Upset About San Francisco Parking? Get Free Parking on Lower Turk

by Karin Drucker, 2013-02-13

Looking for free parking in San Francisco? Come to the first block of Turk street. At a time when San Francisco denies even the parking meters their Sunday day of rest, you can park on the lowest block of Turk with little fear of ticketing or towing. Cars and trucks appear in yellow zones early in the morning and stay all day. Antiquated (read: broken) meters always appear fed. Meanwhile, parking enforcement officers zoom straight past cars and trucks that have been chilling all day in yellow commercial zones. Why does city parking enforcement ignore the 0- 100 block of Turk St.? Thatís a great question that children and other residents forced to walk by the drug dealers owning and/or using these illegally parked vehicles as shields for illegal activity would like answered.

The first block of Turk Street boasts the Tenderloinís highest crime and violence, with open drug dealing, drug use, and people crowding the sidewalk. If you are wondering why parking impacts public safety on this block, consider that the cars parked there provide a convenient and comfortable shelter for individuals to buy and sell drugs. The lack of attention from parking enforcement encourages more and more audacious behavior including serious drug use in a neighborhood where children walk to and from school and which is a mere three blocks from the posh Nordstromís shopping center.

The greatest irony is that while the city expects to collect $2 million from the hungry Sunday meters this year, the individuals that San Francisco pays to ticket and tow just arenít enforcing the parking meters on the other six days. No, parking revenue from this block will not close the cityís budget deficit.

So, why isnít parking enforced? Several theories come to mind.

First, and most glaring, is that parking enforcement does not want to stop on the block at all. After all, interacting with drug dealers wasnít part of the Municipal Transit Authorityís (MTA) job description.

Second, the block has little well-established commerce. The liquor stores require some space for unloading supplies, but in short there is no business interest vocal enough to shame the city into keeping their commercial zones open.

Third, parking enforcement higher ups do not seem to care about the lost revenue from non-enforcement of Turk Street parking laws. If they did, the current all day free parking---even in tow a way zones-- would not be tolerated

One city entity has stepped forward to enforce the law: the Tenderloin Police Station. It has issued tickets to parking violators, and worked with the Central City SRO Collaborative to address the issue. But Tenderloin police have better things to do than enforcing commercial parking zones, and should not be expected to do the parking departmentís job

The bottom line is clear: while San Francisco charges for Sunday parking and cracks down on parking violations elsewhere, it allows those involved in the illegal drug trade to park for free on lower Turk. This situation has got to stop.

Karin Drucker is an organizer with the Central City SRO Collaborative, located at 48 Turk St.