We co-present a guest post by two UC Davis law professors, exploring an idea raised in The True Cost of Residential Street Parking, a SPUR Digital Dialogue held in November, co-hosted with Urban Environmentalists. Watch a video of the original conversation. Many thanks to Professors Elmendorf and Shanske for diving into the question of whether California cities can legally charge market rates for parking, and to SPUR for co-publishing this post with us, excerpted below.
How to Solve the Transit Budget Crunch: Price the Private Use of Public Streets
Written By Chris Elmendorf and Darien Shanske, UC Davis, Dec 18, 2020.
Read the full piece on SPUR's website.
COVID-19 has been catastrophic for public transit. Plunging fare and tax revenues are forcing drastic cuts. San Francisco’s transit agency could lay off more than one in five workers. Los Angeles is cutting service by 20%. Washington, DC is proposing to shutter 16% of its stations and eliminate weekend rail service. State governments can’t provide stopgap funding because they’re constitutionally constrained to balance budgets (though there is some room for creativity). Congress ought to step up, but Mitch McConnell stands in the way.
We think there’s a solution right under our feet: Make private drivers pay market rates to use the public’s roads. Traditionally, transit customers have had to fork over hefty fares, while private drivers go for free. The result is congestion, endless circling for parking spaces, Ubers and Lyfts blocking bike lanes and bus stops, and, at this precarious fiscal moment, a huge pot of potential revenue waiting to be claimed.
The place to start is residential parking. San Francisco has 275,000 curb parking spaces, only 10% of which are metered. Another 80,000 are in restricted residential parking zones. For a trivial annual fee, residents park without limit in their zone. Meanwhile, garage parking in the city costs on the order of $200 to $500 a month. Street parking isn’t worth as much as garage parking, and the value of a curb space would vary a lot from one neighborhood to the next. But even if the average curb space in the city were worth only $100 per month, the city could be earning $300 million a year from the street parking it now gives away. That’s almost double the transit agency’s forecasted deficit next year...
The authors conclude:
Here’s the bottom line: The question of what and whom to charge for using the curb lane is a political and policy question for California cities, not a legal matter. Yes, someone will probably sue if a city raises the price of parking—but they’re not likely to win. Making drastic cuts to the transit budget is a choice, not an inevitability. There is a better way.
Read the full piece on SPUR's website.
Thanks for joining us for The True Cost of Residential Street Parking, co-hosted with SPUR and Streets for People.
Street Parking Video & Brainstorm
Watch the video: Missed the discussion on residential parking? No worries. Catch parking expert Donald Shoup, urban planner Anna Muessig, law professor Chris Elmendorf, and moderator Raynell Cooper from SFMTA on Urban Environmentalists' YouTube Channel.
Share your ideas: Send us your ideas for how we could better use residential curb space. We'll include our favorites in the next newsletter, and share them with SFMTA! Just take 30 seconds to draw a picture of how we could better use residential curb space (bike parking? tiny houses? you tell us!). Snap a photo of your drawing and email your photo to us, or tweet it to @UrbanEnviroCA. (Words are OK too, if you don't like to draw.)
Building Bike Networks in SF & Berlin - Dec 14
What does it take to get a complete network of protected bike lanes, without gaps or choke points? On Monday we heard from Berliner Peter Broytman (Coordination Office Cycling) about how the city rapidly expanded its bike network during covid, and discussed how SF can grow its bike network with local bike lane mapper Peter Belden. Contact us to connect with Peter Belden with your ideas about growing SF's bike network.
What we're reading
The True Cost of Residential Street Parking - Nov 16, 5pm
Co-hosted by SPUR and Streets for People
Just a quick reminder to sign up now for our FREE virtual event this Monday at 5pm. We've got an all-star panel lined up, including Donald Shoup, the UCLA professor who literally wrote the book on the high cost of free parking. Can't wait to see you there.
Plus, scroll down for a petition to keep bike lanes on Better Market Street, from our friends at Streets for People. And check out this article on San Francisco's recent vote to ban natural gas in new buildings starting next year!
Today's Action: Save the Protected Bike Lanes on Market Street
In October 2019, after nearly ten years of community outreach, the SFMTA Board approved the Better Market Street plan. This once in a generation update to our main civic boulevard included sidewalk-level protected bike lanes the length of Market Street, shown in the rendering above. This facility was a hard-won victory for bicycle advocates and was to provide a safe and pleasant cycling experience for all ages and abilities.
Now, the SFMTA wants to re-open the project and throw out the protected bike lanes from the plan, instead forcing cyclists to share the curb lane with taxis and delivery vehicles. This will lock in place for another generation the current unsafe conditions on Market Street where cyclists regularly risk injury and death due to sharing street space with careless drivers. Additionally, all Muni vehicles will be forced to use the center lane, creating more delays for transit riders compared to the previously approved plan.
Please sign the Streets for People petition and tell the SFMTA that we need safe cycling facilities on Market Street. If you want to say this in person, there will be public comment opportunities coming up - follow Streets for People on Twitter to stay updated.
See you Monday,
Zack, Joanna, Cliff, Jon, Robert, and Terry at Urban Environmentalists
We know you are all probably saturated with election news these past few weeks that have brought both inspiration and disappointment. We first want to recognize the courageous and tireless contributions of our postal service workers, our poll workers & volunteers, activists and organizations driving up voter turnout, and all of the Americans who took on physical risk and showed incredible patience to exercise their right to vote and directly support others' right to do so.
Before we do a deeper election recap-- we want to make sure you don't miss our all-star lineup for our event TOMORROW. Join us for The True Cost of Residential Street Parking.
In January, we will have a president that recognizes both the reality of climate change and the US housing shortage, who respects expertise, and whose ideas for "building back better" show a path for enhancing climate resilience, social equity, and shared prosperity all together.
Not all the votes are in, but so far we are also seeing a number of local victories for candidates and ballot measures supporting Urban Environmentalist values. We won't be able to list everyone here, but here are some of the ones we are most excited about:
The True Cost of Residential Street Parking
It's never too early after the election to talk about parking!
Free or inexpensive street parking near home is a benefit that many take for granted, as residential parking permits range from $35 or less in San José to $144 annually in San Francisco (and many neighborhoods don't require permits at all). However, even residential permit holders often find themselves circling for parking at the end of the day, while individuals without cars receive little to no benefit from this valuable curb space. Is the public right-of-way the right place for parking private vehicles? What are the true costs and benefits of residential street parking, considering externalities such as racial justice and carbon impacts? If we as a society decide to change how we allocate and regulate curb space, what steps would be required and how could we ensure that our new approaches are equitable? Hear an expert panel (listed below) discuss these questions and much more. Co-hosted with SPUR and Streets for People.
RSVP here on SPUR's event page to join us Mon, Nov 16 at 5pm.
What We're Watching
About Here has a great video about the Missing Middle Mystery in Vancouver, dramatizing the themes we covered in our more lengthy Beyond Towers and Sprawl conversation last month (rewatch here).
Welcome to new list members who attended our Beyond Towers and Sprawl event. We heard an informative conversation between Alex Lee and Karen Parolek, featuring Opticos' visually appealing renditions of the climate-friendly, community-building housing we could have with appropriate reforms. If you missed the event, you can catch it here. Make sure to support Alex in his State Assembly campaign, and thank our cosponsors South Bay YIMBY and East Bay for Everyone. You can support Karen's work and learn more by buying Dan Parolek's book Missing Middle Housing.
Julian Castro at the YIMBY Awards this Fri!
Julian Castro, presidential candidate and former Housing & Urban Development Secretary under Pres. Obama, has been a national leader in calling for fair housing. He will keynote this year's YIMBY Awards. This year's event will be online at 5:30pm Oct 23: get your ticket now.
Reject a lease renewal for fossil fuel infrastructure on SF's public land
Urban Environmentalists Phillip Kobernick and Erik Shilts published this op-ed in the SF Examiner. Tell the SF Board of Supervisors that if their actions are to match their rhetoric on the climate emergency and our housing crisis, then a decade-long below-market lease to a gas station is not the way forward: sign our petition.
A telework mandate is not the climate solution we need
Rather than promoting walkable communities, complete streets, and fully funded transit, the regional transportation planning agency MTC is proposing to meet its obligations to reduce driving miles by mandating telework. Many of our region's political leaders, including London Breed and Scott Wiener, are pushing back. We have a petition with regional partner organizations led by Transbay Coalition to fix the mandate.
Transportation for America's new report Driving Down Emissions
Urban Environmentalists know that we can't decarbonize transportation with electric cars alone: and even if we could, we would be squandering the opportunity to prioritize healthier, equitable solutions. They gather together all our favorite arguments with compelling graphics and figures in this wonderful new report. Join them for a national discussion Oct 28.
Streets for People inaugural event
Friends of Urban Environmentalists have launched a new Bay Area organization Streets for People. Their first event will be a forum on Prop 22 this Thursday at 6pm.
Two weeks left to vote and volunteer!
We suggest referencing the YIMBY Action Voter Guide and the SPUR Voter Guide. And don't forget to volunteer for Yes on RR to save Caltrain!
What We're Reading
We have an exciting upcoming event we wanted to make sure that you learned about! On Mon, Oct 5, our monthly meeting will be Beyond Towers and Sprawl. Today our partners hosted a forum on how Measure RR can help support public transit. Sign up to support Measure RR here.
We're glad that Gov. Newsom signed SB 288! Thanks to those of you who may have emailed him.
Beyond Towers and Sprawl
It's OK if you like towers-- we do too! But when most people in the US think of housing possibilities, their minds immediately go to single-family detached houses on the one hand, and austere high-rises built from steel and concrete on the other. But this dichotomy itself is historically anomalous and a product of the mid-20th century pro-sprawl agenda. Worse, the specter of a century of racist housing policy looms over the conversation. First we had poorly conceived and maintained high-rise public housing projects, where Le Corbusier's Towers in the Park aesthetic met America's tragic commitment to segregated communities. More recently, the tables have turned and we have seen much of the new housing construction in American cities focused into a small area, taking the form of large condo projects marketed at the wealthy, often in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. (At the same time, far too few homes have been built altogether, and much of what has been built consists of new sprawl.)
Allowing a broader range of housing types over a broader geographic area, in the form of "missing middle housing," can be a big part of the solution: especially if this encourages housing designed to be car-light and facilitates building smaller, more affordable homes, even absent subsidies. One recent study found that the entire housing shortage in the US could conceivably be filled by missing middle alone (though the shortage is more pronounced in California). The movement for 15-minute cities and the rise of micromobility could synergize with the movement for missing middle to support Urban Environmentalist goals.
This is why we are excited to be in conversation with State Assembly candidate Alex Lee and Missing Middle expert Karen Parolek to explore this concept next week on Oct 5 at 7:30pm: please RSVP here. We thank South Bay YIMBY and East Bay for Everyone for cohosting.
What We're Reading
If you're in California, we hope you've been staying safe and cool and had access to clean air in these last few weeks of utterly terrifying atmospheric conditions. Our hearts go out to all those whose homes have been threatened, and we have utmost gratitude for those who must brave these conditions to continue to do essential work outdoors. But gratitude is not enough: we must all pitch in to build a resilient future while protecting our most vulnerable.
As Urban Environmentalists, we know that cities have a lot of work to do to meet the challenges of climate change. This timely NY Times article on the intersection between urban heat islands and racist redlining policies is a stark reminder of how racist and environmentally unfriendly policies have resulted in heat waves being much more uncomfortable and even dangerous for black and brown communities across the United States. And two of our favorite California leaders on housing and climate, Annie Fryman and Leonora Camner, provided some inspiration for our work in this incredible Vox interview released today. We are so glad to be taking on these important challenges together.
If you're joining us for the first time from the SPUR event on saving public transit, or because you sent emails to save Caltrain, welcome! Thanks for everyone who sent emails and helped make sure Measure RR made it to the ballot! Grassroots outreach (what we do) will be the margin of victory - Sign this pledge card and you’ll be connected with opportunities to help.
September 16 Happy Hour - Gather Mixer - RSVP Now!
Join us for informal hangout time in Gather, a fun virtual spot for mixing and mingling in small groups. Sign up today!
Coming Soon - What is the True Cost of Residential Parking Permits?
Have you ever wondered what we could do with the space and money we devote to residential parking, if it didn't all go to cars? Join us for an upcoming event in partnership with SPUR to explore this question, and to hear from experts on what it would take to equitably transition to more vibrant, inclusive, and sustainable use of our residential curb space. Stay tuned for the RSVP!
Coming Soon - Missing Middle Housing
Suburbs are environmentally unfriendly and perpetuate inequality - but that doesn't mean we all have to live in skyscrapers. Come learn about the promise of "missing middle" housing - duplexes and sixplexes, in-law units, subdivided lots, small cottages, and more! Our featured speaker will be Karen Parolek or a colleague from Opticos. The RSVP page is coming soon! In the meantime, learn more by reading this op-ed on missing middle housing in Los Angeles, and dive even deeper by checking out Dan Parolek's recent book.
Coming Soon - Urban Environmentalists x Livable Sunnyvale x Greenbelt Alliance
Let's talk about the intersections between urban environmentalism, the pro-housing movement, and preserving nature! Event details coming soon.
Urban Environmentalists promotes vibrant, diverse urban communities that nurture their inhabitants and benefit society, and provide abundant housing and opportunities for all. While we don't provide our own election endorsements, we are a part of the YIMBY Action network, and we invite you to look at the regional endorsements from our friends at SF YIMBY, Peninsula for Everyone (stay tuned for fall endorsements shortly), East Bay for Everyone, and Berkeley Neighbors for Housing & Climate Action. Your vote counts!
The California legislative season ended on August 31. Here's a rundown of which bills we support made it through, and which will have to wait until next year:
You can email Gov. Newsom to ask him to sign SB 288 and AB 2345, and let him know your disappointment that the legislature was not able to pass comprehensive housing reform this year.
Federally, we support the YIMBY Act which has passed the US House in a bipartisan vote and is now in the Senate. Follow Up for Growth (which Urban Environmentalists is a member of) for updates and ways to support. Also see Dan Bertolet's rundown of the major options for federal land use reform.
Hope to "see" you on Sep. 16.
Greetings! This month, we welcome all of our new members who wrote to the SF Board of Supervisors to express their support for Caltrain, as well as those who attended our SFCTA Congestion Pricing Update and Lunch & Learn with the Port of SF.
The mission of Urban Environmentalists is to address the climate and inequality crises by transforming cities and towns into inclusive communities designed around people rather than cars. We value healthy environments supportive of all life; vibrant, diverse, and nurturing urban communities with abundant housing and opportunities for all; and efficient, equitable use of our planet’s resources, especially land. We look forward to seeing you at one of our August events!
An Important Milestone
Every Urban Environmentalist contributes to this movement, and there are now over a thousand of us on this email list! To celebrate, we made this visualization of our 800 Bay Area members. The counts on the map represent the number of members in each ZIP Code.
Some other notable regions for Urban Environmentalists subscribers:
We recognize that our membership is lacking in many disadvantaged Bay Area communities that bear the brunt of our pollution burden and face barriers to affordable housing, healthcare, and employment. Our goal is to identify speakers and team leads who live in and advocate for these communities.
Last month was jam-packed! Events included an SFCTA Congestion Pricing Update and a lunch & learn with the Port of SF, co-hosted by the Association of Women in Water, Energy and Environment (AWWEE).
Today’s Actions - SB 902 + SB 288
SB 902 (Streamlining Rezoning up to 10-plexes)
SB 288 (CEQA Streamlining)
What we’re reading/watching:
Please help us with an urgent call to action to save Caltrain from shutdown.
Caltrain is a critical component of the Bay Area’s public transportation network. It must continue to operate for those who most need it - essential workers, and people needing to travel for basic needs who cannot afford to or are unable to drive - who are using it right now. We also need it to emerge strong after the pandemic for the Bay Area to have an inclusive future with more homes and less car pollution and car dependency.
On Wednesday, Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Shamann Walton on the SF Board of Supervisors blocked a proposed Caltrain funding measure from appearing on the ballot in November by failing to introduce it to the Board. Polls have indicated the ⅛ cent sales tax would stand a strong chance of passing, yet these two supervisors opposed it in an apparent dispute over Caltrain governance and funding mechanisms, with little warning for stakeholders in the rest of the Bay Area. Without this funding, the financial hardship imposed by COVID-19 could shut Caltrain permanently as it has no dedicated funding source, unlike other Bay Area agencies. Particularly given the $2 billion investment in electrifying the corridor, as well as Caltrain’s impressive equity proposals, it is critical that we insist our politicians preserve our regional transit infrastructure.
To advance the ballot measure, the SF Board of Supervisors now would need to pass an urgency ordinance, requiring a ⅔ majority. Please email the Board President Norman Yee at Norman.Yee@sfgov.org and cc Aaron.Peskin@sfgov.org, Shamann.Walton@sfgov.org, and your own district supervisor (if you live in San Francisco), or use this email tool we put together with SF YIMBY and SF HAC to contact the entire board demanding that they move the measure forward and let voters decide the future of Caltrain. Thanks to the people who have already called and emailed: members of the Board including Supervisor Matt Haney are listening and may take action, but we need to keep up our encouragement to make sure we get the votes for this.
Please continue to follow our friends at Green Caltrain for updates, and see their blog post and call to action with additional background.
For those of you who are new to Urban Environmentalists - welcome! Our mission is to address the climate and inequality crises by transforming cities and towns into inclusive communities designed around people rather than cars. We value healthy environments supportive of all life; vibrant, diverse, and nurturing urban communities with abundant housing and opportunities for all; and efficient, equitable use of our planet’s resources, especially land. We look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events!
Recently we had three great events - if you missed them, check out the recordings below!
Today’s Actions - SB 902 + SB 288
What we’re reading/watching: