Wednesday: Community Meeting on Controversial SFMTA Parking Permit Plan


On Wednesday evening the SFMTA will hold a community meeting about the agency’s much-debated plan to implement an experimental residential parking permit (RPP) system in northwest Bernal Heights. The meeting will happen on Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 pm at Flynn Elementary School (3125 Cesar Chavez Street).

The postcard SFMTA sent to neighbors living in the proposed Northwest Bernal RPP zone says:

The SFMTA and Northwest Bernal Heights Residents invite you to a public meeting to discuss permit parking in Northwest Bernal Heights.

Residents on the following blocks have voted with over 51 percent to move forward with residential permit parking in Bernal Heights: Mirabel and Montezuma, Shotwell (1400-1599), Prospect (1-99), Esmeralda (200-299), Coso (1-299), Precita (1-299), Coleridge (1-99), Winfield (1-99), Lundy’s Lane (1-16) and Powers.

Please join use to hear details about next steps in the permit process, which includes a discussion about how this will affect residents in the area.

The Northwest Bernal RPP proposal, which started as a routine petition drive in 2015, has since become a polarizing exercise in  bungled communication, ad hoc rulemaking, and bureaucratic unaccountability.

After RPP petitions were collected from Bernal neighbors in 2016, SFMTA officials decided  Bernal Heights would become the test site for an experimental parking permit regime that de-emphasizes the impact of parking by non-Bernal residents to focus instead on curtailing parking by adjacent Bernal residents and restricting the number of parking permits each household may obtain within the RPP zone. Under the SFMTA’s experimental system for northwest Bernal, RPP permits would be limited to one RPP permit per driver, with a maximum of two RPP permits issued per household.

Source: SFMTA

Advocates for the RPP zone say parking in northwest Bernal has become increasingly competitive because of daytime parking by non-residents, long-term parking by travelers, and residents who park in the street while using their garages for storage.

Opponents say SFMTA’s plan to use northwest Bernal as a test site was not disclosed in the original RPP petition drive, which renders those petitions invalid. After the petitions were received, SFMTA altered the requirements used to determine is whether a neighborhood qualifies to become a new RPP zone while repeatedly declining requests to define their new requirements. The agency has also faced allegations that SFMTA officials colluded inappropriately with RPP supporters by sharing private emails with RPP petition organizers.

As Bernalwood wrote last month:

The SFMTA is moving ahead with plans to use Bernal Heights as the site of an experimental Residential Parking Permit (RPP) scheme that will no longer emphasize preventing non-residents from parking on neighborhood streets. Instead, under the new system, the RPP program will also seek to limit the number of cars residents can park on the streets of their own neighborhood.

As previously reported, the SFMTA’s Bernal parking survey showed that roughly 70% of the cars parked on northwest Bernal streets on a typical weekday afternoon likely belong to other Bernal Heights residents. Under SFMTA’s longstanding rules, at least 50% of parked cars would have to belong to non-residents in order to establish a new RPP zone.

Yet after some residents organized a petition drive last year to establish a new RPP zone in northwest Bernal, the SFMTA moved its own goalposts. The 50% non-resident requirement was quietly disregarded, but SFMTA has not explained what the updated criteria for establishing a new RPP zone will be.

For current information about the Bernal RPP proposal, visit SFMTA’s Northwest Bernal Heights Residential Permit Parking Pilot page.

PHOTO: Top, by Telstar Logistics

38 thoughts on “Wednesday: Community Meeting on Controversial SFMTA Parking Permit Plan

  1. I cannot attend the meeting due to business travel, but if they decide to push forward with this disregarding their own rules, the SFMTA should get sued to roll back any RPP plan. We don’t want it in our street(s), so SFMTA stay out.

    • Sorry to hear so much negativity. The truth is WE DO WANT IT for our streets and this has been handled and voted on correctly. Time to stop complaining and get on board.

      • Ellen, not everyone on this blog was/is against you or against this plan…however…by blindly attacking Todd without being able to back up your claims of his propagating “false information” you’ve really lost credibility. It’s unfortunately that your’e not doing more to advocate for your position in a thoughtful manner. You seem more interested in bashing others or telling them to “get on board.” I’m not sure what your experience has been, but in my experience, whenever someone says (essentially) “shut up and get in line,” people are less likely to shut up and get in line.

  2. That they misspelled Winfield should tell you all you need to know about how neighborhood-based this plan is. Like anyone outside of the neighborhood can even find that block to park in it?

    • I’m quite confident that typo was my fault. I had to transcribe it, because the text on the card wasn’t available in digital form. I’ve fixed the error above.

  3. Todd,
    Once again your post is filled with false information and inaccurate data. It’s a shame to see that as a journalist you do not remain neutral and report facts that are true. I don’t know where you are getting your information from but it certainly is wrong and obviously skewed towards not being in support of RPP at all. I guess because you have a big garage and driveway space to park in. Well, lucky you Todd.

    • To better understand the current status of the potential implementation of residential permit parking, can you highlight some of the specific false information posted and provide sources showing correct/accurate information? It will be helpful for people like myself who have not decided whether RPP is going to be a useful solution for myself and the neighborhood.

      • I don’t know Todd well, but I don’t believe he’s a journalist. There’s no advertising on Bernal Wood, so he’s not making a dime. it seems he does this as a community service (and maybe a little bit of fun) in his spare time, and he doesn’t deserve the negative comments IMHO.

        If you think he’s posted something inaccurate give us specifics, not useless, passive aggressive, innuendo. Or better yet, start your own blog. If you put half the effort into it that Todd does with Bernal Wood I’d be happy to subscribe, and I’m sure many others would too.

    • Yes, please identify the false information and inaccurate data.
      BTW, feel free to attack me as well based my “luck” in having a garage. (!?)

    • What falsehoods Ellen? There are many of us who would like to know if Bernalwood is biased.

  4. I signed the petition at the urging of a neighbor, who said it was to limit commuters and others from outside the neighborhood who are leaving their cars in Bernal. Now the purpose has been changed totally, as it turns out that people from outside the neighborhood parking here is not a problem. I want to rescind my petition signature, as this is not for what I signed, but I cannot find a way to do that on the city’s website. The city should restart the process, with new petitions for the new plan.

    • At Wednesday’s meeting, SFMTA will likely show a new version of their data that’s been cut to focus exclusively on the streets currently designated for inclusion in the RPP zone.

      The thing to notice is that they’ve shifted their definition of a resident from the overall planning zone (shown in orange in the map above) to the petition streets (shown in blue). Here’s the new data, as shown on the SFMTA website:

      The thing to notice here is that while 41% of the cars on the blue streets belong to residents of those streets, 32% belong to people who live within a quarter-mile. So while it may be true that “59 percent of vehicles parked in the Northwest Bernal Heights RPP pilot area were registered to people who did not live on those streets,” it’s also true that 73% of the cars parked on the blue streets belong to Bernal Heights neighbors.

      The upshot: Many Bernal neighbors in the planning area will be significantly impacted by SFMTA’s proposed experiment, even if they don’t live on an RPP street. That’s the thing about SFMTA’s evolving rules: For the most part they seem to target Bernal residents, rather than people who live elsewhere.

      • This is SO misleading, it’s appalling. It looks like they’ve gone to the Fox News school of graph manipulation.

  5. It’s unclear how implementing the program will “no longer emphasize preventing non-residents from parking on neighborhood streets.” That’s the point of the RPP and the primary effect of having the program, regardless of the number of permits available to an individual household. Is the concern that if you live in or near the RPP zone, you can’t have three or four cars parked on the streets in Bernal? If so, it’s tough to be sympathetic. For more clarity and accuracy around the criteria for determining whether to establish an RPP, the following comes directly from the SFMTA and is somewhat different that what is reported in this piece: “San Francisco’s Transportation Code has specific criteria for designating a Residential Parking Permit Area. Per the Transportation Code, in determining whether to recommend that a residential area be designated as a Residential Parking Permit Area, the City Traffic Engineer shall take into account factors which include, but are not limited to the following:

    – The extent of the desire and need of the residents for residential parking permits and their willingness to bear the resulting administrative costs even if the SFMTA does so on its own initiative.
    – The extent to which legal on-street parking spaces are occupied during the period proposed for parking restrictions;
    – The extent to which vehicles parking in the area during the times of the proposed parking restrictions are not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area; and
    – The extent to which motor vehicles registered to persons residing in the residential area cannot be accommodated by the number of available off-street parking spaces.”

  6. Is anyone thinking about organizing a united opposition to this proposal? I think now is the moment to really make it clear to the SFMTA that this is not something that will benefit the neighborhood and that many neighbors were misled by the petition drive in order to achieve the bare minimum of support it has received.

      • I cannot make any Wednesday evening meetings.I teach on Wednesdays. I received no postcard from the SFMTA. Having lived on Harrison in Bernal Heights for 32 years I can state categorically that the last thing we need is the SFMTA barging into our neighborhood. We will have parking enforcement swarming our streets and ticketing for every minor infraction, and we will have to pay the city every year for this inconvenience. It’s unfair to those of us on limited incomes, and I very much doubt that it will improve anything. Just a way for the city to raise more revenue,and muck things up they way it has mucked up Mission Street.

  7. I live on Coleridge. 27 non-resident cars out of every 100 cars seems high. Our street has become a parking lot those who don’t want to pay for metered parking and for round-the-clock hospital workers and will only get worse as that project expands in 2018.

  8. I don’t have a dog in this race, but I’ve lived in two other neighborhoods where RPP was instituted and from what I’ve seen it’s merely a method of charging for parking. In both cases, the petitioners claimed that “the majority” of people parking were from out of the neighborhood, but after the permit system was created there was no significant change in parking because most cars were indeed owned by residents residents. I refer to Cathedral Hill and Alamo Square areas where I lived. Sure, it LOOKs like people are parking on residential streets and taking the bus downtown to work, but it didn’t play out in reality. I doubt that an RPP program in Bernal will show anything different, and the SFMTA even states that 32% of cars parked were by people who lived within 1/4 mile. What’s 1/4 mile? That’s 2 blocks! DUH!

  9. I am for dropping the entire RPP issue. The city is not addressing the problem but only adding to it by switching mid-stream. Don’t like it.

    And Thank You Todd Lapin for all your efforts to present so many issues dear to us as accurately as possible.

    Too bad you don’t have a garage Ellen. Don’t blame Todd.

  10. I received an email from Hank Wilson today. He said people will be able to change their petition responses at the meeting. No word as to whether or not people can do it that cannot make it to the meeting.

  11. Hello,

    Hank Willson, parking policy manager at the SFMTA here. In advance of a Northwest Bernal Heights RPP pilot community meeting tonight, I wanted to chime in with factual and updated data for your readers.

    A lot of detail follows, and I welcome you or your readers to reach out to me at or come to tonight’s meeting at 7pm at Leonard Flynn Elementary.

    First and foremost, I want to be specific about what San Francisco’s Transportation Code says about residential parking permits and the thresholds needed for creating a new area.

    Transportation Code Section 905, which governs residential parking permits, says that when considering the creation of a new area, the SFMTA is to take into account “[t]he extent to which vehicles Parking in the area during the times of the proposed Parking restrictions are not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area.” (More info at

    When determining whether to form a new RPP area, the Transportation Code requires consideration of support for RPP in the area, parking occupancy, proportion of parked vehicles registered outside the proposed area, and availability of off-street parking. The Transportation Code allows for discretion, and SFMTA staff have traditionally used guidelines of over 80% parking occupancy, and more than 50% of cars registered outside the proposed area to guide that discretion.

    Another detail to clarify is the parking rates of residents and non-residents in the RPP study area. The data regarding out-of-area parkers presented at a December 2016 meeting by SFMTA staff was a more general analysis than the specific “not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area” requirement from the Transportation Code. Instead:

    • We ran an analysis of all cars parked in the larger North Bernal area (see the area outlined in orange on our project website,, which is a larger set of blocks than the subset of blocks that were proposed for actual RPP regulations–those blocks where at least 50% of residents had signed a petition (see the blocks with blue lines below in that same area map).

    • We looked at the walking distance from each car’s registered address to the block on which it was parked. That yielded the blue bar chart from December’s community meeting, and referenced in an earlier Bernalwood article, that showed about 30% of cars registered more than a quarter mile from where they were parked, depending on the time of day that the data was collected.

    While we think this is a handy overall look at where parking demand in the neighborhood is coming from, it isn’t the same thing as vehicles “not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area” as stated in Transportation Code Section 905.

    Now we have refined data to share. We recently analyzed the data to see how many vehicles in our occupancy survey were “not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area” (in other words, do not have registration addresses on a street outlined in blue in the map in the article above).

    This analysis showed that the percentage of cars “not registered to residents of proposed Residential Parking Permit Area” is about 59% (in other words, do not have registration addresses on a street outlined in blue in our project map). So the 50% guideline is met here.

    The fact that the number of “non-residents” straddles that 50% line depending on how you define “non-residents” shows why we think piloting new limitations on the number of permits to one per driver and two per household makes sense in Northwest Bernal. It’s a neighborhood that is impacted somewhat by folks coming in from outside the neighborhood, but also by a density of cars owned and parked on the street by the folks who live there.

    At tonight’s meeting, there will be another opportunity for residents to update/change their votes.  The online petition is open, and we’ll also have hard-copy petitions available. For neighbors that can’t attend the meeting, the SFMTA will send postcards and emails (where we have them) to everyone in the study area to let them know about the opportunity to vote on RPP.  We also hope that Todd posts an article on Bernalwood to let folks know.

    Thanks for raising awareness about RPP in Northwest Bernal and I hope people can make it to our community meeting tonight. We’ll have more information and details to share.

    • Hello. Has further outreach been done to neighborhood streets that were not previously canvassed and did not receive notice of the Wednday meeting? Have materials been made available in languages other than English to encourage full participation ? This is a neighborhood issue, and I hope that the MTA takes its responsibility to everyone in the neighborhood seriously.

  12. Is there any other way to voice opposition if we cannot attend the meeting? I never received a postcard and was not contacted as part of the original petition. I live on Alabama Street, where my neighbors and I have never had issues with parking aside from people occasionally blocking driveways. I am very upset that someone’s parking issue on another part of the hill is now potentially going to create a bigger mess for us. At minimum, I would like the map to be re-drawn to align with the geography of the people who actually wanted this.

    • I believe a very small minority of people and SFMTA – while breaking their own rules – are pushing this down a lot of people throats, creating a bigger mess for the rest. SF democracy in action.

  13. Apologies for a typo in my comment above. The meeting is tonight at 6:30pm (not 7pm) at Leonard Flynn Elementary. Todd’s post above has the correct time and location.

  14. Question– any idea why the little triangle of Precita and Florida/Precita up til Bryant was left out of this “neighborhood”? From the way I read the planning map, it means that anyone who lives on my block will only have a teeny tiny slice of our neighborhood left to park in. Its rarely possible to get a spot right on my block unless you’re home from work and swoop in after street cleaning. How come we got left out of our own neighborhood?

  15. Pingback: SFMTA Faces Criticism During Tense Meeting on Northwest Bernal Permit Parking Plan | Bernalwood

  16. Todd, Thanks for all your coverage of all this! Those of us who work in trades and live in the neighborhood may have one addl vehicle per household. I hope they can accommodate for that so as not to fuck over the few trades people still in the area. Have you heard anything abt this?

    • There was no mention of any dispensation for work vehicles, Ledia. Two vehicles per household, max, seems to be the bottom line.

      Likewise, when a teacher at Flynn school asked if there would be permits available for public school teachers, she was told that teachers are not eligible to receive permits.

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