SF Concrete Commissioner: Stop Parking on the Sidewalk!

sidewalk_parking.jpgPhotos: San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking

Parking a car on the sidewalk is illegal and unsightly, as many San Franciscans know too well, but it also causes a hazard for those with visual impairments, as Lighthouse for the Blind illustrated when they began their campaign to eliminate the practice in the Sunset. And while a simple white line and the threat of consistent enforcement of the law by the MTA prompted drivers to park legally on 19th Avenue, the problem has not disappeared there or in any other district.  We’ve seen examples of the street-cleaning, sidewalk parking ballet throughout the city on sweeping days, though the burden of moving your neighbors’ five cars while they’re at work has diminished since DPW cut back on their runs (leaving our streets far dirtier in the process).

Now, an enterprising resident of the Excelsior, who wishes to remain anonymous, has created a website to publicize the abuse and advocate for comprehensive enforcement. The San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking website went live last week with numerous photos from the neighborhood, and while Commissioner Concrete admits that he doesn’t occupy an office in City Hall and doesn’t have the power to issue tickets, he advises you and all your friends to help populate the website and memorize the Department of Parking and Traffic’s parking hotline: 415-553-1200.

Read our interview with the commish below the break.

Matthew Roth: How did your concern with sidewalk parking develop?

Commissioner Concrete: My wife and I are new homeowners in District 11. One of the worst things about this area is seeing all the cars in a neighborhood that was designed for a much lower number of them. I am particularly mortified by how widespread and accepted sidewalk parking is. We own one car and we actually use our garage for storing it (we mostly bike), but we’re absolutely the exception.

I have gone through a whole scale of emotions from intense resentment to "giving up."  I think one very clear issue is that few people realize how bad the situation had actually gotten. I mean, I am a transit / livable city nut and I had no idea at all before moving here from Downtown that a car problem of these proportions could be going on in our city. Considering this, just showing how things are and what people get away with can be eye-opening and instructive to large segments of San Franciscans and even City employees.

"I perceive sidewalk parking as an incredibly rude thing to do that I take great exception to. The sidewalk, to me, is for the people, and parking a car there is completely sacrilegious."

MR: What prompted you to create a website like this?

Commish: The site is new, but in a way I have been developing it inside my head
for a while. I guess one of the things prompting me to finally do it
was when someone on my block, who’s selling their house, very recently
ripped out their front yard and concreted it over, no doubt to please some
buyer who requested sidewalk parking spots. That was one of the last
front yards on the block… though we are now in the process of installing
a front yard as large as the Planning Department will approve, in front of
our own house.

This is a collective failure: somewhere along the way we stopped being
civilized and started accepting this as the norm. I’m not a sleuth, all
pictures on the site were very easy to get and the problem is
everywhere and out in the open. The site’s concept is still evolving,
but I mainly see it as an entertaining albeit shocking "from the
trenches" kind of report (a real-world look of where car culture and
growth-based ownership economies in a finite world get you), with a
sprinkling of information, analysis and tips (since I feel I have a lot
to say about the issues). I also want to feature other familiar types
of sidewalk blight such as tree removals and car alarms. It all really
depends on how the site is received and my perception of its
effectiveness in exposing the problems.

MR: Have you tried to get the MTA’s parking control officers to ticket sidewalk parking?

Commish: Oh yes, of course. Infuriatingly, you can’t flat-out say that the MTA doesn’t ever ticket sidewalk parking. They do — if you call them up. But in general they simply don’t ticket sidewalk parking on sight. Not even during street cleaning. The meter maid comes out and tickets cars parked on the street, but NOT those parked on the sidewalk. Hellooo? In fact, what I have noticed is that this means that the DPT tacitly condones moving even MORE cars onto the sidewalk on street cleaning days, which of course is what ends up happening.

I have written to my supervisor, John Avalos, and also to Carmen Chu, since I know that she has has made noises against sidewalk parking (she was coming from the Americans with Disabilities Act angle). I received positive, but toothless replies. Chu basically told me to talk to the ADA people directly – which to me implies that she has no further interest in this issue. She closed with: "Meanwhile, DPT also enforces blocked public right of ways. You can call 311 to report those instances." To which I replied, "You and I both know that the DPT does *not* enforce the law, which is exactly why this problem exists. They really only do it when called to a specific block. So should I call them every time I see it? That’s going to be a lot of calls… I wish the Board would show leadership on this issue." which pretty much sums it up.

sidewalk_parking_2.jpg

I have repeatedly called DPT on the worst offenders, and I feel less and less "guilty" about it. For one particularly bad case, where a car just kept collecting the tickets (it was blocking the entire sidewalk, forcing pedestrians into a busy intersection), I had to employ heavier tactics. Luckily I noticed that the car’s registration had expired and, after informing the SFPD and waiting for days, I eventually contacted Captain Lazar (chief of the Ingleside Station) personally with this information. He sent officers to the address the next day and the car was removed. I remembered from my reading that it is the SFPD, not the MTA, that deals with cars with expired registrations and I also knew that Capt. Lazar is a thoroughly diligent captain. But only because all these things conspired was I successful in getting this public hazard removed.

The bottom line is that without real support from City leadership and political pressure that the law be upheld, this is, and will remain, an uphill battle for individuals like me to fight. This despite the fact that whenever this issue comes up, most seem to come down in favor of enforcement, even on otherwise inane sites like SFGate. It also makes you question why this source of ticket revenue is not tapped into in a time of severe budget shortfalls and transit cuts.

MR: What about parking on the sidewalk makes you most upset?

Commish: It not only makes walking around difficult, but it gives the neighborhood a cluttered, cramped, chaotic and unkempt atmosphere; but one that is also very sterile because it leaves the sidewalk almost completely devoid of human activity or greenery. This feeling tends to dominate you and kill off any charm or good vibes the neighborhood might emanate otherwise.

There are environmental concerns about rain water runoff which, instead of seeping into the ground through front yards, flows into the sewer system and overwhelms it during storms. Street and house floods can be the result.

It obviously endangers pedestrians who have to go around the cars often into the street, and takes away space from people and dogs, children to play, etc. Wheelchair users and blind persons have it even worse.

There is also something more personal in here though: I perceive sidewalk parking as an incredibly rude thing to do that I take great exception to. The sidewalk, to me, is for the people, and parking a car there is completely sacrilegious.

Streetsblog reached out to the MTA press office for comment on the new website and the problem of parking abuse, but they didn’t respond.

  • smushmoth

    There is a real easy way to deal with sidewalk (and crosswalk) parkers. Call DPT and have them ticketed 415-553-1200, usually a cushman arrived within an hour whenever I have call. Trying to get cyclists to cease stopping in the crosswalk at lights, has no answer.

  • I have been pretty diligent about reporting sidewalk parkers to the DPT as well, but I have not seen one ticket as a result. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been any tickets – I sometimes don’t go back the way I came, or the car is gone by the time I go back the other way. But the three or four times that I have gone back the same way I came, I didn’t see a ticket on the car.

    Does anyone else have any statistics to report to give me some hope that my calls to the DPT are not in vain?

  • Please check out these great videos. They are a wonderful collaboration between the SFBB’s, Bicycles! East Coast West Coast Bike Stuff and the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

    They share the message that sidewalks are for everyone.

    http://www.samlaser.org/safe.mov

    http://www.samlaser.org/safe2.mov

  • Great stuff. I’ve personally helped the city generate about $400 from reporting sidewalk parking violations in another neighborhood notorious for it–Potrero Hill. The number to call is printed on the back of your bike coalition card if you have one. It is hard to do this because the tickets are expensive, and I always felt a little guilty for doing it–which I got over as soon as I reminded myself that these particular sidewalk parked cars were literally removing the entire ROW for peds on my hillside street. But it still does suck to have to feel responsible for ‘calling some one in’–it would be better if the DPT just ticketed on site more often, as Sarg. Concrete says above. ((The excelsior has so much cement it is unbelievable.))

  • Jeff

    Love it! great project.

    We refer to these peoole as members of “The Society for Parking F*in’ Everywhere”

  • the greasybear

    In my little corner of the Mission, DPT has been very responsive to re-opening sidewalks shut down by craven motorists.

    On one particular corner that was regularly walled off by illegal parkers, the city issued dozens of expensive tickets and then decided to simply redesign the corner itself, installing those bright yellow curb ramps and adding new red paint. Motorists still illegally shut down the sidewalk–of course!–but far less often than before. It is now a rarity when someone in a wheelchair must enter the flow of auto traffic to get around an illegally parked cage, and neighborhood complaints made all the difference.

    Nobody should feel guilty about calling up the DPT to reopen a sidewalk. Individual motorists know full well when they decide to seize a sidewalk that they’re jeopardizing their wallets–and jeopardizing the public safety–but they break the law all the same. Why shield them from the consequences of their illegal and anti-social behavior?

  • I’m not blind, but I was coming down this hill (which is somewhere between 15 and 20 percent gradient) with a dog and a stroller, when I encountered this painful sight.

    http://www.twitpic.com/xfigd

    Upon reflection, I don’t want the guys bike to be stolen but I won’t cry if he drives it into the top of his garage. It was impossible to get the stroller past the car without going onto the road, which meant hopping the curb, while managing the grade. And note – I was hopping a curb, which means this particular “cyclist” decided to park in the driveway and out onto the sidewalk instead of in either of the two legal, open, on street spots in front of his building.

    grr…

    The stroller was tied to my body or I may have just started beating on the car until he moved it, without that safeguard I’m not sure I would have tried to go around.

  • Sean

    I have no qualms about calling in motorists who decide that the sidewalk is their personal temporary parking spot. Most of the time they get away before DPT has a chance to ticket them, but my street in the inner sunset used to be routinely blocked until I made a habit of calling them in.

    Unfortunately I don’t think DPT will cite cars in most areas for this unless you call it in.

  • Do these cars also have residential parking permits? Or are they not needed out in the outer areas of the city? I think either the permits are too cheap or given out too liberally (but probably both).

  • Fran Taylor

    The definition of hypocrisy used to be an SUV with a “Keep Tahoe Blue” bumpersticker. Now, it’s a hybrid blocking the sidewalk.

  • Thanks, Commissioner, for the great work! I want to be cautiously optimistic with a statement that up here in District 5, we are seeing less of a problem than we did 5 years ago. A big question is, Why? I think it’s been a combination of enforcement, general culture change (pro-bike and pro-walk), residents taking more pride in the appearance of their homes, and more active use of the sidewalks – for playing and for planters. The recipe for success might be different in different neighborhoods.

  • Case in point: I was just out for a walk in the Mission, and called in a sidewalk parker in front of 754 Shotwell St. Twenty minutes later as I passed by again there was no ticket and the car was still there.

  • Nick

    This is not the best approach to the problem. I would advise him to find another livability issue to advocate for. Penalizing the residents of the neighborhood is not the way to win them over.

    A few adages come to mind:
    -Don’t sh-t where you sleep
    -Don’t bail out the ocean with a bucket
    -Don’t speak poetry with those who aren’t poets

    The Excelsior has been the focus of quite a few traffic calming measures, pedestrian ROW stings, and legislation imposing fines on paving concrete driveways. If you want a cause, find one that will benefit the community. Here’s some fodder:

    -A median island on Mission Street with plants and trees (kind of like they have on Mission Street up on the Daly City side).
    -Wider sidewalks on Mission
    -Graffiti removal and clean up (murals instead?)
    -A reduced speed limit on Alemany with traffic lights to regulate speed
    -A car-free Sunday Streets style event
    -Weekend road closures for 2-3 blocks as a temporary playground for the neighborhood kids
    -Increased traffic calming in the neighborhoods (Stop signs, speed humps, etc)

  • zsolt

    First off, thanks to Streetsblog and Matthew for the chance to be interviewed. This will help to generate much needed discussion about this issue.

    To address some of the things said in this thread:

    @smushmouth: I guess your comment about cyclists makes you somewhat of a troll, but nonetheless I need to address this point: You say that “There is a real easy way to deal with sidewalk (and crosswalk) parkers.” The problem is exactly that calling in offenses is not an easy way. You can’t expect residents to go around calling the DPT all the time. I work full time and I can’t do the DPT’s job as well. The DPT needs to start ticketing on sight.

    @greasybear: “In my little corner of the Mission, DPT has been very responsive to re-opening sidewalks shut down by craven motorists.” On the other hand, the Mission has that awful mid-street parking problem on Valencia, something we will at some point feature (or better yet, anyone have good pictures?). I am always shocked to see the SFPD stroll by and not do anything. I mean, isn’t this a public hazard? This is really what I meant with collective failure to be civilized. It seems that many people, even cops and policy makers, accept it as a given that the city has an inadequate parking situation and thus such illegal and dangerous practices should be condoned. When there are in fact SO many garages.

    @Dale: “residents taking more pride in the appearance of their homes” That really hits the nail on the head! To me that is really the crux of the matter. This happens when people are more proud and protective of their cars than their houses. I want to be proud of my house and my street. But it’s next to impossible if there’s an SUV parked on the sidewalk next to my house.

  • Perhaps if the sidewalks weren’t so ugly, less people would park on them.

  • Oops, I posted under my other fake name ;o)

    Hey Nick,

    thanks for the comments. I thought about starting this for a while and I while this is not the only cause I am fighting for, I think fighting against sidewalk parking is a worthy cause. This is an issue that impacts my quality of life directly and quite a bit. I don’t see how, just because a problem is widespread, or difficult, or controversial, I would need to find a more popular cause, one that we all can agree on.

    “-Don’t sh-t where you sleep”

    Are you talking to me or the sidewalk parkers? Because, it’s really them who shit where they (and I and many others who suffer because of this) sleep. And I bet you that most of them don’t own their property so they have much less vested interest in keeping the neighborhood walkable, than me.

    “-Don’t bail out the ocean with a bucket”

    Which is why we need Moses (the DPT) to start doing their job.

    -Don’t speak poetry with those who aren’t poets

    The site is not addressing the sidewalk parkers themselves. It is meant to inform and focus those against it, like livability advocates.

    “legislation imposing fines on paving concrete driveways.”

    Yep, here’s another one that is NEVER enforced. Why does the BoS waste my money on passing laws that are not followed through on?

    “If you want a cause, find one that will benefit the community.”

    How does fighting sidewalk parking NOT benefit the community? It’s bar none the #1 thing that would make streets more pleasant to walk around in, in my neighborhood. I have seen many times mothers pushing their children in strollers into the traffic to get around cars. I just don’t see how eliminating sidewalk parking would not benefit the community. The only people in the community it does not benefit are the people who park on the sidewalk, and they are in the minority.

    “-A median island on Mission Street with plants and trees (kind of like they have on Mission Street up on the Daly City side).
    -Wider sidewalks on Mission
    -Graffiti removal and clean up (murals instead?)
    -A reduced speed limit on Alemany with traffic lights to regulate speed
    -A car-free Sunday Streets style event
    -Weekend road closures for 2-3 blocks as a temporary playground for the neighborhood kids
    -Increased traffic calming in the neighborhoods (Stop signs, speed humps, etc)”

    I’m in favor of ALL of these. But also in favor of doing something about sidewalk parking. And I chose to work on this exactly because it’s such an underrepresented and neglected problem, despite the audacity of the act itself.

  • @jass: “Perhaps if the sidewalks weren’t so ugly, less people would park on them.”

    The two go hand in hand. People usually remove their front yards and trees so they can park on the sidewalk.

  • Nick

    You know it’s not illegal to park on the sidewalk so long as you don’t block the narrow pedestrian ROW. This is a citywide problem. I’ve seen 3-4 PCO’s hit up blocks out in the Sunset late at night (11PM). It seems to help, but then people just park sideways which is not illegal.

    There’s an absolutely stunning write up of the aftermath of the 19th Avenue crackdown of sidewalk parkers in this month’s Sunset Beacon neighborhood newspaper.

    Populist uprising of the Automotive Owners of America! They want back on the sidewalk.

  • Nick, actually you have it wrong. It is illegal to park anywhere on the sidewalk, period. Sideways parking is illegal as well. The SFDSP site links to the exact text of the law, and the MTA’s website has information as well. If the portion of the sidewalk is within the property line, that’s a different case. But, in most cases the property ends where the wall facing the street is.

    I am aware of that article and know that “populist uprisings” would be the result. Nevertheless I do think it’s a good thing to raise awareness about this shameful practice. No matter how populist the uprising, sidewalk parkers are, and will be, a small group inconveniencing the rest. In fact, they already have not only garages, but FREE space allocated on the streets already.

  • 22500. No person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle whether attended or unattended, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a peace officer or official traffic control device, in any of the following places:

    (f) On any portion of a sidewalk, or with the body of the vehicle extending over any portion of a sidewalk, except electric carts when authorized by local ordinance, as specified in Section 21114.5. Lights, mirrors, or devices that are required to be mounted upon a vehicle under this code may extend from the body of the vehicle over the sidewalk to a distance of not more than 10 inches.

    It doesn’t matter if the sidewalk is inside the property line (which it rarely is in San Francisco). It’s illegal to park on the sidewalk whether it is public or private.

  • Sean

    @Nick

    Not all residents are car owners. Neither are all residents so short-sighted as to live in a place which lacks proper storage (read: a garage) for their automobiles. Perhaps, rather than complaining that they are being “penalized”, they should have simply decided not to purchase that second or third car, or found a place to live which includes some sort of garage space.

    To not penalize inconsiderate motorists only penalizes those who were more thoughtful to their community.

    It would really help if there was a faster way (like text message, or a website, for those with smartphones) to inform the DPT of violations. It is not uncommon to sit on hold for four or five (or more) minutes to report a vehicle description and location which takes only 20 seconds.

  • Peter Smith

    i’m definitely sick of sidewalk-parkers. the problem is that is forces me out into the street — and this actually puts me in increased danger when i’m running. i’m jumping on and off curbs, trying to watch out for the wacko car drivers come around different blind bends in various directions (i live on bernal hill right now) — it’s bs. we just have to decide to prioritize pedestrians over parked cars.

    i say have the city issue a warning about sidewalk-parkers, and then let the fundraising begin.

  • @Sean: What would make the most sense is to be able to report the violations to 311. I assumed you could do that, because that is where you report basically anything else, but they replied to have me call DPT. Of course, you already knew that 🙂 just reporting my experience.

  • Sean

    @Stuart

    You can call 311, but you still have to wade through the phone tree telling you to dial 911 for emergencies, asks if it is Muni related, language selection, etc. And then at the end of it the 311 operator has to compile the information and feed it into DPT — hopefully they don’t have to call DPT themselves but that could very well be what happens.

    Because sidewalking parking is such a common infraction yet one which is not actively enforced it would be beneficial to expedite the process of reporting violations. Not only would it help clean up our streets but it would save or even make the city money!

    Does anyone know if DPT pays for each 311 call (ala Muni)?

  • @Sean: Good to know. I got that response from @sf311 on Twitter.

  • Peter Smith

    San Jose trumps SF — delivers 311 iphone app. Developing…

    pretty sure nyc has one. there’s chatter on data sf to get one done — vote it up, yo.

    be cool is someone did a generic interface, and then let cities plug-in their own back-ends.

  • Imagine what would happen if $5 of that parking ticket was routed by the city back to the person who reported it…!

  • @Mike Fogel: Holy crap! Talk about a boon for the unemployed folks 🙂

  • Diane

    A few weeks ago I passed by a PCO on my block who was ticketing on street cleaning day. I pointed to a car across the street and said “Would you please ticket that car? Do you see how someone in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller would have to go out into the street to get by? And they park there every day.”

    I then had to walk up to catch the bus, but as I looked back, the PCO has just continued on his way without ticketing the sidewalk parker…

  • The PCOs are probably afraid to start ticketing sidewalk-parked cars because it is just what people do right now. Unless there is a publicity program that this shit won’t stand anymore, I don’t expect these already-harassed city workers to take it on themselves.

    And the city is about to cut PCO positions, so that is not going to help. But doing more of these tickets would definitely help increase the MTA ticket deficit.

    These tickets are $100 a pop. That’s a lot of money. A lot. Many folks in the excelsior are not software engineers and genentech folks, a number are probably unemployed right now–so it is unfortunate that we do not have a progressive system for levying these fines.

  • make that “help decrease the MTA ticket revenue deficit.”

  • Robo

    I miss the dot-com days when the sidewalks were littered with expensive cars. Keying, tire punching, wiper blade sculptures-all de rigeur. Where did all those people go? Back home to live with their parents, maybe.

  • Fran Taylor

    “And I bet you that most of them don’t own their property so they have much less vested interest in keeping the neighborhood walkable, than me.”

    Commissioner Concrete: I love your idea and support your goals, but you’re way off base with this statement, and I hope you can hear the criticism and think twice before continuing to make assertions such as this. Fewer tenants than property owners drive, and we generally walk more, take more transit, and care just as much about getting around without cars. Many of us have lived in our rented homes for years and work just as hard as owners to make our neighborhoods more livable.

    The most vituperative responses I’ve ever gotten to requests to keep cars off the public way have come from homeowners who rant about “my sidewalk — I had to pay to fix it, blah, blah,” but I wouldn’t trash owners broadly just because of these experiences. Let’s keep the focus on people’s actions, not some imaginary demographic assumptions.

  • Fran, I hear you. I know all about the sensibilities of renters. I was a renter for many years before I bought a home. And of course this is all about people’s actions, nothing else.

    My statement could have been worded differently or left out altogether. The context of it was me replying to the statement “don’t shit where you sleep”. Chances are, that I will sleep, if you will, a lot longer at my home than those most notorious sidewalk parkers (3-4 cars in front), whom I see parking in front of rental properties. It is not totally offbase or “imaginary”, because it’s based on what I see, but I don’t know or want to extrapolate it to make general statements. I don’t really care in the end who and what they are.

    And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many owners who park on the sidewalk, or that there aren’t renters who work to make their neighborhoods livable.

  • Sean

    @CommissionerConcrete

    Yeah, I have to agree, you’re losing me with these remarks. I rent, and I’ve been in the same spot for 3.5 years. Sorry if that isn’t long enough for you. I didn’t realize you have to own property in order to have a vested interest in a beautiful, walkable neighborhood.

    I hope to punch through San Francisco’s upper crust and someday buy property so I too can avoid your disdainful gaze.

    But in all seriousness, why the attitude? A car parked on the sidewalk is a car parked on the sidewalk. It doesn’t matter if it is a renter or a property owner.

  • @Sean, he just said he phrased it wrong. He said he doesn’t care if it is a renter or an owner who parks. You responded plenty of time after he did so his comment must have been posted.

    I’m a renter and feel like if I want to stay in SF, I will always be one. I’m car-free, a biker, and avid MUNI activist. I stand behind the Commish and say kudos to his efforts to get ALL people to stop parking on our right away. Drivers would just run us over if we took a chair out into the street and sat in their right-of-way. Why is it acceptable for them to put themselves into our very limited space?

  • Sean

    @mikesonn

    I was replying to his comment where he says “Chances are, that I will sleep, if you will, a lot longer at my home than those most notorious sidewalk parkers (3-4 cars in front), whom I see parking in front of rental properties.” It still sounds like he holds a bias towards renters despite stating the opposite.

    At any rate, I don’t know why cars are given a pass on this issue. People should call in parked cars and pressure DPT and their supes to make this an actively enforced violation.

  • Hah… that’s what I get for saying the “r” word in San Francisco. Fair enough 🙂 I have no bias against renters at all. If you recall, I was told in effect to not get into fights where I live, in not as many words. Now speaking strictly about myself, when I rented (and I rented for some years in the city — so why would I be biased against it?), I moved around quite a bit. While I was always interested in livability, if something was super annoying, it mostly would have factored into a decision whether to move or not. I may have gotten into fights, but I also always knew I could just look for another place to live. Whereas now that I own, I expect for the first time to stay in the same place for a longer period of time, thus I feel more motivated to engage in activism. Again, that’s just how I feel, and I’m not making general statements about renters or owners. Like I said, I worded my comment unfortunately and SB doesn’t allow editing. BTW the rental properties I had in mind above do have quite a high turnover. Again, a specific case.

    There are all kinds of people out there. Some renters (such as a lot of SB readers) are very interested in their neighborhoods being livable. Some are less so. Some stay a long time and pick up the trash, and some feel free to fuck up a neighborhood exactly because they know they will be gone soon.

    Phew.. I’m done with this particular topic.

  • Fran Taylor

    Dear Commish:

    Thanks for hearing the critiques and engaging nondefensively. Now, all together, onward to better, freer sidewalks!

    Fran

  • EL

    Eric Fischer – The sidewalk is legally defined as the area between the edge of property line and the edge of curb. Thus, if a vehicle were to parallel park alongside the building but completely within the property line, that in itself is legal.

    It is, however, illegal to unnecessarily drive on the sidewalk under CVC 21663 to park the vehicle in that position in the first place.

    “21663. Except as expressly permitted pursuant to this code, including Sections 21100. 4 and 21114.5, no person shall operate or move a motor vehicle upon a sidewalk except as may be necessary to enter or leave adjacent property. ”

    Note that 21663 is a moving violation, enforced by SFPD (not the Parking Control Officers) so an officer would actually have to witness the unnecessary driving on the sidewalk in the first place to issue that citation. Furthermore, “unnecessary” would depend on a judgment call by the officer.

  • Blind in San Francisco

    I am blind and walk with a white cane. I generally consider myself a person who respects other people’s property. However, if you park your car and block the sidewalk forcing me to walk into the street and risk being hit by traffic, I feel that it was not my fault that I whacked your 3,000 pound automobile with my graphite white cane. Hope it doesn’t chip the paint.

  • EL, I agree with you that the Vehicle Code does not forbid parking within the property line if the vehicle is not encroaching on the sidewalk. I was trying to respond to Nick’s claim that “You know it’s not illegal to park on the sidewalk so long as you don’t block the narrow pedestrian ROW” with the law forbidding parking anywhere on the sidewalk, even if there is additional room for a pedestrian to pass around the vehicle.

    The prohibition on parking between the property line and a building in San Francisco is actually from the San Francisco Planning Code:

    Section 135 (f): Only those obstructions specified in Section 136 of this Code shall be permitted in a required front setback area, and no other obstruction shall be constructed, placed or maintained within any such area. No motor vehicle, trailer, boat or other vehicle shall be parked or stored within any such area, except as specified in Section 136.

    Section 136: (30) Driveways, for use only to provide necessary access to required or permitted parking that is located in the buildable area of the subject property other than in a required open area, and where such driveway has only the minimum width needed for such access, and in no case shall parking be allowed in the setback.

    which is difficult to enforce because as a planning issue it really needs to be enforced against the building/property, not against individual vehicles.

  • Robert Chin

    Maybe part of the problem is this old article that says that you can park on the sidewalk while street cleaning goes by: http://www.sfweekly.com/2004-07-07/news/top-10-unwritten-rules-of-parking/

    It also says “This unwritten rule has been formally adopted into the San Francisco Traffic Code,” although I couldn’t find the relevant section in the actual Traffic Code… maybe I don’t know where to look. The statement could also be referring to the second statement about moving vehicles back after street cleaning has passed, and not the initial statement about parking on the sidewalk.

  • Gary

    When meter maids drive around the city, they see cars parked on the sidewalks and other illegal parking but why don’t they stop and ticket them?

  • (minor) success story: Monterey Blvd. in Sunnyside is plagued with sidewalk parkers, maybe the worst I have seen in the city. I was walking along there on Saturday and called in a sidewalk parker. As I came back maybe 45 minutes later, he was ticketed.

    Of course, the ten or more other cars in the same area that I didn’t call in didn’t get ticketed.

  • Marky

    sfdsp.org manages to marry two of the things that I hate most about San Francisco – parking on the sidewalk and douche-y passive-aggressive behavior disguised as “doing what’s best for all of us.”

    The commish reminds me a bit of those folks who bought condos in SOMA and Potrero during the dot-com boom only to find out that there was a lot of noise from industry and clubs nearby and it moaned that it HAD TO STOP! Seriously, I hate sidewalk parking too but taking pictures of it and whining online about won’t solve anyone’s problems or change anyone’s mind.

  • Marky, I don’t really get your point. What do you suggest we should do? Just hate it quietly?

    Also, I think you are missing the point of the site. It is not the goal to chronicle all instances I see and to whine. I will certainly not spend all of my weekends with walking around and taking pictures. That said, starting off with some evidence of the problem seemed like a good idea.

    To my knowledge, before there has been no resource dedicated to this problem that would inform about the legality and what to do about it. This is especially remarkable since the problem is so widespread and so many people seem to have something against it. This is why I created the site. It is a resource about sidewalk parking, and I will periodically post updates about city / DPT policies, analysis, varying degrees of enforcement throughout the city and whatnot, as I find the information. I also hope the site contributes to the greater conversation about the public realm in the city. I don’t think this is whining or passive-aggressive. Again — do you want me to just shut up? How much would that contribute?

  • Marky

    Commish:

    No – I don’t think anyone should “just shut up” and you’re right – I may have missed the point of the blog. That said, I can’t imagine anyone *not* knowing that sidewalk parking is illegal.

    That said, I think we can agree that varying levels of illegal activity of different types that are tolerated at different levels throughout the city – panhandling, smoking weed in public, sidewalk parking, etc. One could get away with panhandling on a median on Van Ness but likely not in Presidio Heights, for example.

    Point being, if a law is being so widely flouted without regard to its possible consequence, it is likely because it is tolerated by those in the vicinity. That is the challenge in this case. Case in point, there is not much sidewalk parking where I live, but the Excelsior? Hell, yeah. It seems like a drive through the neighborhood before buying property would reveal that. Attempting to reverse that tide seems Quixotic. Consistent parking enforcement is likely the only option to stem the tide of this problem and is just as unlikely to occur for a number of reasons.

    Finally while blocking entire sidewalks is irritating and potentially dangerous, complaining about cars parked on the side walk during street cleaning seems petty. (Most of the time I have seen this it lasts ~15 minutes and the owners are in the cars.) This falls in the same category as complaining about double-parked delivery trucks (or the cars of church-goers on Sunday) in my book. Best of luck, in any case.

  • Anything that can be easily done (calling DPT and reporting sidewalk parkers) that makes it (1) more expensive to have a car in the city and (2) more pleasant for pedestrians is something I’ll do. I don’t really care how petty it is.

  • @Marky:

    “Case in point, there is not much sidewalk parking where I live, but the Excelsior? Hell, yeah. It seems like a drive through the neighborhood before buying property would reveal that. ”

    Yes… upon seeing the neighborhood, I guess I should have bought in Pac Heights after all. I have been accused of anti-renter bias before here, but I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding of buying a home in SF as well here. The fact is, if you want to buy in the city, want a house, and want to live close to “good” transit, then what you are left with is District 10 and 11. So you deal. I placed the closeness to transit etc. over other things I did see while house hunting. No property or neighborhood is ever going to be perfect, or if it is, it is only for astronomically rich people. I did, however, move here with the hope that I can contribute to making the neighborhood more pleasant to live and walk in.

    Also you are mistaken about the street cleaning. It just means more cars are parked on the sidewalk (often blocking it completely), ALL day.