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Point of View

SFpark, My People and Your People, Egalitarian Parking

By John Van Horn

I know it’s a tad soon for this conversation. However, I hark back to my Parking Today Blog from Dec. 16, which had this money quote from blogger Michael Perkins at Greater Greater Washington (DC):
SFpark is an innovative, federally supported performance parking pilot program. But it will adjust meter rates in its seven pilot areas this month [December 2011] – the third adjustment since the program’s launch in 2010.
Each time San Francisco has adjusted the rates, the spread between the least expensive and the most expensive blocks has increased. After this latest adjustment, parking rates will vary from a low of $0.75/hour up to $4.25/hour. To date, the most crowded blocks have typically continued to be crowded even after adjusting the prices upward, while under-occupied blocks have not filled up even after dropping the price.
Are we asking too much? I have wondered for some time if “the word” can get out and people will truly understand the difference between parking on one block from parking on another.
The folks we want to reach are those looking for a space near their destination – the ones who cruise around and around and would be helped by a space made free by market-based pricing. The problem is, how does this person know the price of on-street parking is at a particular point in time?
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency would say that people should check their smartphone and get all that information. Well, yeah, but you are asking them to break California law and fiddle with their phone while they are driving. The solution is, of course, having signs around telling folks just what it costs to park on a particular street.
If I knew that I could walk a couple of blocks and save $8, maybe I would do so. Or maybe not. However, if I don’t have that information, then I will just park, lock, go to the meter, pay what it says, and be done with it – probably cursing the high price of parking in San Francisco, but then everything is pricy in SF, so it is to be expected.
***
“I won’t park in the same lot as my competitor.” OK, it’s not that simple; well, maybe it is. Seems Hollywood Super Agent Ari Emanuel, who heads William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME), the West Coast’s largest and most influential talent agency, had a heated discussion with his landlord, well, sort of his landlord.
When Emanuel merged his agency (Endeavor) with William Morris, he also got a long-term office lease that William Morris had secured in Beverly Hills. He already had some space he wanted to use and needed to break the lease. A clause in the lease said the landlord could not rent to a competitor. Therein lies the tale.
One of Emanuel’s largest competitors is the Gersh Agency, which recently moved into the building next door and shares the 750-space valet parking garage. The landlord controls both buildings.
Although to most it would seem silly, this is a very big deal in the entertainment business. What if “Jack” or “Angelina” were seen by their agent parking in a garage that served a competitor? OMG! Word would get out that “talks” were underway.
My people would be calling your people. We might be able to head off a potential deal. The buzz would be everywhere. “Is Madonna going to jump ship?” Sheesh.
Who would have thunk it, that a parking garage and who parks in it could make such a difference? But with millions of dollars swinging on every deal in LaLa Land, it’s no wonder that where one parks could be a deal breaker.
On Jan. 28, The Wall Street Journal reported that, after arbitration, Emanuel’s agency agreed to pay the building owner “about $30 million to resolve a dispute over WME’s refusal to occupy the building, even though [the agency] inherited a 20-year lease on it, people familiar with the matter say.”
***
The Boston Globe has jumped on the “let’s report about parking” bandwagon. It’s a very long mid-January article (“The case for the $6 parking meter”) talking about demand-based pricing, San Francisco, and the like. Not much new.
However, the reporter veers off the track a bit when he says:
If Back Bay [Boston] spots floated up to a market price, lower-income drivers would effectively lose access to parking spaces that they have as much legal right to as anyone else. The result, ultimately, would be a city where the rich have access to whatever spots they want, while everybody else has to settle for what’s affordable.
Everything must, what, cost the same, be the same, and we should all have access to the same? What is that all about? I think we know, and so does Karl Marx. However, my buddy in Singapore, Paul Barter (who is a much nicer guy than I am) over at Reinventing Parking, puts it well in a Jan. 23 article, “Tangled Up in Equity Arguments”:
How does having the “legal right” to park have anything to do with how parking should be priced? I have a “legal right” to rent an apartment in the most prestigious street in my city. The fact that I, like most people, can’t afford to do so has nothing to do with whether apartments should be market-priced.
Of course, if significant numbers of people can’t afford any decent shelter, we must look for solutions. In market economies, those solutions are (usually) targeted and don’t abolish market pricing for real estate generally. In any case, surely parking in busy urban streets is much less of a basic need than housing.
JVH

Article Abstract from March, 2012




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