Residential Parking in San Francisco

I’ve already blogged about the gigantic scam that is parking enforcement in San Francisco. There is a sub-scam at work for people who live in certain neighborhoods: the residential parking permit system. It’s intended to make parking more sensible for people who live in high-density neighborhoods, and it may very well serve that purpose, but it’s also a huge scam intended to generate revenue for the city from fees and parking tickets.

As a thought exercise, do a web search on Residential Parking Permits on sfgov.org. Notice how all the pages pertaining to this topic on sfgov.org return 404 not found. (I’m assuming these pages were moved around recently, since both Yahoo and Google’s indexes have pointers to dead pages.) But notice, too, how sfgov.org’s own search function doesn’t find any mention of this mysterious residential parking permit on their site. It’s almost as if they don’t actually want you to apply for a permit.

When, after a half hour of searching, you eventually find the link to download the form (which, by the way, you can find here), you may rejoice as you discover that the cost of a residential parking permit is a whopping $60 per year — $10 more than the average parking ticket.

There are several goals of San Francisco’s residential parking program, according to the parking authority’s web site. They are stated thusly:

  • Promote the safety, health and welfare of all San Francisco residents
    by reducing unnecessary personal motor vehicle travel, noise and
    pollution
  • Promoting improvements in air quality, convenience
    and attractiveness of urban residential living
  • Increased use of
    public mass transit
  • The program’s main goal is to provide more parking
    spaces for residents by discouraging long-term parking by people who do
    not live in the area

I’m not beneath a little old-fashioned social engineering, but sweet jumping Moses. Having a residential sticker (or not) has not reduced my driving one bit. It has never done anything to encourage me to take public transit. It doesn’t prevent me from parking in the neighborhood.

The program probably does increase the number of parking spaces in our neighborhood a little bit. But the primary motivation for someone who doesn’t live in our neighborhood to park in front of our house would be to get closer to the BART station three blocks away. Instead, because of residential permit parking, people who live a mile away from BART are likely just going to drive to work, defeating 100% of the goals of the program, at least as they apply to our area.

There’s an unstated goal behind the program, of course, which is for the city to capture more revenue, by ticketing cars that don’t have residential stickers as well as collecting that $60 a year just so people can park in front of their houses.

Ultimately, if being able to park in your own neighborhood was really the primary objective here, then they’d make the stickers cost nothing (which would be workable since you have to provide all kinds of proof that you live in the neighborhood before you can get a sticker).

Sorry for another municipal rant. I must be getting old. If I had a front lawn, I’d probably be out there right now, hiking up my pants and yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay off my property.

Update: It looks like sfgov.com still has the map of the residential parking permit up; it’s here (PDF).