Bernal parking permits carry stiffest-ever limits

Sixteen blocks in the Bernal Heights neighborhood will join San Francisco’s residential parking permit program under a new proposed set of rules on capping the number of permits issued to residents.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors approved a test of the stricter rules in the new residential parking permit area AA, that will only allow one permit per person and a maximum of two permits per household.

The proposed AA permit area covers a web of narrow streets on the northeast slope of Bernal Heights, bounded roughly by Mission and Cesar Chavez streets and including portions of Precita, Coleridge and Prospect north of Virginia.

Currently, the SFMTA’s program allows for residents to request four parking permits per household.

Residents can petition for up to four additional parking permits, but the cost of each additional permit will increase — a way to discourage residents from requesting more parking permits.

Residents may also request permits for childcare and healthcare workers, and those permits will not count toward the maximum number of permits a single address may request, according to the transit agency.

Hank Willson, the SFMTA’s parking policy manager, said the transit agency’s program was designed to thwart  commuters and non-residents from parking in residential neighborhoods.

In a 2015 parking study of the proposed new area, it showed a majority of blocks having 80 percent of parking spaces occupied and 59 percent of vehicles were from non-residents.

According to the SFMTA, 80 percent of residents own cars in the neighborhood with nearly 50 percent of residents who said they do not have any off-street parking available to them.

Ellen DiGiacomo, resident and one of the original organizers who requested the SFMTA turn the neighborhood into a residential parking permit area, said the area has little to no restrictions for outside residents to park in the area:

“Cars from outside of the neighborhood continue to be left for days and weeks because we really do not have restrictions at all.”

Karen Cohen, another resident in the neighborhood in favor of including Bernal Heights into the residential parking permit program, said:

“Our neighborhood has become a parking lot for the surrounding areas of The City.”

DiGiacomo said there are several blocks in the neighborhood that have no street cleaning, allowing outsiders to leave their vehicles there for weeks.

Tyler Woods, principal of Leonard R. Flynn Elementary school, which just sits outside of the new parking permit area, raised concerns over the proposal.

Woods wrote a letter to the SFMTA Board of Directors which read:

“Forming a new residential parking area adjacent to our school will likely displace long-term parkers into the area around our school, exacerbating an already challenging parking situation for our teachers.”

Woods went on to say in the letter that many of the teachers live outside of The City due to the housing crisis, and that approximately 71 percent of the school’s teachers drive.

Malcolm Heinicke, vice chair of the SFMTA board, floated some ideas to the SFMTA staff to see if it were possible to include the school into the AA area, or providing a “buffer zone” for the school to possibly be included into two different residential parking permit areas.

Heinicke requested the SFMTA staff to return to the board with a solution.