SF residential parking permit changes put on hold

Major changes to San Francisco’s 40-year old Residential Parking Permit program are put on hold after transit officials raised concerns about several schools in The City not being notified about parking permit changes.

Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors was to decide on changes to the RPP program, including changes that would limit schools in The City from obtaining more than 15 parking permits for faculty.

Kathy Studwell, residential permit parking program manager at the SFMTA, said seven schools in The City currently have more than 15 parking permits.

The change would take effect in July 2019, said Studwell.

SFMTA Director Malcolm Heinickie asked Studwell if those seven schools had been notified yet.

Studwell said:

“We will be notifying them.”

Heinickie said the board approving the parking permit changes would deny those seven schools to give input to the SFMTA board after the changes are approved:

“My concern about ‘we will notify them’ is your asking me to adopt a change that will affect these schools and yet those schools don’t know that this is coming.”

Hank Willson, parking policy manager at the SFMTA, said the transit agency has been working with the San Francisco Unified School District’s sustainability coordinator, and that the school district is aware of the changes, but not all of schools with more than 15 parking permits are with the school district.

Besides parking permit changes for schools, residents would also see noticeable changes to the RPP program as well.

The SFMTA is looking to cap the number of parking permits to one per driver and two per household. Currently, a household can apply for four parking permits and can petition for more.

The current policy has made it difficult for residents to find parking spaces because the SFMTA is issuing more parking permits than there are spaces in RPP areas, said Studwell.

In the proposal, there will be changes in the way residents can initiate the process of requesting to establish a RPP area. Instead of having to submit 250 signatures from residents to the SFMTA, a resident would be able to submit an application with the transit agency either to designate, modify or remove a RPP area for the SFMTA to consider.

The proposal would also require the SFMTA board to approve pilot areas to test out the new RPP program changes, but not before neighborhood outreach.

Studwell said the transit agency has been working with the northwest neighborhood of Bernal Heights and the Dogpatch neighborhood for a number of years now to create pilot projects, which will need the board’s approval.

In both pilot areas, the transit agency would implement the new parking permit household cap, allowing a resident to apply for a parking permit for a healthcare or childcare provider, and exempt residents with a valid RPP sticker from having pay on-street meters located in a RPP area, according to a SFMTA staff report.

The transit agency also plans to test out “paid plus permit parking” where visitors parking in a RPP area will be charged for parking without time limits, said Studwell:

“Parking would be priced so they’re discouraged from staying longer than they absolutely need to.”

Currently, visitors who park in RPP areas have a two-hour time limit before having to move their vehicle to avoid a citation.

Nicky Jacobson, a resident in the Dogpatch and a member of the Dogpatch Parking Task Force, did not support the plans for the neighborhood.

Jacobson said she did not like the idea of taking the petition process out of the hands of residents and businesses:

“We know as business owners and residents know what goes on on our block.”

Another issue that bothered some directors, which was mentioned by Jacobson, was the way the SFMTA staff had notified interested parties about the proposed changes of the RPP program.

Willson said he had relied on media coverage prior to the meeting to inform the public about the meeting, but it was revealed an email list of those interested in the RPP program were not emailed about the meeting.

SFMTA board chair Cheryl Brinkman said:

“As we know with parking, you can’t over communicate at all.”

SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said a date had not been set yet on when the SFMTA board will take up the item again.