Dear Parking Guru,
I live just one block from Mission Street, so parking in my area is naturally quite competitive. Like many others living in this area, my roommate and I must seek out available public parking on a regular basis. We knew what we were getting into as far as parking scarcity in the neighborhood we moved to and we're ok with being a part of the normal competition for parking spaces. But not everyone plays fair.
Having lived here for over a year now, we've noticed a particular house on our block that seems to house the owners of two older, vintage-looking, but poorly maintained (e.g. spray painted, junk in the truck bed, etc.) vehicles. These vehicles are always parked across the street from their residence, taking up 2 parking spots. They are, for clearly in violation of the 72-hour rule (many times over). It gets worse, though. These vehicles are essentially never driven anywhere but over to the other side of the street to avoid street cleaning violations, then back again.
During the times that one of the vehicles needs to be out of its spot for more than the couple of minutes needed for the meter maid to go by on street cleaning day, they put up cones, and/or debris, or park an old, broken scooter in the spot to secure it so they have it whenever they want it back. Sometimes they "reserve" spots in this way for hours.
Suffice to say, after a year and a half in the neighborhood, struggling to find parking some nights, and having had to park many blocks from our residence on occasion, we are both very frustrated by the situation. As I said, we are happy to accept the reality of parking in this busy neighborhood, but these people are not playing by the rules. They are quite simply abusing the parking situation, and doing so quite badly. It would be one thing if they actually used their vehicles for any purpose except sitting in them on the street drinking, but they don't. Likewise it would not be so bad if they didn't reserve spots.
So, dear Parking Guru, do we have any recourse here? Is there any hope?
Dear Parking Mad,
Welcome to SF. Because parking has taken over a considerable part of your emotional life, you can now consider yourself a true resident. And, your trying to handle it diplomatically also exemplifies why SF is so unique. I appreciate your thoughtful letter and am sorry that your neighbors are making parking more difficult for you than it needs to be. They are not playing by the rules ethically or legally. Moving their cars on street sweeping days to the other side of the street and then moving their vehicles back after street sweeping is ethically okay, but illegal as DPT sees it. That's because they are in violation of the 72-hour ordinance, which states that all vehicles not moved for over 72 hours are considered abandoned and must be moved at least 1/8 of a mile or to an entirely different block. This ordinance was partially enacted to avoid this exact situation.
Putting cones and garbage and their great grandfather's old lawn mower in the street is not fair ethically, or legally. I'm guessing that they are old-timers who have resided there since before electric cars came on the scene, and they have seen a lot of changes–the biggest being that parking density has increased. They also seem to view life from a scarcity model rather than a belief in abundance and as a result, probably have terrible parking karma.
You have several options of recourse. My recommendation is to simply talk to them and be reasonable. However, I see your hesitancy in doing this because they seem quite invested and protective of "their" spots, alcohol may be involved, and their reaction will probably be to chase you away with the aforementioned lawn mower. But, perhaps it is worth a try.
Your second moves would involve the DPT. If you report an abandoned (non-used) vehicle, DPT will put an orange sticker on the vehicle. They will return after 3 days, and if that vehicle is parked anywhere on the block, it will be cited and towed. The City is motivated to do this because it keeps the streets from stagnating and they make $243 from the $453.75 towing fee.
Your third step of recourse would be to involve the City Sidewalk Inspector (a real position). His job is to make sure that the sidewalks and street curbsides are unobstructed. If you let him know the situation and include some photos, he can write a letter to them letting them know that they are in violation and will be cited if they continue. If you run into difficulty contacting him, let me know, and I will give you his direct number. We have lunch frequently because I am the only one in the City that finds his job fascinating.
Your fourth option of recourse is to involve the police. By calling the non-emergency line when they have a bunch of junk in the street, or a non-registered scooter, and explaining to the police that your neighbors may not take the news very well, they will come out to explain the situation to them and make them move their stuff, or will move it off of the street for them. Police involvement is always advised with unreasonable people. It will also give your neighbors something to consider before they vandalize your car in a conscious reaction to parking in "their" spot.
Lastly, I recommend you giving VoicePark a whirl. It is an app that guides you by voice to the absolute closest available and legal parking spot and eliminates the need to circle for hours. It will help you in seven of the beta locations across the City.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.
For more insights, solutions, and remedies to your parking nightmares, please click here. To download the VoicePark app, click here.
Dear Parking Guru,