In the May issue of The Westside Observer newspaper, I discussed the parking meter increases and escalating issuance of parking citations that our city policy makers have forced on San Franciscans who choose to use their own auto as a means of transportation. Well, needless to say, it has now become such an abuse of power that many people are reacting and searching for ways to fight back against this new form of “taxation without representation.” Once again we are being “conned” by our electeds as we have repeatedly been told that parking enforcement is all about the turnover of available parking spaces for customers of small businesses, and the encouragement of public transportation usage. Nothing could be further from the truth! Parking enforcement in San Francisco is first, foremost and last, only about the accumulation of revenue, revenue that is then poured into more useless and politically motivated programs that require more and more money to fund with no apparent end in sight or common benefit to be achieved.
Rather than repeat many of the examples and facts that I stated in my May column, I will comment on just a few of the ramifications that the more recent idiotic measures implemented by the Municipal Transportation Agency have resulted in.
Life in the western ring of the City, and especially here in District 7 is becoming increasingly more difficult because of parking control that has gotten out of control. As many of you know, the city is now issuing parking tickets for meter violations on most of our holidays. An unlucky few even received several tickets on this past Labor Day much to the embarrassment of the MTA. A disproportionate number of tickets are issued to Westside residents both as meter violations and on-street time limit violations simply because the Dept of parking and Traffic knows that generally, homeowners are a much easier target to both police and collect from. Homeowners are much more responsive to any type of fee or fine because they live here, and unlike tourists, visitors and renters, they are easy to locate should they not pay within the allotted 30 days. They are usually too busy with regular day jobs to take time from work to go downtown to protest a ticket. By and large they prefer to have as little to do with the punitive and harassment aspects of a dysfunctional local government as possible, so they pay the “tax” and put it behind them as quickly as possible.
Any retail business owner in any San Francisco neighborhood will tell you that one of the biggest impediments to the success of their business is the lack of available and adequate parking for their daytime customers. With $3.50 per hour meters and one hour time limits, (in many places just 20 minutes!) the MTA has done a masterful job in destroying small business and more and more shoppers flee to the suburbs to avoid the harassment. Now that our elected geniuses want to extend parking meter hours to 8 or 10 p.m. in a desperate effort to make up for their excessive spending that has caused the City to be a half a billion dollars in debt, they can embark on their mission to destroy movie theaters, restaurants, and all remaining forms of nighttime entertainment that our lifeblood—tourism—enjoys.
Time limits for residential street parking permits are being reduced from 4 hours to 2 hours in many neighborhoods under the guise of discouraging outsiders from parking there. The DPT is more than anxious to impose these permits because of the easy revenue generated. In many cases, residents were not even informed, surveyed or aware that their street was to be permitted, it just “happens” because “somebody” supposedly complains. Many people have come to me in the past six months to inquire as to how they can rid their streets of permit parking because they now realize that it’s not about keeping unwanted day parkers out, but an enormous source of revenue to the City. Rates are currently about $78.00 per year per car for street parking stickers but I can assure you that they will skyrocket under this administration. In Boston and Seattle, rates for permit parking on the street where you live can go as high as $5000 to $10,000 per year per car so I am sure our mayor will be looking to them to cite his beloved “best practices.”
The latest gimmick to raise dollars at the expense of drivers is the blatantly obvious speed traps that have sprung up around the Westside. Overstaffed with cops who obviously aren’t directed to do something better with their time, these strategic “entrapments” seem to be designed to snag unaware and in most cases, local or older drivers who may be outright “dangerous criminals” because they dared exceed the newly posted limits by a mile or two per hour, or failed to stop abruptly because a decoy has put a foot in a cross walk. Give us a break guys, there’s bigger fish to fry out there!
You might have read in the daily where the Oakland City Council is expected to roll back extended meter hours, increased rates and “ravenous ticketers” to avoid a revolt and recall of council members. (Chron: 9/21/09). They recently extended meter operation until 8 p.m. Their average meter cost per hour is less than $2.00 or about half the cost in S.F. Apparently the elected there are a bit more responsive to the cries of the people, who themselves seem to be a bit more concerned about how they are being ripped off. Perhaps they have discovered what the old-timers in the S.F’s municipal court knew long ago—if you raise rates too high, you reach a point of diminishing returns. The revenue collected no longer matches the effort to penalize and collect. Rather than hold the line or cut back, administration novices here tend to keep raising rates so that they can spend more, because that is all they really know how to do. Folks, Its time to make your feelings known.
OBSERVATIONS and PREDICTIONS:
1. It just came out in the news that the Obama administration does not favor turning Treasure Island over to the City for little or no cost. It is obvious that there are certain costs involved to the Navy for toxic clean up and they would like their costs to be covered. What is not revealed is that after the very embarrassing ACORN scandal, the administration does not want to be linked to giving such a valuable real estate gift to a group that controls the island’s development that is rife with corruption and the financial interests of very high ranking public figures.
2. As many of the residents of District 7 are now noticing, the potholes are starting to reappear on recently repaved streets. This was predicted as far back as the 1980’s in a report produced by then Chief Administrative Officer Roger Boas. He correctly predicted that unless the aging under surface infrastructure is dealt with properly, such street problems would reoccur at an ever-increasing rate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted by this administration in an effort in to make things “look good” but not really fix the problem.