Eyes on the Street: This Is Not a Sidewalk, It’s Parking

Photo: Patrick Traughber/Twitter

At first (and second) glance, this block in south SoMa appears to have cars parked across what clearly looks to be a sidewalk. The area in question is up on a curb, has curb-level sidewalks leading to it from the streets that intersect on either side of the block, and even has both a trash can and fire hydrant on it. If there’s somehow another a sidewalk there, it’s nowhere to be found.

The block in question is on Henry Adams Street, also known as the north end of Kansas Street where it meets the roundabout at Division Street. Patrick Traughber called attention to it on Twitter, perplexed by a scene of what could be easily mistaken as pedestrian space overtaken by careless automobile storage.

But the SFMTA assures us: “What looks like a sidewalk is not; it is actually valid parking,” said agency spokesperson Paul Rose after I presented the photo and location to him.

“It is an odd configuration (curbed), but you can see the signs in the background that say 2-hour time limit,” he said. “The location is enforced for the time limit. In front of the public parking is a private business with their own parking spaces.”

Could’ve fooled me. It appears that this side of the street functions as a “shared” space for both pedestrians and drivers. The only sidewalk to be found is on the opposite side of the street, and it’s both elevated and separated by a guard rail.

Perhaps some folks with deeper historical knowledge of this area could fill us in via the comments. But one guess of mine is that this was a sidewalk decades ago, which was informally taken over for parking, then legitimized for that use by a past generation of city officials who would actually do such a thing.

  • shotwellian

    There’s a similar situation on Shotwell Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez. The west side of the block is all auto body shops, and they store their cars on what looks very much like a sidewalk. I’ve gotten conflicting reports from different city agencies about whether it’s legal.

  • Guest

    The “Restore Balance” website should ditch the image of the F-line and replace it with this.

  • timsmith

    This may have been an area that just never truly got a sidewalk. Historical aerial imagery shows vehicles parked in what should be the sidewalk as early as 1938.

    FWIW, a project is approved that would add a mixed-use condo building to the site on the right of the photo. As part of the project, the developer was required to include a 12-foot sidewalk, which will actually be on private land. This seems to have been done in order to preserve the angled on-street parking. So, instead of switching to parallel parking and providing a standard sidewalk in the public right of way, the developer had to reduce developable space (which could probably have increased the amount of living space constructed) to preserve wild west-style parking.


  • Pretty weird, but on the “plus” side it is at least public parking. What I’ve been more confused by are other nearby streets where property owners have put up signs indicating private parking (see Carolina Street: http://goo.gl/maps/tjvV2), but the DPW key maps show an 80′ ROW, which means it’s all public property as measured on Google Earth. That particular block is pretty ridiculous to walk down- who best at SFMTA could I ask about that?

  • Anon

    It is an abandoned rail spur

  • SF_Abe

    The southern end of 9th Street (just north of Division) is another example. There’s no curb, and the signs indicate that the angled parking is only for the gym on that block. Meanwhile the street is two 30′ wide lanes (one way)– plenty of room for a sidewalk in there.

  • Easy

    This stretch of Kansas St is part of SF Bike Route 123, which connects the 17th St bike lanes to the 8th St and Division/Townsend St bike lanes, yet it only has sharrows. They’re pretty ineffective as well – cars and UPS trucks will try pass you, and then cut you off when the face oncoming traffic. This is a rare opportunity to put in a bidirectional curb-separated bike lane at the same time as other construction! They should also take a bite out of the south-west corner of the block to make a Dutch-style roundabout.

  • Timsmith

    Evidence? Was not a rail spur as of 1938.

  • Anthony

    get over it. If it’s signed for vehicle parking, then it’s for vehicle parking. Get a life.

  • timsmith

    The lack of a proper sidewalk violates the city’s own policies, including those laid out in the Better Streets Plan. Holding the city’s feet to the fire to uphold the most basic of safety amenities for the pedestrians is a worthy cause.

  • Something is afoot on this block- see pic from Friday 12/12/14. I don’t see anything in the Planning permit system (http://propertymap.sfplanning.org/?dept=planning), but I may be missing something.