As you may recall, there was a big community meeting last week to discuss the creation of a new Residential Parking Permit (RPP) zone in Northwest Bernal Heights. The effort to create an RPP zone was initiated by some Bernal neighbors, yet now that that the plan is closer to becoming a reality, the conversations for and against the proposal have become more intense.
Neighbor Peter attended last week’s meeting, and he shared these excellent notes:
Notes on the North East Bernal RPP Petition meeting
at Flynn Elementary
Dec. 7, 2016
The Flynn cafeteria was surprisingly full of people for a rainy December night. Standing room only suggested to me a high degree of community interest in the topic. The attendees seemed to be a reasonably equal mix of people in favor, people against and ‘undecideds’ wanting more information about the proposed RPP zone. This was evidenced by relatively sparse ‘yays’ and ‘boos’ for any typical cheer-lines that might have garnered a crowd reaction. There was a table with SFMTA brochures comment forms. Also, there were large printed graphics showing the proposed RPP area and an analysis done by the city of resident vs. non-resident vehicles parked in NE Bernal:
The presenter described what a wonderful thing RPP has been for San Francisco ever since Telegraph Hill implemented it all those years ago. The city has been more and more successful in bringing it to areas that do not have it, culminating in the elimination of one of the last free parking ‘doughnut holes’ (her words) around Alamo Square recently. RPP has been the start of many Neighborhood associations etc.
The SFMTA Presenter seemed clearly in favor of RPP and was essentially making a pitch to the adjoining streets to join the current ‘blue street’ zone being proposed. This was evidenced by the presenter repeatedly pointing out Prospect St and saying ‘I’m worried about you guys, you better get on board quick!’.
The purpose of this meeting was primarily to inform the public/surrounding streets about the petition and the process the city follows to grant a RPP area. The presenter explained how each of the criteria so far had been met:
- What the neighbors did to get enough ‘yes’ signatures to proceed. 250 ‘yes’ were required, 270 were obtained. >50% of households in the blue area voted ‘yes’.
- Talked about the process of getting the ‘Parking Utilization’ data. Took photos of cars on the street to determine the percent of residents parking in the area (The result: 80% of parked cars belong to residents).
- She clarified that one mile of street minimum is needed for an RPP zone to be established. It seems that the zone in Bernal has met the minimum area.
- While there are a few more steps in the process to clear, it would take 3-6 months to fully implement the RPP plan: put up street signs, issue permits etc. The presenter seemed to suggest that this was not a completely done deal yet, as the city still needed to give final approval. I can’t confirm this is a fact though, it was a bit vague. (Editor’s Note: Bernalwood got a little more clarity on this issue; additional details are provided at the end of this post.)
No evidence was presented that showed parking has gotten worse in recent years. While it was clear that the SFMTA wants to push this program, it was not made clear why.
Questions, Answers and General Comments from the public
This was mostly civil, and very little aggression was expressed beyond a couple of brief outbursts. A couple of comments included a Lyft driver/local neighbor who said that he regularly takes people to the airport who drop off their car in the neighborhood. There was some concern that notification cards had not been sent out adequately, in particular neighbors on Lundys street said they never heard about the plan and didn’t get notified. Some wanted to be included, but felt there hadn’t been much outreach. There were quite a few questions asked and all answers were given by the presenter:
Q: Doesn’t the 72 hour rule eliminate the need for RPP?
A: The ‘72 hour rule’ is meant for abandoned, broken down and stolen cars in the eyes of the MTA. Therefore they don’t enforce it much. Claimed people abuse this to call against neighbors and tried to downplay this as a means of solving the ‘vacationer parking’ problem.
Q: A neighbor on Mission street (where there are parking meters) asked if he could get a permit and park in the RPP zone.
A: Yes, all neighbors on adjoining streets with parking meters (i.e. Mission St and Cesar Chavez) may obtain an RPP permit for the new zone.
Q: Could street sweeping be implemented instead of RPP?
A: Some streets are too narrow and don’t qualify (width minimum not given).
Q: could the graph be interpreted as there is a much greater interest in NOT getting RPP based on the number of streets that did NOT sign on?
A: Yes, that is one way of interpreting it. But keep in mind, these neighbors do want it (blue streets). A neighbor with a computer then shared a stat from the petition summary that showed only 18% of units in the NE Bernal Canvas area (outlined by the dotted yellow line) voted ‘yes’ for an RPP Zone, the remainder voted ‘no’ or did not vote. This information was not shared with the entire group, just near the person who asked the question. The data seems to confirm this.
Q: If I live just outside the zone, and my neighbor lives just inside of it, does this mean that she can park in front of my house, but I can’t park in front of hers?
A: Yes. Follow up Q: ‘Well that doesn’t sound very fair’. The SFMTA presenter replied with a chuckle ‘Well, life isn’t fair’ (her words verbatim).
Q: If 80% of the parking is done by people who are residents of the neighborhood (as demonstrated in presentation.) how can you say there is a problem that needs RPP?
A: Every spot counts, RPP will make those extra spots available.
Q: Are the times fixed once RPP is established?
A: No, parking hours can be changed: 1-4 hours, weekdays only or with weekends added. Start and finish times can be adjusted, but no restrictions on overnight parking.
Q: I visited Chicago recently and there they have night parking restrictions which addresses the parking problem much more adequately, is there any plan for that?
A: We’ve talked about it, it’s a great idea, but putting that into action is a long way off.
Q: Can we expand RPP to our street too?
A: Yes, you need to get over %50 of the units on your block to vote ‘yes’. If there are 100 units total, you need 51 to say ‘yes’. It is not a ‘yes’ total vs ‘no’ total. The street also needs to be connected to the pre-established zone.
Q: Can RPP be ‘undone’ in the same way that it can be expanded?
A: Yes. If a re-canvasing is done on a given street and fewer than 50% vote ‘yes’ the street can be eliminated from the program. The total area of streets must maintain a minimum one mile for the permit program to continue. Eliminating RPP in an area has been done just once before.
Q: How much are permits?
A: Price of permit is $127 a year per passenger vehicle and will be going up next year (new price not mentioned).
Q: How many permits can you buy?
A: Currently any individual house may purchase up to 4 residential permits. The reason for this is to accommodate roommate situations, not the car collectors, but they benefit too. The presenter suggested that at some point the MTA might try to switch it to one permit per licensed driver per house, but it was only in the idea phase, no proposal on the table currently.
Q: Do the red ‘Scoot’ motorbikes need a permit to park in the RPP zone?
A: No permit is required for motorbikes, personal or private, so long as they fit in a spot that a car could not reasonably take. A space of 9 ft or less was mentioned. (Note: online I saw that motorcycles DO require permits and cost $95 annually, not sure how this jives with what the presenter said.)
Q: A neighbor asked about the possibility of friends coming over and parking over the limit in the zone.
A: Yes, you can get a permit for guests/contractors etc. They are $5 a day for the first one and get more expensive from there. The more you want, the more you pay! When you request your 10th pass it is $7, $10 per pas beyond 20 passes.
Q: I’m concerned about cyber security and do not wish to put my info online, can I get printed documents regarding this plan?
A: Yes, please call us and we will send you info by mail.
Small Group Discussions
The presenter had us break up into groups by street to share our thoughts. I had a very nice chat with some of my neighbors afterward, all of whom were in favor of RPP. It was noted that the city is responsible for eliminating quite a few local parking spots, most recently to create the bike lanes on Valencia between Mission and Chavez. It seems that many fear parking has gotten out of hand due to the new hospital on Guerrero and Chavez. One woman who voted ‘yes’ commented to me ‘This RPP is a terrible idea, I admit. But what else can we do?’ It was suggested (by me) that requesting increased street sweeping, pressuring the city to allow street sweeping on all but the narrowest of streets, and having SFMTA change their policy on 72 hour parking to affect ‘non neighbor, vacationers’ would do a lot to alleviate the situation. This would also eliminate the neighbor to neighbor antagonism that is created with the start of RPP and ends up with everyone buying in due to the negative effects the zone creates.
It was great to meet and chat with everyone at the end. Though we didn’t see eye to eye, everyone was very reasonable and considerate of each other’s opinions and viewpoints.
I really hope that there is still some scope for neighbor input though, particularly since those near, but outside the zone will be negatively impacted by it. I don’t think neighbors in the zone were reasonably informed that this plan may not make parking easier for them — while simultaneously making parking worse for others. I live just outside the canvas zone on Coleridge, but I see the snake slithering this way and would love to send it back to where it came from. It was clear to me in the small group session that neighbors on Coleridge voted ‘yes’ having been sold a bill of goods from the main proponents of this plan. The misinformation about the ‘benefits’ of RPP was evident.
Bernalwood followed-up with the SFMTA to learn more about the next steps in the RPP process. Here’s what happens now, according to SFMTA:
- Revise proposal to reflect tonight’s input
- If needed, hold another community mtg.
- Begin the legislative process
a) SFMTA staff meetings
b) Interagency staff meetings
c) Public hearings
d) Presentation to SFMTA Board of Directors
Neighbors who wish to express an opinion on the proposed RPP can do so via the SFMTA survey for northwest Bernal, and additional documentation about the Bernal Heights proposal is available on the SFMTA website.