For people living in vehicles, SF’s parking restrictions disrupt and displace

SF Examiner/Mike Koozman

The City continues to expand parking restrictions that have a detrimental impact on people who reside in their vehicles.

On Tuesday September 19, 2017 the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors and Parking Authority Commission’s had yet another parking restriction on the agenda that would displace more people who live in their vehicles.  The board told MTA representatives that they are no longer willing to take requests for more “Oversize Vehicle” restrictions until the City develops alternatives, and yet the “Tow-Away No Stopping Any Time” parking and traffic modification they passed will have the same impact on people seeking a safe place to sleep.

Organizers implored the board to stop the expansion of harmful policies and instead focus energy on cultivating solutions that respond to all the needs of our city and not just the desires of a few.

The “Tow-Away No Stopping Any Time” was approved for Jerrold Avenue, east side, from Barneveld Avenue to Bayshore Boulevard, which will impact approximately 15 vehicle residents.

The Coalition on Homelessness has worked closely alongside the vehicularly housed community for more than five years, fighting the expansion of the parking restriction that impact people who live in their vehicle. Throughout this process, COH has offered solutions, perspectives and ideas for responding to the very real needs and issues posed by large vehicles and vehicle dwellers.

The recommendations presented by the Coalition on Homelessness for solutions to the collective problem are:

  • City should establish a safe parking program to establish lots/locations for the vehicularly housed community to live in
  • Review and audit current police code prohibiting habitation in a vehicle. We have a housing crisis in San Francisco, and until every human has a safe place to sleep, they should not be criminalized for taking care of their basic need for rest.
  • City should determine a mechanism for dropping tow charges for any vehicle towed that is also someone’s home.
  • Audit and reassessment of parking restrictions in San Francisco.

According to Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer at the Coalition on Homelessness, “Not a single (recommendation) has been effectively explored or implemented. Instead, they just continue to increase the parking restrictions.”

The parking restrictions made overnight parking illegal for large vehicles and has resulted in massive displacement of families and individuals living in their vehicles as well as increased suffering and sleep deprivation for the over 200 vehicle dwellers in San Francisco.

“Again I ask SFMTA Board of Directors for a safe place to park. Without your help and support, I cannot overcome my circumstances,” said Melodie, who lives in her oversized vehicle, during public comment. “Thus I am a scapegoat of societal hypocrisy which demands I overcome my circumstances while striping me of every single resource required to do so.”

Even SFMTA’s own evaluation of the parking ban pilot project identified that the result most experienced by vehicularly housed people was displacement to new areas, creating new problem areas. There is no reason to believe that expansion of the parking restriction will result in anything but continued displacement to new problem areas.