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San Francisco can collect taxes on university parking, state Supreme Court rules

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that the city of San Francisco has the right to collect parking taxes on drivers’ use of state university parking lots in the city.

The tax applies to lots operated by the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, UC Hastings College of the Law and San Francisco State University, and could amount to $4 million per year, according to the city.

The universities claimed that a city can’t tax a branch of the state government. But the high court said the tax is not levied on a state agency but rather on individual drivers using the lots.

Justice Leondra Kruger wrote that the parking tax “applies to drivers in precisely the same way regardless of whether they use the university parking lot or a private parking lot across the street.” The seven-member court also upheld San Francisco’s right to require the universities to collect the taxes and remit them to the city on a quarterly basis.

The panel said the tax collection is a “minimal burden” on the universities that doesn’t interfere with their educational mission.

SFBay editor and publisher Jesse Garnier is associate professor of Journalism at San Francisco State University.

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