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City CarShare Still Looking for Two Spots in Noe
By Kathy Dalle-Molle
City CarShare, the popular nonprofit service that rents cars by the hour to its members, wants to come to Noe Valley. Residents want the program, too. So do many merchants. The only thing keeping CarShare out of the neighborhood is finding a place to park the rental vehicles.
Typically, the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) donates two or more spaces in city-owned garages or lots for CarShare to keep its vehicles. Right now, for instance, five CarShare vehicles are available in the Mission parking garage on 21st Street at Bartlett, another three in the Kezar lot at the corner of Frederick and Stanyan in the Haight, and five more in the public garage at Fifth and Mission streets.
Unfortunately, in Noe Valley the only public parking lot is the narrow one between Radio Shack and Le Zinc on the 4000 block of 24th Street. While the 15-space lot is an option for CarShare, it's an unlikely one, because it has already been met with opposition from merchants and neighborhood groups.
"Taking two spaces from that tiny lot would have a big impact," says Dave Monks, who heads up the residents' group Friends of Noe Valley. "There is such limited parking in the neighborhood as it is."
Kathy Zucchi, president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, concurs. "We're not opposed to the concept of City CarShare," she says. "We don't want to be unreasonable, but that lot is our only public parking lot in Noe Valley. Our retail businesses count on turnover of parking spaces to survive."
On behalf of the Merchants Association, Zucchi last month wrote a letter to District 8 Supervisor Mark Leno, Mayor Willie Brown, and City CarShare, stating that "we want you to be aware that we do not want these cars parked in our ONLY parking lot on 24th Street."
In the letter, she suggested possible alternative sites for CarShare. "James Lick Middle School uses their large playground as a parking lot for City College students every night. Several of the churches in the neighborhood, including St. Philip's and St. Paul's and St. James', have parking lots that might be available," Zucchi wrote.
Monks thinks a few other options need to be explored as well, such as on-street parking or securing spots in the still-to-be-built Noe Valley Ministry lot, in the former Dan's Auto at 3861 24th Street.
"We all agree that the CarShare idea has merit," Monks says, "but City CarShare needs to consult with the merchants and the neighborhood groups. I believe a place can be found, but we want to have a thorough discussion of the situation before they take over any parking in the neighborhood."
Both DPT and City CarShare respond that they are sympathetic to the merchants' and residents' concerns.
Scott Ruble, manager of the DPT unit that operates the city-owned garages and lots, told the Voice that earlier this year DPT earmarked two spots for City CarShare in the 24th Street lot. However, when it ran into opposition from Eureka Valley merchants and residents about providing spaces in a similar public lot at 18th and Castro streets, DPT decided to back off on the 24th Street plan.
"We learned from [the 18th Street] experience that we have to talk to folks first before we do anything," Ruble admits. "That's why we put plans for CarShare going into the 24th Street lot on hold."
Ruble says DPT and CarShare hadn't been doing neighborhood outreach previously because the program had been using large garages, such as the one at 21st and Bartlett, where there were "plenty of spots available."
"We now realize that the situation with the lots is different than with the garages," he says.
Although Ruble maintains that Eureka Valley is now happy to have two CarShare cars in the 18th Street lot, he accepts that Noe Valley may want to keep its 24th Street lot intact. "We realize that that lot is very highly valued by the small business owners and residents and shoppers in the neighborhood."
Ruble says his department hopes to meet soon with the Noe Valley groups.
City CarShare outreach manager Annie Bourdon is also eager to get moving. "We've wanted to be in Noe Valley for a really long time," she says. "I used to live in Noe Valley, and I think CarShare is ideal for the neighborhood. We have lots and lots of members from Noe Valley and lots of requests from neighbors to have CarShare in Noe Valley."
The year-old group, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation and local grants, is looking for spaces that will accommodate at least two vehicles, a Volkswagen Beetle and a Jetta station wagon.
"But we don't want to step on anyone's toes," says Bourdon. "We're going to be patient and calm. We understand how tiny the lot on 24th Street is and that parking is a huge issue in Noe Valley. Wherever we do land in Noe Valley, we hope to help the parking situation in the neighborhood."
Bourdon says she "would love to hear suggestions from anyone in Noe Valley about potential spaces for CarShare. We're willing to be as innovative as possible."
For information on City CarShare or to suggest a site for cars in Noe Valley, contact Annie Bourdon at email@example.com or by phone at 415-995-8589. You can also visit City CarShare's web site at www.citycarshare.org. M