SAN FRANCISCO — Romance novelist Danielle Steel has more than just dozens of best-selling book titles to her name. She also has the largest number of parking permits issued in jam-packed San Francisco — a story that soon could come to an end.
A proposal to limit residential parking permits to three per household is expected to go before a Board of Supervisors committee Thursday. Currently, residents can buy an unlimited number of permits for $27 a year in a city where the number of vehicles outnumbers on-street spaces by nearly 200,000.
The issue, referred to as "Danielle's Parking Orgy" by a local newspaper, was taken to the city Department of Parking and Traffic based on complaints filed against Robert Kendrick, who lives in a nearby neighborhood and holds 22 parking permits. He is accused of hogging the street with several vehicles that are not in running condition, said department spokeswoman Diana Hammons.
"This was just brought to our attention probably about nine months ago, and it forced us to look at residential parking legislation," Hammons said. "Twenty-five years ago it wasn't the case where people owned two cars or three cars — or in some cases 26."
Calls to Kendrick's home went unanswered Wednesday.
Hammons said she has not received any specific complaints about Steel's wagon train of vehicles because the author, who lives in a grand Pacific Heights mansion, also houses some of her cars in an underground parking facility. She has eight children and a number of staff members who work out of her $8 million estate, which is considered by many to be the most spectacular in the city.
"I have legal permits for all the cars and all of them are either parked in my courtyard or in any of my three garages," Steel told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "There are never more than three cars on the street."
The 54-year-old Steel has published 54 best-selling novels, many of which have been adapted to television movies, including "Message from Nam," "Daddy" and "Kaleidoscope." Last weekend she hosted the Star Ball, a $500-to-$1,500 a plate fund-raiser at the Ritz Carlton to benefit children with mental illness. Her son, Nick Traina, 19, committed suicide four years ago after struggling for years with his bipolar disorder.
But being a celebrity shouldn't equal more parking permits, critics say.
Neighbors such as Myron Zimmerman, who has lived across the street from Steel's estate for 17 years, say it's too congested for one or two people to have 20-some parking permits.
"There's just not that many available," said Zimmerman, who parks his two cars in his garage and does not own a parking permit. "I can't imagine how the city would allow a single resident to have 22 or 26 spaces. I can't understand the rationale behind that."
Zimmerman said if people can afford to own dozens of cars, they should be able to pay for storage somewhere off the street.
"Why would people need 22 spaces?" he said. "That's not right."
Hammond said the residential parking policies have been in effect since the 1970s, when the program started as a way to encourage people to leave their cars parked near home during the day and take public transportation to work.
While the permits grant parking in designated areas, nonresidents also are permitted to park there during certain times. Thus, parking is not necessarily guaranteed to permit holders.
There are about 45,000 permits issued citywide, and 98 percent of the holders have fewer than three cars. Hammond said the department is considering raising the cost of the permits, but that is not part of the proposed legislation.
"Our goal is to adjust the issue," Hammond said, "so we're not cheap on-street car storage."
On the Net:
SF Department of Parking & Traffic: http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/dpt/
Danielle Steel home page: http://www.randomhouse.com/features/steel/