placard 1.jpgIn a City already strapped with budget problems, a reported waste of $15 million is hard to swallow. Unless, perhaps, you’re easing your car into a parking spot with a sweet new disabled parking placard. According to the Ex, roughly 14% of metered spots are taken up by placard-wielding cars, making walks for the disabled a little shorter and the parking, free. But does SF have too many parking placards, or too few?

In total, there are 50,742 placards in SF, which translates to about 2 placards per parking meter. According to the SFMTA, metered spaces are occupied 14 percent of the time by vehicles with placards, perhaps one of the reasons they believe that not all of these are legit. The transit agency even uses sting operations to nab the non-disabled who are using the placards under false pretenses.

Disability activist Bob Planthold appears to agree with the MTA, telling the Ex that “there is placard abuse in San Francisco,” and that the 14% statistic is way too high given the number of genuinely disabled people driving in SF.

Director of the Mayor’s Office of Disability, Susan Mizner, isn’t so sure about that, saying that census data suggests that 20% of San Franciscans are disabled, and that “she wishes the placard-usage rate was higher, since that would mean more able-bodied residents were taking public transit.”

Urban planning think-tank SPUR last year suggested that one way for the financially struggling SFMTA could generate additional income would be to charge each disabled placard holder $300/year for the privilege.

At an SFMTA meeting last year, board member Malcolm Heinecke acknowledged that this proposal would require a change to state laws and was therefore not a real possibility, but not before Planthold penned a scathing piece in BeyondChron calling the proposal sloppy and biased against the disabled.

That said, 2007 city controller’s report found that San Francisco loses $15 million a year due to placard abuse.

If that’s not enough piling on disabled placard holders, we’ve got one more for you: at a recent pedestrian safety meeting, Police Captain Al Casciato said disabled drivers are a common thread among pedestrian accidents because their special parking placards, which when left hanging in their cars, can create a distraction.


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the author

Always in motion. April Siese writes about music, takes photos at shows, and even helps put them on behind the scenes as a stagehand. She's written everything from hard news to beauty features, as well as fiction and poetry. She most definitely likes pie.

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  • Equiman

    What we are talking about here is free parking.
    Everyday, City employees are allowed to park free on City property
    and also on the street in “lettered Zone A B C parking areas” with special, free placards
    on their dashes.
    If we want to reform parking in San Francisco, let’s not just
    pick on the disabled, let’s pick on everyone including the able bodied.

    Of course, some of those in charge don’t want to mess with their own free parking.

  • Equiman

    What we are talking about here is free parking.
    Everyday, City employees are allowed to park free on City property
    and also on the street in “lettered Zone A B C parking areas” with special, free placards
    on their dashes.
    If we want to reform parking in San Francisco, let’s not just
    pick on the disabled, let’s pick on everyone including the able bodied.

    Of course, some of those in charge don’t want to mess with their own free parking.

  • Rick

    I have known more than one person whose partner has passed who has kept using the Disabled placard, which seems just crap behavior to me.

    But – last year, I spent a lot of time at the SFPL Main Branch working on a project.

    Several times I would be waiting outside as uniformed SF “Library Police” or whatever they are – would pull up to the curb right outside, with Disabled Placards in place, park – and then run into the Library with their lunch etc. And I mean run.

    Why should anyone else be honest until and unless the City takes abuses by ALL of its employees and departments seriously?

    Employees caught should not only have to pay significant fines, but their parking should be 1099ed as income.

  • Rick

    I have known more than one person whose partner has passed who has kept using the Disabled placard, which seems just crap behavior to me.

    But – last year, I spent a lot of time at the SFPL Main Branch working on a project.

    Several times I would be waiting outside as uniformed SF “Library Police” or whatever they are – would pull up to the curb right outside, with Disabled Placards in place, park – and then run into the Library with their lunch etc. And I mean run.

    Why should anyone else be honest until and unless the City takes abuses by ALL of its employees and departments seriously?

    Employees caught should not only have to pay significant fines, but their parking should be 1099ed as income.

  • Katie

    Full disclosure: I have a painful mobility impairment. Don’t own a car but when I rent my zipcar, I do have a parking placard.

    A $300 fee to get a parking placard??? Like people with disabilities aren’t already financially burdened enough!! It’s not about convenience, it’s about accessibility. If I had to park in the far back corner of Safeway’s parking lot, I’d tire myself out by walking to the store, walking around in the store, then pushing my groceries back to the car. This doesn’t include the fact that I’m probably already tired as hell because I’ve spent all day fighting to get a seat on Muni, went to work, and oh yea– MISSING HALF OF MY DAMN FOOT. If I can’t park near the entrance, I can’t grocery shop.

    You know how much money I have to spend trying to relieve pain? Every week I take about $120 of prescriptions. I used to get massages and body work but can’t afford them. They used to relieve a lot of the pain, but I had to choose rent over not being in searing pain all day. I lose money because I’m late to work because I’m in so much pain it takes me that much longer to get to the train. I lose money because I have to take time off work to go to the doctor, who treats me like a damn drug addict for asking for any pain pills so I won’t lie awake all night in pain day after day.

    15% of the population has some kind of disability. Many are invisible (pain disorders, balance disorders, missing half of a foot I’m able to cram my stump into a shoe most of the time) and many young people who “don’t look disabled” are.
    I’m tired of reading articles about how the disabled are such money-hungry, litigation happy group. It’s 20-freaking-11, I think a deli could install a damn ramp so I don’t have to crawl on my hands and knees because I can’t go over the threshold. (Yes, that happened to me once, back when I was still using my walker. It was humiliating.)
    The disabled have pretty difficult existence. We aren’t all inspirational wheelchair athletes or able to overcome a physical impairment to perform a song, fly a plane, write a book, whatever. It sucks. A lot!! It sucks, it sucks, it sucks, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
    I’m sorry I’m not able to park far away from my destination and walk. I’ll work harder on growing back those bones, tendons and muscle so you can park a little closer to safeway. I regularly get yelled at on the street for walking too slowly or for ascending the stairs at a subway station too slowly. Last week on the T, an older woman physically slapped me on the wrist and told me to stand up. I held up my cane in my left hand and just stared at her. Do you know what it’s like to have your disability questioned near-daily? I’ve taken my right shoe off on the bus before because some lady thought I was carrying a cane just to get a seat. Showing her a big scarred up stump finally shut her the hell up because she would not believe me when I said I can’t stand on the bus. I’ve walked barefoot through my own house to have my roommate’s jerkoff friend stare at my foot. When she thought I was out of earshot, she made fun of my limp. In my own home.
    I have enough self-esteem now to tell a-holes like the above just where they can shove it, but what about the disabled population who can’t speak up for themselves? There were months I was so mortified to have to ask for a seat, that I was standing up and hurting myself when I didn’t need to. PWD often-times have self-esteem problems because our bodies don’t work how they’re supposed to, they hurt all the damn time and sometimes our skin is scar-covered and scary looking. Could you stand up for yourself in public like that? What if you feel like a disfigured freak who barely deserves oxygen, let alone a seat on the train? Do you know what kind of toll being in severe chronic pain takes?
    I might seem a little furious, but I have to fight jerks, ableism, and pain every damn day. This is the only way to not get taken advantage of constantly.

    As for the poll results, who the hell WANTS to be disabled enough to get a parking placard??? The placards come from the DMV, which checks the doctor’s signature and diagnosis for accuracy. They don’t just hand out the parking placards at 7-11. If anyone wants a parking placard, I’d be more than glad to accept your foot as a donation transplant. (Size 9.5 please)

    San Francisco’s able privilege is showing and it’s not pretty. There is a parking problem in this city, but stop blaming it on the legitimately disabled!

  • Katie

    Full disclosure: I have a painful mobility impairment. Don’t own a car but when I rent my zipcar, I do have a parking placard.

    A $300 fee to get a parking placard??? Like people with disabilities aren’t already financially burdened enough!! It’s not about convenience, it’s about accessibility. If I had to park in the far back corner of Safeway’s parking lot, I’d tire myself out by walking to the store, walking around in the store, then pushing my groceries back to the car. This doesn’t include the fact that I’m probably already tired as hell because I’ve spent all day fighting to get a seat on Muni, went to work, and oh yea– MISSING HALF OF MY DAMN FOOT. If I can’t park near the entrance, I can’t grocery shop.

    You know how much money I have to spend trying to relieve pain? Every week I take about $120 of prescriptions. I used to get massages and body work but can’t afford them. They used to relieve a lot of the pain, but I had to choose rent over not being in searing pain all day. I lose money because I’m late to work because I’m in so much pain it takes me that much longer to get to the train. I lose money because I have to take time off work to go to the doctor, who treats me like a damn drug addict for asking for any pain pills so I won’t lie awake all night in pain day after day.

    15% of the population has some kind of disability. Many are invisible (pain disorders, balance disorders, missing half of a foot I’m able to cram my stump into a shoe most of the time) and many young people who “don’t look disabled” are.
    I’m tired of reading articles about how the disabled are such money-hungry, litigation happy group. It’s 20-freaking-11, I think a deli could install a damn ramp so I don’t have to crawl on my hands and knees because I can’t go over the threshold. (Yes, that happened to me once, back when I was still using my walker. It was humiliating.)
    The disabled have pretty difficult existence. We aren’t all inspirational wheelchair athletes or able to overcome a physical impairment to perform a song, fly a plane, write a book, whatever. It sucks. A lot!! It sucks, it sucks, it sucks, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
    I’m sorry I’m not able to park far away from my destination and walk. I’ll work harder on growing back those bones, tendons and muscle so you can park a little closer to safeway. I regularly get yelled at on the street for walking too slowly or for ascending the stairs at a subway station too slowly. Last week on the T, an older woman physically slapped me on the wrist and told me to stand up. I held up my cane in my left hand and just stared at her. Do you know what it’s like to have your disability questioned near-daily? I’ve taken my right shoe off on the bus before because some lady thought I was carrying a cane just to get a seat. Showing her a big scarred up stump finally shut her the hell up because she would not believe me when I said I can’t stand on the bus. I’ve walked barefoot through my own house to have my roommate’s jerkoff friend stare at my foot. When she thought I was out of earshot, she made fun of my limp. In my own home.
    I have enough self-esteem now to tell a-holes like the above just where they can shove it, but what about the disabled population who can’t speak up for themselves? There were months I was so mortified to have to ask for a seat, that I was standing up and hurting myself when I didn’t need to. PWD often-times have self-esteem problems because our bodies don’t work how they’re supposed to, they hurt all the damn time and sometimes our skin is scar-covered and scary looking. Could you stand up for yourself in public like that? What if you feel like a disfigured freak who barely deserves oxygen, let alone a seat on the train? Do you know what kind of toll being in severe chronic pain takes?
    I might seem a little furious, but I have to fight jerks, ableism, and pain every damn day. This is the only way to not get taken advantage of constantly.

    As for the poll results, who the hell WANTS to be disabled enough to get a parking placard??? The placards come from the DMV, which checks the doctor’s signature and diagnosis for accuracy. They don’t just hand out the parking placards at 7-11. If anyone wants a parking placard, I’d be more than glad to accept your foot as a donation transplant. (Size 9.5 please)

    San Francisco’s able privilege is showing and it’s not pretty. There is a parking problem in this city, but stop blaming it on the legitimately disabled!

  • Josh

    I’m going to go with the idea that I’m sure there’s away to discover more of the abusers and to create a process to make sure those applying are qualified, if the city is really losing 15 Million, then it’s worth the staff hours to bring this down by a large percentage.

    But 300? That would just be an attack on those who’re *poor* and disabled, not those who’re breaking the rules because they can. It’s worth way more than 300 in not getting a ticket every month to people who’re abusing the system.

  • Josh

    I’m going to go with the idea that I’m sure there’s away to discover more of the abusers and to create a process to make sure those applying are qualified, if the city is really losing 15 Million, then it’s worth the staff hours to bring this down by a large percentage.

    But 300? That would just be an attack on those who’re *poor* and disabled, not those who’re breaking the rules because they can. It’s worth way more than 300 in not getting a ticket every month to people who’re abusing the system.

  • DT

    Abuse is rampant. I sat next to a woman on MUNI who was filling out the placard application for a non-English-speaking relative who had tennis elbow.

    Parking placards should be limited to those with mobility disabilities.

    I cannot drive a car or ride a bicycle due to head injury received when run over while on the sidewalk at age 7 and went flying over 50 feet. You can’t see my disability, nor can vision tests find it because the effect of moving objects happens only when I am in motion. My 100+ concussions for running into buildings, telephone poles, trees and the like should qualify me, but I have never been able to get a discounted MUNI pass.

  • DT

    Abuse is rampant. I sat next to a woman on MUNI who was filling out the placard application for a non-English-speaking relative who had tennis elbow.

    Parking placards should be limited to those with mobility disabilities.

    I cannot drive a car or ride a bicycle due to head injury received when run over while on the sidewalk at age 7 and went flying over 50 feet. You can’t see my disability, nor can vision tests find it because the effect of moving objects happens only when I am in motion. My 100+ concussions for running into buildings, telephone poles, trees and the like should qualify me, but I have never been able to get a discounted MUNI pass.

  • Al

    I’m not a fan of the $300 proposal, for the reasons listed by Josh.

    On the other hand, it’s a bit ridiculous that a placard entitles one to park not only without limit, but for free, all day. It seems to me that allowing a tripled time limit and half-price parking (or even just one of those) would achieve the desired effects while minimizing both the potential and incentives for abuse (IE parking a car in the most congested areas and leaving it there all day).

  • Al

    I’m not a fan of the $300 proposal, for the reasons listed by Josh.

    On the other hand, it’s a bit ridiculous that a placard entitles one to park not only without limit, but for free, all day. It seems to me that allowing a tripled time limit and half-price parking (or even just one of those) would achieve the desired effects while minimizing both the potential and incentives for abuse (IE parking a car in the most congested areas and leaving it there all day).