A plan to build much needed campus housing is underway, but not without some controversy as public parking surrounding the university comes under threat.
The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) is considering holding a public hearing on Friday, May 17 to review recommendations for changing the parking scheme on the streets around campus.
If the tentative hearing indeed takes place on May 17, a follow-up SFMTA board meeting would likely be scheduled for Tuesday, June 18. According to Paul Rose, press officer for the city agency that oversees parking, traffic, and transportation planning in San Francisco, these new measures may be passed. The board’s approval in June could mean that all-day parking would be gone by the end of summer 2013.
The SFMTA is proposing to make many of the often-occupied all-day spaces that line university property into parking that would require motorists to move their cars every two hours most days. The current plan was modified from an earlier proposal that included placing new parking meters on those all-day spaces.
The meter portion of the plan was met with strong resistance in a lengthy February SFMTA meeting involving university neighbors, who were generally opposed to any tightened restrictions to street parking. On March 28, e-mails from an SFMTA employee were obtained by a University Terrace resident and shared with the Foghorn. These correspondences indicated that parking meters were no longer part of the agency’s proposal.
A second option to impose four-hour (instead of two-hour) limits on the all-day spaces was dropped by the SFMTA because a “four-hour time limit would…do little to dissuade the use of private motor vehicles for commuting,” Rose said, highlighting the intent of the agency’s citywide campaign to discourage automobile commuting in favor of greener transit alternatives.
“It would be fairly easy for someone to park in the morning, move their vehicle during lunch time, and thereafter continue a habit of driving to campus,” Rose said of the four-hour parking option. “One of our missions is [to] create an environmentally sustainable transportation system by encouraging a transit-first mindset for commuting.”
The two-hour time slots would probably be in force from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., similar to the limits that currently exist on streets around the main campus. However, unlike these side streets, Tom Folks, senior engineer at the SFMTA, stated via e-mail that the new two-hour spaces would not allow cars of any letter parking permit to park for more than two hours at a time.
Another parking hearing, organized by San Francisco supervisor Mark Farrell, will take place today, May 2, 2013 at 3:00 p.m. in room 201 of the Board Chambers in City Hall. The meeting will address citizens’ concerns with SFMTA proposals citywide, and will likely include discussion and input on the University Terrace plan. The hearing will also be attended by San Francisco supervisors David Campos, Eric Mar, and Malia Cohen.
The sought-after, fought-after unregulated street parking spaces lining university property and the parking-meter free streets around USF may vanish as soon this summer, a reality that is meeting resistance from students who commute by car to class.
A heated Feb. 21 meeting at USF between representatives of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) — the city’s transit and parking authority — and the neighborhood University Terrace Association concerned about the proposed changes showed plans to regulate parking in most streets around campus where motorists now park for free, without a time limit, or both. In that plan, areas affected by increased restrictions would include the high-volume south side of Golden Gate Avenue between Parker and Masonic, which contains a long string of “all-day” spaces skirting the length of the main campus from Fromm Hall to Benedetti Diamond.
All-day spaces adjacent to the Koret Recreation Center, along the west side of Fromm Hall, along the north side of Fulton Street, and around Lone Mountain are also slated to become metered or time-limited parking, according to the SFMTA proposal. Additionally, two-hour parking in some residential streets, especially in the Terrace neighborhood separating Lone Mountain and the main campus, is scheduled to become one-hour parking.
“I don’t see a good side to this,” said Jane Ou, a senior international studies major who does not own a car, but whose boyfriend drives to USF often from his home at 33rd Avenue and Balboa Street in the Outer Sunset district.
“When people are lazy, they are lazy. When people want to drive, they want to drive,” she said of the SFMTA’s parking plan that is partly aimed to encourage more people to choose public transit over driving. Ou also objected to a proposed one-hour limit on Terrace street parking where cars without a permit are currently allowed to park for two hours at a time during weekdays. “It’s ridiculous,” she said. “Class time is never less than one hour and five minutes.”
The one-hour limit was a common complaint of commuter students, who pointed out that even the shortest class session at USF would effectively expose all student motorists parking in some of the residential streets around campus to ticketing.
“There’s no class that lasts less than an hour,” said Jessyca Mitchell, a senior Japanese major. “You have to come to school way before class to find parking, and those [classes] are at least an hour five.”
“Making the time limit an hour doesn’t help,” said junior sociology major Tahlia Joseph, who used to drive to school before this semester. “If anything, it’s basically a way for the city to get more money through parking tickets.”
Senior Joe Estalilla called the one-hour proposal “unfair,” especially in light of the level of ticketing he witnessed for people who overstay the current two-hour limit. As a way to ease the restrictions the city is looking to impose on street parking, Estalilla proposed that, “with the [money] that USF has…we [should] invest in a parking garage.”
Parking meters around campus were also unpopular, but the time-limiting of the all-day spaces to four-hours had some student support.
Though Joseph, for instance, saw metered parking as ineffective, because “it would be easy to stay there [in that spot] since you could just keep putting money in,” she felt “four hour [parking] is a good idea.”
“Nobody wants to have to pay for parking around our own school when we’re going to class.” Joseph said.
“I would consider making the whole line [of cars along Golden Gate Avenue] four-hour parking,” Ou said. “I don’t know who parks there all the time, but they are taking up space.”
At least one student, Elyse Cohen, a senior nursing major, welcomed the proposed changes. An occasional car commuter, Cohen saw the SFMTA’s disincentives to bring a car to school as an “inconvenience” that the campus would “get used to.” For Cohen, the effect the changes would make in making students walk more and drive less to campus was a positive one.
“I drive on Wednesdays,” she said, “but I could change that.”
Jason Weiler disagreed. The junior media studies major, who will only drive to campus on Sundays next semester, considers SFMTA’s plan “very stupid,” especially when “parking is so limited already.” Even a trip to USF on a Sunday will not spare drivers from paying for parking if meters go up. San Francisco just recently enacted Sunday metering city-wide, a move Weiler calls “ridiculous.”
“I don’t know how I’d fix it,” Weiler said of USF’s perpetual parking shortage, “but I certainly wouldn’t do this.”
Officially, USF has no position on the proposed street parking changes around campus, as the streets are public property and under the jurisdiction of the SFMTA. If the SFMTA approves the changes, the restrictions would likely take effect over a summer break, possibly summer 2013, to ease the transition in street parking rules for new and returning students.
In our near future, the vexatious San Francisco Metropolitan Transit Authority (SFMTA) plans to implement some very undesirable parking restrictions around the University of San Francisco. Parking meters and limits on all-day spots are proposed to be placed on sections of Turk, Parker, and Fulton streets. A two hour parking limit is proposed to be placed on sections of Parker and Fulton streets, and a one hour parking limit is proposed for University Terrace BB parking permit areas. All of these imbecile changes are proposed in an effort to calm traffic in the USF area because, according to a USF Connect announcement, “the perimeter of the USF campus is unregulated and open parking spaces are very scarce, leading visitors to circle for an open parking space, and sometimes leading to poor behavior.”
I have spent long hours at USF and have commuted to and from the university at least five days a week for the last three and a half years. Yes, I have to agree, several drivers search for parking in a rather ungentlemanly fashion; however, I have never seen the San Francisco Police Department clock for speeding on residential streets around USF in an effort to calm traffic. I have never seen USF’s Public Safety officers give warnings to speeding drivers looking for parking, and I can’t recall USF ever sending a message or making an announcement about safer driving practices in the neighborhoods surrounding campus. What I have noticed is a blind eye being turned to asinine driving habits around USF and an increase in mosquito-resembling meter maid vehicles circling USF’s perimeter and stinging parked cars. If the city of San Francisco was truly concerned with poor driving habits around the university, I think this situation would be addressed differently.
Furthermore, I’d like to point out that the traffic proposals will likely not result in more benign driving habits around USF; rather, I predict even more aggressive parking shopping. Areas with 1 hour parking limits will likely receive the worst driving, as car owner will rush to re-park cars more frequently and will be even less considerate of others.
If someone gave me one dollar for every decent person at the SFMTA, I’d have zero dollars. How stupid does the SFMTA think we are? The bottom line is the city is short of money and they need ways to get it. I do not believe restricting parking around the university is the solution to solving parking troubles in the neighborhood; rather, it is an obscure attempt to hand out tickets and collect meter money.
Among USF students, there are quite a few that call themselves commuters. These are the students that rush to claim the limited numbers of parking spots at USF every day.
USF has recently converted 20 parking spaces into yellow loading zones. The yellow zone spaces are being converted all over the campus in areas including Harney, Kalmanovitz Hall, South Side of Phelan, and University Center Lot. This change has now eliminated 20 spaces of parking around campus for commuter students. Jessica Aceves, a senior studying International Business, said, “I have a car but I would rather take public transportation because of the parking difficulty on campus. USF has made the decision to covert these twenty parking spots to yellow zones, yet they have not provided any kind of additional support to commuting students dealing with parking.” USF Parking Administration was unavailable to comment.
USF parking works on a lottery basis for parking permits; this leaves many students without parking on campus. USF Parking is by permit only, and every permit is issued based on specific lots. All off-campus students have the option to enter a parking lottery, which, according to Public Safety, is held every August for the following academic year for full time and part-time parking permits.
Franco Agustin, a senior international business major at USF, is a regular commuter. Agustin said, “I usually have to come early to find parking and hope to get lucky with all-day parking spots around school.” Although the lottery is available for students, he said, “I feel that the lottery is difficult to get for many students due to the limited [number] of permits that are given out each academic year.” For the students that do not have permits for parking and commute regularly, the struggle to find street parking is inevitable.
Street parking is broken down into two main options. One option is to park on the surrounding streets of the campus for two hour periods and move the car every two hours. The second option is to find the three to four areas of street parking that are all-day parking. These options leave many students looking, fighting, and hopefully getting lucky in finding parking when commuting to school. USF student Anita Buitrago said, “When it comes to driving, I have a much harder time finding spaces and get stuck dealing with parking tickets. I usually need to find spots that are all day, like the 24-hours parking spots on Golden Gate Avenue, because I am on campus all day from about 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. but it is very difficult to get those spots. So I either have to move my car regularly from the two-hour parking or get lucky.”
The surrounding streets of USF are residential and because of that, the city requires residential parking permits for those areas surrounding the school. Primarily these areas are within Arguello Boulevard to Masonic Avenue and Fell Street to Geary Boulevard. The residential parking permits are limited only to persons living in this area. They also limit all of the vehicles without residential permits to two-hour parking between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Because of these restrictions and obstacles, many USF students have suggested expansion of the parking garages.
Agustin said, “If USF could add more stories to the parking structures that already exist it will greatly help student having more parking.”
Buitrago agreed. “I would say instead of investing so much money on the aesthetics of the campus, [USF should] have a parking lot that caters to its students.”
Amid the bumper-to-bumper parked cars in USF lots, the side-by-side parking bordering campus, and the parallel-parked cars squeezed just shy of a love tap in surrounding neighborhoods, one can find parking restriction signs pose a traffic jam of nightmares for USF commuters. Violating these restrictions paves a two-lane road: one lane a trail of expensive citations, and a second lane of cash speeding out of bank accounts to pay parking debts.
With a pinch of luck and a handful of cash, commuters can purchase a USF park ing permit for $637.50 that is valid through fall, spring and summer session and solve a portion of the parking predicament. Students say it’s worth it, though the permit does not completely quell the crisis.
“It’s definitely nice to have, but I wish it didn’t cost so much, especially since there is no guarantee [of getting a spot],” said USF sophomore Gus Shamieh, who has purchased the year-long permit the last two years after winning the USF parking lottery.
The USF permit parking lots total 800 spots and include the Koret, Lone Mountain, Hayes-Healy, and Main Gate lots. According to Dan Lawson, executive director of USF’s Public Safety Department, Public Safety is required to sell permits to faculty and staff who wish to purchase one. This year, 800 permits were sold to faculty and staff, and with hundreds of students applying for permits, USF has implemented a lottery system to whittle down the number of permits they sell to students to 150.
“There are not many options because parking space is limited,” said Lawson. On-campus residents are not allowed to partake in the lottery, as they are not allowed to purchase permits.
Shamieh, who commutes to USF four days a week, primarily parks in the Hayes-Healy underground lot that provides valet service. If the lot is full, his permit usually does him no good.
“Sometimes I just give up and park in the two hour zones,” he said, referring to the neighborhood street parking that requires a separate permit from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). If you don’t have this permit, you can park in the zone for two hours, at which point the cart-and-car chase begins, with students dodging meter-maids to avoid a $65 violation.
For $76 a year, students can disregard the two hour warning by purchasing a permit from the SFMTA, though they must meet certain requirements in order to do so, such as proving full time status at a higher educational institution within San Francisco, living in the permit area and having a registered vehicle. These permits are not applicable to commuter students.
Still, Shamieh is fortunate to have won the right to purchase a USF permit two years in a row, which is more than hundreds of other student-commuters can say. But if you think Shamieh has lady luck on his side, you would think USF senior Thomas Tina married her.
Tina has lucked out in USF’s parking lottery the last three years and can count on one hand the number of times he has not found a parking spot in one of the lots. When he can’t find a spot, he said, “I either get lucky or park in the two-hour zones.”
USF nursing student senior Natalie Filter is a resident of Loyola Village who has a car but not a permit. “I heard you can’t get a permit from the city with a Loyola Village address,” she said, when asked if she ever considered buying a city permit. And when it comes to a USF permit, Filter holds up a stop sign. “Loyola Village parking garage permits are $500 per semester,” she said. “I’d have to get a lot of tickets to get to that amount.”
Shamieh, Filter and Tina all have avoided piling up parking debt, but some unknown students are forking out the cash to attend class every day.
According to Lawson, USF made $137,182.00 from citations in the 2008-09 fiscal year, enough money for students to buy 215 year-long USF parking permits or 1,805 year-long neighborhood permits from the SFMTA.
Lawson says the Community Service Officers (CSO) and Public Safety Officers (PSO) that enforce USF parking regulations do not work on quota and only give tickets when needed.