Did You Know? The Board of Supervisors Eliminated Off-Street Parking Requirements



EDITOR’S NOTE 8 Jan., 2014: This article and its headline has been revised to reflect updated information provided by the San Francisco Planning Department. Writer Brandon Powell reached out to the Planning Department several times while reporting, but the Department provided clarification only after the original article was published.

There are two topics about which many Bernalese — nay, many San Franciscans — tend to have very strong opinions: parking and housing.

Neighbor Brandon Powell calls our attention to a change that was recently made to planning requirements here in Bernal Heights — a change which will impact both the design of new housing and the inventory of on-street parking here. Neighbor Brandon sits on the Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board, and in that capacity he shares these details about changes to the City’s planning requirements that have come to his attention. Neighbor Brandon reports:

This is the language establishing the planning rules that govern the Bernal Heights Special Use District:

“In order to reflect the special characteristics and hillside topography of an area of the City that has a collection of older buildings situated on lots generally smaller than the lot patterns in other low-density areas of the City, and to encourage development in context and scale with the established character, there shall be a Bernal Heights Special Use District.”

Since January 1991, new construction in Bernal, or alterations to existing structures which expand the building’s envelope, are subject to the restrictions of the Bernal Heights Special Use District outlined in Section 242 of the planning code. One of the key elements of Section 242 is the requirement to provide off-street parking, with the number of off-street spaces tied to the square footage of the building.

The City’s approach to parking—and the philosophy behind that approach—has evolved since 1991, and today Transit First is the order of the day. Rather than enshrining the automobile and its use in the Planning Code, the City has progressively scaled back parking requirements for new developments, especially for multi-unit buildings near transit nodes.

In July 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved the addition Section 150(e) to the Planning Code which allows for the substitution of permanent bicycle parking for off-street automobile parking:

(e) Reduction and Replacement of Off-Street Parking Spaces. Notwithstanding subsection (d) above, off-street parking spaces may be reduced and replaced by bicycle parking spaces based on standards provided in Section 155.1(d) of this Code. Once bicycle parking spaces replace an automobile parking space, such bicycle parking shall not be reduced or eliminated. Such bicycle parking spaces may be converted back to automobile parking space, provided that the required numbers of bicycle parking spaces subject to Sections 155.2 and 155.3 of this Code are still met after removal of bicycle parking spaces.

In practical terms, the City no longer requires that new construction (or substantial additions to existing homes) include off-street car parking. This is a fairly radical change to the Planning Code, but there are strong arguments in favor of having market forces determine the demand for car parking and letting developers figure out how best to satisfy that demand.

A holistic approach, however, demands that the City simultaneously address the issue of free street parking. If there is no longer a requirement for property owners to provide car parking, there likely will be increased demand for the limited number of street-parking spaces and more conflict between neighbors.

PHOTO: Folsom Street in Bernal Heights, by Telstar Logistics

121 thoughts on “Did You Know? The Board of Supervisors Eliminated Off-Street Parking Requirements

  1. There are entirely too many cars in Bernal Heights, both on the street and in garages. I welcome the Planning Department’s progressive view to house people in new or expanded development instead of housing cars which have been so destructive of the environment and which injure and kill people all too frequently in San Francisco.

    • In garages?

      No way man. Half the problem is the people who put everything under the sun EXCEPT their cars in their garages in Bernal.

      • DITTO, Kenny. If people would USE their garage for their car we could alleviate so many parking problems. The worst part is that most of the stuff in the garage is junk that just sits there for years.

    • The automobile is one of the most important technological advances in history. Exhaust emissions have been cleaned up incredibly. They aren’t any more destructive of the environment than any other form of transportation, including bicycles produced from high-tech materials that don’t just leap out of the ground and transform into a bike by magic. Hating cars is so silly. If you’ve ever used one, think about why you did. All those lazy drivers aren’t just driving to annoy you. They are doing exactly whatever you did the last time you rode in one.

      Cars are useful. Bikes are useful. Neither one is objectively “better.”

      If one doesn’t like cars, one shouldn’t own one. But let everyone else love cars. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with them. People cause accidents. Not cars.

      • “[Cars] aren’t any more destructive of the environment than any other form of transportation, including bicycles produced from high-tech materials that don’t just leap out of the ground and transform into a bike by magic.”

        Is it hard getting through life, as delusional as you are? My goodness gracious.

      • Thank you for pointing out how irrational that statement was. The only thing they left off is that the universe revolves around Bernal Heights. We’ve got a long way to go before Bernal Heights is truly a progressive neighborhood and the biggest issue is the love of the automobile.

      • Oh, now, SF Mom… take that finger off of wag mode. My life is actually pretty fun! I spend almost 99.999% of my day NOT thinking I know what’s best for other people. It frees up soooo much time; you have no idea.

        I like to spend part of that time looking up numbers, and comparing things. You should try it! You also might consider taking a peek around your own home before you get all cranky pants on me…

        Because here’s a fun game for you and your kid(s): Guess the value of the natural resources an American child will use in his/her lifetime. (Hint: It’s a really, really, really big number.) How many kids ya got?

        Me? I don’t have kids. I have one car which I drive <5K per year. And I can't remember the last time I told someone I hate their kids because they are such enormous resource hogs… I think that would be rude. I actually like the little environmental disasters!

        All I did was put in a bid for perspective, and for not hating things that really aren't that hateful when you look at the big picture…

        I know… delusional…

    • @fivetonsflax Well said! You win the economy of words contest today.

      Requiring X parking spots for tiers of square footage always struck me as stupid. Not wild about usurpation of the BHSUD but sometimes benevolent dictator Sanchez does the right thing.

  2. Am I allowed to simultaneously feel that secret changes to planning are generally a bad thing, and that removing the parking requirement is awesome? The requirement to add more parking for additional rooms on your property is the dumbest of the constraints on our SUD, as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Automobiles are one of the greatest inventions of all time. The have liberated millions to pursue their dreams and connect the world. Why are they villainized? If you don’t like cars, don’t get one. I love cars and what they allow me to do and see.

    • What’s your point? Many San Franciscans don’t like cars, and don’t get one (or additional ones) as a result. This isn’t about that – it’s about being forced to allocate space on your property for a car you don’t have and won’t buy anytime soon, because the city demands that you do.

      • Given the amount of cars on SF I would dispute “Many San Franciscans don’t like cars, and don’t get one (or additional ones) as a result.” Society as a whole (all over the world) clearly love what cars do for them. This is along the lines of pro choice or pro life. If you don’t like abortions don’t get one. But leave the infrastructure in place for those who do. That is my point.

      • “Given the amount of cars on SF I would dispute “Many San Franciscans don’t like cars, and don’t get one (or additional ones) as a result.” ”

        You dispute incorrectly, as it happens. Over 30% of SF households don’t have a car.
        And this number is increasing, BTW. Car ownership is declining amongst young Americans with each passing year.

        But this isn’t even about “liking” cars – it’s about what people get to do with their own property. It’s ridiculous for the city to demand that I add another parking space to my house just because I want to add another bedroom. I’m not buying another car.

      • So BP what happens to the other 70% that do own cars? Screw them? Nice. Where is my elderly father going to park when he visits from Marin? Should he bring a bike? Your position seems very hard nosed to me. And we all know that tired statistic that fewer young people drive cars. Well I’ve got news for you. 23 year olds don’t own home in Bernal Heights and when those same young people have 2 kids and dog they will get a car. Think to the future and don’t forget to maintain property values!

      • “So BP what happens to the other 70% that do own cars? Screw them? Nice. Where is my elderly father going to park when he visits from Marin? Should he bring a bike?”

        What about him? Does he plan to live in my house?

        If I have a reason to add an extra parking space – like an elderly relative coming by frequently – then I should add an extra parking space. If I don’t, there is no reason that the city should be able to demand that I waste space for one on my own property. (And if we’re afraid of people just taking street parking from residents instead of taking responsibility for their cars, then we should make parking permitted like most other neighborhoods in SF do.)

        “23 year olds don’t own home in Bernal Heights and when those same young people have 2 kids and dog they will get a car. Think to the future and don’t forget to maintain property values!”

        I’m in my late 30s. I have a family. We own one car. If I needed another, I’d make the space for it. I don’t need another one, and I won’t need another one. Yet if I add any more square footage to my house, the city feels it has a right to force me to add space for one that I will never own. That’s asinine.

      • Then your nose is quite off.

        If you honestly can’t understand how someone might want an extra bedroom without wanting to buy a second car to go with it, I don’t know how to help you.

      • And therefore all regulations are automatically good?

        I’m not opposed to the entire building code. Only the stupid parts of it. Like this one.

    • Thank you, George. I posted my comment above before I saw yours. Thank you for taking a step back and being practical. Thank you for being sane.

      Is the answer as simple as this? People always have to feel self-righteous about something and hate something else. The things may change but the good/evil paradigm is part of human nature. It becomes a problem when people don’t love/hate in their own house, but instead go out and try to force their love/hate on all of us, because they forget it is just a human value judgement. Car haters have good intentions. They believe they know what is good for the world. So do Southern Baptists.

      People would die before they would admit the similarities, but there has been fascinating work studying the phenomenon.

      • cars don’t deserve to be hated – it’s just that in a dense urban environment, we shouldn’t take every step to accommodate them. People move to SF for it’s walkability and vibrant neighborhoods and it’s important to take steps to encourage that. Accommodating more cars (parking) only encourages more driving which lowers quality of life for everyone in the form of more traffic and pollution.

      • I think the walkability of SF is vastly overstated. Certainly in some neighborhoods, you can walk easily to various amenities, but there are far too many steep hills in this city to call it walkable. Manhattan is a walkable city.

        (I agree with your other points)

      • Your reply is friendly enough that I hate to nitpick. But… we don’t actually take a survey when someone moves here asking them why.

        I personally moved here because I like having really loud 30-year olds tell me what to do and how to do it. Takes all that messy freedom out of the picture.

      • “I personally moved here because I like having really loud 30-year olds tell me what to do and how to do it.”

        Who’s telling who what to do here? No one’s forbidding you from driving. But in the meanwhile, other people in the neighborhood have been forced to reserve space for cars in their homes even if they don’t want or need it.

      • Well KnowsBetter, am I supposed to just ignore the irony of your screen name? Nevermind. I can do it.

        I think you misunderstand what I’m saying… Two issues are being squished together here.

        I don’t think ANY single-family homeowners should be forced to include parking spaces for cars OR BIKES. I’m neutral on multi-unit, leaning towards less forcing in general.

        But as far as who’s telling who… Are you kidding? Public policy in SF is ALL ABOUT loudly and stridently discouraging cars and the demons who drive them.

      • In response to Brandon’s contention that SF isn’t walkable: Since when can people not walk up hills? I’ll take hills over frigid winter or sweltering summer any day for walking!

      • Some days the trek from the Good Life loaded down with groceries to the top of the hill is a challenge. It’s certainly not a stroll in the a park. Riding a bike up those same hills with groceries is nuts.

      • Brandon, really, you’re jumping to a comparison to Everest? Wasn’t it your alarmist temperament that got us into this discussion chain in the first place?

      • The misunderstanding was in good faith. We went to both the planning department and Supervisor Campos with our concerns; neither provided the relevant reference. It’s wonderful that Scott Sanchez got back to you in an hour, but we got no response for weeks. Is this a bit embarrassing? Sure, but it still served to make people aware of a major change that had escaped their notice.

        Your condescension doesn’t serve you well. I actually support transit-first policy, as is clear from my history of commenting here, but I recognize that transit-first doesn’t mean transit-only. Your position seems to be that if it works for you, then it should work for everyone. You say the hill is walkable. Others say it isn’t. Are they all wrong? But you also advocate electric bicycles as a solution for hilly Bernal. Doesn’t sound very walkable…

      • This point gets turned around a lot when people get defensive. Just to be clear, the actual point is that just because living car-free doesn’t work for everyone, that doesn’t mean it can’t work for anyone. We’re not talking about forcing you or anyone else to get rid of their cars or garages. Just for you to imagine it’s possible for others to live that way and allow them to do so. Your response here, as well as your previous comment dismissing the possibility of walking around our beautiful hill by comparing it to Everest indicates to me that you really don’t take the discussion seriously. You have put yourself in the position of authority here by writing and rewriting the post. You can’t be surprised if you are called to task for flippant comments that dismiss the possibility of another point of view or way of life.

      • You keep rebutting positions that I haven’t taken. Just so we’re clear:

        • Car use should not be privileged above other modes of transit
        • The city should invest in more transit (including greater frequency of existing service and creation of more service)
        • Bicycles are viable option for many people
        • Vehicle sharing is a viable option for many people
        • Some people need/want cars and that’s legitimate, too
        • Bernal is walkable for some, not for others
        • The city needs to a better job of outreach

        As for Everest, well, that’s hyperbole. I think you’re familiar with that.

      • I responded to this along with other items on our other comment thread. If folks are interested, keep scrolling down.

  4. Always be wary of excerpts. The referenced excerpt from Table 151, “except as specified below, and except in the Bernal Heights Special Use District,” is a note specifically on the amount of parking required per unit. It does not exclude Bernal from the remainder of section 151 provisions or policies related to that section, such as that presented in Bulletin 9. There’s nothing tricky going on here. Some policies apply to the whole City. No matter how special we feel here in Bernal.

    • Right on Rebecca! Thank you for going back to the text to pull the rug out from under this issue.

      It’s a good policy and it make sense that it should apply citywide. Luckily the zoning code makes that clear.

    • LOL !!! But we are so very special !!

      Also, changes to the code are hardly done in secret. There are endless days worth of public tediousness and struggle over every single word.

  5. The idea behind the requirement for substantial amounts of off-street parking in the Bernal Heights Special Use District (SUD) was not to provide for more cars, but rather to discourage the massiveness of remodels and new construction. The Planning Code is not draconian. It has always allowed for reasonable exceptions (variances). This new, radical, misinterpretation of the Planning Code guts the intention of our SUD, and simply makes it easier for developers to think big. Please call Supervisor Campos if you have any interest at all in keeping Bernal’s village-like feeling.

    • Actually, the Planning Code can get quite draconian in practice. But never mind that: there’s already a height limit in place here. Why do you need to demand for space for imaginary cars on top of that?

      • There’s also the SUD mass reduction requirement — subtract 600 square feet from your design just because.

    • I’m not sure I like the idea of a regulation that is intended to do something other than what it pretends to be about. A regulation that makes owners provide for indoor car parking in order to keep parked cars off the streets is one thing . The assumption is that for every unit or amount of square footage, you are likely to have an occupant with a car, If cultural changes occur, like less reliance on cars, that make the assumptions behind the regulation no longer valid, the regulation might not be needed.

      If the intent of the regulation isn’t about cars and is just about “let’s put so many extra expensive requirements on remodeling that it will not be financially feasible and therefore the remodeling won’t be done, ” that seems wrong.

      • “I’m not sure I like the idea of a regulation that is intended to do something other than what it pretends to be about. A regulation that makes owners provide for indoor car parking in order to keep parked cars off the streets is one thing.”

        Take that one step further: if the regulation is intended to keep parked cars off the street, it should regulate cars which are parked on the street, and not require dedicating a lot of indoor space which may or may not be used for actually parking cars, and may or may not have any effect on whether someone also parks a car on the street.

    • Exactly, Bud! I am not pro-garage, but the link between the number of garage spaces and square footage keeps the size of homes (new and remodeled) smaller. Garages are expensive to build. The height limits and setback requirements also play a role, but square footage is dictated by garage spaces. I think this policy will lead to generally larger (hence even more expensive) new and remodeled homes over time. A contractor can put in a 2 car and 1 bike garage and build up to the square footage previously allowed only with a 3 car garage.

  6. This article is a perfect microcosm of San Francisco.

    On one hand, you have an article that decries the planning department ignoring the garage requirement in the Bernal SUD district proposal.

    On the other hand, you have comments that rightly point out the requirement for a garage is short-sighted.

    • To be clear, the issue I’m raising is the absence of transparency. I acknowledge that there are strong arguments for removing parking minimums. I’ve been one of the loudest voices here on Bernalwood for doing just that. But as much as I like rational planning, I like good government more.

      • It is transparent. It’s just painfully boring. Go to the meetings. Every word is proposed in public in advance. San Francisco government is often PARALYZED by the amount of input from citizens at all levels of sanity.

  7. Have you read the bulletin and code? Zoning admin bulletin 9 (you link to it, but the actual bulletin in use is on the sf-planning.org and has the actual complete doc (without the “Signage template: to be designed by Gary” in the one linked to in the article). But in the zoning admin bulletin 9, they reference planning code section 151 to state the possibility of the replacement of a required parking space with bike parking: “Section 151 of the Planning Code allows replacement of required off-street automobile parking spaces with bicycle parking in order to satisfy the bicycle parking requirements.” If you read section 151, There’s nothing in the code section 151 referenced by bulletin 9 that states that is an option ( at least that I can see/was able to find). They’ve created a dysfunctional code-loop here. My opinion would be your article should be written more to the fact that the codes are written SO poorly in SF (INCLUDING Bernal SUD 242) that the administrators and code writers should be ousted from their positions (at minimum, held responsible for the poor execution of their work) and the codes re-written. The codes need to adapt and respond to what’s actually happening in the city in a progressive manner. That may be their intention, but this is kindergarten level execution. Also, the writing in the article is unnecessarily inflammatory (“usurp” “gutting”, etc.) and doesn’t actually help to bring validity to the issue. I’m no proponent of the planning dept (6 months min for design review?) but maybe use Bernalwood to be more effective on these kind of issues?

  8. Message sent! (Though not the one intended.) Folks should feel free to use the following as a template to support bicycle parking in lieu of vehicle parking, consistent with City policies.


    Sent to camposstaff at sfgov dot org and scott.sanchez at sfgov dot org

    Subject: In Support of Bicycle Parking

    Supervisor Campos and Zoning Administrator Sanchez,

    I am writing to express support for the City’s policy to allow bicycle parking in lieu of vehicle parking requirements per Zoning Administrator Bulletin 9 dated Dec 2012.

    Brandon Powell, who sits on the Northwest Bernal Alliance’s “Northwest Bernal Heights Design Review Board”, has sent out a call via our neighborhood blog, Bernalwood, to contact you to oppose this policy in Bernal Heights. His message also mentioned Zoning Administrator Scott Sanchez, who is copied on this email.

    I wanted to be sure you heard the voice of those that do not oppose this policy, such as myself.

    I fully support the policy to allow bicycle parking in lieu of vehicle parking in Bernal Heights. It seems clear this City-wide policy does apply to our neighborhood, and rightly so! I look forward to the ever-increasing number of bicyclists in our neighborhood and less unsightly garages taking up the front of homes!

    Thank you for your time,
    Name and Address

    • Rebecca, I would ask that you represent my position accurately:

      “I urge you to contact Supervisor Campos to demand that any changes to the code which will affect the character of our neighborhood be made in the light of day, giving all of us the opportunity to make our voices heard.”

      This change to the code may be to your liking (and mine, for that matter), but the process stinks. Based on the comments above, it may be that there is actually broad support for the conversion of car parking to bicycle parking. That would be wonderful! But the city should go through all of the steps.

    • Here’s the Zoning Administrator’s reply to my message that clarifies the code reference allowing bicycle parking in lieu of vehicle parking:


      Thank you for the email. I just read the Bernalwood article and would like to note (for everyone’s benefit) that the provision to allow the reduction and replacement of off-street parking spaces can be found in Planning Code Section 150(e). This provision was unanimously adopted by the Board of Supervisors on July 30, 2013 (Ordinance No. 183-13). The text of this section reads as follows:

      Planning Code Section 150 (e) Reduction and Replacement of Off-Street Parking Spaces. Notwithstanding subsection (d) above, off-street parking spaces may be reduced and replaced by bicycle parking spaces based on standards provided in Section 155.1(d) of this Code. Once bicycle parking spaces replace an automobile parking space, such bicycle parking shall not be reduced or eliminated. Such bicycle parking spaces may be converted back to automobile parking space, provided that the required numbers of bicycle parking spaces subject to Sections 155.2 and 155.3 of this Code are still met after removal of bicycle parking spaces.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions.

      Scott F. Sanchez
      Zoning Administrator

      • And all throughout government, there are thousands of Scott Sanchezes, taking time from administering zones to communicate with citizens about hundreds of thousands of issues big and small. It is what we demand.

        I feel sympathy for the actual humans who are “the government.” Whoever was waiting outside Mr. Sanchez’s door to scream at him for not making a safe haven for one-eyed cats got even madder because he was in his office wasting time. Writing a letter to us. And he gets paid way too much to do it, and his budget is better spent on supporting macaroni salad artists.

        Thank you, government employees, for listening to us bitch about you and treat you like dirt, while you go about doing your best with what you’re given. I applaud you. Except those of you who are doing things I don’t like. They are clearly worthless SOBs…

  9. Rebecca, thanks for this. I’ve been trying to get Scott Sanchez to get back to us for more than three weeks.

  10. In Bernal, ‘off-street parking’ means parking on the sidewalk. Just 3 cars blocking the walkway today walking my kids home from Flynn… keep it classy neighbors!

  11. However you feel about this, the biggest issue is the sudden major interpretation by a person or a department -w/o even the courtesy or willingness to engage our own NW Bernal Alliance which was created by residents to help address the special needs and preserve the character of our very special village within SF. On Ellsworth Street we neighbors defeated 3 years ago a developer and his lawyer team from packing 6 bedrooms into a former 3 bedroom house by doing across the permit counter moves too fast for the city to track (6). That developer would love this otherwise well intended move. The now controversial space required -as it is now- is free to be used however the owner wishes. It has been noted for cars or stuff. Forget that freedom in the future. Unchallenged unbridled developers and rehabbers such as we met -will eliminate that space immediately to turn it into one more studio apt meaning another person(s) are shoehorned in with one or two cars possibly as well. People buying the house later will have no garage period for whatever use they may have wanted. Agreeing with this sudden callous treatment of Bernal’s special use district supports developers and eliminate’s our community’s hard fought right to self determination.

    • Richard, this change came about with a vote of the Board of Supervisors. We did discuss this change with the Planning Department prior to publication, but they did not point us to the updated section of the code until after. I do think the implications of the change (made a year-and-a-half ago) should have triggered the department to notify the neighborhood’s design review boards.

      • This whole discussion is really pretty silly. I can count on less than one hand the number of people I personally know who own or rent in BH who don’t have a car, or two. The few bikes I see are attached to cars and driven to the flats to ride them on a nice Sunday afternoon. Given the hills in BH, bikes are not a good option to get around for most of its residents. Residential permits mentioned somewhere would be a help in my opinion, The time has come.

      • George, you should stop in to the New Wheel on Cortland and see if they can change your mind about bikes being a good option for getting around the hills in BH. Even if not, those electric bicycles make for fun test rides!

      • …at about the same price as a used car. They’re super nifty, but they are expensive and don’t replace a car. Everyone I know who has one also has a car (or two).

      • Oh, Brandon. Anything, excepting possibly love and health, can be replaced – including the spot a car holds in your life! A bike can be part of the solution. Walking (yes, sometimes uphill), transit, cabs, and car shares or rentals can fill the gap. It’s all tradeoffs and choosing the life you want to lead. Deciding that the cost and frustration of a car aren’t what you want out of life and doing something about it. That’s what this was originally about, right? Whether people should be allowed to choose a car-free life and live in the home appropriate for that choice? It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone, but what’s the motivation not to allow them to live in Bernal if they’re willing to do so? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say you have at least one friend who doesn’t own a car, just for some variety in your social circle, if nothing else?

      • Um, yeah. Let’s just say that your assumption about what I think and who my friends are is off-base.

      • Ah, you expected your snarky responses to my comments to go unanswered, I see. Sadly, it is very difficult to get the last word on the internet. I can only respond to what you write, and really don’t know you at all through the words on the screen. Unfortunately that is the forum we’re working with here. I have little tolerance for what I see as parking bullying – even if unintentional – and feel the need to combat the misinformation and aggressive and dismissive attitudes surrounding the issue. That is my goal here. Not to make you feel bad. And I sincerely apologize if I did so. I’m sure you’re delightful in person, as I know I am!

      • I’ve just been asking (from my earliest responses to you in this thread if you go back and look) that you not conflate what I’ve said with what others have. Even in the original version, my objection was to what appeared to be bad process, not the policy itself. I also thanked you for getting Sanchez to clarify.

        So, ball is in your court.

      • I think maybe what you mean to be saying and what you’re actually saying aren’t lining up. Take a look back through your original post and the comments here and really read them. I’m not conflating what you’re saying with others. What you’re writing is not limited to the few things you say are really your point. The entire context of what you write has meaning. Unfortunately, I no longer have access to the original post, but the following are just a couple direct quotes from your other comments. On electric bicycles: “They’re super nifty, but they are expensive and don’t replace a car. Everyone I know who has one also has a car (or two).” On Bernal being walkable: “People walk up Everest. Doesn’t make it walkable.” Do these not seem dismissive to you? Yes, I see you also sometimes directly state support for transit-first policies and the like, but you also tear into comments that suggest it could work here. In Bernal. If you really do support transit-first policies in our neighborhood, that’s great! But when you make snarky comments to the contrary, you open yourself up to contradiction. Take a look back. Really read and don’t knee jerk react. You’ll see I’m always directly responding to what you wrote.

      • My tone is a response to the blithe tone of your comments. Perhaps you’re assuming the generous subtext of your own posts, but they come across as to me as, “Cars are dumb, you should walk it’s easy, if you can’t walk buy one if those expensive electric bicycles.” It cuts both ways.

    • Ah, I see. For the record, my intent is not to change anyone’s lifestyle or make anyone feel bad about their choices. You can be gay or straight or black or white or own a car or not. Just, you know, let other people be free to be what they are in return. The topic here is about whether people should be allowed to live car-free and have the appropriate home for that lifestyle. My comments in support of that were in no way intended to suggest there was no other acceptable way to be. It’s about expanding rights to those who want to live without a car, not taking them away from those that do. We can admit it’s possible to live without a car without being forced to do so or feeling guilty for not doing so. Can’t we?

      • Thanks, Brandon. But it’s not just to you. It’s to everyone who reacts defensively and aggressively when someone suggests it’s maybe possible to live without a car. When you can read a statement that says only a place is walkable and take that to mean that cars are dumb and it’s a personal attack on your choices. People who want to live without a car aren’t in a fight with those that do. Why make it a fight in reverse? Why not just let everyone make their own choice on the matter?

      • So, if I follow correctly, we–being fair and reasonable adults, and after mildly tense debate–all agree that people should be free to use whatever mode of transportation meets their needs, and shouldn’t be forced to create space in their single-family homes for any transportation device they don’t want to house therein. Multi-unit dwellings are still unresolved.

        If that’s the case, I’m proud that tumultuous public discourse in our little slice of the world has led to a reasonable outcome.

        Too bad we have no authority (in my case, at least), because the fact remains:

        1) It is the stated and official policy of the City and County of San Francisco to discourage the use of private automobiles, and encourage the use of “alternate forms of transit.”

        2) It is also now officially mandated by the Planning Code that single-family homeowners must include precisely-regulated BICYCLE parking spaces as a condition of certain remodelling projects and new construction.

        So our agreed-upon vision of fair and sensible public policy is not related to reality. Official policy, and its practical implementation in code, is antagonistic to both car-ownership and homeowner self-determination.


      • tbtg, that’s a great point. We’re trading one determined outcome for another. I can see the logic in requiring multi-unit developments to provide secure bicycle parking, but for single-family homes it seems like they’re trying to solve a problem which doesn’t exist.

      • In response to takebackthegreen, here’s the full text of the City’s Transit First policy: http://charter.sanfranciscocode.org/downloads/code-text/VIIIA_8A.115.txt. Where do you see the “stated and official policy” to discourage the use of private automobiles? The way I read it, it’s about expanding travel options, not taking them away.

        I also read through the code references on this thread and it looks like there are both car parking minimums and bicycle parking minimums that kick in for new construction or certain renovations. There’s code that allows for substitution of car parking with bicycle parking but no allowance for the reverse. So, yes, it does look like the code currently requires bicycle parking by itself or in addition to car parking. But, as was proved by the addition of bike parking requirements, the code isn’t static and can be changed. How do we want it changed? Personally, I think changing the requirements for what bicycle parking should look like in smaller homes like we see in Bernal would be a good start. In my correspondence with him, ZA Sanchez noted they would work to revise Bulletin 9 in just such a way. I’m sure if folks wanted to suggest standards that may be more suitable, they’d take it into account.

      • Also, I don’t know that single-family and multi-family are the best way to differentiate the difference in requirements. 2-unit buildings are allowed in a lot of Bernal. These aren’t the high-rise or mid-rise buildings like you see in SOMA. If anything, they’re likely to have less space available for car or bicycle parking than single-family homes in the area.

      • For starters:
        “3. Decisions regarding the use of limited public street and sidewalk
        space shall encourage the use of public rights of way by pedestrians,
        bicyclists, and public transit, and shall strive to reduce traffic”

        Encourage implies an equivalent discourage. Reduce traffic by reducing number of cars.

        Think of the document as a whole, if you must, in order to grasp its intent. “Transit First” means making public transit and alternate forms of transpo the top priority. I’m not sure how it could be any clearer that the policy’s aim is cause fewer people to use private automobiles?

        I’m not even sure how there is any doubt about that??

  12. System failure. Make a policy interpretation that could put pressure on street parking, making it harder to own a car, and still have woeful public transportation serving the neighborhood.

    • I live about 10 minutes walk from the nearest bus stop and it takes me about 40 minutes total to get to work (10 min of that being the walk). This is compared to 30 minutes driving or biking.

      If more people took transit, they’d be able to justify upping the frequency.

  13. The Transit First policies have the effect of raising the cost of maintaining a vehicle in the city. To that extent you can say it will tend to limit car ownership to the rich.

    • Not having a transit first policy results in needing more land per person to accommodate cars. Land is expensive. To that extent, it tends to limit living here to the rich.

      • That is a new and extremely creative way to lay yet more blame on the humble automobile.

        Now cars are the reason it is so expensive to live in SF… Innnnteresting….

        Whoa… maybe cars also killed Michael Jackson and scripted television!!!


  14. Well, this is timely. Just today I got a letter back from the Planning Department on the plans for remodel/addition that we submitted back in September. Since we had the audacity to design up additional space that is greater than 20% of our existing home (all 750 square feet of it!), we get to design in a bicycle parking spot.
    We have a one-car garage that has existed since the house was built back in 1950. In addition to that space they are also requiring a dedicated bicycle parking spot per Zoning Administrator Bulletin #9. Now, I currently have no fewer than seven bicycles (not counting children’s scooters, tricycles, etc) in my garage, I have no idea how I’ll comply with the ridiculous size requirements for the “dedicated bicycle parking” spots. We have a car that we park in our garage every night. We sort of have to, it is electric, and that’s where the plug is.
    Per the difficult to read and understand referenced documents, I get to somehow carve out a 2′ x 6′ space which evidently cannot be closer to a wall than 2′, and have a 3′ (or is it 5′?) wide aisle to get it in and out, and 5′ behind the bicycle. By my rough calculation, I need almost 40 square feet per the design guide to fit a bicycle parking space.
    For those of us following the real estate prices in Bernal, homes are past the $1000/ square foot mark. By this crazy scheme I will now have a $40,000 bicycle parking spot. I’m going to have to get a really nice bike to park in that space!

    • In reply to myself… So, the letter I got today is direct evidence that the original position of the article is incorrect. Planning is requiring me to not only keep my off-street car spot, but to add a bicycle spot.

      • That doesn’t contradict what I wrote. Prior to this change, you would have been required to add another car parking space.

      • Not true. From the Bernal Heights SUD: “If one or more alterations add over 400 square feet of usable floor area but do not cause the total usable floor area of the building to exceed 1,650 square feet, no additional parking space is required to be added to the existing spaces.”

        We’re adding more than 20% (of 750), but the final building will be less (much less, actually) than 1650. No additional CAR parking space is required, but now I am being required to add a bicycle parking space.

      • If you’re not exceeding a threshold, then what’s the basis for requiring the parking space?

      • I will not, under any circumstances, attempt to rationalize what comes out of the Planning Department. 155.2a.3 says I am adding more than 20%, and therefore must add a bicycle parking space. 242e.4.A.ii says I don’t need to add any additional spaces. Which of these paths do you think results in me getting my addition approved before my toddler graduates from college?

      • Kevin, of everyone who has posted on this page, you deserve the most sympathy. Needlessly, cruelly frustrating.

        I wish there were some way to broadcast your story to everyone who feels like their ideas about urban design are so important, that they should be enshrined in code.

        Every regulation has a thousand unintended effects. Just reading your description of what a “bicycle parking space” is made me want to come help you picket something.

  15. Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

    • So, I actually got the person form Planning on the phone this morning. A rather nice guy, and sympathetic to the Byzantine codes we’re trying to apply. Sure enough, they do want a 2′ x 6′ bicycle parking space (per 155.2) in addition to the single parking space per the Bernal Heights SUD. If you read through Bulletin 9 it is clearly aimed at massive new buildings, and has little in the way of guidance for a single-family home. It would be nice if they’d issue Bulletin 9.1 and show what they want for a home like ours. They do not, evidently, count the bicycle I have hanging on my walls and form the ceiling as bicycle parking. But he was also sympathetic to the fact that in a tiny row house adding 5 foot aisles and offsets from the walls was not really reasonable.

  16. While I don’t think that requiring cars is a great thing, removing this limitation will simply make it easier to expand – resulting in many more SFH expanding upwards, blocking the views of their neighbors.

    • How is it going to do that? The SUD height limit is still in effect, regardless of any parking requirements. It may allow people to build outwards a bit, but there’s still very little room to build upwards.

      • Well, it makes it easier because if you wanted to, you could meet the off-street parking requirement for a car by replacing it with a bicycle parking space. In all of SF the first parking space is required to be 144 sq ft. Per the BH SUD, it is 160. The second parking spot in BH SUD is 127.5, and cannot be a tandem spot . A bicycle spot, per my conversation with Planning yesterday, is basically 12 sq ft.
        So, if you wanted to build or renovate your house to be large enough to require two off-street parking spots, instead of nearly 400 square feet of non-tandem garage, you could now replace the two car parking spaces with two bike parking spots (12 sq ft each). Meaning instead of (160+127.5+12) = 399.5 sq ft of car/bicycle spots, you could have (12*3) = 36 sq ft. So you gain back 363.5 sq ft of living space by converting to bicycle spots. I’d be all for it if I thought that the person doing that would be riding their bikes everywhere and not resorting to street parking the one or more cars they own.
        So, you can meet the parking requirements with bicycle spots, which means it is much easier to build to the limits of the SUD. However, the BH SUD makes it really difficult to actually make the envelope of your house physically much bigger. The height limitations, rear yard, mass reduction requirements, and other constraints make it so that it is rather tough to actually build your house much larger than those of your neighbors.

  17. Kevin is right that indoor space in Bernal is too precious to be used for parking. While the Code does require that vehicle spaces be maintained as such, it is and never has been enforced, and few Bernal garages are actually used as such. The Bernal SUD has little to do with either cars or bicycles; and this novel reinterpretation will result in neither more nor fewer of either. The SUD effectively requires developers to build down as well as up. Or at least it used to. For those who regret their tiny house on their tiny lot next to even tinier houses, this change is good news; but for Bernal it is sad news indeed.

  18. heh… while the editorial voice whines about enshrining cars in the planning code, it looks to my trail worn eyes like they done enshrined bicyclists in the planning code. hmpph.

  19. I wonder if the origin of this new regulation is the increasingly heavy-handed San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

  20. We have a garage. We park our car in it because the neighbors have so many cars it’s the only parking place left. Look around. Cars parked on both sides of narrow streets and only one car can pass at a time. Why? We should either have parking on one side only or convert our narrow streets to one ways. Some people own 7-8 cars which they either warehouse or move around. One person on our block owns several cars because they buy and sell them to make a profit (which, without a license, is illegal, and the police refuse to do anything about it). Bernal needs to convert to Residential stickers that limits time and ownership like they have down town.

  21. The code made it a little harder to make out-sized structures in our midst and with it’s elimination will now make it (economically) easier for developers to make larger buildings on small lots. While I am definitely a YIMBY booster, I also see the need for a little bit of governor on the throttle and the expense of X number of garage spaces tied to square footage was one of those mechanisms. I am neither pro-car or anti-car and I think it is very interesting to see how many readers immediately saw the ordinance as something that promoted cars when in fact it was in place to ease congestion and even more importantly, to temper the idea of building larger, more expensive homes with more square footage in favor of a little bit more affordable (ha!, that is sure relative to Sf and not the rest of the world) homes and apartments with less square footage. Remember that home prices are tied to total square footage and your garage area does not enter into that equation.

    • I did not realize that. A homeowner, someone who wants to live here, actually gains more square footage under the old SUD; but the developer/flipper doesn’t get to count that footage in the resale. Now that’s interesting. Thank you!

    • Actually I think that garage space is counted at 25% of a square foot. Any real estate agents know that answer to that? I know the people across from me that flipped and tried to turn a 1,200 sf house into 4,000 sf house ended up settling for 2,500 sf thanks to the city suing them for code violations. Nevertheless the garage they put into the monster is not big enough to hold a car open with one door open. It used to be a tandem garage. Now we have 3 new cars on the street. Fail.

  22. Sooooo, can these “bicycle parking spaces” be equipped with say… washer/dryer hookups?

    I’m asking for a friend.

  23. Does anybody know the street boundaries of the BH SUD? The map reference in the code doesn’t help much.

Comments are closed.