Playing Dice with the Parking Gods
Dear Parking Guru,
I just know you have a solution for me. I am new to SF and live in the Haight and feel so happy to be here. I have a problem though, and in googling for a solution, you kept popping up. I live in a place with a driveway and I found out that I am allowed to block my own driveway when parking parallel on the street. The problem is that on both sides of it are those on-street spots where the curb isn’t long enough for a regular car to park. The driveway is narrow, so when I park in my driveway part of my car sticks into one or both of these “half” spots. The problem is that sometimes people with motorcycles leave their bikes parked in these half spots for weeks at a time. They move them for street cleaning but then move them right back after while I’m at work, so I can’t really ever use my spot in front of my place. What can I do?
No Room for Me
Dear No Room,
I’ll get the first thought out of the way that I’m sure many readers have…why don’t you just park in your driveway? Problem solved. Thank you, and goodnight. I’m guessing it’s because a roommate or the landlord has first rights to it, or it’s because your car would stick out into the sidewalk, which would get you a $110 ticket for sure.
I never thought I would hear someone in San Francisco who has a driveway say that they had a parking problem. But I get it. It’s like you won the lottery but you can’t cash in because you can’t find the ticket. I have a few solutions for you. However, each comes with different parking karmic consequences for you and for your neighbors. So, think about which one you choose.
First, you could rat on your neighbors and force their hand by reporting them to SFMTA as abandoned vehicles. Because any vehicle that does not move for 72 hours (even with a residential permit sticker) is considered abandoned. A sticker will be put on their bikes and if they are not moved within 72 hours, they will be towed. This choice however would be playing dice with your karma. And if you think parking is a bitch now, wait until you lose a dice game with the parking gods. I see this method as an absolute last resort, and maybe not even that.
Your second option is to pay $325 and get the tips of the curbs painted red by SFMTA claiming that you need that extra room to swing into the driveway, (which is the main reason they do this) and that you’re afraid of knocking over the neighbors bikes. If it’s true, then do it. As I see it everybody wins…the bikers can park there; the extra four feet of room might be enough for you to park there; the City gets $325 to help MUNI keep chugging along, and you won't have to pay $82,000 for your very own reserved parking spot.
The third option, as I see it, is to be human. Get down, get real, and let the bikers know the situation, either in person, or with a creative sign posted by the curb. They possibly aren’t aware of the situation you are in. In any situation of conflict, I like to try to walk in the other person’s shoes and see how it feels (I wear a size 14, so it usually feels quite confining). Seriously though, when people see things from the other person’s subjective reality, conflict and tension loosens, which creates space for positivity, a creative solution, and good feelings. Their perspective might be that they also won the lottery; a spot on the street where they can park their bikes and not have to worry about somebody in a car backing up and knocking their bikes over.
If you don’t let them know in person, make a really cool and friendly sign (get a 12 pack and a pizza and make it with your roommates some night) explaining the situation. I would bet that your two-wheeling neighbors will see your perspective, and see that with a little consciousness, minimal effort, and with nothing lost, they can make your situation better and make for a happier neighborhood. Keep a couple of beers cold for them and invite them over some sunny day. This is the sort of thing that makes for a great neighborhood.
I think of this as everyday alchemy…turning a problem that is bumming you out into something really cool by letting go and finding the secret door.
Welcome to SF. There is plenty of room for you. Let us know how it turns out.
David LaBua is the author of Finding the Sweet Spot and founder of VoicePark, the mobile app that guides you by voice to the closest on-street and off-street parking spot in real-time...reducing the average time it takes to park in SF from 6.5 minutes to 45 seconds.