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By Steve Levy

Downtown Parking Permit Discussion

Uploaded: May 25, 2014

I attended the residential parking stakeholder meeting last Thursday. They seem like a hard working and smart group. I have no idea whether they will be able to balance the competing interests of downtown area residents whose homes are being parked in front of and downtown businesses and their employees. But they are exploring what seemed to me to be sensible ideas.

I live in downtown south but have not been involved in the residential parking issues. But I have some thoughts as an economist and a resident of the area.

One—Make the permit area large enough to solve the problem. Staff showed a map with borders on Guinda and Alma in one direction and the creek and Embarcadero in the other direction. I am told that this area is large enough to handle the existing parking overflow with most of the spaces reserved for residents. But it will not work if a much smaller area is allowed to be chosen because then residents in the "protected" area would simply be shifting the parking to another neighborhood nearby.

Two—Use pricing. There are a couple of points here. One is to make the pricing for non residents such that there is an incentive to use the currently unused spaces in the downtown permit lots. It makes no sense not to incentivize the full use of these lots. Another idea similar to the current cap and trade system for emission allowances is to allow recipients of the permits to sell them if they wish. This would allow residents who do not need their permits to get a little cash but more importantly it would potentially expand the number of permits available to business and employee use.

Three—have a discussion as to how future parking need growth will be handled, As I understand the current process, it is designed to take care of the current "excess" parking in the area. But there will be growth in the future. Even if all new offices are required to have adequate parking, there will be growth from visitors, from residents using downtown and from Caltrain riders. So solving the problem once is not good enough. Before any final vote is taken residents deserve to know how future parking growth will be handled. I know the city is pursuing various ideas to reduce traffic flow. Will these be enough?

Four—Have an open discussion of how permits are allocated. There are equity issues here that are fairly complicated. What are the rights for residents where I live where we have underground parking but not a lot of space for vendors? What are the rights of homeowners who have chosen to use their garages and driveways for other purposes versus homes with no such options? What are the rights of people who moved into residences knowing that there was no parking provided?
The parking stakeholder group meetings are open and readers can follow the process at click here

If you like these ideas add your voice. If you don't like them please suggest alternatives and not just be negative.