June 25, 2008

Here’s A Spot, There’s A Spot, Everywhere’s A Spot, Spot

Following the lead of new zoning plans that are already in place for a few neighborhoods, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have approved new parking legislation for throughout the city:

“A new ordinance ends a rule requiring parking spaces at residential developments to be available only to tenants and opens the spaces to anyone who lives within one-quarter mile. The law also permits building owners and developers to use stacking machines and valet parking to meet city requirements for parking at housing developments.”
“San Francisco generally requires that existing residential buildings and new developments provide one parking space for every housing unit. Previous rules required that each residential parking space be accessible without the help of a person or a machine.
Tuesday's legislation follows the trend of new neighborhood zoning plans in the downtown area, Rincon Hill and the Market-Octavia neighborhood, which have lowered the required number of parking spaces. To encourage public transit use, the plans have allowed stackers, valets and other measures to reduce space occupied by cars.
Other provisions in the new ordinance could affect the amount of parking available to residents. Parking spaces in new or converted residential buildings of 10 units or more must be sold or leased separately from the housing units so that prospective residents aren't forced to take both a residential unit and a parking spot.”

In related “rent a parking space news,” a new website that allows people to “rent out their driveways on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis” has launched in San Francisco.

Expect GottaPark to quickly expand their offering to include the brokering of individual spaces in new developments (to people living within "one-quarter mile" of course). And if they don’t, consider this your free entrepreneurial idea of the day.

Now about those invitations to the housewarming launch party…

Ordinance allows more parking options in S.F. [SFGate]
GottaPark [gottapark.com]

First Published: June 25, 2008 8:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Why rent a parking space when every San Franciscan is entitled to a free parking space for life at the curb in front of their own building?

Posted by: Anonymous at June 25, 2008 8:30 AM

San Francisco generally requires that existing residential buildings and new developments provide one parking space for every housing unit.

huh? I thought the existing law restricted parking so that there wasn't a 1-1 ratio between units and parking?

Posted by: anon at June 25, 2008 9:05 AM

Not so (or is your comment sarcastic). All of the spaces in front of my building are metered. And there is greater demand for spaces than supply. Also, in theory, the rented space is more secure than a street space.

I think this legislation is surprisingly forward thinking. Maybe there's hope yet for the BOS to understand supply and demand.

I would love to find the actual legislation though. Devil might be in the details.

Posted by: Dede at June 25, 2008 9:08 AM

"huh? I thought the existing law restricted parking so that there wasn't a 1-1 ratio between units and parking?"

Only in a few downtown (and adjacent) areas. In most of the city its 1:1

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 9:20 AM

Anon wrote: "huh? I thought the existing law restricted parking so that there wasn't a 1-1 ratio between units and parking?"

No, in actuality over 90% of the neighborhoods in SF have shockingly backwards and destructive zoning that was put in place in the 1950s. Indeed, from parking to density, most of the City's zoning wouldn't allow the City we have to today to be rebuilt as it is. And you wonder why new buildings here have none of the character of older buildings.

Posted by: inthknow at June 25, 2008 9:44 AM

I imagine this space renting could be done on an informal basis but likely there are legal ramifications that may derail it. For example, does one need some type of business license to do this legally? What if the space renter's car is damaged while it is in your driveway? What if the renter slips in your driveway. Also, the money you make is taxable. Sorry, a lawyer talking here.

Posted by: fred at June 25, 2008 9:49 AM

i think i may rent out my rented garage space. my car is gone from 6am-9pm everyday.

Posted by: Spencer at June 25, 2008 9:57 AM

1:1 for new units is a laughingstock. We will never, ever, have efficient public transportation with that sort of thinking.

Posted by: fluj at June 25, 2008 10:17 AM

Fred, the issues you mention are covered by parking lease agreements (liability, etc is covered, you can find some on the internet). The income is taxable and you don't need a business license (at least not yet).

Posted by: gargantuan at June 25, 2008 11:12 AM

1:1 for new units is a laughingstock. We will never, ever, have efficient public transportation with that sort of thinking.

I know this topic has been beaten to death, but I don't see how a 1:1 ratio necessarily results in poor public transportation, or, conversely, how less that 1:1 ratio results in good public transport.

Posted by: anon at June 25, 2008 11:18 AM

Really? To me it is automobile-centric thinking to the extreme. And I feel as if this type of thinking has no place in planning departments of vibrant cities. (ON the other hand, I think people should be able to put garages in inf they want to.) But requiring new units to do so? Back-asswards.

Posted by: fluj at June 25, 2008 11:21 AM

" but I don't see how a 1:1 ratio necessarily results in poor public transportation"

Directly it doesn't


Indirectly consider the issue of density and cars and how much space the allowance for 1:1 takes up. PT is far more efficent when there is sufficient residential density

Consider also that cars are driven and out PT is mostly buses

Posted by: zig at June 25, 2008 11:43 AM

The 1:1 ratio requires builders to invest in space for cars instead of space for people. But if there's no place to put a car, people will use, and demand, more public transit. If you feel you need a car to live, there's always Gilroy or Livermore.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 25, 2008 12:01 PM

Not everyone wants to be stuck in the city 24/7 - it's only so big, thus the desire to have a car and a place to park it.

Posted by: Michael at June 25, 2008 12:09 PM

Anon - 1:1 requirement is basically a massive subsidy for owning a car. Parking is incredibly expensive to build - even if it's not underground, just the value of the land it occupies is really, really high in a city as dense as SF. If you legally mandate that everyone has to build it, then of course they will buy cars to fill the spaces because the space literally costs more than the vehicle that occupies it!

As for how it degrades public transport for those of us that use it - there are big economies of scale to transit. For example, consider living on a BART line vs living on a lightly used, infrequent bus line like the 2-Clement or the 26-Valencia. Obviously the former is much more attractive than the latter, but rail only makes economic sense if you have enough potential riders. Realistically, the only corridor for which a subway might make sense is Geary, but even w/o subway, higher ridership enables things like higher frequency service, limited stop/express service, dedicated bus lanes (ie faster service), etc. And of course all of these service improvements draw more ridership, enabling more service improvements and reducing traffic congestion both for buses/LRVs and for cars. In short, lots of good things happen as you scale up public transit, but its hard to do that if you have to compete with a legal mandate that people must build parking spaces (which is practically a mandate that they must buy cars).

Posted by: mike at June 25, 2008 12:40 PM

"Not everyone wants to be stuck in the city 24/7 - it's only so big, thus the desire to have a car and a place to park it."

Obviously, this is a mentality many people share. But a planning department?

There will be plenty of fantastic deals on houses in suburbs and exurbs in the near future. There will be big houses with big ole garages for the taking. Cities should not be car-centric, and nor should their planning departments.

Posted by: fluj at June 25, 2008 12:41 PM

"Not everyone wants to be stuck in the city 24/7 - it's only so big, thus the desire to have a car and a place to park it."

I am not seeing the connection you are making. The majoirty of units, inclusing those in the new downtown buildings, have parking

So you buy one of those.

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 12:54 PM

"I am not seeing the connection you are making. The majoirty of units, inclusing those in the new downtown buildings, have parking"

I was responding to this comment:

"If you feel you need a car to live, there's always Gilroy or Livermore."

...as if those cities are comparable to SF in any way, shape, or form. Just because someone owns a car means they should be stuck in the suburbs?

Posted by: Michael at June 25, 2008 1:33 PM

No, but if you own a car, you should be perfectly happy to lease a parking spot for it. If $200/month sounds too expensive, maybe you don't value your car as highly as you thought?

If you want a mandated parking spot for free, then you can always move to Gilroy or Livermore!

Posted by: Sb at June 25, 2008 1:58 PM

Just because someone owns a car means they should be stuck in the suburbs?

No, they should buy one of the units with parking. Even in the areas with the MOST restrictions, 50% of the units have parking. A mandate to build parking for every unit is absolutely ridiculous. If we had some fair allocation of street space (lanes or entire streets set aside for public transit - we don't have the density to support subways) then I would be fine with no requirement either way - developers could build as little or as much as they want.

Posted by: Brutus at June 25, 2008 2:03 PM

Free Parking? On a home over $500K you would expect it, and NO its' not free! Most places are priced in the stratosphere as it is.

Also, SF is not Rome, Paris or London, or New York, those places have been around alot longer and the infrastructure does not support heavy traffic. Here traffic is not that bad, people's tolerance is just low when it comes to cars. But that fall right in line with the other self-absorbed attributes of the average San Franciscan!


Posted by: view lover at June 25, 2008 2:07 PM

Plus, anyone over 21 years of age can rent a car for a day or two or whatever. And what is more expensive? Owning a car or occasionally renting one? I wish I didn't need a car for my work. Driving in the city sucks.

Posted by: fluj at June 25, 2008 2:07 PM

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the downtown parking rules for new developments FORBID 1:1 parking. I don't get it. If it's so expensive to build parking, people won't buy it, etc. I don't think the city should be mandating 1:1 parking, but I also don't think they should be forbidding it. It seems to me to be social engineering of the worst kind (that is, the kind that doesn't work).

Posted by: anon at June 25, 2008 2:33 PM

2:33 anon. The idea is with bundled parking a number of people who otherwise could afford the units can't. Some of these people don't own cars

A few studies have shown in SF a greater number of people could afford a unit without parking and there is a correlation with the sunk cost of being forced to having a parking spot and then owning a car

After 50 years of parking regulation one way it seems to me disingenuous to claim the market should decide. People often claim this until the marker decides something they don't like

One thing though is the policy is right but politically it can only be applied downtown in luxury apts so to that extent I see it an imperfect.

Where it really makes sense and where tons of units without parking would be built is places like the outer mission and Geary but that is where it isn't possible to the let the market decide as people are entitled to their low building and street parking

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 2:53 PM

who the hell would buy a condo without a parking spot? thats' the real question. i don't care what the city govt does? the market will end up driving this. and SF is a car city so i think the market will demand 1:1 parking in most areas.

Posted by: Spencer at June 25, 2008 2:54 PM

2:33 anon. The idea is with bundled parking a number of people who otherwise could afford the units can't. Some of these people don't own cars

A few studies have shown in SF a greater number of people could afford a unit without parking and there is a correlation with the sunk cost of being forced to having a parking spot and then owning a car

After 50 years of parking regulation one way it seems to me disingenuous to claim the market should decide. People often claim this until the marker decides something they don't like

One thing, though the policy change is right, politically it can only be applied downtown in luxury apts so to that extent I see it an imperfect.

Where it really makes sense and where tons of units without parking would be built is places like the outer mission and Geary but that is where it isn't possible to the let the market decide as people are entitled to their low building and street parking

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 2:57 PM

I hear lots of people suggesting there should be less parking so that people use public transportation. Does taxi count as public transportation??? If so, I am all against restricting parking. If city restricts parking, they should restrict taxis too. What are they avoiding, people using cars or people parking cars? For all you know they could be getting kickbacks from taxi unions.

If I take taxi, I am using a car..

I hate some of my hypocritical green friends who talk about how cars/SUV's are ruining our planet and are happy to jump on a crown victoria....

Posted by: WednesdayRant at June 25, 2008 3:28 PM

^^^Taxis are an important part of any real city, especially any city that wants to be a pedestrian city where people can live car-free. (doesn't mean everyone has to) Sometimes people need to get somewhere quick - that's what taxis are for. Taxis can be used by a 100 different people in a day. Your car can't.

Also, emissions are such a small part of the environmental damage done by cars, so if we can prevent one person from owning a car, that's a huge net-positive.

And Spencer - lots of people every year buy units without parking - they're called resale units. Even many of the new buildings that have come online in the past year with zero or very little parking have done just fine. Not everyone views their condo as a drive-in drive-out sleeping spot or a short-term investment. And yes - some people desire a car-free life - even (gasp) some people who make a LOT of money. I can rent a car whenever I want, why do I need to own one if I can walk to work, restaurants, etc. I can take a taxi if it's far.

Posted by: Brutus at June 25, 2008 3:54 PM

'And Spencer - lots of people every year buy units without parking - they're called resale units."

I'm sure they do, but most people who want to buy in SF would want a parking spot.

Posted by: Spencer at June 25, 2008 4:03 PM

Whats odd I think about this parking debate is people are imposing their suburban values on a city

1/3 of the city households doesn't have a car. This city has always been this way and (perhaps like a few other US cities) this includes well off people in place like Nob Hill

My uncle was a life long San Franciscan and lived his entrie life car free even when he was a high income lawyer. Just the way he was brought up. Lots of my older relatives were the same way (some poor, some not). One of my cousins never drove until she moved to the burbs

Just because everyone you know at your high tech company or who lives in SF from your Mid Western college needs a car for their commute or snowboarding trips doesn't make it nessasary for everyone

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 4:03 PM

I'm sure they do, but most people who want to buy in SF would want a parking spot.

So then you're agreeing that not ALL units need parking, since only "most" would want a parking spot?

Posted by: Brutus at June 25, 2008 4:12 PM

never said it was necessary for everyone. I think it is a necessity for some and a desire for most homeowners.

not from midwest suburbia, but thanks for the generalization. beleive it or not, but there are people in SF that like it because it is easy to get around in a car.

personally i only use my car for commute (because i HAVE TO)and use my bike on weekends

Posted by: Spencer at June 25, 2008 4:23 PM

^^^So then what are you complaining about? Most neighborhoods REQUIRE 1:1 parking, only a few downtown require less - and even in those MORE than half of the units are REQUIRED to have parking. That means that ALMOST ALL of the new housing built over the last 50 years has had parking.

Posted by: Brutus at June 25, 2008 4:28 PM

If only all the old houses all had garages so street parking wouldn't be such a pain in the ass - Mission for example.

Posted by: Anon at June 25, 2008 4:36 PM

i wasn't complaining. i just simply stated that the market will continue to drive the need for parking in units. I don't give a rat's ass what the city does, as long as it soesn't regulate less parking as a requirement

Posted by: Spencer at June 25, 2008 4:49 PM

the city already regualtes more parking than the market would dictate in much of SF

And I am speaking of a Suburban mentality independant of Mid West. It can be Walnut Creek. It is a fact

What many don't get is the very things you like about SF are only possible spatially because of the limited parking.

Posted by: Zig at June 25, 2008 4:58 PM

Even though I hate to see many cars on the road, I can't help but sympathize with my friends who work in burbs and live in the city. And I feel like more people are doing the same....

Our public transit system is pathetic. I once wanted to try caltrain to PA during non-commute hour. It took me freaking 2 hours by Muni and caltrain.

So, unless the transit system improves, there is no point in the city restricting/regulating parking spots. Either be like NYC/London or be like any other city. Let market decide, let people pay for their parking spot (its not cheap btw, the new buildings charge somewhere around 75K to 100K and it costs around 300-400$ to rent).

If they seperate parking price to home price, they can start charging property tax for parking and use that money for public transit system. Its a win-win situation...

If everyone who has a car should move to Gilroy/Livermore, you will be left with lot less cars for sure (but also lot less deserted districts and jobs)..

Posted by: SFwatcher at June 25, 2008 5:42 PM

You say "Let the market decide"? Now, that's funny! The only reason why parking spots are built at all is that San Francisco law mandates it. If the market decided, and the builders could propose what was most profitable, they'd build all apartments, and as high as the zoning laws would allow.

If someone can pay $300/month for a spot, that's not a free market solution. It's still a subsidy from the City, because if there was no requirement of 1:1, it would cost $600 a month.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 25, 2008 6:46 PM

Does anyone have a link to the actual legislation? I'd like to see if it really is as "market forces" as it sounds.

@ Anonymous 6:46 PM. Please explain how the city is subsidizing parking?

Posted by: Dede at June 25, 2008 8:35 PM

^^^By making on street parking too cheap they do it one way. Then the city also forces "cross-subsidization" by forcing developers to build 1:1 parking in most areas and forcing those who don't need parking to pay for those who do. This legislation helps solve some of that by de-linking purchase price of house from parking, but there will still be some because developers probably won't pass all parking costs on to the people wanting parking.

Posted by: anon at June 25, 2008 8:50 PM

It's a subsidy mandated by the city, but paid by residents who don't have cars for the benefit of those who do. If there was no 1:1 law, parking would be much more expensive because of supply and demand, but at the same time, there would be far more apartments, and at better rents and prices. When a builder has to spend money building parking, he builds fewer apartments, or has to charge more for the apartments he does build.

Imagine if a builder had to provide one street sculpture, created by local artists, every 20 feet on the block where his building went up, and that this was conforming to some City law. In effect, the City would be subsidizing artists. The residents of the buildings who have to look outside at these hideous sculptures would be paying the subsidy, since the cost is passed along to the new condo owners.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 25, 2008 9:06 PM

If your job requires you to drive maybe you should get another job......

Posted by: Salarywoman at June 25, 2008 10:02 PM

Interesting post re parking in Manhattan at http://gnolet.com/?p=288

Some high points:

"Some buyers do not even own cars, but grab the spaces as investments, renting them out to cover their costs.

"Spaces are in such demand that there are waiting lists of buyers. Eight people are hoping for the chance to buy one of five private parking spaces for $225,000 in the basement of 246 West 17th Street."

"For developers in New York, parking is the highest and best use of below grade space and fetches about the same price as actual living space, which costs much more to develop."

The source for all this: The New York Times

Posted by: Salarywoman at June 25, 2008 10:05 PM

Anon 9:06, I don't think builders actually subsidize parking spot price.

For example: A typical parking spot is 10*10 = 100 sqft. I heard some new builders charge 75-80K for parking. That makes it 800$/sqft. If you call it subsidized, I don't know how much some one will pay for an underground bunker to live in (if at all builder can use it for an apt). Infact, I think builder makes more money by providing parking spot. If allowed they will build more parking spots than condos. And thats what the city is afraid of it too, and thats why they are restricting the parking spots....

again would you pay 600$/month for 100 sqft..and most likely again in a garage....???

SalaryWoman, sometimes its not the job that needs you drive, its the situation. Doesn't matter what makes people to drive, its very close minded to want them to change.

Posted by: SFwatcher at June 25, 2008 10:28 PM

Its not the job itself that requires you to drive, but rather the expectation that you need to drive for your job.

Fluj brings up the example of his profession. It is hard to imagine a real estate agent going about their day without a car. Their work is scattered about the city and they sometimes need to show clients around town.

But is a car really required to sell real estate ? If that were so then our great great grandfathers and great great grandmothers would never have been able to buy a house. We know that's not true.

Somehow someone figured out how to sell real estate before 1900 without a car. It is possible. But today, you can't easily compete as a RE agent without a car because clients expect RE agents to flit from house to house quickly.

Same goes for construction workers. Though it is hard to imagine a carpenter arriving on-site without their pick-up loaded with tools and materials, you can indeed build a house without providing parking for every worker. You'll find construction workers riding the subway in Tokyo carrying only their lunch. The Japanese figured out how to get the tools and materials on site without needing each worker to drive a truck. Good thing because a lot of Tokyo neighborhoods have *no* parking at all.

Yeah, cars make just about every job easier. But they are not necessary. Cars and the oil that fuels them are not the source of all life, despite what the petroligarchs would like you to believe.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at June 26, 2008 9:14 AM

SFwatcher this is a greatly underestimated cost. Underground parking needs to be built at a high cost and the parking isn't just the stalls but all the access to the spots

Estimates are 60K or more per spot in urban areas plus for any given density allowing two floors or parking reduces residental density

I do think people are making a good point about high end people likley wanting parking either as an investment or for their cars

the problem I see with this policy is where it is really needed in lower and middle income areas where builder would be happy to build without parking and people would be happy to buy without it is a no go poltically. It could only stick in a new area as a compromise

Posted by: zig at June 26, 2008 9:22 AM

I could be a realtor in Manhattan without a car, or London, or Paris, or Brussels, Berlin, or many other cities I've seen with efficient transportation systems. And yeah, I could do it here. A construction worker could do it here. After a while people would tire of that construction worker or realtor showing up late to everything. The construction worker would get fired. I wouldn't do so well.

People simply cannot get from say, Bernal Heights to the Richmond in under say 75 minutes via public trans in this city. And 1:1 planning code is not helping. If we were building vertically and densely the public expectation would be for public transportation, not the right to a car. In the cities I mention above, peope are more than happy to occasionally rent a car.

Posted by: fluj at June 26, 2008 10:14 AM

To follow up on what fluj said, I live and work in SF with a 4 mile commute and drive because transportation here is just not up to par. My commute is 15 minutes each way. If I took public transportation it would take about 55 minutes, plus it's not much cheaper even with high gas prices due to the short length. That extra hour and a half a day is worth the price of parking.

Sure, it's great if you live off one of the Muni lines, but a lot of SF requires a transfer to get anywhere and it's just not time-efficient. I guess it's a catch 22 that we want cars because PT isn't great, but PT isn't great because we're still catering to cars.

Posted by: Driver at June 26, 2008 10:38 AM

^^^The only way to fix that is to find middle ground. Give some dedicated lanes or streets to public transit. Densify some major corridors significantly (Geary, especially). If we added another 100,000 to 200,000 people to the city, while only adding, say 50,000 parking spots, we could expect much better transit to come - but since we're unwilling to do that we're stuck in that strange gap where both driving and transit suck.

Posted by: Brutus at June 26, 2008 10:44 AM

Sfwatcher wrote: "For example: A typical parking spot is 10*10 = 100 sqft."

Uh, what kind of crack are you smoking? Is this parking for Smarts only? The average parking space is 8'x20', or 160 sf. In fact the minimum required by zoning code in most of the city is 160 sf per space. Your average four-door sedan is 14 feet long. You also need to account for maneuvering space -- you do need to drive into the garage and then to your space, don't you? Including maneuvering space, the average garage comes to about 350 sf per space. Inefficient garages (i.e. those with lots of ramps) can rise to closer to 400 sf/space, and those that pack 'em with tandem and stackers can get closer to 225-250 sf/space, but not really lower. So if you theoretically pay $75K for your parking space, that's really only about $215/sf. Pretty damn cheap as far as real estate goes, if the average condo is going for say, $800/sf. Something is still amiss -- the parking is still not market rate. So the reality is that even at $75K for a parking space, the housing itself is still subsidizing the parking to the tune of about $600/sf.

Posted by: intheknow at June 26, 2008 10:51 AM

"but since we're unwilling to do that we're stuck in that strange gap where both driving and transit suck"

I actually don't think driving sucks. i think it is relatively easy to get around the city and back and forth to peninsula and marin in a car. The only thing that sucks about driving IMHO is the roads. they suck.

Posted by: Spencer at June 26, 2008 12:50 PM

What sucks about driving is parking...

Posted by: Driver at June 26, 2008 1:24 PM

just rented my parking space in Pac Heights for $250/mo for M-F 8-5PM using CL.

Posted by: Spencer at June 27, 2008 11:13 AM

I wonder how much you folks saying driving in the city isn't so bad actually drive, and what routes. Because it seems like every single time I get in my car I need to be defensive. Be it double parkers on South Van Ness or Folsom, brake pumpers at 4-ways in Noe or Pac Heights, light jumpers, crazy lane changers driving 50 on Gough or Franklin, strident biker types feeling free to jump into the pedestrian crossing lane and then back out of it, the list goes on and on. Driving here sucks.

Posted by: fluj at June 27, 2008 1:02 PM

i think those things make driving fun.

Posted by: Spencer at June 27, 2008 1:24 PM

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