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Mayor Newsom pens letter
explaining C-3 parking ordinance veto

By Adam Martin, Bay City News Service

March 10, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO(BCN) - San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom today vetoed a proposed ordinance that would restrict parking requirements in the city's downtown district.

The proposed ordinance included such restrictions as an absolute maximum of one parking place per every two dwelling units, prohibited sidewalk narrowings for passenger loading zones such as at hotels and did away with minimum off-street parking requirements in new buildings. It also prohibited the construction of above-ground parking structures, according to the planning department's website.

While the mayor wrote in his veto letter, "we should implement policies that promote walking, biking and use of public transportation (in downtown),'' he indicated that the legislation could be more effective with some modifications.

The mayor suggested some changes he would like to see, including making some above-ground parking structures legal, creating citywide systems for bicycle and City Carshare parking and developing a system to provide drivers with real-time information on parking availability downtown.

Jim Lazarus, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's senior vice president in charge of public policy, said, "We felt it (the proposed legislation) was too restrictive, did not have the proper analysis and therefore should be vetoed. It was vetoed and should go back to the planning commission and start the process over again.''

Lazarus said that a full economic impact analysis had not been done on the proposed ordinance.

"There should be an economic analysis and there should be better consideration of the real demand of parking and buildings downtown,'' Lazarus said.

The mayor concluded his letter by indicating that he hoped an amended version of the ordinance would make its way back to his desk. "If this legislation is passed,'' he wrote, "it would give San Francisco the most forward-looking downtown parking policy in the country.''

A copy of the letter follows:

March 10, 2006

Gloria Young
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, California 94102

Honorable Clerk:

I write to communicate my veto of ordinance 051453, which changes parking requirements in San Francisco’s downtown (C-3) district, and to discuss improvements to the legislation. Managing new parking downtown is essential to minimize congestion, promote non-auto transportation, and make car-free housing available to San Franciscans. It is smart urban planning. San Francisco has one of the densest city centers in the United States and accordingly, we should implement policies that promote walking, biking and use of public transportation there. Moreover, we should ensure that new buildings located downtown that include parking and improve our unique urban environment.

I support the following principles for downtown parking reform:

Establishing a cap on residential parking of .75 parking spaces per dwelling unit, with an allowance for up to 1 space per dwelling unit for family-sized units (two-bedrooms, or 1000 square feet or larger). This provision recognizes that not everyone who lives downtown owns a car;

Wrapping above-ground parking with active uses to enliven our streets, and limiting the amount of parking above-ground to maximize opportunities for commercial uses and housing downtown;

Ensuring pedestrian safety and transit on key streets by ensuring the appropriate location and design of curb cuts and other conflicts;

“Unbundling” parking spaces from apartment sales to encourage car-free living downtown; Increasing parking for car-sharing vehicles and bicycles in new developments.

Throughout this process, my office has met with the Planning Department, Supervisors, property owners and transportation advocates to discuss modifications to make the legislation more effective given existing conditions, ensure its provisions are equitably applied, and maximize opportunities for new housing and businesses downtown—in short, modifications that make this a more effective piece of planning policy.

These include:

Limiting above ground parking to one floor, with an exception permitting up to three floors under the following conditions;

Where there are major underground conflicts such as transportation easements or contaminated soils that make it practically infeasible to build below-ground;

‘Where a project would replace existing surface parking in the Mid-Market project area, supporting that area’s planned housing and commercial growth and addressing the unique constraints on development that it faces; and

Where providing parking below-ground would substantially increase the price of housing to the tenant or homebuyer and the Planning Commission determines that this additional price conflicts with the city’s housing policies as described in the Housing Element of the General Plan;

Ensuring that design standards for parking, including requirements for ground-floor wrapping and architectural screening on upper floors, space-efficient parking, and curb cut limitations, provide enough flexibility for the Planning Commission to respond to the unique physical constraints of particular sites;

Creating citywide standards for bicycle parking in new residential development – ensuring access to safe and secure parking for cyclists;

Creating citywide standards for including carsharing in new residential development – increasing access to this innovative transportation option and setting certification criteria to ensure that carsharing provides measurable environmental benefits;

Developing a system to provide motorists with real-time information on the availability of parking and better way-finding in the downtown – helping people find parking more easily and reducing congestion on downtown streets.

These modifications advance the principles of downtown parking reform and build on the recommendations of the Planning Commission.

Rather than let this opportunity for parking reform pass us by, I would ask the Board to consider legislation that includes these modifications, and to bring it back to the Planning Commission for their review of the Director’s recommendation for these modifications. If this legislation is passed, it would give San Francisco the most forward-looking downtown parking policy in our nation. Such legislation builds on the city’s seminal Downtown Plan passed over two decades ago, and reflects our strong tradition of leadership in managing physical growth and change.

Thank you for your consideration of these suggestions. I believe that together, we can implement visionary planning policy that takes our city to new heights.

Gavin Newsom

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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