Parking 501: Complex Answers to Simple Questions


Dear Parking Guru,

Today at 8 a.m. I parked in a spot with a sign posted nearby that stated, “2-Hour Limit, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.” I moved my car at 11 a.m. to another block.  How far away do I have to park, and when am I safe to park on the original block again without fear of getting a ticket? I just asked my grumpy boyfriend whose answer was “just read the sign for God’s sake, it’s pretty simple.”





Dear Blockhead,

These are actually excellent questions!  Before I answer, I will pose the questions to all of the people who agree with your boyfriend and say, “ Jeez, just read the sign.”  

I will even give you a big hint…the ordinance itself:

For the purpose of Parking regulations...any vehicle moved a distance of not more than one block or one-tenth of a mile during the limited parking period shall be deemed to have remained stationary.

1. How far does away does Blockhead have to move the car after the 2 hours are up to avoid receiving a ticket?

A) 528 feet
B) 250 Feet
C) Across one cross street to another block 
D) 90 degrees away 
E) To an entirely different residential zone

2. When can Blockhead legally re-park on the original block?
 At 1pm
B) One second past 1PM
C) After Midnight 
D) After wiping the chalk off the tire
E) After 7pm

The tenth of a mile goes back to days of yore when they used to actually look inside your car and read your odometer.  This method is not used any more (and it’s just as well because having to move your car 529 feet would make things very much more complicated indeed), so let’s ignore it.

“One Block” is the standard now used, but doesn’t actually mean moving a measureable linear distance of one block as it stated because there is no set standard for how long a block is.  In San Francisco, blocks range anywhere from 200 feet to over 500 feet.  It is actually interpreted as moving across a cross street to another numbered block (from the 700 block to the 800 block…). So the answer to question #1 is “C.”

With that part of the law understood, what remains to sort out and is when can Blockhead return to the original block?  The pivotal phrase in the ordinance is "...during the limited parking period."
If one interprets "during the limited parking period" as the “2-hours” written on the sign (meaning, two hours parked on that block, two hours off of that block, two hours back on that block), your logic would hold water. However, the accepted legal interpretation of "the limited parking period" is not the two-hour period for which you are limited to park, but the 10-hour period from 9 am to 7 pm in which parking is limited...the entire time period.
To take it just a bit further…what if you park at 12PM on the 2-hour block in question, and you park for only five minutes, get back in your car, drive to Santa Clara and return two hours later.  When can you again legally park on that block?  Answer: Your car is not allowed to be on that block again until after 7PM (unless it’s a residential zone and you have a Residential Parking Permit for that zone). 
For all of the old school people scoffing at this and are mumbling, “Jeez, just wipe the friggin’ chalk off of the tires and case closed.”  The case is not actually closed. SFMTA officers don't just chalk your tires anymore to see how long you’ve remained stationary.  They also enter your license plate into a handheld device as being parked on that specific block at a specific time.  When you check your tire and think your are okay because there is no chalk, they return and check their handheld, and if your car is still there anywhere on the block, you owe the City 65 dollars.  And an advanced cat and mouse SFMTA technique is to chalk your tire and also record your car’s time and specific block on which it is parked block on the handheld.  Even though you think you are safe because you wiped off the chalk…you will still get a ticket.  So the answer to question #2 is “E.”

And now, as a reward for reading through the entire post and becoming a better informed citizen, here is a bonus question brought to you by Monty Python: 

What is the Average Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow?

For the answer Click Here.

David LaBua is the author of Finding the Sweet Spot, CEO of VoicePark, and a leader in the sustainable urban mobility movement. You can follow him on twitter @ParkingGuru.

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