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.