Free parking on Dolores Street – 160 new spots – Nov 18 Hearing

John Entwistle, Jr. reporting from the Castro on November 12, 2016.

Updated: July 23, 2018 — This program has been made permanent by SFMTA Board of Directors through a motion passed on July 17, 2018. The documentation is at the bottom of this article. While opposing the Dolores Median Parking Program we note that this, in addition to the parking lot program run illegally by Everett Middle School, does mean that we have replaced all the parking spots lost on 17th Street and in fact massively increased the parking and parking associated traffic in this area.

Original article: When SFMTA is going to such extreme lengths to minimize public input we should be concerned. Consider the current case of a hearing posted the day after the election to be held at 10 am in the morning on Friday, November 18th at City Hall (Rm 416) to make semi-permanent the massively unpopular Dolores Street Median Parking Pilot.

The poster itself is a tribute to SFMTA mendacity in it’s overall lack of information and CEQA abuse at it’s finest. Beyond that initial observation, I have some serious concerns about this program.

Lets start with the poster. I broke it down into three pictures for posting here. nov18thhearingnotice-topnov18thhrngnotice-maptimesnov18thhrngnotice-bottom

First question: What’s the plan? We are a city that has a plan for everything. San Francisco has libraries full of transportation plans but almost nothing that gives cohesion and coherence to our local area. We have hundreds of “planners” on the city pay role. Every department worth it’s salt has to have two dozen of these overpaid monkeys. So what is the overall plan here?

A plan would identify the source of the need for parking (or transit service) as well as quantify said need. In other words, how much parking do we actually really need and is this need expected to grow or shrink into the future? More, more, more is not a plan.

Did someone from SFMTA just stroll through the area and “feel the need” for more parking? (Between visualization sessions, no doubt.) I know that various churches testified in support of the measure but it wasn’t their idea. They were invited to take advantage of SFMTA’s decision to not enforce existing law in the area of their churches.

It wasn’t the hipsters in the Park either. The latest rumor attributes the 16th Street & Valencia Corridor bar owners but no one really knows where this came from or who decides that some red zones don’t count in the Castro.

So who really needs these 160 spaces and will this meet the need?  We still don’t know. Also undisclosed is the environmental impact of all those cars being directed to our neighborhood. And the environmental impact of making cars cheaper than transit by converting public open space into free parking for private automobiles.

EPA Study, 2006

The High Cost of Free Parking,” by Donald C. Shoup. Dept of Urban Planning, UCLA, 1997. — “Free Parking Comes at a Price” By Tyler Cohen, NY Times August 14, 2010. Basically a review of Mr. Shoup’s book but wonderfully clear and concise.

Federal EPA Study, 2006 – “Parking Spaces/Community Places – Finding the Balance through Smart Growth Solutions.”

Wish-washy Red Zone Enforcement

This program was born in non-enforcement of the law in specific places during specific time periods. Somehow folks just learned that they could do this and SFMTA deliberately refused to ticket people parking in red zones on Dolores Street. This has been business as usual for years running now and it increases the number of spaces by 20% (from 160 to nearly 200). Yet SFMTA is claiming that they are going to start enforcing those zones now, as part of this pilot. We have heard this before and been let down.


So, let’s take a look at what the SFMTA has been allowing in the Castro for several years running now. It is scandalous. How are we supposed to know which red zones are real and when we can ignore them? Isn’t there a public safety reason for these zones existing? Why would SFMTA play it so loose with safety?

No tickets. Entire median blocked.
No tickets. Entire median blocked.
Same median different view.
No Tickets. Free parking. Total median block.
Double blocking. Two or three layers blocking the median.
Two SFMTA Enforcement Officers on scene, no tickets. Get it?
SFMTA Enforcement ignoring the red zone median violator at 16th & Church.
Second SFMTA Enforcement Officer ignoring red zone violator at 16th & Church.
And a bit of classic double median red zone blocking parking. No tickets.

Medians unsafe for pedestrians & inaccessible for wheelchairs

The other issue that seems relevant is the Americans for Disabilities Act, the part that says if you create a 100 new parking spaces that 5% have to be set up specifically for disabled people. This is being ignored by SFMTA and by the SF Unified School District (another city parking lot operator) in local parking management. This graphic is generic but insightful.adaparkingspace

Mandatory Jaywalking

The Dolores Street median is not a good place for a lot of folks to disembark from their cars. There are no crosswalks or pedestrian facilities to assist them in getting from the median to the main sidewalks. The medians themselves are very high curbed and have no sidewalks or curb cuts for wheelchairs. They are a soft grass covered platform. Likewise they don’t facilitate wheelchair ramps from vans.

Where pedestrians cross the street to get to the sidewalk, there are no curb cuts or breaks in the car parking along the curb mid-block. They just squeeze between parked cars.

The User Experience

Let’s review what SFMTA calls a “Median Parking Pilot.” You park at the median, stopping the single lane of traffic on Dolores St. while you back in. You climb out of your car next to a foot high curb. You step up to a grass covered median. You find the safest spot you can to jaywalk over to the main sidewalk.

This act of jaywalking involves stepping out from between parked cars into a single lane of moving traffic and crossing that lane to another area between parked cars through which you can slip between the front and rear bumpers to get over to the main sidewalk. You climb another high curb and cross a three foot grassy dirt broken glass covered strip and finally are on the sidewalk.

This will happen late in the evening on dark streets. Some people dress in dark clothing sometimes. That can be quite a shock for drivers when a person in black steps out from between parked cars directly in front of your moving car.

Returning to your car requires the same gymnastics, just in reverse. What could possibly go wrong?

No wonder the public has been adamant in rejecting this idea at every opportunity.

Links:  (From the poster, above.)  And the agenda for that hearing which is basically just the poster from above.

From the Dolores Street Median Parking Pilot SFMTA webpage — The Dolores Street Median Parking Pilot is a proposal to formalize the existing informal practice of weekend median parking along Dolores Street for designated periods of time on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The concept of a formalized median parking pilot along Dolores Street was approved by the SFMTA Board at their August 16, 2016 meeting, and the Board will vote on the specific traffic modifications needed to implement the pilot potentially in December 2016. If approved, the pilot could begin in early 2017 and will run for a period of 16 months.

Our previous post on this topic: Parking for Jesus. (A funny but not necessarily accurate title.) This is not just about church parking. They have many alternatives including inter-church cooperation. Combined, they have more parking than they need and often their services take place at different times. We don’t pretend to know why SFMTA does the things they do.

Update July 23, 2018: As stated above, the Dolores Median Parking Program was made permanent on Tuesday, July 17th by a vote of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Here’s the article from The Examiner. “City makes free controversial Dolores Street ‘parking for God’ permanent.” by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez on July 18th, 2018.

The hearing for the changes was officially noticed and was held at City Hall at 10:00 am on June 15, 2018. This was the height of several serious electoral contests in San Francisco so no one was able to focus on the two year long charade of due process for Dolores Street parking changes. Timing matters. Here is the flier for that:

The final hearing to make the Dolores Median Parking Program permanent.



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