Two Parking Garage Nightmares by Dave Snyder

The suburban style shopping center at Fulton & Masonic Streets will soon be demolished, and in its place a new development with a huge 390-car parking garage will appear.

The development includes a few small retail shops facing Fulton St., a Lucky's supermarket, and 135 housing units. Retail parking provided will exceed minimum requirements by 49 spaces, and residential parking will exceed requirements by 28 spaces.

Taking into account the removal of the existing parking lot, the net gain in parking spaces is 216, which will dramatically increase traffic and reduce safety in this densely populated transit-accessible neighborhood. The SFBC opposed exceeding the minimum parking requirements. The City's Planning Department has concluded that this development will not have a significant impact on the environment.

A few blocks south and east, another developer has proposed a large housing and retail development that will include a 175-car garage. The eight-story-high building will contain 122 units of housing and storefront retail. The parking garage will exit onto Page Street. The location at Page and Gough Streets is within two blocks of 17 transit lines (yes, 17!), and two major bike routes.

The SFBC is working with the developers to reduce or eliminate altogether the provision of parking at this location. We will propose that the parking for residents' private cars be eliminated and replaced by storage of shared cars as part of the nascent City CarShare organization. This will limit the size of the garage and not worsen the already stressed conditions for transit in the area. City Planning hasn't issued an opinion yet, but current guidelines actually require the developers to provide approximately as much parking as is proposed.

On a more positive note, a few blocks up Market Street, the soon-to-be developed Gay & Lesbian Cultural Center will attract thousands of visitors. They have room to include an off-street parking lot for a few dozen cars but have instead opted to provide no parking and use the space for cultural programming.

They convinced the neighbors to support the plan based on the argument that if they provide some parking, people will drive to the center expecting to park in their small lot. Once the Center's lot was full, the visitors would compete with residents for on-street parking.

Not providing visitor parking forces people to use alternative transportation options, which is better for the neighborhood and the environment. Well- situated on Market Street, the Center's developers are certain they will attract sufficient crowds without parking. The Center's developers had to fight with city officials, but eventually they won an exception to rules requiring parking.

City residents concerned about the future livability of San Francisco need to promote the good example of the Gay & Lesbian Cultural Center and prevent new developments from increasing off- street parking and adding to our congestion and safety problems. An important first step is to change planning code regulations that require a minimum of one off-street parking space for every new residential unit.

A moderate proposal would replace the minimum with a maximum, except in areas served well by transit where the requirement should be eliminated altogether. Please see the enclosed post card for action you can take.