[Edited most recently on January 7]
Nearly 50 years of free parking in downtown Glen Park ended abruptly last week when the gravel-strewn lot on Kern Alley was vacated and taped off. Two years of negotiation to legalize public parking there fell apart last November, and going forward the land will be for private use only.
“To say we were disappointed is an understatement,” said Patricia Hayes, who is managing the property for the Hayes family. The family owns some of the adjacent buildings as well.
In the end, it came down to trees.
“The landscape requirement of one tree per every five spaces and a five-foot landscape set-back from the sidewalk rendered the project unviable,” said Hayes in an email to the Glen Park Association. According to the architect hired to design the lot, the requirement would leave room for only seven vehicles.
The chapter is the latest in a long story of de facto parking and dense housing dreams. The land belonged to the City after the widening of Bosworth Street in the 1960s, but plans to create a city-owned public parking lot never materialized, and neither did a subsequent proposal to create city-owned public senior housing.
The lot was put on the market in 1971 and bought in 1974 by Tom Hayes and Bernie Kelly, both of whom owned several buildings in downtown Glen Park. (Bernie Kelly died in December 2017, and the Hayes family became the lot’s sole owner.)
All the while, people were parking there. But the land isn’t zoned for public parking. The eastern two-thirds of the lot is zoned for housing (RH2), which forbids public parking lot development. The western third is zoned “Neighborhood Commercial Transit” (NCT), which allows for apartments. Public parking lots can be developed on NCT land only if the owner applies for a short-term Conditional Use Permit, which in turn must be approved by the Planning Department.
With an eye toward developing the lot for housing in the long run, the Hayes family applied for a Conditional Use Permit in the meantime so they could charge for parking and thereby maintain the lot and keep it safe. The Planning Department denied the request.
Next Hayes went to then-Supervisor Jeff Sheehy for help. Sheehy wrote legislation to amend the City Planning Code to allow the multi-zoned parcel to be a public parking lot, putting in a sunset provision after six years.
Everyone seems to recognize the dual zoning is wonky and that unpermitted parking was a liability. In its recommendation against Sheehy’s legislation, the Planning Department hinted that someone should apply to rezone it all as NCT, though they didn’t promise to recommend approval of a conditional use for parking that might follow the rezoning.
Planning Commissioners themselves indicated support for rezoning the entire lot, as did some neighbors who testified. But that was not the legislation before them, and the Commissioners disapproved Sheehy’s legislation.
Nonetheless, the Board of Supervisors subsequently passed it in June, 2018, and plans to pave the parking lot were on again.
Patty Hayes came to the July 2018 Glen Park Association quarterly meeting and gave neighbors the news: The family was hiring Glen Park architectural firm SF-ARC to design the lot, and they hoped to develop housing there in the long term. The lot would no longer be free, she said, but the revenue from paid parking would be used to keep it clean and safe.
SF-ARC got to work but could not find a way to meet the city’s tree landscaping requirements and create a lot with enough spaces to generate the revenue needed for upkeep. By late November, after a second plan was rejected for want of trees, the Hayes family threw in the towel and decided to go private.
The lot will be available to the tenants of their commercial buildings downtown only. It will be paved, fenced, and have improved lighting, Hayes said, noting that at least it will look much better than it does now.