The idea behind San Francisco’s policy of restricting the number of parking spaces allowed to be included within a new development, a policy which has been in place for years, is that by limiting the number of garage spaces, the residents of said buildings without an off-street parking spot will forgo car ownership and reduce congestion in the City.

At the same time, anecdotal concerns that limiting off-street parking simply increases the demand and competition for on-street parking spaces, and shifts the responsibility for accommodating the needs of new residents from private developers to the public realm, rather than effectively changing the actual demand curve for cars, appear to be on the rise.

For example, residents in Dogptach have been raising concerns that UCSF’s planned development of up to 550 units of housing for students and trainees at 566-600 Minnesota Street, with a garage that’s expected to accommodate fewer than 130 cars, will overwhelm the existing supply of on-street parking spaces and contribute to the ongoing “erosion of neighborhood parking.”

As such, UCSF is proposing to fund the development of community parking lots to relieve pressure created by their projects on Minnesota and Third Street.

In addition, UCSF is proposing to disallow any future residents living in their development on Minnesota from obtaining a Residential Parking Permit for the neighborhood, in order to further, and perhaps actually, discourage car ownership.

Keep in mind that 89 percent of existing Dogpatch households have at least one vehicle and 79% of working residents drive to work.

And as noted in a comment on our report about the draft plan to radically change parking in the neighborhood, in addition to restricting who is eligible to qualify for a residential parking permit, other ideas being tossed around, but which might not be legal, have included capping the number of available permits and variable pricing for those which are issued.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by jwb

    These kinds of things tend to be forgotten over time. For example live-work projects are not supposed to be eligible for RPP, but the land use and planning board has in the past established them at the request of live-work dwellers (the specific instance that springs to mind being the Area Y on Clementina). So I wouldn’t really count on any such restrictions holding weight in the long term.

    On the other hand nobody should be building parking lots anywhere near third street, since that street is served by a rail line.

    • Posted by ijustworkhere

      So, I guess no one should drive to the rail line in order to use it? What is the logic of banning parking at what are ostensibly important destinations?

      • Posted by jwb

        That is correct, nobody should be driving to a rail station in the middle of a city. For examples of successful parking-free rail stations in San Francisco, see Embarcadero, Montgomery, Civic Center, 16th, 24th, etc and so forth.

      • Posted by DocAmazing

        If you can’t figure out how to take Muni to the train station, you might not be employable in the first place.

        • Posted by Sid W

          It’s easy to figure out how to take Muni, it just isn’t always reliable or convenient. When you have to budget an hour to cover a distance that you can drive in 20 minutes, it’s not the parking that’s the problem.

          • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

            “Isn’t always”? How about “is never”?

          • Posted by Corvax Corax

            Aren’t you part of the group that constantly grouses about bad traffic in the city, about how long it takes for you to go from point a to point b? Now you are saying that driving is MUCH faster. Did traffic suddenly improve, or are you just saying whatever is expedient to justify your SOV, to show that you are not just too lazy to walk to public transit?

          • Posted by Nate

            Bad traffic slows down Muni too

        • Posted by Mark

          Why do you have to do so mean to make your point

  2. Posted by SFCitizen

    UCSF is proposing to be the choke point for the RPP stickers? I would like that restriction to be extended to any new construction project with auto parking​ limitations. The MTA won’t take responsibility for restricting the issuance of RPP stickers to residents of new buildings with limited off-street parking.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      While the mechanics have yet to be defined, the SFMTA, not UCSF, would likely need to manage the restriction in order for it to be effective, which could create a framework and/or precedent for other implementations as well.

    • Posted by Alai

      Then again, why should new projects without auto parking limitations get RPP stickers? Build parking and the city gives you more parking for free? Makes no sense.

    • Posted by spencer

      agree, any new development that doesnt have 1:1 parking should not allow any residents without a parking spot to ahve a residential permit. The number of cars per resident has not been going down so their grand anti-car plan is not working. it is just making congestion worse.

      i see 2 solutions. invest in a long term subway plan citywide, raise the price of neighborhood permits (although could be said to screw the poor man) and restrict number of neighborhood permits. the biggest problem is that we have terrible public transit.

      • Posted by Lives lightly

        What really screws the poor man is marketing pressure to convince him that owning a personal car(by far the most costly thing he will buy) is absolutely necessary to be respectable.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          You can probably buy a used car for the cost of one month’s rent in San Francisco.

          (Yes, it’s rent vs. own, but the point is that rent is way more expensive than your car)

  3. Posted by JIPB

    A huge percentage of traffic in SF, particularly in neighborhoods such as the Mission, is people driving around looking for parking. The idea that not building sufficient parking in a building will lead to a greater use of public transportation is absurd and actually makes traffic congestion worse. It is also a regressive form of taxation (costing both parking ticket fees and wasted time) on less wealthy residents who cannot afford the increasingly limited private parking spaces.

    • Posted by jwb

      Only the wealthy drive in SF. There are no regressive taxes on cars because the bottom of the income range is overwhelmingly reliant on walking and public transit.

      Transit fare increases, on the other hand, are hugely regressive.

      • Posted by spencer

        seriously? all classes drive, because public transit is terrible. if you work outside of downtown, you need a car. if you ahve kids, you need a car.

        • Posted by Jwb

          Sorry but there are facts involved here and they don’t agree with your statements. Only 19% of San Franciscans with incomes below $30k reported driving for any purpose, while half of those with incomes over $100k did so.

          • Posted by Jake

            Jwb, could you please supply the reference for the facts you list? Thanks.

            FWIW, the 2015 SFMTA Travel Decisions Survey has a breakdown of travel modes by income but does not have a grouping for “incomes below $30k” (complete survey data in excel format with data dictionary on page at namelink, your tax rubles). Also, the Travel Decisions Survey(s) do not ask people if they ever drive. These surveys do ask if they have driven in the past 2 days, and if so they ask many details.

            The 2015 Survey has five income groupings, the lowest being $15k or less. For SF residents every group with income greater than $15k had at least 31% answer yes to “respondent drove alone or with others (SF Residents-On any trip yesterday)” , and for every group with incomes greater than $35k it was at least 52% had driven in the previous day. While for those with incomes under $15k, only 13% had driven the previous day. All of which it would seem to me indicates that it is fair to say that yes, according to the SFMTA 2015 survey “all [income] classes drive”, though not with equal frequency. Surely there aren’t any of these within the margin of error of zero drivers, factually speaking.

          • Posted by jwb

            Jake: I was working off the 2011 mode share data. The 2011 survey has coarse income buckets [0-30k), [30-70k), [70-100k), [100k, infinity). I’m not sure if the raw data is available.

          • Posted by spencer

            under 30K is extreme poverty here. Of course they dont drive because they cant afford a car. People who make up to $105K are now eligible for subsidized housing, so that is now considered lower middle class. Give me the numbers for people making between 100-200K, which is now the middle class in SF.

          • Posted by Jake

            Jwb, I think the 2011 survey only asked people if they had driven in the previous 2 days, not if they ever drive or how often per month, per year, etc.

            FWIW, about 75% of SF residents of legal age have a CA driver’s license. The SFMTA surveys usually estimate about 50% of SF adults drive at least once every two days, but they don’t have questions that address the driving behavior of the about 25% of SF adults with a license that don’t drive as often as every day or two. That’s a big blindspot in the survey.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            JWB, your own data does not support your statement that “Only the wealthy drive in SF.”

        • Posted by busrider

          In San Francisco, all classes also ride public transit because it tends to be reliable. Our family has no need for a car and neither my wife nor I work any where near downtown. Sometimes there’s a perception we “need” certain material items which is devoid of reason or logic.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            If you had a kid or two who played in football games all over the city you might not feel the same way.

        • Posted by Lives lightly

          all classes drive because car ownership is linked culturally to respectability. People who really can’t afford a car have one anyway because owning a car is considered a indicator of respectability.

          • Posted by Richmondman

            People choose to drive or ride because of convenience, not respectability. You can spend $300 to 300,000 on a car. The person with the $300,000 car chooses theirs for ego and other reasons as well.

    • Posted by Alai

      Requiring buildings to build parking is an even more regressive form of taxation, since it drives up the cost of housing, which is overwhelmingly the dominant issue for less wealthy residents.

      • Posted by Now I've seen everything

        …now we’ve come full circle on the pretzel logic of parking spaces and driving in the City… Now parking is somehow responsible for the high cost of housing in SF. Seriously?!

        • Posted by jwb

          How is that logic twisted? It costs $40k to build one structured parking space, and that cost is paid by the person who buys or rents the dwelling, whether they want it or not. See namelink for reference to 2012 construction costs.

          • Posted by BobN

            The amortized cost of a $40K parking space is ~$225/mo, well below the going rate for renting parking in most of the city.

        • Posted by Alai

          It’s not the only factor, but it’s one factor.

          In addition to the direct construction costs, parking also occupies valuable real estate and pushes out other uses. Sometimes, it’s built underground, which has even higher construction costs.

          This is doubly true for commercial spaces.

          Less supply, more amenities — this will obviously lead to higher prices.

          Put it another way– what are the cheapest market-rate apartments in a given neighborhood? Generally, those without parking. How would those buildings look if they had been required to build parking? How much would they rent for?

          How would the Mission look like if every building had been required to include parking? The parking would not just have to be added to the buildings, it would have replaced ground floor commercial uses, and reduced the number of apartments that could be built in a building of a given size. This would in turn have reduced walkability, so that people would be more dependent on having a car. It would reduce supply even as it made it necessary for people to spend more on owning a vehicle– a terrible result for lower-income people.

          • Posted by Lives lightly

            Hey, you’ve just described the suburban dream(which is intended to be off limits for lower-income people).

    • Posted by SFRealist

      There was a study that analyzed traffic in cities and found that a very hefty percentage of the cars in downtown areas were just circling for parking.

    • Posted by scott f

      When this argument last came up on Nextdoor, I googled and within minutes came up with three different peer-reviewed studies showing causal links between building less off-street parking in new developments and lower car ownership among the residents. I’ll let you do the honors this time, you can google it as easily as I can.

      There was also a fun internal mailing list discussion at my old job where someone asked, “I just moved to SF, what do people do about parking?” Fully a third of the answers were suggestions to sell his car, and one respondent wrote that she bought a car solely because her apartment happened to come with a garage space.

  4. Posted by Orland

    “Community parking lots” do not good neighborhoods make.

    • Posted by pablito

      So who gets the $$$ from the fees at the “community parking lots”? Where is there land to build these? Are they parking garage’s? Hmmm…..

  5. Posted by spencer

    85% of sf residents drive. i understand that we should try to lower that, but without a transformation in our 3rd world transit system, there is no alternative to driving for most people. Therefore i understand the concern that building less parking will lead to more congestion. more off-street parking should help lower congestion by stopping street parking competition and limiting circling in neighborhoods.

    • Posted by busrider

      The transformation is already underway. Although there’s still a ways to go, Muni is improving.

      • Posted by spencer

        but still 3rd world

        • Posted by busrider

          Sheer hyperbole. Either you haven’t ridden Muni in years or haven’t ridden public transit in the 3rd world. Multiple routes in SF now have brand new buses (and new Muni LRV and BART trains are soon going into service, too). We excel at denigrating. Whatever it takes to defend our unsustainable car culture.

          • Posted by spencer

            i have been in many 3rd world citiies with a better transit system as some of them have subways that are efficient

      • Posted by JIPB

        I don’t believe any public transit in SF is improving. BART is near collapse and had a major shut down pretty much every day last week. It takes years to build a few subway stations. While I am very supportive of public transit, the reality is that SF public transit sucks now and will continue to suck for decades to come.

        • Posted by Dave

          This is the point that gets lost too often in debates about limiting parking, how much the BMR allocation should be and why developers get away with VEing their SF projects down.

          There is no real improvement in public transportation coming anytime soon – ironically LA is undergoing a massive upgrade in their public transportation in “real time” – it is happening now as major office and residential projects are going forward throughout that city.

          Given that public transportation is unlikely to get better in the medium term here – let alone the near term, the building of more office projects is especially egregious. How many more jobs can be squeezed into the city with no upgrades to infrastructure? The BART tube is at capacity, the streets downtown are usually in gridlock during commute hours and on and on.

          Even major residential projects, despite the more aggressive Prop C BMR requirements, are dubious. Most people who work in the new jobs filling these office projects will not be able to afford to purchase (short of winning the BMR lottery) one of these new units. They will just be added to the commute from the East Bay and such. Speaking of parking – who than can afford to purchase are likely a demographic which is unlikely to give up their cars. So the problem compounds.

          Check out Lake Merced Boulevard during a weekday. 10 – 15 RVs parked there. Illegally as it is – though the parking patrol does not seem to tag them. Those are homes away from home for workers who can’t afford to live in the city and for whom the long daily commute is too much. These are weekday rash pads and exemplify how all these problems come together in ways that negatively impact even “remote” parts of SF – in this case the string of RV’s is an eyesore along Lake Merced.

          • Posted by Lives lightly

            Your screed reminded of of a famous Yogi Berra quote. When asked if he wanted to go to a trendy club he said: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”

          • Posted by Sierrajeff

            @ Lives lightly – ha ha, but do you have any actual substantive rebuttal? When the Bay Bridge and BART tubes are at full capacity already, and Soma is gridlocked every rush hour (and 2x so if there’s a Giants came or the City has ludicrously closed Howard once again for some conference) … what exactly *do* you think is going to happen when 181 Fremont and Salesforce Tower and Oceanside are all built out and full of 1000s more residents, tourists and office employees?

  6. Posted by pablito

    Be interested to see if the CA courts uphold granting residential parking permits to some and prohibiting others. Generally they have frowned on discrimination and found the public roads must be equally accessible to all.

    • Posted by Dan

      The courts frown on discrimination against members of a societal group that has historically suffered discrimination. Government can discriminate based for rational aims and for furthering public good. For example, only allowing the handicapped to use handicapped parking spaces is not illegal discrimination against the able bodied. Only allowing alcohol purchases for those 21 and over is not illegal discrimination against 20 year olds.

      • Posted by pablito

        Right… So is the City not going to give residential parking permits to residents of this building who are handicapped? While giving residential parking permits to their neighbors? Kinda doubt the court is going to agree with that….

        • Posted by Alai

          They would probably make an exception for the handicapped, then.

          • Posted by Alai

            Come to think of it, aren’t the handicapped already exempt from RPPs? They wouldn’t even need an exception.

          • Posted by c_q

            No need for an exception, handicapped placards and plates can park in any non-towaway and non-red zone for as long as they want (except not more than 72 hours in one space of course), this includes residential parking areas.

  7. Posted by the offstreet parker

    Why focus on the number of drivers, that’s irrelevant. The issue here is the number of cars parked on the street, not drivers. By example, my family and I are a one car family (with off-street parking) and both my wife and I would respond “yes” to MTA’s survey when asked if you have driven in the past day but we have one car and park off-street. If a conclusion is drawn that both of us have individual cars because “we drove yesterday” that is grossly incorrect. Also, car share is commonplace now and that’s a planning policy.

    From my perspective, the following analysis needs to be done. Starting back in 2000 compare the number of RPPs issued to the number of residential units per neighborhood. If the planning department’s parking policy is working, the ratio of neighborhood residents to RPPs should be increasing. If not, the policy isn’t working.

    Socketsite – go do that analysis and let’s have a meaningful conversation about street parking.

  8. Posted by soccermom

    When parking gets so bad that people actually pay a lot for a permanent off street spot and loan appraisers recognize that value and banks will lend on it, you’ll get more parking. Until then, good luck.

  9. Posted by Karl

    I get the impression you haven’t been to the 3rd world. Developing country level for sure though. Like, BRT? First thing they’d get rid of if they could do any better there. Germany or Japan, they’d laugh you out of the room for offering BRT on corridors like Van Ness or Geary, but here we are…

  10. Posted by Autodick

    If I owned a nice car why would I, in my right mind, park it on the street? It would get vandalized instantly.

  11. Posted by Beth piatnitza

    Housing students near their place of work and study will mean less students needing to have cars.

  12. Posted by condoshopper

    maybe they should try making muni less terrible instead of removing parking spaces if they want people to drive less.

    • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

      Exactly. Using the stick without offering the carrot is just harassment.

    • Posted by pablito

      “making Muni less terrible” might cost more than even SF can afford. The Transbay Terminal project was supposed to cost $1.6 billion, but it’s now up to $2.3 billion and still counting. Who knows what Geary BRT will really cist. The good news is Muni is replacing all of it’s trains and buses over the next 10 years….

      • Posted by SFRealist

        Not to mention the Central Subway

        Yes, the Feds are paying to build it but MUNI will lose money operating it

  13. Posted by Mariachi

    UCSF students and trainees at that address are within easy walking distance of the campus. If they need to go to Parnassus or another facility, UCSF shuttle service is readily available to them. Most existing Dogpatch residents don’t have those luxuries.

  14. Posted by Jake

    Fortunately, the most advanced Bay Area companies are prepared not to pre-pare down their trafficking in non-self-driving auto-motives (from an excellent article in the au courant economist that begins with the newly forged one apple ring to rule ’em all, at namelink):

    “And then, unfortunately, there’s the car park. For 14,000 workers, Apple is building almost 11,000 parking spaces. Many cars will be tucked under the main building, but most will cram into two enormous garages to the south. Tot up all the parking spaces and the lanes and ramps that will allow cars to reach them, and it is clear that Apple is allocating a vast area to stationary vehicles. In all, the new headquarters will contain 318,000 square metres of offices and laboratories. The car parks will occupy 325,000 square metres.

    Apple is building 11,000 parking spaces not because it wants to but because Cupertino, the suburban city where the new headquarters is located, demands it. Cupertino has a requirement for every building. A developer who wants to put up a block of flats, for example, must provide two parking spaces per apartment, one of which must be covered. For a fast-food restaurant, the city demands one space for every three seats; for a bowling alley, seven spaces per lane plus one for every worker. Cupertino’s neighbours have similar rules. With such a surfeit of parking, most of it free, it is little wonder that most people get around Silicon Valley by car, or that the area has such appalling traffic jams.”

  15. Posted by jordanpark

    This isn’t new. UCSF has an existing residential building (145 Irving) in which inhabitants are not allowed to purchase RPPs. It seems to be working fine; anecdotally, students are just as eager to live there as they are in other university housing given that many of them don’t own cars (at least until/unless they end up in clinical rotations outside SF.) Also as noted UCSF students have access to a comprehensive shuttle system run by the university, in addition to Muni.

    • Posted by SFCitizen

      With regards to 145 Irving, how does UCSF prevent inhabitants from getting RPP stickers? As mentioned above by Socketsite, the methodology of restricting RPPs has yet to be determined for the building addressed in this article.

      • Posted by jordanpark

        There is some information (plus videos) on the website for university housing.

        • Posted by SFCitizen

          Very interesting, thank you for the link. It does make me wonder what would happen if a post-doc living at 145 Irving went to the MTA and applied for RPP sticker. Would the MTA system flag 145 Irving as ineligible? I was told in an email from an MTA employee that their system couldn’t do this when I wanted to restrict tenants in a new building near me which was built under the City code to limit parking.

  16. Posted by Rob Anderson

    The city has been systematically eliminating street parking and restricting parking in new buildings for years. The theory: if you punish drivers enough, they will give up driving those wicked cars and trucks and start riding bikes! And, until everyone in the city takes up cycling, the city makes a lot of money on city-owned parking lots, parking meters, and a lot more on parking tickets.

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      Sorry, you have the motivation wrong. Instead the city is trying to grow in a sustainable way. It is already too dense to go with the standard two parking spots per living unit strategy. That’s why the city is going with transportation modes that don’t require as much land to support.

      • Posted by spencer

        the city is punishes drivers without offering a decent tranportation system. im all for sustainability, but the city needs to actually do something about transit.

      • Posted by Sabbie

        The city should discourage driving, but has to encourage alternatives in greater quantity and quality. I’d say they are lagging behind. MUNI has improved quite a bit and Uber/Lyft have really helped cover up their failure, but there’s a long way to go.

        For alternative transit to work well, it needs to be convenient AT BOTH ENDS of the trip. The only way I can think of to really address this issue is to build up super dense mixed use around regional transit stations and limit new density in areas that are poorly served (outer avenues, ahem). Because it seems the government is functioning at a fairly low level nowadays and does not have what it takes to really improve the infrastructure.

  17. Posted by jenofla

    If you are a student or trainee of UCSF, you really shouldn’t be driving around much. Just going to class/hospital, take the shuttle to the other campuses. This is basically dorm housing. Shouldn’t expect too much parking for it.

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