A Curb or Not a Curb, That is the Question


Dear Parking Guru,

I was towed wrongfully and need your help. I was on a date in North Beach last night and parked in a perfectly legal spot on Grant. I immediately reported my car as being stolen, and 5 hours later found out that it had been towed for blocking a driveway. It cost me $450 plus a $90 ticket! There was no way that my car was blocking the driveway because I specifically checked when I parked and my bumper was still in the part of the curb that curves down into the driveway and not in the driveway itself.  How can I prove that once I've been towed? Please help me. Rent is due in six days.


Dear GS,

My first question is: Are you two still dating?  The shared experience of getting towed is somewhat of a litmus test for relationships. You will both know who you are dealing with by the time you drive your car out of the DPT impound lot. Now, on to your request for help. In your particular situation, the only help I can offer you is to loan you $20 to help make ends meet this month, or some couples counseling to process the trauma and learn how to use it to deepen and strengthen your lives separately and together.  

I immediately had some wonderful ideas how to help you contest it, until you said one thing that, if this were a medieval trial, would have been game, set, and match for the executioner. You said, "My bumper was in the part of the curb that curves down into the driveway." It would make sense that you thought of the sloped portion of the curb as being part of the curb, because it is part of the curb. You are correct, and the best argument you could make would be: when the curb was constructed, that's when that sloped part was made. It was not part of the driveway construction, it was part of the curb construction. So, you did not, by definition, block a driveway.  This argument, as logical as it is, may be worth a shot, but to win, it would mean overturning the law, because I am sorry to tell you my friend, the sloped part of the curb, or the "curb cut" as SFMTA calls it, is actually legally considered to be part of the driveway.  

One thing I've learned in this life is that the law isn't always so logical…or maybe it is. Maybe there is some wisdom in making that sloped part of the curb legally part of the driveway. I would bet that when they were making the law, some engineer considered this: In order to turn into a narrow driveway, your front car wheel must be just on the outer edge of your driveway when turning into it so that your back wheels can make it in too. And if your front wheel is just at that very edge, the fender and bumper are going to go into and over the space in question and hit another car if it is parked in that space. I think that's the reasoning, but only those in that situation would ever have thought of it. And that's why there were 28,277 of these citations handed out last year.

So, let me know if you need to borrow $20.  If your relationship is in need of some repair work and you need some couples therapy, look me up and make an appointment. The third option I have for you is to pick up a copy of Finding the Sweet Spot, where little unknown nuances (and nuisances) like this, that can cost you $500 or more, are brought into the spotlight.