Who needs parking on 17th Street?

It is a good time to look at local demand for parking as SFMTA considers eliminating 45 parking spaces on 17th Street to make room for bike paths. Is there enough parking right now and who uses these spaces anyway? Would motorists quit driving to the Castro or would they just roll around the neighborhood aggressively seeking out a place of temporary refuge for their cars? Is this truly necessary or could bikes & empty historic streetcars be accommodated in a less disruptive manner?

Source: SFMTA, San Francisco Transportation Trends.

During the weekend our neighborhood hosts all manner of gatherings from synagogues and churches to gay mega bars and a few thousand hipsters in Dolores Park. Even Everett Middle School on 17th Street is getting in on the action as they increasingly open their building to community events on weekends. Even with the Dolores Street Median Parking program illegally overflowing onto Guerrero Street and Everett allowing their visitors to park in the school playground pretty much every space on 17th Street is fully utilized all weekend. It is safe to conclude that between residents and transients the demand for weekend parking is really strong.

Dolores Street on a typical Sunday. SFMTA does not enforce these red zones.
Everett Middle School hosting a relatively small gathering on a recent Saturday.
Everett School playground completely filled during a Sunday church service event.
Median Parking overflowing onto Guerrero Street on a typical Sunday.

During the weekdays the dynamic changes. We lose all the median parking options and the Everett Middle School playground is used minimally for a few cars. Why does the school permit any parking in the children’s play area one might ask?

Because the school district has no choice. The teachers don’t live in San Francisco and have no regional transit service options to get here. Therefor they must drive and park somewhere. Even after they take all the available curbside parking (using SFMTA issued permits to do this) there isn’t enough capacity so the school allows a few dozen to park on school grounds.

Residents buy “S” permits from the SFMTA on a yearly basis. Costs are close to a hundred dollars a year to park one’s vehicle in this district alongside any curb. For folks living in nearby apartments who need a car as close as possible for all kinds of good reasons this is a great deal. It is tougher on visitors, store employees and day laborers who have to watch for enforcement of a two hour limit that applies to those without special permits.

Beyond those yearly permits that locals only can purchase there are a number of others that are being issued by SFMTA which allow people to park without worrying about the two hour limit or expensive tickets for exceeding that limit and/or not moving your car. The folks who go out of their way to obtain these special permits need to park in this area.

The largest most visible group of these permitted are teachers at the three big public schools. There are also several smaller church run educational & child care facilities proximate to this place but they don’t get teacher parking permits as far as we know which must be difficult for them. The group you don’t see are the local workers like the cashier at Pet Food Express who drove and hour and a half to get to work and 45 minutes in the area to find parking. They don’t get special permits either and they do get plenty of tickets. They drive here because they have no other way to get from home to work and back.




Typical sight on 17th St. during the week. Many teacher cars parked alongside the school.

The main reason for the strong demand for local parking is the lack of  competitive regional transit alternatives. If we had such it would induce demand from private cars. Solving and funding that enigma should be the top priority of those who wish to develop and grow San Francisco. The lack of good regional transit is, can we say, a roadblock. Until we solve that problem we are going to need some parking in this area for folks who drive here from out of town as well as a few locals who actually do need a car in SF. In fact, as the following graphic illustrates so vividly, technically speaking, demand is dangerously high for the available pool of parking spots in our neck of the woods.


One comment

  1. Eliminating 45 parking spots will wreak havoc with local residents. I have lived here more than 30 years and parking had always been difficult, but in the past 2 years has gotten almost impossible. As a handicapped person I rely upon my car and editing 45 minutes for a spot within 4 blocks of my house causes great physical pain and general inconvenience. Also as a lower income earner I cannot consider relying upon public transportation as my freelance work necessitates my driving all over the Bay Area. You will be inconveniencing long term *residents* to a terrible degree. There must be a better alternative solution.


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