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‘I have to start a revolution to park my damn car’: San Francisco forces ‘impossible’ quest to park in street surrounded by permit zone

Bick Tanner walks down 10th Ave examining the street for available parking spots on August 31, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Eloïse Kelsey for The Standard

A San Francisco resident says he’s been thrust into an “impossible” quest to park his car near his Sunset District home by the city’s transit agency.

Bick Tanner and husband Ravi recently moved from Nob Hill to the Inner Sunset and let their old parking permit lapse, thinking it would be an easy task to renew their permit in the “J zone”—the permit zone covering their new neighborhood. 

San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency carves up the city into more than two dozen parking zones assigned by letter. 

But their new home at 10th and Judah Street is just outside of an existing resident’s parking permit zone, surrounded on all but one side by areas where you can buy a permit from the city and park your car for $144 per year, forcing the couple to launch a neighborhood petition as part of an elaborate plea to the city. 

“Suddenly we received a denial email stating: ‘The address is not zoned for permit,’” said Tanner, who used the agency’s website to discover his home was on the edge of the existing zone.

The red circle shows where Bick Tanner is trying to get a parking permit and the pink shaded areas show the existing permit zone. But SFMTA says Tanner must have half his neighbors sign a petition to even consider giving him a permit. | Map courtesy of SFMTA

He then called the transit agency to figure out what was going on. “They basically said there is nothing they can do except provide petition resources,” said Tanner. “They emailed me a petition document which requires signatures from at least 50% of the neighbors on both sides of your block, one signature per household.”

The petition asks the agency to “perform the necessary surveys, hold public hearings, and recommend to the SFMTA Board of Directors that this area be designated as an Residential Parking Permit Area.”

“So it basically sounds impossible and like an excessively lengthy process,” raged Tanner. “I have to start a revolution to park my damn car.”

Tanner is now faced with the painstaking task of rounding up neighbors to fill out the petition, or forking out $250-a-month for a spot in his building—which may not be available any longer. He also has to move his car several times a week to avoid being ticketed.

Bick Tanner has been told to have half his neighbors sign a petition so he can buy a residents’ parking permit from city transit bosses as his home is surrounded by an existing permit zone—but not in one.
Bick Tanner poses for a portrait on the busy street corner near his apartment in the Inner Sunset on August 31, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif. | Eloïse Kelsey for The Standard

Transit agency spokesperson Stephen Chun said the policy has been in place “for years and affects thousands of buildings across the city.”

“By law, we can only sell residents’ parking permits (RPP) to those who live in RPP areas. The resident lives on an unregulated block and does not live in an RPP area, but is near blocks that are part of an RPP area.  

“In order for an unregulated block to join an RPP area, we require a 50% threshold for signatures on the block as a method of gauging the block’s receptiveness to RPP.”

Once they receive the petition signed by at least 50% of the households on a block, the agency then does an occupancy study to figure out that there is a parking problem and RPP is needed to fix it. 

Even after rallying the neighbors and an agency study, the move must be run up the flagpole at the city’s seven-member transit board. 

“After that, we move the item through our SFMTA legislative process. Ultimately, the power to modify RPP areas, including adding blocks to areas, rests with the SFMTA Board of Directors,” said Chun.

Local District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar was contacted for comment.