Noe Valley Voice September 2001

2-Hour Parking Zone Nearly Doubles in Size

By Kathy Dalle-Molle

While many of us escaped to a car-free oasis, a small group of neighbors stayed in town this summer to redraw the lines for "Area Z," a special permit parking zone proposed for the eastern edges of Noe Valley.

Though implementation of the zone is far from certain, residents who convince the city to include their blocks could see cars without stickers limited to two-hour parking on weekdays. And if the latest version of Area Z is approved, the number of eligible blocks will expand to more than 60.

As the Voice reported in its June issue, the original Area Z was expected to be rubber-stamped at a June 14 meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Housing, Transportation, and Land Use Committee. However, more than 20 residents showed up at the hearing, to either protest the plan or demand that their blocks be added to the permit area. Many said they were afraid that if their blocks remained outside Area Z, they would bear the brunt of the overflow of cars from within the zone.

Residents also complained that Area Z was a "piecemeal, cookie-cutter" solution to the local parking crunch and that the plan should be more customized to the needs of the neighborhood.

After hearing their concerns, committee chair Jake McGoldrick advised the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) to go back to the drawing board and work with the residents to come up with more "natural boundaries" for the permit zone.

With those marching orders, DPT traffic engineer Tom Folks in mid-July called together Guerrero Street resident Lori Oshiro and three other neighbors who had spearheaded the Area Z effort last spring. They were joined by Kathleen Zierolf, coordinator of DPT's residential parking program, and Jim Hodges of DPT's enforcement division. Also present at the meeting was John Jordan, a representative from St. Luke's Hospital. Employees of St. Luke's have been perhaps the most vocal opponents of Area Z, arguing that they will have a tough time finding street parking near the hospital if the permit zone goes into effect.

At press time, Folks was preparing to send off a memo to McGoldrick outlining the group's revised proposal for Area Z. Folks anticipated that the supervisors' committee would put the item on its calendar in late September or early October.

Sanchez Street the Upper Limit

The revised proposal calls for a 40 percent larger permit area, bounded roughly by 22nd, Valencia, Sanchez, and 30th streets. The zone would restrict cars without "Z" stickers to two-hour parking in any one spot from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Previously, Area Z only went as far south as 29th Street.

"We relied on the suggestions of residents during our meeting," says Folks, about how the new boundaries were developed. "The three main attractions that draw parking into this natural boundary are the 24th Street BART Station, the Muni J-Church line, and St. Luke's Hospital, and we thought Sanchez would be the upper limit for how far people would be willing to walk to transportation or to St. Luke's."

Folks admits that coming up with natural borders for Area Z was "somewhat problematic."

"There is no organic boundary, like a river, for example," he explains. "We wanted to go far enough out to cover the area, but without expansive problems."

He also says that the situation was compounded by "strong objections in the past to residential permit parking by some parts of Noe Valley." (In August 1997, DPT declined to establish a two-hour parking zone in the area bordered by Dolores, Clipper, Douglass, and Alvarado streets due to lack of neighborhood support.)

Blocks Must Opt In

So what if you live within the zone but don't want permit parking on your block?

Blocks that fall within Area Z will not be required to have permit parking, Folks says. In fact, residents who wish to establish permit parking will need to submit a petition signed by more than 50 percent of the households on their block.

They also will have to undergo a parking occupancy survey, conducted by DPT, which shows that at least 80 percent of the legal parking spaces are occupied during the day. (Although several blocks in Noe Valley already have asked to be included in Area Z, DPT has yet to conduct their parking occupancy surveys.)

Permits, at a cost of $27 per year per vehicle, will be sold only to residents of blocks that have met the petition and parking-occupancy criteria. Consequently, even if a block is within the "natural boundaries" of Area Z, it may not qualify for residential permit parking.

Folks says that the idea of establishing "natural boundaries" for a permit zone is new to DPT, but he is optimistic that it will help the city respond more quickly to spillover problems.

"With pre-approved blocks," says Folks, "DPT can install the permit parking signs and sell permits as the petitions come in. We will be able to circumvent the delay of having to go through the entire legislative process" for each block.

Still, Folks says, the city will be sure to hold public hearings. "We haven't done something like this on this scale before," he notes. "No other cities I know of have a good solution to deal with this problem. This is a brand new idea, and we'd like to give it a try. If it works, hopefully it can be a model for the rest of San Francisco."

For petitions or more information, contact DPT representative Kathleen Zierolf at 554-2339.