San%20Francisco%20Downtown%20Zone.gif
Of the roughly 1,300 new housing units which were built in San Francisco last year, up from only 269 the year before, 900 were within the greater Downtown area. There are now 1,750 units under construction in San Francisco’s Downtown with another 567 permitted or approved to be built.
While overall employment in San Francisco increased 4% last year, it was actually flat Downtown with a slight loss in the number of office jobs offset by an increase in retail. Expect the count of Downtown office jobs to jump by the end of 2013, driven by a push to Mid-Market.
And in terms of parking, at the end of 2012 there were 33,400 off-street parking spaces Downtown, no change from 2011 and roughly 20% of the 166,520 spaces citywide. The city has a stated goal of limiting the number of off-street parking spaces to the number that existed in 1984 by restricting the supply of spaces within any new development.
The Planning Department’s full Monitoring Report for San Francisco’s Downtown will be presented to San Francisco’s Planning Commission this afternoon.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Jimmy (No Longer Bitter)

    1984?
    Seems like an odd, arbitrary choice of dates.

  2. Posted by formidable doer of the nasty

    I assume they picked that year because it’s the last time Muni ran on time.

  3. Posted by guest

    Maybe someone in the planning department is just a big George Orwell fan

  4. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    1985 was when the downtown plan was adopted.
    So I’m inferring that 1984 was chosen because that was the year that the plan started being written/revised or it was the year that the commissioners decided that building ever greater amounts of parking for people commuting in from elsewhere in the Bay Area by privately owned/operated automobile wasn’t sustainable, so they used that year as a baseline. Or both.

  5. Posted by Tobias

    Interesting office jobs still falling off. So much for the health of downtown as a jobs center. Guess companies are still leaving the City. Those cranes you see downtown are mostly condos. Little new office space being built or needed.

  6. Posted by anon

    ^Tobias:
    “Expect the count of Downtown office jobs to jump by the end of 2013, driven by a push to Mid-Market.”

  7. Posted by Legacy Dude

    I’m curious how many of our city planners actually live in SF? I think (but could be wrong) that there’s a requirement that the mayor and board of supes are SF residents, but does this apply to planners or any other city/county officials?
    I just find it odd that the landscape of this city, including its skyline and parking capacity, may be decided by suburbanites that drive in from San Mateo every day. I hope that’s not the case. Otherwise I suggest Walnut Creek and Marin County et al pass a law that new McMansions have no more than a one-car garage and no driveway.

  8. Posted by anon

    ^I don’t think there’s a law, but I worked in Planning as an intern in the early 2000’s and I never met anyone who lived outside of SF. We had regular happy hours that included planners from other surrounding cities – and most of those folks lived in SF. I’m pretty sure the entire planning staff of Millbrae, for example, lived in SF.
    I would find it absolutely bizarre to hear that any planners in SF live somewhere else, because it’s very easy to get a job in a different planning department after you’ve worked in SF.

  9. Posted by egg_cream_of_OCD

    What really startling is how a small cult of a few anti-car zealots managed to take over so much of planning and transit management. The results have been a disaster — intentionally congesting traffic, intentionally eliminating parking and rights of way, neglecting Muni. Its a sham and a crime and people are furious about it. It will be very interesting to see what happens at the polls over the next few cycles.

  10. Posted by anon

    ^What in the world does the planning department have to do with neglecting Muni?
    Also, these two contradict each other:
    1. intentionally congesting traffic
    2. intentionally eliminating parking and rights of way

  11. Posted by Sabatini

    Also, these two contradict each other: 1. intentionally congesting traffic and 2. intentionally eliminating parking and rights of way
    Not at all. By restricting parking you make it harder for people who have cars to find a parking space. People will still want a car even if they don’t have a parking space. So they circle neighborhoods looking for a space, causing congestion. I’ve done it countless times, and many other people I know do too.
    The theory is that reducing parking reduces the desire for cars, but without a good public transit system people will still rely on their cars.

  12. Posted by anon

    People will still want a car even if they don’t have a parking space.
    All data contradicts this. If you restrict parking, fewer cars enter a neighborhood, period. It may be the case that congestion increases regardless, but restricting parking is not the cause of the congestion – neighborhood popularity is.
    The theory is that reducing parking reduces the desire for cars, but without a good public transit system people will still rely on their cars.
    Incorrect. The theory has nothing to do with changing desire, it has to do with changing behavior. Restricting parking causes there to be fewer cars in a neighborhood. This is very easy to see looking at any census results. It is typically done not by convincing people that they don’t need/want a car, but rather by encouraging an ENTIRELY different group of people to buy/rent in the neighborhood.
    Think of it this way – if a retail shop changes from being a wig shop to being an auto parts store, no one would ever say that the shop is trying to convince people to buy tires instead of wigs – they’re going after a completely different customer. In the parking case, SF has decided (through not only planning actions, but numerous ballot initiatives, etc) that there is a preference for more folks with fewer or no cars. This isn’t supposed to convince people to live without cars, it’s supposed to encourage people who want to live with fewer/no cars to move into the neighborhood in place of those that want multiple cars. Since we’re talking about net-new housing, it doesn’t even mean that anyone has to leave, only that new folks will self-select as those that don’t want or need multiple cars.

  13. Posted by Sabatini

    All data contradicts this
    I don’t buy this but am willing to be educated. I hear this all the time but have never seen any proof.
    Vancouver, which is very walkable, builds new condos with extra parking, doesn’t seem to increase congestion.

  14. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Agreed with Sabatini. As I mentioned on the other thread, the main cause of traffic & congestion in SF is people from outside of the city driving in for work/weekends, not San Franciscans driving around.
    Building new condos without parking will not reduce traffic, it will just create more competition for existing spots. If the goal is to get the B&T crowd out of their cars and onto buses or BART, then this will not accomplish it.

  15. Posted by S

    downtown SF is accessible to every neighborhood in the city by transit and many by bike. It’s also accessible to many cities in the Bay Area. The roads cannot get any bigger so it makes absolutely no sense to continue building high rises with loads of parking – if the parking is there, people will use it, leading to even more congestion.
    I’m sorry that some people continue to drive despite the congestion that already exists. Somehow I don’t believe Muni is the reason that these people continue to drive – it’s either out of habit or sheer laziness but nevertheless, it should not come as a shocker that downtown at rush hour is full of traffic and competition for parking and adding more spaces isn’t really going to make that go away.
    Not facilitating driving so much will attract new employees less likely to drive.

  16. Posted by DukeLaw

    I think you can see a larger percentage of the younger generation giving up cars since they can use zipcars/city carshare as well as the rideshares Uber/Lyft. I know a number of well educated, young professionals in SF who are carless.

  17. Posted by lol

    In my day the youth were known to be careless. Now they’re carless. Yawn.

  18. Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

    Earlier in the thread, I wrote

    …I’m inferring that 1984 was chosen because that was the year that the plan started being written/revised or it was the year that the commissioners decided that building ever greater amounts of parking for people commuting in from elsewhere in the Bay Area…wasn’t sustainable, so they used that year as a baseline.

    Bingo.
    From the Monitoring Report for San Francisco’s Downtown (see the link in the above post), pg. 11 (pg. 19 of the .acrobat file) under the section “Transportation”, subsection “Parking Inventory”:

    Although the supply of off-street parking in new buildings…continues to grow with new development, as allowed under the Planning Code, the Downtown Plan policies slowed the overall growth in long-term commuter parking facilities (surface or garage) in and at the periphery of Downtown. Thus, the Downtown Plan’s goal to limit the number of long-term commuter parking facilities to the capacity that existed at Plan adoption has generally been achieved.

    Emphasis mine.
    As far as the people up thread arguing against building new housing without forcing buyers of those new housing units to buy off-street parking with it, few people familiar with the literature in urban planning believe that.
    It’s just a self-serving and disingenuous argument made mostly by incumbent homeowners who are primarily concerned with reducing the competition for available parking spaces so that their own time spent circling neighborhoods looking for a space is minimized; not the experience of new homeowners in said neighborhood, who of course may not even own a car.

  19. Posted by lyqwyd

    “cult of a few anti-car zealots managed to take over so much of planning and transit management … neglecting Muni.”
    This is neither true, nor does it make sense.
    The false part: being concerned about all modes of transit does not make somebody anti-car or a zealot. Plus the reality of how decisions are made, where a small but loud group of car fanatics can get years of planning thrown out the window, or delayed for years proves there’s not anti-car cabal running the show. Geary BRT anybody?
    The makes no sense part: an anti-car zealot would not neglect Muni, as a well functioning bus system is the most effective way to get people out of their cars in a dense city like SF.

  20. Posted by sebra leaves

    I attended the hearing at the Planning Commission yesterday, and feel the commissioners did a reasonable job of analyzing the data and questioning the presenter.
    They agreed with some of the concerns of those making public comment, particularly with regard to the lack of information on actual costs of housing being produced.
    They suggested setting up a system to track actual housing costs once it hits the market to determine the effectiveness of the plan to increase affordable housing.
    They also made note of the fact that a larger percentage of jobs are created by PDRs in the downtown area than they expected.
    They questioned some of the data as being unrealistic and asked for more details on some of the statistics.

  21. Posted by anon

    I don’t buy this but am willing to be educated. I hear this all the time but have never seen any proof.
    This is very easy to find. Go to the census fact finder website and look up auto ownership rates by zip code. You’ll find that the highest auto ownership rates are in areas with the most parking and vice versa, even when comparing areas with demographics that are similar. It’s incredibly evident in a city like SF, where neighborhoods like Nob Hill have significantly lower auto ownership rates than a place like the Bayview, even though income and other variables would make it appear that Nob Hill should have the much higher rate. The key difference? Lack of parking in one vs the other.
    Since you’re claiming that the planning department is wrong, it would seem that presenting data to disprove them should be your responsibility. If you have data showing that neighborhoods with decreased parking somehow have higher or the same auto ownership rates than other neighborhoods with similar demographics but with increased parking, I’d love to see it. I can guarantee that it doesn’t exist though.

  22. Posted by Legacy Dude

    Eventually the anti-car zealots get jobs on the Peninsula, or they grow older. And those “well educated, young professionals” will grow up, have kids, and move out to the burbs. Then we’ll see them all circling the block in their monster trucks, lamenting the lack of parking in the city…

  23. Posted by anon

    Agreed with Sabatini. As I mentioned on the other thread, the main cause of traffic & congestion in SF is people from outside of the city driving in for work/weekends, not San Franciscans driving around.
    Building new condos without parking will not reduce traffic, it will just create more competition for existing spots. If the goal is to get the B&T crowd out of their cars and onto buses or BART, then this will not accomplish it.

    The key issue that you’re forgetting is that much parking is at least in some degree fungible. If you build more parking for residents, they use less street parking, which leaves more parking available for out-of-towners. If you build more parking for residents, they use existing garages less, leaving more parking available for out-of-towners. In both cases, this encourages more out-of-towners to drive in – either by more available non-market priced parking (street) or by lower prices in garages.
    Now, that could be addressed to some degree by raising tolls and/or installing toll booths on the southern entrance to the city, thus implementing a kind of congestion pricing. I’d be all for that if it were remotely politically possible. As it is, restricting parking in new buildings is the best proxy.

  24. Posted by lol

    Not sure about the causality in what you are saying, anon.
    If you live in Nob Hill, you can walk to TJ, Whole Foods, have access to almost every kind of store. And you have easier access to your job either by foot or by public transit. Therefore less of a need to own a car than people living in the boonies.

  25. Posted by lyqwyd

    @sabatini
    As pointed out above the data supporting the idea that reducing parking reduces driving is widely available.
    There are also numerous studies supporting this. Donald Shoup is probably the best known researcher of this topic.
    Here is his best known study:
    http://www.uctc.net/papers/351.pdf
    An interesting article:
    http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/ParkingInsideApr05.html
    And his site where most of his writings can be found:
    http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/
    Some quotes:
    “Those who don’t drive nonetheless subsidize the parkers, through higher prices that are charged to everyone for goods and services.”
    “Off-street parking requirements especially harm low-income and renter families because they own fewer cars but still pay for parking indirectly.”
    “Nonprofit developers in San Francisco have estimated that parking requirements add 20 percent to the cost of each affordable housing unit and reduce the number of units that can be built on a site.”
    “Urban planners set minimum parking requirements for every land use, but the requirements often seem pulled out of thin air or based on studies that are poorly conceived, In turn, these faulty standards and policies are perpetuated as they are copied from one city to the next.”
    “Few people now recognize parking requirements as a disaster because the costs are hidden and the harm is diffused,”

  26. Posted by anon

    @lol – I chose wildly different neighborhoods to illustrate the income disconnect. You can compare Nob Hill and Russian Hill if you’d like, the same relationship exists, and the walkability of the two areas is pretty comparable – much higher auto ownership in Russian Hill because of the higher amount of parking.

  27. Posted by anon

    ^You can also use the areas around Fillmore north and south of Geary. Basically identical levels of walkability, with lower income to the south and higher income to the north. More parking is to the south, less to the north. Higher auto ownership rates to the south, less to the north.

  28. Posted by Anandakos

    it’s either out of habit or sheer laziness

    You are far too generous, Legacy Dude. It’s sheer damn selfishness.

  29. Posted by Sabatini

    I read the Shoup paper at http://www.uctc.net/papers/351.pdf.
    He seems to be talking about commuters more than residents, and says:
    “Market-priced parking will encourage travel by foot, bicycle, and mass transit. The revenue from curb parking will finance neighborhood public improvements”
    That’s exactly right. Developers should be able to build (or not build) parking for new developments. If people want parking, they pay for it. If they don’t, they won’t. SF, however, is taking central planning approach and restricting parking in new developments.
    I still don’t see how having more residential parking increases traffic for people in the neighborhood. Shoup’s point is that free parking may increase traffic because people will drive in and expect parking. We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about residential developments not having parking.
    2 different things. I still don’t see proof that restricting residential parking decreases traffic.

  30. Posted by anon

    ^see my note at 1:35 pm for explanation.
    Also, many of the developments that people complain about here the developer is proposing LESS parking than the amount planning requires. It’s folks here who seem to want central planning to take over only when parking is below what they feel is right, but then get out of the way when they feel not enough is being built.

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