News & Research Archive

San Francisco Must Add New Parking

Jul 31, 2006



San Francisco will choke in traffic congestion if it does not implement a long-term plan to address new mass transportation alternatives and to add parking lots downtown and in some of the most congested neighborhoods. Clement, Noriega, and Irving streets come to mind as thriving neighborhood merchant streets that are dying off because of the lack of available parking. One look at the deterioration of the quality and maintenance of existing businesses in these areas brings this point home—and the trend will carry over to the larger business districts if a plan is not put in place soon.


The current policy is to discourage new parking to force people to use mass transportation. In reality, for those who must use their car every day, mass transportation is simply not an option. Yet, the city is retaining its long-term plan to force people out of cars into mass transportation even in the face of the new Bloomindales project on 5th and Mission opening in October, the continued expansion of Mission Bay, and other office and housing development.


The cost to a business for a parking space in the north Financial District is $300 to $400 per month; South of Market, the cost is $250 to $350 per month. Mid-Market Street, which will see a tremendous pressure on existing parking, is currently $250 to $300 per month. Compare these rates to parking options in San Mateo, Alameda, and the North Bay, where parking is either free or less than $150 per month in central business districts.  Gross receipts and payroll taxes add to the burden of doing business in San Francisco.


San Francisco needs to compete on a regional basis. Tenants leave the city when real estate prices get too high or when the cost of doing business is too high, as happened in the late 1980s. With rising gas prices and freeway gridlock, it is only a matter of time before businesses will move closer to their employees who find it too expensive to compute to their jobs in the city.


But San Franciscans continue to view the need for additional parking spaces as politically incorrect. Advocating for parking is considered political suicide in this city. In addition, parking lots are not assumed to be the “highest and best use” for a development, given the growing popularity of housing buildings.


Some options are available:

  • Promote more racked parking lots, where more cars are stored on the same footprint.
  • Treat parking as we do affordable housing. Developers should contribute to a parking fund that will assist in the purchase and development of more parking lots throughout San Francisco.
  • Continue to explore new mass transportation options as well as alternative driving options such as the share-a-car program.


Even utilizing these options, though, the truth is that parking lots are the key to avoiding the congestion that is eroding our small merchant base and will soon begin to hurt our office and downtown market.


Written by: Hans Hansson


Hans Hansson is President of Starboard TCN Worldwide Real Estate Services as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TCN Worldwide Real Estate. Hans has been an active broker for over 21 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and specializes in office leasing and investments. If you have any questions or comments please email or call him at (415) 765-6897. You may also check out his website,

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