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Newsom puts brakes on Lombard Street reservations, fee system bill

The plan to establish a reservation and fee program for San Francisco’s most famous and visited crooked street hit a road block Saturday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 1605 that would have allowed The City to charge motorists with a reservation to zigzag down Lombard Street between Leavenworth and Hyde streets. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, authored the bill and introduced it in April.

The bill would have given The City an exemption from the state’s existing law, which does not allow local agencies to charge for use of its streets and roads.

Ching Wong/SFBay Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) announces his proposal to allow San Francisco to charge drivers a fee to drive down The City’s famous crooked street at a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 15, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Lombard Street was once part of Newsom’s territory as a former District 2 supervisor. He said he was “acutely” aware of the traffic situation surrounding the area, but said:

“However, the pricing program proposed in this bill creates social equity issues. Access to his iconic attraction should be available to all, regardless of their ability to pay. My Administration is committed to working with the Legislature and City and County of San Francisco on other, workable solutions.”

Ching Wong/SFBay Vehicles drive down the crooked street in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 15, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

A 2017 study prepared by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority showed that between 1999 and 2015, the average daily vehicle count on the crooked street increased by 1,200 vehicles per day. The City has experienced record-breaking tourism for nearly a decade, according to the San Francisco Travel Association, but the increase has resulted in logistic complications. 

Residents and city officials say the street has become a nuisance with surging traffic volumes. District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani said in April that past solutions have yet to address the growing traffic problem.

Ching Wong/SFBay District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani speaks with neighbors before a press conference in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 19, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

The SFCTA was tasked with studying the impact of a reservations and fee system. The report they produced in June recommended establishing an online reservation system, a $5 fee and installation of license plate readers.

Just last week, supervisors who sit on the Transportation Authority Commission, approved an allocation of $700,000 that would been used to procure a vendor to design, test and operate the reservations system in the first year. It was estimated the total project would cost The City $2.2 million.

Officials hoped to establish the pilot reservations and pricing program by Spring 2020.

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