"San Francisco parking is the bane of my existence," said one student.
April 10, 2004 9:35 AM
Horrible. Crazy. Terrible. Horrendous. These are the first words that come to mind when many SF State students think about parking -- or lack thereof -- in San Francisco.
At least 38 percent of the San Franciscans do not own a car, according to U.S. Census figures. Many of the residential buildings, particularly in the downtown and Marina districts, where car ownership can be as low as 25 percent, have one-for-one parking limits. This means that residential houses tend to only allow room for one automobile per house, regardless of how many automobile owners there might be living there.
Imaginably so, this can be quite frustrating to San Francisco residents who might have to park several blocks away from their homes. According to the same U.S census, some residents sold their cars because of the parking limitations.
“Parking sucks in San Francisco,” said Mike Newton, 23, a speech communications major. “I usually have to search for at least 15 or 20 minutes to find parking anywhere in the City, and when I do find parking it’s 10 blocks away from my destination."
Unlike other cities in the Bay Area, San Francisco doesn't have many large commercial parking lots. Save for the Sunset and Park Merced districts, parking is restricted to sidewalks and consolidated parking garages that average $2 per hour, some being as much as $5 per hour. And, while only a mere 62 percent of all San Franciscans own automobiles, there is still the problem of commuter traffic.
According to a recent article by the San Francisco Business Times, only 31 percent of all who work in San Francisco commute by way of public transportation. While this ties San Francisco with Boston, Mass., for the third highest national rank in public transportation usage, it still leaves an overwhelming 69 percent of commuters traveling by automobile. Tied in with the 62 percent of San Franciscans who also drive, as well as commuter buses and trains, San Francisco has got some pretty congested, automoblie-filled roads.
"It’s crazy, you have to park at your own risk most of the time,” said 23-year-old marine biology senior Elizabeth Santos. “You have to worry about being ticketed, or having your car broken into if you park on the street. But, if you park in any of the garages, it can cost you several dollars an hour!”
Then comes the cost of parking tickets -- or worse, facing the nightmare of heading back to an empty parking space after the car has been towed.
SF State small business management student Brian Luzar paid $35 for each of the 14 parking tickets that he said he received upon his first semester at SF State. He also had his car towed twice during that time.
Luzar, 27, who is originally from the East Bay, now lives in the San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood. He is still adjusting to the street-cleaning schedules.
“When I lived in San Ramon, there was never a set time each week where our cars had to be off of the streets for cleanings,” said Luzar. “And, if a street cleaning did happen, we were given at least a month’s advance notice.”
Luzar also said that he had to get used to the street cleaning-signage. “I’m so used to being able to park anywhere, without having look at my surroundings, or worry if my car is going to get towed or ticketed.”
“You just don’t remember half the time to not park your car on the street the night before a street cleaning, when you’re coming home from work at 2 a.m.,” said Luzar.
“San Francisco parking is the bane of my existence,” said 36-year-old nursing student Paddy Peters. "I purchased a home with a garage in the Sunset District so that I would have parking space for both of my cars.”
Peters, however, is still having problems with being ticketed, particularly on street cleaning days. She has received an average of one ticket per month for having her cars parked in front of her own home. Inevitably, she has grown more than frustrated with both the San Francisco Traffic Department and the DMV.
In the same vein, traffic seems to also be a problem for a lot of SF State students. Political science major David Garza said that it takes him 45 minutes to get to school from his home in North Beach.
“I use my car to drive to school, but that’s all,” said Garza. “I walk to work, because parking is just horrible in the North Beach area. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise, because it’s made me a more active person.”
In light of the traffic problems that seem to come along with driving in a busy city such as San Francisco, many San Francisco residents say they take public transportation simply for the convenience. Travel time averages about the same, if not less, than in a car.
Kinesiology major Rodrigo Biris, 28, lives right in front of a MUNI station and takes public transportation by choice.
“It’s more convenient than driving,” said Biris.
DAI/Asian-American studies major Sarina Tom added that MUNI is a lot less stressful than driving because of all of the traffic in San Francisco.
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