Growing pains for San Francisco’s car-sharing initiative

October 3, 2014

The parking-lot business is feeling the heat of San Francisco’s real estate market: private lots are being sold for new development, lowering the number of parking spaces in the city.

That trend is affecting the public’s view of San Francisco’s car-sharing initiative. Announced in the spring, the program reserves 900 on-street parking spots for three car-sharing companies in the Bay area: nonprofit City CarShare, local startup Getaround, and Zipcar, which operates nationally.

public parking sign in SF

San Francisco’s parking is gradually turning into housing. From rafael-castillo.

Supervised by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), the program began marking off spaces over the summer, docking the participating car-share businesses an installation fee of $400 for paint and signage. Monthly permit fees of $50 to $225 are also assessed and are based on a space’s proximity to the city’s downtown.

The car-share companies are additionally required to charge customers an hourly rate to prevent rental car companies from colonizing the allotted spots, which are assigned to specific vehicles. The businesses must also guarantee that the cars will be available for sharing 75% of the time so that the spaces aren’t used simply for storage.

Despite the conditions imposed upon the program, the public hasn’t embraced it warmly.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Jerri Jerome, a resident of San Francisco’s Richmond neighborhood, where twenty-two parking spots were converted to car-share spaces in mid-September.

“Everybody kills each other for parking out here, so it’s going to have a huge impact,” said Spiros Johnson, owner of 25th & Clement Produce, a market in the district.

The recently converted spaces are located along Clement Avenue near 24th Avenue so are likely to impact Johnson’s store. Jerome agreed: “I think it would be challenging for the drivers and the customers to these businesses.”

Brent O’Brien believes the opposite. “For the neighborhoods and the merchants, hopefully what it means is a reduction in some of the parking pressures that they see,” said the director of member experiences for City CarShare.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose is quick to point out that the car-share spaces are not intended to place undue burden on any one neighborhood. “Our goal is have them disbursed evenly and balanced throughout the entire city of San Francisco,” he said.

But that democratic tack doesn’t impress SF resident Phillip Chang, who sees the car-share spaces as “a waste of a parking spot.”

“Honestly, I don’t see that many car-share cars around,” he said.

Each shared car takes dozens more off the road, transit officials like to respond, and with car-share companies reporting steady growth in the Bay area, the city’s program is unlikely to go away any time soon. Residents and businesses may simply have to suffer through its growing pains.

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Category: Legislation

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