When a proposal that San Francisco adopt a "balanced transportation" policy to protect the interests of drivers got more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, folks like SFist's commenter community appeared dismayed. But did the supporters of the measure break local election rules, or did they get their support legitimately? According to two people who spoke with Streetsblog SF, shenanigans were afoot.
The "Restoring Transportation Balance in San Francisco" measure says that "with 79% of San Francisco households owning or leasing an automobile and nearly 50% of San Franciscans who work outside of their homes driving or carpooling to work, it is time for the Mayor, the Supervisors, and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board to restore a balanced transportation policy for all San Franciscans." Included in that policy, RTB says, is a rule that "Parking meters should not operate on any City and County holiday listed on sfgov.org, on Sundays, or outside the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m." (You can read the entire text of the policy here.)
Of course, as you know, the SFMTA board agreed to dump metered parking on Sundays, as of July 6. However, according to two different people who contacted Streetsblog, "petition collectors seen outside Safeway stores made false claims that the mayor had not repealed Sunday parking metering, and that the ballot measure would 'restore' free parking."
The transit-advocacy site cites the experiences of Patrick Carroll, who says that when approached in a Safeway parking lot, "he told the petitioner that he’d understood that the SFMTA Board of Directors had already repealed Sunday parking metering at the behest of Mayor Ed Lee. The petitioner then claimed that 'the mayor had backed off.'"
And, sure enough, the RTB's flier, which is available on their site, says that their measure calls for "Restoring free parking at meters on Sundays, holidays and evenings."
So what gives? If Sunday Parking is doneski, why tell people part of the mission of your ballot measure is to get rid of it? According to RTB spokesperson Jason Clark, that's because "it could come back at any time."
"My understanding is that the ban [on Sunday meter enforcement] could be repealed," Clark told SFist. "The SFMTA could bring [Sunday meters] back, so this would be legislation to ensure they can't."
When asked about the allegations that petitioners were giving the impression that Sunday meters were still active, Clark noted that "at this point" the allegations are "all hearsay," and that as far as he knows, all signature gatherers "were trained to give messaging consistent with what's on our website."
"Hearsay" was also the word used by John Arntz, director of San Francisco's Department of Elections, which is tasked with verifying all the signatures collected for local ballot measures. However, he tells SFist that the DOE passes all signature fraud allegations (no matter how big or small) on to the District Attorney's office for them to be investigated, because "it's potentially a criminal matter." It did not appear that any complaints had been brought to the DOE over this specific issue as of Wednesday morning.
Regardless of these allegations, Clark is confident that RTB will prevail in San Francisco. The measure, which needed 9,702 signatures to make it onto the November ballot and received 17,500, is "getting support from surprising places," Clark says.
"People are getting fed up that a 'transit first' policy means making people who use a car so miserable that they have to use other, less desirable options," Clark said. "We're proposing a policy to change that."