Ask the Parking Guru: To Paint Parking Space Stripes in Potrero, Or Not?


Dear Parking Guru,
I live in Potrero on a street where parking is perpendicular to the curb.  People don't space their cars close enough to each other and end up wasting a lot of potential parking space! Why do people do this? Is it possible to ask the City to paint lane markings on the street to help these inconsiderate or careless folks park more snugly? Or can we do it ourselves??  We would all reap the benefit!
Sincerely Yours,
Mr. Space Saver

Dear Mr. Space Saver,
I used to live in Potrero and I know exactly what you’re talking about.  It seems like such a luxury to be able to park perpendicularly, because theoretically twice as many cars can park there. But, it seems like the gift of plentiful, free parking often gets wasted, as it gets taken for granted, like many precious resources.
I see two possible reasons for why this happens.
1. When people are presented with a curbside with room for three or four cars, parking anywhere in the space is fine because they are not considering how their action might affect others who follow. Their immediate need is met, and that’s all that is on the agenda.
2. Humans tend to gravitate to emotional states that are familiar because they are known. And what is known is safe because we have experienced it before and survived. What we as a species are the most afraid of is the unknown, so we repeat familiar uncomfortable patterns in our lives because we actually feel safer doing so…even though they are uncomfortable. Freedom and bliss are not as tolerable as we think. This applies to every aspect of our lives, including parking.
But you, Mr. Space Saver, are thinking altruistically and ahead of the pack.  Unless that is, you have an unresolved control issue that you are acting out– but I don’t think so because if you did, your question would be along the lines of asking me if it’s okay to key the cars of people who waste parking space.
So, now that we have all of our psychological and emotional ducks in row, let’s get to the task at hand–of getting your neighborhood’s cars in a row.  To answer the first question, should you call the City about making some white stripes, or should you take it upon yourself and your small army to do it yourselves?
One thought that came to my mind is if the City gets involved with official markings on the streets of Potrero Hill, this might simply whet their appetites and lead them to want to put official coin collection boxes on posts to match those neatly marked official white stripes.
If you paint the white stripes with your neighbors, inevitably it will be like a first-time DIY project and there will be something that you realized you forgot to think about once the project is finished. What about the space at the end opposite from where you started?  Will it be one and a half spaces wide? Is it three spaces and four stripes, or four spaces and three stripes? Do you take the total curb space and divide by three or four. Four will get more cars in, but inevitably will lead to a future blog about more car doors getting dinged because the white stripes in Potrero are in so close to each other. Then there is the graffiti charge if you get caught, and the possible "mpersonating a road stripe painting official" penalty, or "causing mayhem" charge.
Or, on a hill, the stripes might drip. Or, because you will be doing this at night, someone in your group of concerned citizens will inevitably spill the bucket of white perma-paint, and with the big white puddle running down the hill, and all of the white footprints created in trying to clean it up, and the white tire marks all over the street...nobody will ever take the stripes seriously. It will forever be known as the good citizen action gone wrong. You would then have to wait for 50 years until the paint finally wears off to get your second chance, as an old man.
So, here is a possible solution. What about heightening community awareness and/or conducting a temporary social experiment?  Send fliers to every house in the neighborhood, or post something on every telephone pole, or organize a meeting to discuss it one night at Farley’s.
And, what about trying it out on one section of a block on one street, but using white chalk instead of paint? (By the way, I’m only allowed to give parking advice in this blog, so consult your attorney first, or at least find out how many community service hours will be required…but, what if you get put on white-stripe painting community service duty? It would be the master plan of the century.) 
I know somebody who chalked lines in front of his house in a parallel parking situation where 3 cars could fit well, but there was typically somebody who parked unconsciously and blew it. So, he painted very official looking white Ts to accommodate three cars, and all has been well in the neighborhood ever since.
For more psychological and emotional exploration into the world of parking, please click here.  

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