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It costs $38,000 to create one parking space in San Francisco

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The streets aren't paved with gold, but the rate is about the same

Parking costs up to $3.50/hour for a meter and up to $40/day for a garage in San Francisco. But how much does it cost to create the parking? According to one UCLA professor, up to $38,000 per space.

That’s the damage according to Donald Shoup, professor emeritus of UCLA's Department of Urban Planning. He broke it down via an editorial in Access Magazine, citing San Francisco as the home of the most dire parking construction expenses in the mainland US, running up $38K for a single underground parking spot, or $29K for one above ground.

Only Honolulu is more expensive: $48K below ground, although they’re only $25K for street parking.

Could that be right? Curbed SF called Dr. Shoup to confirm his numbers. "If that surprises you, you’re a little naive," he explained, laughing over the phone. "Try digging a hole three stories deep in San Francisco and filling it with concrete and see how much it costs you."

Permits, labor, materials, designs—it all adds up, particularly in today’s climate of soaring construction costs. And Shoup’s figures don’t even include the value of the land.

If anybody is skeptical, Shoup is quick to cite his sources. "They’re not my numbers, they come from a very reputable construction cost estimator," he says. That firm is UK based Rider Levett Bucknall, whose most recent analysis does indeed indicate a very steep price for level parking in San Francisco, up to $165 per square foot.

As always when it comes to both statistics and costs, there are varying opinions. Pennsylvania-based Carl Walker Group, which specializes in parking construction, projects a 2016 cost of only about $70 per square foot to build parking in the city. But that still comes out to a whopping $23,000 for a space.

The GreenTrip Database (developed by the Bay Area mass transit think tank TransForm, which we should note does have a distinct bus-over-car agenda) points out that parking construction varies wildly from project to project and breaks down the estimated cost of underutilized parking at specific sites: $80,000 per space at one Tenderloin building; $43,000 per space at a Bayview retirement home; nearly $100,000 per space at Fox Plaza.

However, all the different figures provide basically the same answer: A parking space costs more than most of the cars that will ever park on it. So treat the asphalt with a little respect next time; that could be $30,000 you‘re standing on.