Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

The Best Time to Read the Fine Print

Dear Parking Guru,
 
I hope you are doing well today! I found your column/book online, but it may have been too late. I would like to consult your expert opinion. I live in Minneapolis and was recently in SF visiting friends for five days. I was staying with a friend who lives near the intersection of Laguna and Haight and made sure to follow all of the parking instruction signs to avoid getting a ticket.  
 
I was parked overnight on Laguna in a two-hour zone which starts at 8 AM (thus I would be ticketable at 10 AM).  At 9 AM I went over to another friend’s place nearby on Waller and had some breakfast. I came back to Laguna about 9:45 to pickup my wife before heading to the airport and saw an open spot two spaces in front of my previous spot. I moved the car to get another two hours so I wouldn’t have to race the clock. I went in to get our luggage etc. and when we came back down to the car at 10:25, I saw that I was issued a ticket (TC315A-Residential Parking).
 
It states "time checked" as 8:18 AM and issued at 10:18 AM, but I wasn't in the same spot and the car wasn't continuously on that block. I also found it odd that they would have been back at my car EXACTLY two hours later.
 
Any advice for fighting this $72 ticket?
 
Thanks,
Dandy
 
 
Dear Dandy,
 
I am sorry to hear that your trip was ticket-free until the last 18 minutes of your stay. You were so very close. I like your attitude and totally salute your diligence, awareness, and all of the steps that you took to avoid a ticket. You were aware of the time limits, you were aware of the time that you parked, and you were aware of when the exact time of your free parking expired.
 
I also like your moving your car in order to reset the clock. However, it was this last maneuver my friend that got you trapped because of an assumption that you made. You assumed that all of the laws that govern the parking game are posted. They are not.
 
The law that got you reads like this:
For the purpose of parking regulations...any vehicle moved a distance of not more than one block or one-tenth of a mile during the limited parking period shall be deemed to have remained stationary.
 
If you interpret "during the limited parking period" as the two hours written on the sign (meaning, two hours parked on that block, two hours off of that block, two hours back on that block), your logic would be sound, but wrong.
 
The DPT legal interpretation of "the limited parking period" is the entire time period for which the sign is in effect.
 
So, when you have parked for two hours in a two-hour zone, even if you parked for only five minutes, once two hours have expired, you are not allowed to park on that block again for the rest of the day for the entire time period that the sign is enforceable, which in your case was 9 PM to 7 PM (unless, of course, it is a Residential Zone and you have a Residential Parking Permit for that area).
 
I hope you will take some solace in the fact that most residents of SF don’t even know about this law.
 
Also, remember that DPT officers don't just chalk your tires anymore. They often enter your license plate into a handheld computer and notate its location on that specific block at a specific time. When you check your tire and think your are okay because there is no chalk, they return and check their hand-held device, and if your car is still there anywhere on the block, you owe the City 72 dollars for that privilege.
 
To answer your question asking for advice to fight this $72 ticket…I’m sorry to say that the fight is over. It was lost when you arrived, actually, because this rule is not being posted anywhere. I suggest reducing the size of it on a copy machine, laminating it and making a Christmas ornament out of it for next year. And, if it helps, you can feel good knowing that your $72 donation will go toward making a MUNI rider a little more comfortable in some way.   
 
I would venture to guess that at least 10 percent of the parking tickets issued are due to drivers not being aware of this law. Your email got me thinking.  I am going to send a proposal to the Board of Supervisors to consider making a ‘fine print’ sticker to attach to all 2, 3, and 4-hour zone signs to alert drivers of this. Or better yet, replace the current signs with the proposed sign in the graphic above. It spells it out clearly and I think it would make the parking game a bit more even, and not have visitors leaving our wonderful city $72 lighter, and with a bitter after taste of their trip.
 
To learn more of the hidden rules of parking please click here. To find out about VoicePark, the free app that knows all of the parking rules and guides you by voice to the closest available parking spot, click here.