Parking in SF: An Expensive Game of Inches
Dear Parking Guru,
On Sunday, I was towed for "blocking" a driveway. I was parked in one of the relatively small curb spots between two driveways, but my car fit completely within the spot (i.e. no part of my vehicle entered the portion of the curb that starts to slope downward into either driveway). I am confident of this because I, along with three friends, made a thorough examination of the car's position before deciding the parking spot was safe. One of the driveways had the edges of their curb painted red on both sides, and my back bumper did break the plain of the red line (my tires did not), but I figured it wouldn't be a problem since the driveway was clearly unobstructed. When I came back the car was towed.
I had to pay $501 to get the car out of the impound lot and still owe $98 for the ticket. I am challenging the legitimacy of the towing and would really appreciate your insight on the following questions as I amass evidence for my case:
1. If any portion of your car crosses the plane of red curb-paint, can your car be legally towed?
2. I plan on going back and taking a photo to show that my vehicle fits within the space without impeding either driveway. Additionally, I am having two of my passengers during the incident send notarized statements saying that no portion of my car blocked any portion of a driveway.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I appreciate your diligence. To have all of your passengers get out of the car and search the area for DPT traps, snipers, and landmines is what it takes these days. Having your friends’ statements notarized is also an indicator of the level of responsibility that you take when you park. Perhaps we could have espresso/notary kiosks sprinkled liberally throughout the City for just this situation…which happens frequently enough to gain the interest of a venture capitalist.
Before I answer your question S.R., have a seat. You are about to experience a flurry of wildly fluctuating emotions. And if you’re at work, or around children, go into a room and close the door…there will be less to explain to them later.
It sounds like you definitely were not in the part of the curb that slopes down. Excellent, because that sloping curb is legally part of the driveway. You would be guilty of the crime, and the story would end here.
If any portion of your car crosses the plane of red curb-paint, can your car be legally towed?
Yes. Parking zones are comparable to the end zone on a football field, and your car is the ball. If the bumper of your car crosses the plane, you are considered to legally be in the red zone. And, if, at the other end of that red curb there is driveway, you are considered to be blocking it even though you are a few feet away from it. These red zones are intended to provide additional turning and clearance for vehicles entering and exiting driveway rather than having to make a three-point (are you seeing the football metaphors now) turn to get in every time.
Parenthetically, with those cars, if the bumper of their car parked in their own driveway breaks the plane of the sidewalk, then they will be ticketed $110, the same as if they had completely parked squarely on the sidewalk.
It being the season of peace, there is a chance of you getting your $599 back. Revisit the scene of the crime, and hope that the owner of the driveway is a cheap bastard, or at the very least, a scofflaw, and/or not as diligent as you are. Those red curbs on either side of driveways, in order to be legal red zones, must be painted by the City and stamped with an official SFMTA or MTA logo on top. If the owner was a cheap bastard and didn’t want to pay the $325 for six feet of red paint, and did it him or herself, then it is not a legal red zone.
If your neighbor was not as diligent as you, and wanted to extend the official red zone a few feet on his or her own, the chances of the paint color and durability matching is slim. If this is the case, then again, you were not parked in a legal red zone, your $98 ticket will be dismissed, and your $501 will be reimbursed after the tow hearing that you schedule, and win.
Let us know how it turns out.
For more information regarding this very expensive game of inches that we play, click here. To check out VoicePark, the app that guides you to the closest available parking spot on the street, using underground infrared sensors that you never even knew were there, click here.
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