Is the 100-Foot Parking Law Real?
Dear Parking Guru,
I just received a ticket for a street-sweeping sign that was way up the street from where I parked. I went to the library that day and found your book. In it, you say that, “The 100 foot law states that...each restrictive parking sign's enforcement zone extends for 100 feet in each direction, or up to the nearest cross-street, whichever is less. The only reasonable argument I can see for having a parking ticket dismissed would be that there is no sign posted anywhere in the City that warns us of this.” Where is this law 100-foot law written? Nobody ever told me this, not even my driving instructor.
This law has been printed on the back of every San Francisco resident’s birth certificate since 1947. Just kidding…they’ve only been doing that since 1975. Kidding again. The 100-foot law is the keystone of the San Francisco Traffic Code, but is one of those things that never gets discussed in driver training classes. Some traffic enforcement officers don’t even know about it. It seems to be one of those things heard only by word of mouth. I recently had a discussion with one of our friendly neighborhood SFMTA administrative judges, and one of the topics we discussed was the 100-Foot Law, and how to inform everyone about it. It is the most important parking and traffic law to know because it applies to all parking restriction signs…yet, it remains the least known. So here it is:
San Francisco Traffic Code Sec. 1001
When street signs noticing any Parking restrictions are required by state or local law, the signs shall not be placed more than 200 feet apart. The signs shall indicate by legible letters, words and figures the hours prescribed for said Parking restrictions within 100 feet on either side of the sign, except that such signs need not be placed within the boundaries of the grounds of a public institution…
When the SFMTA judge and I discussed the possibility of informing people about it with signage, we came up against the same conundrum... how exactly can it be done? Where exactly should these signs be posted? On 101 North or on the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges as you enter the City at 55 mph? What about people who live in the city, they wouldn’t see those signs, and it wouldn’t be fair. So for them, perhaps a sticker attached to all 105,000 parking restriction signs? Well, that doesn’t work because if they don’t think that that sign applies to them, they’re not going to read the sticker.
So to be absolutely fair, the city would need to post a sign about this law every 100 feet of all 900 miles of streets in SF. That would require about 47,000 signs. Do most people really want 47,000 more signs erected? “Hi, we’re trying to pass an initiative to put 18 more signs on your block, would you like to sign?” Ummm… no. The judge suggested that, as many people read my blog, perhaps I should write about it to spread the word. And, SFMTA will post something on the SFMTA website about it too.
One of my favorite exercises, when there is a hard and fast rule imposed upon me, is to apply Newton’s third law of motion to that imposing rule. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction–to look for the positive in a seemingly negative, confining, and restrictive situation. So, where can there possibly be a positive perspective to the 100-foot law? Well, if every parking spot is governed by a sign within 100 feet of it, then any parking spot in the City that is more than 100 feet away from any parking restriction sign is governed by no absolutely no sign at all.
That spot is free to park in all day and all night for up to three days (72 hours max because of that other section in the traffic code without any signage posted stating that any vehicle parking in one spot for more than 72 hours may be considered abandoned, and subsequently towed). These free spots are hidden all over the place citywide. I have been collecting them in a database for the last ten years. A good amount of the time it's possible to park pretty much for free, if you know where they are. They are the postmodern version of San Francisco gold.
I’m considering making these spots available in an upcoming version of the VoicePark mobile app. They aren’t the secret list of spots I make accessible to people who share a secret spot of their own (which has also been growing over the years), but a separate specific list that I’ve been putting together on my own for the last decade. The only ethical dilemma I have is that if they then become public, then eventually they will all slowly vanish. Perhaps putting a hidden Easter egg in the app, or perhaps require a solemn secret parking oath acceptance button that the user will have to accept, violation of which will be bad parking karma for 50 years. A little something to keep the parking game fun. Stay tuned.
Spread the word and post something to inform your fellow drivers. Saving your friends from getting a $100 ticket and/or towed will earn you some good karma for sure.
David LaBua our parking guru is the author of Finding the Sweet Spot, and founder of VoicePark, the mobile app that guides you by voice to the closest available on-street or off-street parking spot in real-time.