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Ask the Parking Guru: How Do I Get Savvy Quickly to SF Parking Rules?

Ask the Parking Guru: How Do I get Savvy Quickly to SF Parking Rules?

Dear Parking Guru,

I recently moved to the City and wanted to share a parking experience that I had recently. It was Thursday evening and I parked in a yellow zone which was right next to a white zone on 3rd and Mission at about 7 pm. I chose the yellow zone because it was after 7 pm. I came back at 9 pm and could not find my car. I called SFPD to make a report. They told me I should check with AutoReturn. Lo and behold, my car had indeed been towed.  

I took a cab to the AutoReturn lot. Once there, they said that my car was not there, but was at the lot next to 850 Bryant street. I wandered around and found it on 7th Street. Once there, it took them over an hour to find it. The whole ordeal took me three hours and cost $495 dollars. And when I got into my car, there was a ticket for $85 saying "tow away zone."  Isn't it legal to park in a yellow zone after 6 pm?  And how do I get my money back?

Thanks,
Portland to SF


Dear Portand,

Welcome to San Francisco.  I'm sorry that you got towed.  It is indeed a surreal and disorienting experience. Getting towed in SF has been a rite of passage since 1848 when James Marshall got towed for double parking his wagon full of gold in front of the bank. But the good news is that you have been baptized SF style. I imagine that you have some parking savvy, but SF parking is a different animal. A very hungry, and sometimes angry animal. 

I checked out the spot I think you were in. I can see how you were confused.  The curb is indeed yellow. Many yellow zones are in effect from 9 am to 6 pm, but some are from 7 am to 11 am and others until 1 pm, so be sure to read the meter or curb signage carefully. You had no meter, so it defaults to the signage on the curb, which there was none. But, about 75 feet away is a sign that says, "No Parking Anytime." You have fallen victim to the 100-foot ordinance, which states that every restrictive parking sign is in effect for 100 feet, or up to the next cross street, whichever comes first.  

I suggest three things for you to get very parking savvy very quickly:
 1. In order to get fully familiar with all of the nuances, hidden laws, and general illogic to finding a parking spot in SF, read a copy of Finding the Sweet Spot (it's in the library so you don't have to buy it if you don't want to), and study it as though you were studying for an incredibly important final exam.  

2. Download the free parking app called VoicePark, which will navigate you by voice to the nearest available and legal parking spot.

3. Print out a copy of the Where is My Car? Handy Flowchart and keep it in your purse of wallet for times like these. I'm sorry about your ordeal, and if you heed the advice, you should be ticket free from here on out. And have some extra cash to spend in more fun ways. Welcome to SF!

For your own printable copy of the Where is My Car Handy Flowchart and other SF parking resources click here.