Lee panders to motorists and undermines SFMTA with Sunday metering repeal


First Mayor Ed Lee ignores the rising cost of living in San Francisco (fueled partly by his own corporate welfare for the tech industry and commercial landlords), and now he’s using his sudden concern about gentrification as an excuse to make parking meters free again on Sundays, a blatant bit of political pandering that blows a $6 million annual hole in Muni’s budget.

Maybe it’s understandable that a politician worried about his reelection prospects with restive voters would take a page from the playbook of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who slashed the state’s vehicle license fee to win that office. But what makes this move stink even more is it’s being supported by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, a supposedly independent (yet mayoral appointed) body whose top officials methodically and courageously have made a strong case for Sunday metering.

“We’re just willing to partner with the mayor to address affordability,” SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose told us, admitting the agency hasn’t yet identified a funding source to fill that gap if Sunday metering is repealed on July 1 as proposed. Sunday meters were budgeted for $1 million in revenue, but they actually brought in $6 million in the last year because of more tickets than expected, feeding the outrage of motorists who feel entitled to use public roads for free. 

We’re waiting for calls back from SFMTA Executive Director Ed Reiskin and Chairman Tom Nolan to find out whether they no longer stand by the arguments they’ve been making for Sunday metering, claiming it helps the local economy by making parking spaces available in neighborhood commercial districts and that it’s consistent with the city’s official transit-first policy.

“What does this say about the city’s commitment to the policy of promoting transit first?” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said, saying she was shocked by the announcement given how underfunded the SFMTA’s transit, bicycle, and pedestrian improvement programs all are. “Why in the world are we even talking about this?”

Lee claims this is about affordability, telling the Chronicle “it was just nickel-and-diming people to death,” yet his own plans call for asking voters to approve more than $6.3 billion in taxes to fund Muni’s needs over the next 15 years, including a proposal to increase the sales tax in 2016, a regressive tax that will hit those already struggling harder than Sunday metering does to the 70 percent of San Francisco households that have an automobile.

Lee has also proposed ballot measures for this November that would increase the vehicle license fee and issue a $500 million general obligation bond, paid for on the property taxes of all city households. His own polls show the measures could be difficult sells to voters, and it’s not clear why he won’t wait for those results before ending Sunday metering.

When we asked mayoral Press Secretary Christine Falvey about all this, she selectively answered our questions with the following response: “The mayor believes a comprehensive funding strategy to not just maintain, but improve Muni performance, pedestrian and bike safety and the condition of our roads is what will finally turn the corner on improving San Francisco’s Transportation System. That’s why he has spent the better part of a year with the Transportation 2030 Taskforce, that recommended several ways to support these goals, including a $500 million general obligation bond, which the mayor supports. Because of a strong economy, the mayor believes it’s time to eliminate parking fees for six hours on Sundays and permanently fund Free Muni for low income youth to help working families in San Francisco and ease the affordability issues he hears about from families across the City.”

But at this point, that’s just political rhetoric, and Lee’s “comprehensive funding strategy” remains a vague and distant dream — one that will soon be $6 million a year tougher to make a reality. 


like meters and SFMTA's outrageous parking violation fines - which penalize poor people far more than the techies who are apparently enemy #1 in the Guardian's lexicon.

Posted by guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

Look at the socioeconomic stats for who owns cars versus those who get around by transit, bike, or on foot and you'll see that you're wrong. 

Posted by steven on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

lot more than a hedge fund manager in Russian Hill who walks to work downtown.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

Because there is no transit from Daly City to Downtown?

Posted by Ian Turner on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 3:11 pm

And everybody knows the rent is at Detroit levels in Daly City.

Posted by Eastside Clyde Townsend on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 4:14 pm

Oakland is even cheaper.

Show some imagination. Not everyone has to live in SF.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 7:23 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 7:22 am

Are you f*cking kidding me? So does your tripe now include everyone with a car is a 1 percenter - good gawd you people are ridiculous.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 12:40 am

That's the problem with this whole deal. Tickets are supposed to correct bad behavior, pay attention to signs and don't do it again. Progressives see tickets as a form of revenue generation.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 8:56 pm

There are some progressives who want to stick it to drivers above all, aided and abetted by mayorally-appointed conservatives on the MTA. But not all progressives are on board. I agree that it's regressive. Many neighborhood progressives are opposed to more meters, longer hours, etc., and this whole attitude of using the people of San Francisco as an ATM for the MTA. You're better off just making your argument without displaying your rabid hatred for progressives, because when you do that, you're alienating thousands of potential allies for your cause.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

Including Lilli, who has vanished after his Barrier trick failed.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 20, 2014 @ 10:37 am

Steven, have you ever been in a garage of a 100% affordable rental building?

Progressives would do well to get the MTA to make good on its current failure to provide rapid and reliable transit and to get a broad consensus on a capital program moving forward rather than to raise barriers to driving when the alternatives are crap.

Nobody wants an activist know it all telling them what they can't do when the alternatives are worse. A quick look at the increasingly dangerous streets indicates that disincentives are not working nor are fines generating enough money to improve transit.

To the contrary, the MTA has plenty of money, they're not making any serious effort to spend it on providing rapid and reliable transit. Conservative Democrats are running Muni as a cash cow extraction engine in order to delegitimate public services in favor of eventual privatization. We will not see attractive public transit so long as the neoliberals are running the show.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

How about looking at all the funds squandered by MUNI, such as on the fare gestapo? :(

This is incredible drivel. People deserve a break from parking tickets and neoliberal fees at least one day per week!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

when you go out and get a comment from the bike coalition lady.

As has been noted, when Jones gets his way its a victory for the people and common sense, when he doesn't it is the mob or pandering.

Maybe the citizens don't want to live in Steve Utopia?

When this was parking meter thing was put into effect the SFMTA flunkies kept insisting that it would raise a few million, they never took into account the windfall of parking tickets. Lee oddly mentions that parking ticket windfall. It's interesting that people call Lee a liar while barking up the SFMTA as good honest government.

In the other paper it is mentioned over the last two weeks that MUNI keeps buying crappy busses that break down all the time.

If MUNI is strapped for cash maybe Steve should turn his bike coalition pandering self towards MUNI's wasteful spending instead of complaining about the citizens of the city.

Posted by guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

What an absurdity. Do you know who owns public roads - the public, the people who live here.

Do you know who does not own the roads - City employees, most of whom don't live in SF btw.

So why are City employees using SF roads to financially rape SF citizens with outrageous parking fines, ever escalating "smart" meters and Sunday meters??

To conclude that additional funds improves Muni more that it enriches Muni employees who call in sick once a week is beyond naïve and borders on stupidity.

I'll tell you what - why don't you produce a graph for us. Trace a line showing how much Muni funding has increased over the last 15 years and on the same graph trace a line showing how much Muni's on-time performance has increased...you might learn something.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 12:55 am

No, Steven is right on this one. Car owners pay an annual city fee and for meters 6 days a week and for that, as Steven correctly notes, they do indeed "feel entitled to use public roads for free".

As opposed to bicyclists like Steven who...

...oh wait,never mind.

Posted by Guest2 on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 7:15 am

Falling back on the old "blame the evil Muni employees" strategy, and throwing the word "rape" around doesn't do much to advance your argument. Learn a little sumpin sumpin about civil service before you make baseless, uninformed accusations, m'kay?

Posted by Oliver on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:59 am

and providing evidence that the city cannot run a business.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

Steven fails to mention Lee's pandering for progressive support on the Board by making "Muni free to minors" permanent.

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 7:37 am

There are good policy reasons for letting youth ride Muni for free: it discourages automobile use and therefore relieves congestion, and it does so in a way that could establish good habits in young people. As this city grows, discouraging automobile use is an important policy goal, and one officially adopted by voters. 

There is no good policy rationale for ending Sunday metering in this transit-first city, which encourages car ownership, adds to congestion in commercial areas as drivers circle the block looking for a parking space, privatizes public space, and costs the SFMTA money it desperately needs to improve Muni. 

That's why I labeled it pandering. 

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:52 am

SFUSD didn't still practice busing as an ideological obsession

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:10 am

I disagree with your equating the end of Sunday metering to drivers circling the block in commercial areas (commercial parking is not usually enforced on the weekend) and privatizing public space.
I agree w letting youth ride MUNI for free but the problems with MUNI aren't going to be solved by parking tickets from people on Sundays. They already had active Sunday meters in tourist areas. The rest of the places are local areas or empty on weekends.
I think you're just trying to create a we vs they dynamic when in truth it is everyone's part.

Posted by Whatevs on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 4:17 pm

Steven -

"Could establish good habits in young people"??? So you think a teenager who just turned 16 is going to say: "I got to ride MUNI for free growing up so I have decided that I don't want to drive my parents car. I'd rather take dates or go places on buses that are constantly behind schedule, smell, have drunk and/or crazy people on them, and are dangerous. That's so much better than taking a girl out in my own car." Riiiiiggghhhhtttt....

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 8:54 pm

and will want to be off them as soon as possible.

If you are a thug you will likely spend your life riding on the bus, so get used to it at a young age.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 8:27 am

Meters aren't evenly distributed in SF neighborhoods. Newly affluent places like the Dogpatch are meter free, and other neighborhoods have a ton of meters. Metering equity would be helpful and bring in more revenue. I don't think it is unreasonable for commercial districts to have metered parking, paid on Sundays as well. Especially since SF is supposed to be transit first. It seems a little silly.

Having a car in SF is expensive, parking it is a pain, and most lower income (and some higher income) people can't afford it unless they have guaranteed parking at home. Most people don't, and many people sell their car after one too many parking tickets.

Posted by Jame on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:19 am

...should be an important policy goal in a fast-growing city that aspires to have a population of 1 million by 2040. Lee's policy runs counter to that goal.

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:45 am

Meters exist to manage and preserve the availability of parking and not to get rid of it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:52 am

Here here.
And did you notice that Steven said cars use public roads for free?
CARS are the only users of public roads that pay for it.
I get that this guy REALLY. HATES. CARS. but would he endorse also having a bicycle registration / licensing system with fees as well?

Posted by Whatevs on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

False. Most road maintenance comes from the general fund so all tax payers (sales, property, payroll and so on) pay for public roads.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:10 pm

How do you think your food gets to your local store?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 7:25 am

Road maintenance is supposed to come from vehicle registrations, excise taxes charged on fuel, tire car and truck purchases, and not from the general fund. Only if the Democratic legislature steals this money for other programs, would they need to use general fund money for maintenance of roads.

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

Are you a capitalist or a communist?
Free parking is for commies.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 11:04 pm

Especially in light of a spike in pedestrian deaths, a spate of Spare the Days, and a public transit system with a multi-billion dollar spending shortfall, it makes no sense to reverse course and simultaneously undermine neighborhood businesses and our transit first policy. The mayor's proposal to reward those who drive by not charging them to park on some of the priciest real estate on this planet is environmentally and fiscally unsound.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 18, 2014 @ 12:07 am

It is fiscally unsound, as is giving up $10M per year in revenue by letting everyone under 18 ride Muni for free. Foolish give away. Kids have always had a discount, never a freebie.

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 18, 2014 @ 6:29 am

Leaving the general citizen alone is bad, whats worse is not letting man children have their way. It makes them bitter and sad, can't have that.

Posted by guest on Jan. 18, 2014 @ 6:57 am

Husband got 3 (THREE) parking tickets for one car parked in one spot in January. One is for not having current tags on (checked the tags, they were current on the date citation was issued), 2 - parking on a grade more than 3% (really?). Looked up the street via an app and the grade is actually 2.7%, so will be taking this to court. Third one is going over allotted time, was not there so may be valid, but with other 2 totally bogus tickets I have my doubts... I think SFMTA is trying to bridge the gap of the proposed financial cut by issuing completely unreasonable tickets. Will be going to court on all of these out of principle... Annoying.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 14, 2014 @ 12:16 am

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