Noe Valley Voice April 1997


Scouting for Parking in `Downtown Noe Valley'

By Elliot Poger

Lack of parking around 24th Street has long been a source of grief for Noe Valley residents and visitors. But with two large construction projects under way -- the complex next to Bell Market and the Muni ramps along Church Street -- the issue has taken on new urgency. Two neighborhood residents have tackled the problem with separate proposals for changing the way we park in the area.

Roddick Angles for Castro

Last July, Castro Street attorney Robert Roddick, who also serves as president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association, began circulating a petition advocating diagonal parking on Castro Street near 24th (see September 1996 Voice). He has now collected over a thousand signatures, and they continue to flow in.

"It's amazing," he says. "I keep getting petitions sent to me."

The petition asks that both sides of Castro between 24th and Clipper be converted from parallel to angled parking.

Although the proposal seems popular among Noe Valley merchants, some residents have expressed concerns about safety, specifically the danger involved in backing out of diagonal parking spaces into oncoming traffic.

"I can understand the concern," Roddick concedes. But he thinks the neighborhood's need for more parking outweighs the risk. "We're talking tradeoffs here. Besides, a car that is being parallel-parked has to stop traffic twice: once when pulling in, and again when pulling out."

Since he first floated the idea, Roddick has become engaged in a game of "telephone tag" with City Hall. The last word he received was in early February, when he faxed a petition and traffic impact study (done by city planning student Kerio Hattori as a master's thesis) to mayor's assistant Dean Goodwin. Goodwin said he "would look into it."

Mark Rand, senior traffic engineer at the Department of Parking and Traffic, says he is aware of the petition but adds that the approval process is still in the early stages. In the coming weeks, the Department of Public Works will gather data, such as the number of spaces that could be created, in order to evaluate the proposal. Roddick estimates that 75 to 100 parking spaces could be gained.

The next step, evaluation by the Interdepartmental Staff Committee on Traffic and Transport (ISCTT), may well be a rocky one. Rand predicts that Muni's representatives on the ISCTT will reject the proposal because of safety concerns involving the 24-Divisadero bus line on Castro Street.

Rejection by the committee would not necessarily doom the proposal, Rand says, but "in most cases, that's it."

Jersey Permit Zone Gets Bigger

Meanwhile, Jersey Street resident Ron Olsen has come up with a proposal of his own -- the creation of a Residential Neighborhood Parking Zone around 24th Street (see February 1996 Voice).

Residents within the zone would obtain a special parking sticker for $21 a year. Guest permits could also be purchased. Any car without a permit would be limited to two-hour parking in any one spot, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Current parking meter regulations would stay the same.

Olsen's original proposal limited permit parking to one block on either side of 24th Street from Douglass to Dolores streets, seven days a week. However, the proposal he turned in to City Hall last October extended the zone three blocks on either side of 24th, effective Monday through Saturday. That means it would go beyond Jersey and Elizabeth and be bounded instead by Clipper and Alvarado streets.

So far, Olsen has collected more than 400 signatures supporting the idea.

According to Olsen, a permit zone would discourage nonresidents from taking parking places that residents need. In particular, he takes offense at commuters who park their cars here in the morning and then ride Muni to work downtown.

Residents who oppose the zoning proposal say they resent the hassle of having to purchase a parking permit, and they fear that the parking zone will inconvenience visiting friends and relatives.

Olsen maintains that the permit zone would not keep visitors from coming to Noe Valley to shop, eat, or hang out on 24th Street.

"With the two-hour limit, they can go out and move their cars," he says.

Olsen's proposal, like Roddick's, is inching its way through the city bureaucracy. However, the word from Rand down at Traffic is that "it's going to take a while, because there are several other districts ahead of that one."

His department has verified the signatures on Olsen's petition, and is now awaiting an analysis of the potential effects on parking and traffic in the area. Rand predicts that the proposal will go before the ISCTT sometime this summer.

Long Road for Parking Petitions

The approval process is similar for both proposals. Each proposal must first go before the ISCTT and its representatives from City Planning, Public Health, Parking and Traffic, Muni, and the Police and Fire departments. If a proposal makes it through this stage, it is then given a public hearing.

After public hearings, proposals then go before the Parking and Traffic Commission. If the commission okays them, they go before the Board of Supervisors for final approval.

Both Roddick and Olsen say they are keeping their fingers crossed that their plans will make it to the public hearing stage by next fall.

For more information on parking issues, contact the Department of Parking and Traffic at 554-7275.