Spaces not large enough for most vehicles without blocking driveways
Arco access designed for two distinct entries and exits
Arco situated at prime Fell and Divisadero intersection
As reported earlier, the MTA has proposed a set of safety measures to address the dangerous traffic conditions on Fell Street near the Arco gas station and Divisadero Street. The city's plan includes posting a sign to warn motorists to not block the sidewalk at the Arco entry, striping the existing bike lane so it is more visible, and creating a curbside queue along the west-end of Fell for motorists waiting to get gas. The last measure involves removing four parking spaces in front of residences and two others between the Arco driveways. At an April 2nd MTA hearing about parking removal, the hearing officer issued a continuance and directed MTA staff to consider five primary mitigations for their plan. The feasibility of adopting these measures is considered below; only one, perhaps two, holds much promise.
- Limit the no-parking period to specific hours rather than the current 24/7 proposal. This mitigation appears to be the most feasible as a compromise, although it has drawbacks. A few neighbors have proposed an effective period of less than 24 hours, perhaps from 9am to 9pm, for the six parking spaces. But leaving out the morning commute hours for those who travel Fell to get to jobs exposes them to the same risks that exist now. Opponents to a shortened time period offer two arguments against it: changing motorists' behaviors with variable traffic designs during the day is difficult and late night hours are risky due to limited visibility in the darkness.
- Implementation of a Residential Parking Permit (RPP) area for the block of Fell between Scott and Divisadero. Adding this block to the current RPP system will be difficult and time-consuming. MTA regulations require that a new candidate block must be contiguous with an existing RPP area. The nearest RPP areas are 2 1/2 blocks away at Scott and Haight Streets and another at Divisadero and Page, 2 blocks distant (see map). More than 50% of the residents on the Fell block as well as on the linkage blocks would have to petition to join the existing RRP area. Once a petition is submitted, a fairly extensive review begins.
- More outreach to Arco operators and management to engage them in a solution. Several neighbors at the April 2nd MTA hearing complained about extraordinary efforts by the city to accommodate a safety problem caused by Arco. But MTA staff and city attorneys -- as well as Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi -- have reported several attempts to engage Arco without a satisfactory response.
- Elimination of the parking meters on the north side of Fell near Divisadero. Five metered spaces are currently in place: 2 for 30 minute periods, 3 for regular time periods. Removing meters runs counter to the city's attempts to preserve existing sources of revenue and secure new funds. While nearby neighbors might appreciate five more non-metered spaces, merchants on the busy and increasingly popular Divisadero corridor will likely take exception to the plan for reducing turnover in parking for customers.
- Close access to Arco from Fell altogether and permitting Divisadero access only. This proposal seems to hold promise except Arco would likely resist it as much as possible. The current configuration of the pumps at the station serves the two different entries with easy access, but that arrangement would have to change for all vehicles to enter from Divisadero. Currently it is very difficult to maneuver from the Divisadero access to the pumps at the Fell side. With the current popularity of its low gas prices and lined-up customers, Arco has little motivation to undertake such a change. Adding more traffic and congestion to Divisadero runs counter to MTA's efforts to improve Muni travel times on primary bus routes. And it's not clear the city wants to pursue this option for various legal, political and regulatory reasons.
A Closer Look at the Existing Residential Parking. At the MTA hearing, 12 San Franciscans who travel on Fell Street -- in cars or on bikes -- supported the safety measures including the parking removal. Five neighbors opposed it. Previous to the meeting 41 individuals notified MTA of their support; no one registered opposition. In addition the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association board of directors supported the plan on a trial basis.
Those against the plan at the MTA meeting reported their observation that the area already lacked adequate parking and could not afford to lose more spaces. But, in effect, hardly anyone in the greater neighborhood can even use the parking in front of the residences just east of Arco. These four spaces are sub-standard in length and are large enough only for a mini-size vehicle; anything larger would block one of the driveways. As a result, the only neighbors who can use the spaces are the specific residents who live in those few buildings since they are allowed to park in front of their own driveways.
The fact that the spaces proposed for removal primarily serve just a few residents does not mean that parking should be removed, but it does provide some perspective on a problem that has no easy solution. As several supporters of the MTA proposal noted at the hearing, "Parking is not a right, but safety is." At some point, public safety for all road users in San Francisco must be weighed against the real difficulties for a few Fell Street residents who would lose parking spaces and for a neighborhood that might experience tighter parking.
MTA staff have not yet revealed their own assessment of the proposed mitigations or whether they are considering other options. They are certainly aware of the basic consensus among all westside neighbors: the current situation is dangerous and something must be done. Staff will likely present their review of proposed mitigations at an upcoming, not-as-yet scheduled follow-up public hearing. Nearby residents will be notified of the hearing, and the information will be posted on BIKE NOPA and other sites.