Coveted Neighborhood Parking Tips for North Beach... Shhhh


Dear Parking Guru,

I live in North Beach on Chestnut St. and don’t have a paid for spot for my car.  I have a residential permit, but on weekends, weekdays, evenings, and mornings I find it impossible to park.  My kingdom for some North Beach parking tips Sir.

Circling Bob

Dear Circling Bob,

North Beach is where I was living when I first embarked on this decade-long journey of mine trying to create a shift in the parking paradigm. My passion for making parking easier actually started one cold and rainy evening near my house looking for parking after a particularly long day at work.

Bimbos and Cobb’s, the local music and comedy venues were both having sold out shows. Columbus and the residential streets were packed. I circled and circled and circled for over an hour looking for a parking space. I drove over 7 miles before I found one. A particularly nightmarish experience it was. 

I do have some tips for you, general and specific, future, and old-school.

In the near future, when VoicePark is available throughout the city via a geographically interconnected mesh of sensors, things are going to be incredibly easy. VoicePark has the technology dialed in with sensors that are the best in the world, and the app is integrated and interfaces beautifully with these new sensors. The previous sensors performed less than perfectly and was a large part of the problem with SFPark’s early days. With a new state-of-the-art sensor and voice-guided app system in place, the average time to park in North Beach will be less than 45 seconds. No fooling. We are working with the City to make it happen. But until then, with an old parking paradigm with 1/3 of all traffic and 40% of all fuel used in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, being made up of cars circling, looking for parking, the best tips I have for North Beach are old-school.

Generally speaking, when looking for parking without the use of technology, make sure you have at least a half a tank of gas, or that your EV is decently charged. The only thing worse than circling and circling looking for parking is running out of gas while you are circling looking for parking. In a situation like your's, head to an area where there is a higher chance for turnover. Many residents in condos like on your street tend to have underground parking, so the turnover is not so high. Residential streets with no underground garages are a better bet to look. 

Restaurants in the area often have good turnover nearby as well. Look for people leaving a restaurant, especially with keys in their hand. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they are walking toward their car to leave. If they are, you can escort them all the way to it. 

It’s good to have the show schedule page of both Bimbo’s and Cobb’s bookmarked on your phone so you can know when the shows let out, and if you can, schedule parking around them. This is also true for anyone who lives near an entertainment venue.

Specifically speaking, I have many go to spots near your street.  I’ll share a couple of them with you now, and for $1000, I’ll tell you all of the others. Just kidding. That list will cost $3000. 

On the corner of Chestnut and Columbus there is a yellow loading zone on Chestnut at the southeast corner of Columbus with a fire hydrant very close to it. It was fascinating to watch parking behavior at this spot, as the combination of yellow and the hydrant usually scared people away for the first hour of it’s general parking availability. It was perfectly legal, people drove into it, thought about it, discussed it with their passengers and then drove away, voluntarily giving up the opportunity of free rock star parking. The loading zone is from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Just be sure that you are three feet away from the hydrant.

Parking in the white zone in front of Bimbo’s 365 Club on Columbus and Chestnut is one of my favorites. But isn’t it a white-zone for passenger loading and unloading you ask? Yes, it is…but only on days when they are having a show. Most people squirm and doubt themselves when parking in a white zone, but it is only active during business or otherwise posted hours on the curb. Be sure that they are not having a show. How will you know this? If the gates are down in front of the foyer in the early evening, it’s a good sign that there is no show. Also, read the schedule in front for conformation. Or check your bookmarked Bimbo’s show schedule page on your phone.

One tip for non-residents is that most North Beach residential two-hour zones are enforced until 9 p.m. not 6 p.m. like other areas.  So, if you are a non-resident and park in North Beach on a weekday evening, make sure that you don’t leave your car until 7 p.m., then you are free and clear.   

During the day at lunchtime on Grant and Columbus, it can get crowded.  Grant at Union on the north side of the intersection in front of the French-Italian Bakery, there are four loading zone metered spaces in effect until 1 p.m. General metered parking at these meters starts at 1 p.m. They are frequently vacant as most people assume it’s a loading zone until 6 p.m.. Parking right in front of an amazing bakery… what could be better? Pick up some freshly baked focaccia while you’re there, it will blow your mind.

I hope this helps you Circling Bob. Let’s just keep these tips between you and me though, okay? Cheers.

David LaBua is a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement, the founder of VoicePark, the world’s first voice-guided mobile app and sensor system that guides drivers to the closest available parking spot in real-time, and author of Finding the Sweet Spot. You can follow him on twitter@ParkingGuru.

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