m., which the permit doesn't address. You can park in Noe Valley during the day, but by 9 p.m., you have to resort to praying and chanting to find a space. I don't see how having permits during the day is going to help right the problem."

Kim Prouty, who lives on 24th Street near Guerrero, agrees with Fallon.

"I have absolutely no problem finding parking during the hours of 9 to 6," she told the supervisors. "The problem is after 7 or 8 at night, and the permit isn't going to solve that. It's not fair to create problems for people who have friends or family visiting during the day."

"It takes me five minutes to look for a space," added Sheldon Routh, who lives on 24th Street near Fair Oaks. "I think we should do something like have major fines if commuters park in our neighborhood -- or consider four-hour parking, which would stop BART and all-day commuter parking in the neighborhood."

Representatives from St. Luke's Hospital also spoke out about the parking problems hospital employees would face if Area Z were approved.

"The hospital has been at this location for 130 years," said St. Luke's John Jordan, "and we feel just as much a resident here as the people who live here. We are very concerned about the problem this is going to cause for our employees. Keeping employees is always a struggle for us, and this is only going to add to the problems and contribute to the stress our existing employees are under."

Linda Mitchell, owner of Mitchell's Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue, said the 20 workers at her store also would be adversely affected. "I'm concerned about my employees' safety if when they get off work at 11:30 in the evening they have to walk a long way to their cars," she said. "Ninety percent of my employees drive their cars to work because they don't live in the city or because they have second jobs they have to go to after their shift ends."

When it was time for DPT traffic engineer Thomas Folks to address the supervisors, he admitted that Area Z was not perfect. "There are negative side effects with this pill we call neighborhood permit parking," he said.

Folks also addressed the two-hour versus four-hour issue, explaining that "four-hour parking is difficult to enforce. We've found that it's easy for drivers to cheat the system by moving cars around."

But committee chair Jake McGoldrick responded, "I'm very uncomfortable with the tail-wagging-the-dog scenario we have right now. I want people to have more time if they have visitors. Two hours is very tight." He then advised Folks to "go back and consult with the community some more" and figure out some "natural boundaries" for the permit zone. "The domino effect can't be avoided, but let's try and come up with the best solution so residents don't suffer," McGoldrick said.

However, 27th Street resident Howard Fallon seems to think that no solution might be the best solution for now.

"We're not Russian Hill or North Beach or the Haight," he said, "and I don't have a problem with people who park here to get on the J-Church in the morning. They're gone at night, and the parking problem is primarily at night when people get home from work.

"Since there's no clear solution, maybe it's best not to implement anything. It's difficult to correct something that is endemic, and parking problems are part of living in San Francisco."