With the excitement around the opening of the new Lone Mountain East dorms in the fall 2021 semester, two new additions to USF slipped quietly under the radar. As the Foghorn reported last year, these additions were the new Lone Mountain East parking structures, situated right under the dorms, right next to campus, and very often completely empty.
The parking structures are only available to staff and faculty who bought USF’s semester or annual parking passes, but they sit mostly unoccupied. Meanwhile, many students who commute to USF are left to park far away from campus due to the price and exclusivity of passes that are available to students.
For both students and staff, there are around 680-700 parking spots on campus, according to Sunny Kaido, Associate Director of Public Safety and One Card. The two new parking structures added 150 more spots for faculty, but have been relatively empty since their debut. In the days before the pandemic, Kaido said Public Safety would sell 2,500 passes to both staff, faculty, and students each semester. The 2020 shelter-in-place order made those passes redundant, and sales have struggled since. Despite classes being back in person, only 400 passes were sold in the 2021 fall semester.
USF’s current parking pass system offers nine different parking permits, but its three-day and full-time passes are the most sought after. Only 150 total of those two permits are given to students each semester, and they are won through a lottery system. “It is impossible to get a parking pass because they are either too expensive or the lottery system is very unlikely to get you one,” junior media studies student Isabella Alesandrini said. “I talk to other students and they sometimes have to resort to parking at the beach and taking the bus to school, or having to reluctantly schedule classes so that they are not back to back.”
This commuting nightmare is not unique to USF. San Francisco State University deals with the city’s limited parking reality by selling parking passes for $500 a semester, a hefty sum compared to USF’s full-time pass raking in $325 a semester.
Students’ parking frustration has only been further exacerbated by the existence of the Lone Mountain East parking structure that excludes them from using the new space.
The parking lot structures were built in tandem with USF’s new dormitory, but the surrounding neighborhood expressed worry that the parking lot would entice more students to drive to campus, and potentially crowd the streets. Dan Lawson, senior director of USF’s Department of Public Safety, said excluding students from the lot was a necessary evil for getting the permit to build Lone Mountain East. “As part of the permitting and approval process, the city heard concerns from local residents about the project’s potential to significantly increase traffic in the area,” Lawson said in a statement to the Foghorn.
To appease USF’s neighbors, the University agreed to zoning the lots solely for use of faculty and staff. This agreement helped green light the construction for the dorms. It was also that agreement that made the lots unavailable for students, and that won’t change unless the city reverses their decision.
Now with the new Hayes-Healy construction scheduled to go on for 14 months, which will take over many spots in the Hayes parking garage, some students believe it is time for the University to allow students to be a stakeholder in the new buildings’ parking options.
Meanwhile, the current response to student parking woes is the recommendation by Kaido for students to think outside of the school’s lots. “I’ve had students who work for us that didn’t make it in the lottery,” said Kaido. “And we tell them to get creative, you know, park a little further out, and park along the bus line and take Muni [to campus].”
But some students are still upset and dissatisfied, like junior marketing major Ava Kornblum: “We already pay a f— ton to attend this school. We should be given access to free parking, so that we don’t miss a portion of the classes we are paying a f— ton to attend.”