| Dear Friends of ILRCSF and of the Disability Community,
Members of San Francisco’s Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group comprised mostly of people with disabilities, will present their package of state and local policy recommendations to increase access to parking on Saturday, October 19th from 10:30-noon at the Port of San Francisco, Pier 1, Embarcadero. The package includes recommendations to:
- Increase blue zones by 70%
- Improve enforcement of placard misuse
- Improve DMV oversight of placard approvals
- Allow jurisdictions to require placard holders to pay at the meter for on-street parking
- Direct revenue to accessibility improvements
- Allow jurisdictions to establish reasonable time limits for placard holders
The Committee spent six months studying the current system and has made recommendations which favor equity for people with disabilities while addressing what it has come to identify as rampant abuse by drivers for whom disability placards and Blue Zones were never intended.
The current system for Accessible Parking was launched 30 years ago – before the ADA was signed into law – at a time when San Francisco, and society as a whole, was far less accessible than it is today. This antiquated system makes it astoundingly simple for any person with an impairment – a broken leg, for instance – to receive a disability placard and keep it for life. The system was never intended to provide non-disabled drivers who suffer minor impairments with a lifetime of unlimited free parking. Unfortunately, it is currently being used as such by many, forcing people with significant functional limitations to struggle to find parking. Applications for placards have gone up by 200%, which is suspiciously disproportionate to the number of drivers in San Francisco who have disabilities. This is a program that Joe Public has figured out how to hack.
The committee’s conditional recommendation to remove the meter payment exemption has been made in an effort to dissuade would-be abusers from using ill-gotten placards to park in metered spots without paying. The result of a similar shift in another major American city – Philadephia – speaks volumes: availability of metered parking spaces increased by 500%. To be clear, proposed meter payments will only be required if payment options are made fully accessible – the absence of which acted as a trigger for payment exemption during the program’s inception.
The recommendation that addresses reasonable time limits reflects the growth of equity in San Francisco over the last 30 years. We are a very different city than when this system was first adopted. Steps were taken back then to help level the playing field and, as the City becomes more accessible and we get closer to true equity, amending the parameters in areas such as parking time limits makes sense: members of the Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee who themselves drive (or are driven) and park in San Francisco agree that the time has come to establish reasonable time limits on parking.
As it stands, today, the system leaves a lot to be desired. Every individual who engages in dishonest placard use deprives a person with a disability of a parking spot that is rightfully theirs. In addition, s/he deprives the City of revenue which could and should be used to make San Francisco an even more accessible city than it already is.
The Accessible Parking Policy Advisory Committee has been, and continues to be, transparent in the work being done, and welcomes members of the public to attend the forum on October 19th, during which these recommendations will be discussed at length.