Parking Wars at USF

A heated community meeting in McLaren Hall on the evening of Feb. 21 pitted the University Terrace Association of residents who live sandwiched between USF’s main campus and Lone Mountain against representatives of San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency  and local officials, including city supervisor Eric Mar, over the highly contentious issue of parking changes — including installing meters and posting time limits to the  coveted “all-day” spaces found around the edge of USF property, and changing some two-hour parking zones to one-hour parking for cars without a residential permit sticker, among other measures.

Dozens of USF neighbors overwhelmingly protested the plans presented and leveled at the SFMTA representatives accusations of conflicts of interest in planning to install the meters, revenue raising, an undemocratic and opaque approvals process, and “waging a war on cars” in a meeting that lasted much longer than its intended two-and-a-half-hour length.

Eric Mar, San Francisco district supervisor for the Richmond, made an early appearance at the meeting, speaking at some length about his political achievements and activities to an audibly impatient crowd. When he did come to the subject of parking — speaking specifically about his apparent support for a proposal to remove more than 150 parking spaces along Masonic Avenue, a UTA member hissed. Mar left at about 7:30 p.m., but not before a show of hands in the room intended for the supervisor confirmed a near-unanimous opposition to the installation of parking meters in the residents’ neighborhood.

“This is not Manhattan. This is not Paris. We don’t have a subway that was built 100 years ago. We just don’t have the density,” said the man who had earlier hissed at Mar. As a wheelchair user, he felt the direction the SFMTA was taking with the City’s “transit first” policy, especially in the agency’s scheme to increase parking regulation city-wide, was extreme and discriminating against the disabled and elderly.

Robert Francis, a resident of the Mission Bay neighborhood in eastern San Francisco, arrived in the middle of the meeting to testify that, despite local opposition to the installment of parking meters in his neighborhood, the plans went ahead with “little or no notice.”

“There’s a disconnect between what they [the SFMTA] say and what they do…The circling [of cars trying to find parking] is not going to stop. Do everything you can to fight this, or otherwise you will pay to the end of time,” he said.

Some took issue not only with the city’s parking and transit agency, but also with USF and the student population. Marie Hurabiell, who lives on Turk Street, argued the problem was that students, in addition to monopolizing the parking on the residential streets of the Terrace neighborhood, also take up most of the all-day spaces that could otherwise use be by residents and their visitors.

“USF needs to make every single parent and student sign a pledge that they will not drive a car to campus,” she said.

A separate meeting between USF and students regarding the parking changes is thought to take place in the near future, according to the SFMTA’s presentation, but at publication time, no time or date had yet been set.

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