Many Questions, Some Answers During Meeting on Proposed Parking Permits


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:


SFMTA Presentation
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.

42 thoughts on “Many Questions, Some Answers During Meeting on Proposed Parking Permits

    • I think it is a great idea for the Cortland side as well. After five you have to have a permit to park.
      Maybe make it seven if it hurts the restaurants. Living on Prospect with no parking can be a big challenge due to all the restaurants etc. Please make this happen for all of Bernal Heights.

  1. I wonder how many of the cars from more than 2 miles away are from Air BnB guests? My tiny block has two Air BnB houses now and the guests often bring cars. I wonder if the folks using their properties as hotels have thought about how this will impact their new businesses.

  2. “A neighbor on Mission street (where there are parking meters) asked if he could get a permit and park in the RPP zone.”

    Thank you so much for asking my question, whoever that was. I started reading this post with dread, thinking that this was the year my lifestyle would be made, at the very least, a lot more difficult, but I’m so happy to find out that’s not the case. I’d rather not have all of us have to pay the $127/yr, but apparently I’m outvoted.

    “While it was clear that the SFMTA wants to push this program, it was not made clear why.”

    Simply for more revenue, right? Both from the fees collected for permits, and for ticketing all these newly minted offenders.

    • No, our neighbors have asked for this, not SFMTA. It would be nice to blame the City, but this was Bernal driven. The licensing barely pays for itself. Our neighbors have lamented their parking and driven this process.

      On my block only one family uses their garage. I live in an apartment with no garage and no, my landlords downstairs do not use the garage for their vehicle. They use it for junk. My neighbors try to enforce a “parking rule” in which you can only park in front of your place. They do it because “we all use our garages for other things”.

      Meanwhile there are complaints that people park here and go to the airport, which is such a smaller problem than the few loud voices in the neighborhood suggest. As I said in my post, the cars on my block that are not neighbors are from Air BnB rentals. We want it all here in Bernal. We want our garages to be storage. We want to make money off of our rooms or whole units. We want to blame the City. We want to blame people going to the airport. Anything besides taking a look at our own patterns and perhaps leaving extra time to deal with parking the cars we’re all lucky to have.

      • Sure that is why the SFMTA was an objective, neutral party at the meeting. The do have a financial stake in this.

      • I definitely hear you, and agree with many points. Would like to see the data behind the comment “barely pays for itself” though.

        Random story, I love the guy on Coleridge who maintains some really old cars, not to drive, but to occupy the space in front of his house. He’s out there on street cleaning days to sweep off the sidewalk, then moves his cars out of the way, just in time for street cleaning, and then moves them back immediately after. In 6 years, I have never seen another vehicle in his spot. Everyone needs a hobby, it’s his right to choose to spend his time and money that way.

        2016 has hit him hard as well, the two rusty station wagons have been replaced by one truck in recent months, shrinking the extent of his domain by one car length.

        You may notice some curb space in front of his truck where a motorcycle might be parked temporarily. You would be mistaken, if you park there, a notice will appear, either taped to your bike, or taped to the sidewalk that says, “NO MOTORCYCLE PARKING”, but apart from that, there are no consequences.

        The question that makes my head explode is, what happens if you park a vehicle from the sharing economy in that spot, like a Scoot?

      • Since Prop 218 in California, without a vote, the cost of fees are limited to administrative costs ( That’s probably where the idea that licencing “barely pays for itself” comes from. This doesn’t take into account any revenue from fines. Interestingly, this means folks with parking permits pay much less than market rate for a parking spot (essentially subsidizing their parking) but that folks who get daily permits pay much more – closer to the market rate – because it’s more costly to administer the daily passes.

      • For those of you asking about how much money SFMTA makes on the permit system, take a look at page 6 of this policy document (Policies for On-Street Parking Management ) on the SFMTA’s website which clearly states that
        ” Revenues from the implementation of parking management, like parking meters, are dedicated to fund
        public transit. Revenues from Residential Parking Permits only cover the operating costs of the program.” a look at their budget presentation for FY2015/16.

        If you want to go deep, look at their budget presentation. It’s long but interesting and you can really see how they’re not exactly turning into fat cats on the $127/yr permit.

        Click to access SFMTA%20Adopted%20Operating%20Budget%20Book%20FY2015%20AND%20FY2016.Full%20details.pdf

        The preferential residential parking program was established in 1976 to provide more parking spaces for San Francisco residents by discouraging long-term parking by people who do not live in the area. There are currently 28 residential permit areas in the City and the SFMTA issues various types of permits including Annual Permit, Temporary/Visitor Permit, Farmer’s Permit, Contractor Permit, and Permit Transfer. A Parking Permit is issued to a license plate number and may only be used with that plate. **Fee rates for these permits are reviewed and adjusted during the budget process and are calculated based on established and approved cost recovery methodology to ensure full-cost recovery for administering the program.**”

        This is not driven by the City. Our neighbors chose this course of action. Some of us have consistently spoken up against it, but if you’re late to the discussion because you didn’t know or just moved here, etc, you’re just stuck with the decisions of the squeaky wheels.

      • @Precita Neighbor, Thanks for sharing. While MTA isn’t making a fortune with the permit fees, they also need to factor in all of the new tickets they get to issue for over parked cars. I’m pretty sure that’s where the big money will be made.

  3. It seems the SFMTA is hardly an objective & neutral party in this discussion. Could the license fees they would obtain from this be a driving factor?
    Since one knows that response for a petition is always stronger for those in favor (especially when they requested it) than those who object, one can hardly state that 54% (270 out of 500?) as a positive response is a sound enough margin to move forward with this RPP proposal. People are just not going to make as much effort to vote something away as vote in favor of something. The limit should be set at 66% or 75% for such a petition. How can this is stopped still be stopped?
    Can the RPP made more granular than street-level and make it per street block? I am pretty certain our block would opt out.

    • Rebecca, you make an excellent point. Was this mentioned at the meeting? How can this parking permit system go forward if the requirements were not met?

      • I wasn’t at the meeting. I don’t support the permit, but I didn’t feel the need to rain on the parade of the proponents if enough folks wanted it and the requirements were met to prove that it was warranted and would actually act in the way it’s intended. But I was surprised to see that the data don’t seem to show that yet they seem to be moving forward anyway. Preliminary word from SFMTA seems to be that the list of requirements presented on the City website at the link above and presented as requirements in the description of the petition folks took ( are in fact treated only as guidelines and not actually requirements. So that repeated misinformation is concerning. It’s not clear to me yet how they do decide whether a permit area is warranted if they don’t follow their listed requirements… I’m trying to get more information but it couldn’t hurt if others express their concern.

      • Rebecca, You really hit the nail on the head when you say that the data do not support the need for an RRP. We keep seeing comments claiming that so many non-residents park in this area of Bernal but the *data* indicate that this is a false impression.

        I am no legal scholar but I find the text of the SFMTA petition that you link quite clear “Per San Francisco Transportation Code, Section 905, establishment of a new residential permit parking area *must* meet the following criteria:..”.

        Why is this RPP going forward if it is in violation of the established rules laid by SFMTA? Even without considering the letter of the law, it seems that the spirit is not respected either if non-resident parking is less than 20% at any time of the day.

    • I was curious about that too. However, it doesn’t look like the 50% requirement is in the SF Code, despite the SFMTA’s statement.

  4. I don’t live in this zone, but someone has floated the idea for south Bernal, so it’s on my radar. This sure sounds like a solution in search of a problem. If 80% of the cars are in the neighborhood, why is this even being considered?

  5. Two small friendly clarifications: the visitor permit is $5 for the first 5, $7 for the 6-15th day pass, and $10 for the 16th on. Second, the two ‘Peters’ on this post, the author and the one in the comments section, are different people.

  6. “Price of permit is $127 a year”. You also need to factor in the yearly ticket for everyone who forgets to renew in time. DPT no longer sends reminders and there are no grace periods. They’ll do sweeps of the RPP zone and ticket everyone who forgot to renew. So add another $70+/year to the cost of this.

    It is a really bad idea to invite the DPT/SFMTA into your neighborhood. They have one goal… make money.

  7. Rebecca nails this on the head. The requirements for the RPP zone have not been met. What was intuitively obvious has now been objectively established: The parking problem is local.

    I guess it would be folly to ask our lame-duck supervisor to act on this, but can we involve the supervisor-elect before she’s inaugurated?

  8. You can put in place and I am willing to be SFMTA will take your money and do very little to actually enforce anything. Waste of time, waste of money.

    • Bob, it (the RPP proposal) is only happening on the blue streets, however the dotted line was the entire canvas area. The blue streets were the only ones that could muster 51% of the units to say ‘yes’, the rest either voted ‘no’ or did not vote. Of the data gathered, only 18% of the ‘dotted’ canvas area voted ‘yes’ which suggests that overall neighbors in North East Bernal are overwhelmingly against RPP. The reason why many see it as a problem that RPP might exist at all is that it will immediately negatively impact the surrounding streets.

  9. The permit parking really needs to happen in all of Bernal Heights. Going down Bernal Heights Blvd there are trailers, etc parked there constantly. Also, in the neighborhoods below Cortland Avenue, many people park there as they go to the BART Station at Glen Park. In addition, more cars are parked long past the 72 hour limit. Living in South Bernal, parking is a constant problem for neighbors, many not even able to park in front of their homes. Fortunately, I have a garage. But, many people do not.

    • Let streets decide for themselves. And why should the city (SFMTA) be the one to profit from it? First the cost of the permit and then all the tickets they will come collect? Keep the city out of our neighborhood.

  10. So, parking has ALWAYS been a problem since I moved to SF in 1982. It’s why I didn’t own a car till age 40. It would be nice to park in front of your house, but it doesn’t always happen. And if most of the cars belong to Bernal Residents, well, they have every right to park in their neighborhood, be it on their street or another. And they also have the right to own multiple cares, trailers, etc, & to use their garage for other purposes than storing their car. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Inconsiderate? Probably. Should it be illegal? No.
    Regardless of the cost being negligible, I don’t want to pay the city of SF for the “privilege” of parking in my neighborhood.

    • Totally agree with you except on one what caveat—using garages for storage, as funny as it sounds, is a violation of an ordinance in San Francisco (which would be hilariously draconian in it were actually enforceable).
      § 6_603 GARAGES.[Added by Ord. 399-89, App. 11/6/89; amended by Ord. 161-92, App. 6/4/92; Ord. 350-95, App. 11/3/95; Ord. 256-07, App. 11/6/07]
      (b) Use. Private and public storage garages in apartment houses and hotels shall be used only for storage of automobiles.

  11. free parking provided by the city is not free. the sfmta should simply charge market rate for parking and reap the benefits. why should car owners get a subsidy for storing their big car on a city street? there’s nothing in the constitution that says you get to store your metal death machine on public land for free.

    • Quite right. Practically speaking, such a program would need to be phased in over time. A possible approach would be to give X permits per unit to existing residents who did not have the opportunity to factor the cost of this parking into their choice of residence. When units changed hands (rental or sale), the permits would revert to the city for market-rate disposition. To prevent speculation, permits could be zoned and limited to residents within a given radius and to vehicles registered at that address.

  12. Oh, so now it will cost ANOTHER $250 a year (two drivers, two cars) just to live in this city. Nope, nyet and no. I actually feel parking has improved in the last two years in NE Bernal- have no idea why, but that is my experience. This is just another money grab by the city.
    My in-laws have permitted parking in their neighborhood in Palo Alto- it was only put in when Facebook temporarily had their HQ a few blocks away- in the very early days of FB- and of course it has never been undone, although it is no longer needed.

  13. Having lived in a permit area by a hospital, this is a terrible idea. There will be lots of open street parking during the weekdays from 11 to 4 (not exactly prime time) but won’t change evenings and weekends. It will affect the neighboring streets, which YOUR visitors, YOUR babysitters, YOUR AirBnB, YOUR… will use. Doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out that if the restriction is for Mon through Fri 9-6, any time after 4 is fine and usually you’re OK after 3. The hospital employees working weekends and evenings (just make sure you move by 11) will continue to block your street as they are most likely the ones not using transit due to lack of availability.
    From the stats it is mostly neighbors & their nannies parking on the streets, those who haven’t yet changed their address with DMV…
    IMHO the neighboring streets should retaliate and park in front of your house on nights and weekends LOL.

  14. Pingback: SFMTA’s Data Indicates Bernal Parking Permit Zone May Not Meet SFMTA Requirements | Bernalwood

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