Symbolic Vote Marks End to Parking Requirements

If the vote becomes final, San Francisco will be the first major city to end minimum parking requirements for new developments.

Cars fill up off-street parking in the Sunset District. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco supervisors voted Tuesday to no longer require developers to build parking and the symbolism rang both ways: as a signal nationwide to reduce car dependency, and as leaving out public transit-poor neighborhoods. 

In a 6-4 vote at its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved the elimination of minimum parking requirements for new housing that would also reduce financial barriers to projects. Supervisors Norman Yee, Malia Cohen, Ahsha Safai and Catherine Stefani voted against the ordinance that makes San Francisco the first major city nationwide to eliminate parking requirements. 

Supervisor Jane Kim, who brought forward the resolution, cast it as a “non-controversial” item that merely enshrines the planning department’s increasing practice to allow exceptions to the requirements for new buildings set in the 1950s.

“This policy is already basically in place,” Kim told her colleagues. “It is, of course, symbolic.”

Cohen evidently agreed. She called it “more policy that’s coming from organized groups that have the privilege” to be heard while leaving out residents in neighborhoods without reliable transportation, once again. YIMBY Action, Livable City, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition praised the legislation.

“Keeping minimum parking requirements in place does nothing to improve sustainable transportation options, and, by increasing traffic congestion and eroding the safety and utility of sustainable modes, makes the entire transportation system work worse,” wrote Tom Radulovich of Livable City

While Safai recommended more time to educate and reach out to residents in less transit-oriented neighborhoods, Cohen proposed carving District 10 — which includes Bayview Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley — out of the ordinance. But the City Attorney’s Office did not have such legal language ready to insert, leaving a duplicate ordinance that is likely to sit around in committee as the last stand.

“They’re forcing that policy decision on everyone,” Cohen said. “San Francisco always wants to be at the forefront and wants to be the leader…at the expensive of poor people.”

Kim assured her colleagues that it would not end the inclusion of parking with new housing but merely end its mandate, which could push the city to live up to its goal of being a transit-first city. Cohen called a “slippery slope” and cited the T-Third Line, which faces frequent and disruptive switchbacks, leaving residents in Bayview Hunters Point to rely on vehicles. 

Supervisors will cast a final vote next Tuesday — Kim and Cohen’s last meeting as supervisors — and it’s unlikely that the duplicated ordinance will be ready to weigh, according to the clerk’s office. Mayor London Breed will have another 10 days to approve or veto the legislation. 

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