San Fran Parking Risks and Violence

The New York Times has a pretty disturbing review of how bad tempers have become in San Francisco. They point out that parking attendants are now under constant threat of being attacked by angry car owners roaming the streets:

People in the field say abuse is common, often frightening and, occasionally, humiliating. In November, an officer was spat on, another was punched through the window of his Geo Metro, and an irate illegal parker smashed the windshield of another officer’s golf-cart-like vehicle.

“Just driving down the street, you get yelled at,� said Lawanna Preston, staff director for Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents parking control officers.

The officers are city employees but not in the Police Department.

“They can’t even eat lunch with that uniform on, because people approach them and curse at them,� Ms. Preston said.

About 75 officers demonstrated on Friday at the Hall of Justice asking for more protection.

More protection…meanwhile, a parking crisis looms. One person, apparently an expert on the subject, says cheap parking meters and expensive lots are to blame for the crisis:

“Whenever someone from San Francisco calls to whine about the fact there’s no parking,� he said, “I always say, ‘Well, you have to choose, do you want to be more like San Francisco or more like L.A.?’ And that usually ends the conversation.�

That said, Professor Shoup noted that San Francisco had some questionable parking policies, namely cheap on-street parking and expensive garages and lots, a dynamic that encourages drivers to look endlessly for meters rather than pay for the privilege of parking off the street.

But that doesn’t explain the violence. Do San Franciscans think that they should be able to fight meter officers to get cheap parking? Is the city of free love becoming a city of hate? Fighting with parking enforcement should have some clear disincentives, no? It appears there may be something more sinister going on here, highlighted in events like the recent attack on a singing group from Yale visiting the city:

The incident, [Tina D’Elia of Community United Against Violence] said, shows “a level of targeted rage and hatred that is really scary and to me just screams that it is a problem that’s not going away. … If that’s not addressed, then what do we have? We have dead bodies.”

Indeed. While it may be hard to pin down the motives, the consequences of violent acts like those mentioned above are fairly clear and should not be tolerated or treated lightly by American cities.

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