Parking Tips: The Snowy Streets of San Francisco


It's no secret that parking in the city is a bitch. So we've enlisted local parking guru and author of Finding the Sweet Spot, David LaBua, to dish out weekly tips on navigating the ins and outs of city parking.

With snow in the forecast this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to give a brush up tutorial on how to properly curb your wheels. Last year, there were 59,533 citations given out for uncurbed wheels or for wheels not curbed properly. On our hilly streets, it's a good idea to habitually curb your wheels, not just when parked on a hill, and not just when snow is in the forecast, but whenever you park.

An emergency brake is just a thin wire that lightly clamps your brake drum.  They have been known to break. Curbing your wheels is the backup plan if your car does start rolling.  If you make it a habitual action, then you can always rest assured that this will not be the reason that you make it on the front page of the Chronicle for your fifteen minutes of fame.  And, you will never be given a parking ticket for it.

The law states that wheels must be curbed if there is a 3% grade or higher on the street. Anyone know how big a 3% grade is?  A free book to the first person who does.  It’s not that much. A 3% grade is actually 1.72 degrees (relative to a 45 degree ramp). It looks totally flat. So, unless you have a protractor in your glove compartment or surveying tools in your trunk, do yourself a favor and save $55 by making it a habit to curb your wheels.

Follow these instructions whenever parked on a hill on the right side of the street (adjust wheel direction if you're on the left side):

When facing downhill with a curb: Turn the steering wheel all the way to the right (clockwise) so curbside front tire will touch the curb when you take your foot off the brake.

When facing uphill with a curb: Turn your steering wheel far to the left (counter-clockwise), so the back of the curbside front tire will touch the curb.

When facing uphill or downhill with no curb: Turn your steering wheel to the right. (Think about it).

If driving a stick shift: Because you don’t have a “P” gear, always park in first gear, or better yet reverse.  On a steep street, if parked in second gear or higher, your car can more easily start moving down the street.

Or to make it easy to remember, memorize this little phrase shared by a fellow San Franciscan: Parking in San Francisco is downright uplifting.

If you do ever receive a citation for not curbing your wheels, and you think that the street is less than a 3% grade, this is a legitimate complaint, and you can win the fight.  For this very reason, I put a link on the resources page of my website where you can check out the slope of any street in San Francisco. To check it out, click here.       

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