Disabilities Advocates Launch Campaign to End Sidewalk Parking

Can__t_get_by.jpgSupervisor Carmen Chu and representatives from Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired demonstrate the hazards of sidewalk parking and broken paving stones.

The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Independent Living Resource Center and the Senior Action Network launched a new campaign with Supervisor Carmen Chu today to draw attention to illegal sidewalk parking, which is rampant in District 4.  Sidewalks are for Everyone (SAFE) kicked it off with a walking tour of the Sunset, pointing out the numerous dangers not necessarily obvious to able pedestrians, let alone vehicle owners.

Winifred Downing of the California Council of the Blind said she has on several occasions suffered head injuries  by running face-first into objects sticking out of the bed of trucks. And Amber DiPietra of Lighthouse explained her travails:

a car is blocking a sidewalk, I do hope that what people understand is
it’s not just an inconvenience, but it sets into motion a chain of
events.  I’ve missed my bus because a car was blocking my path; I had
to wait in the dark in the cold in an unfamiliar neighborhood simply
because I couldn’t approach the bus stop.  I’ve had to dart out into
the street and I was even hit by a taxi because a car was blocking my

SAFE campaign advocates will spend the next few months meeting with community organizations in the Sunset to raise awareness among neighbors.  Rather than focus on punitive measures, SAFE hopes outreach and education will change the neighborhood.

Truck_hydrant_sidewalk.jpgOn the sidewalk and in front of a hydrant on 19th Avenue

They will have their work cut out for them.

SFPD Sergeant Steve Quon of the Taraval Station said he’s not inclined
to enforce sidewalk parking, except in instances where there are significant
complaints.  “There are so many cars on the sidewalk on
19th Avenue, if we cited one, we’d have to cite all of them.  That’s a
lot of citations.  There’s not a lot of pedestrian traffic on 19th.  As you can see, there’s nobody on it right now.”

When it was suggested he’s missing out on a lot of fine revenue, he replied: “We
don’t look at it that way.  We can’t look at it from a money factor,
because it doesn’t really go into our pockets.  We don’t get a
percentage or anything.”

SFMTA spokesman Judson True assured Streetsblog San Francisco managers at the Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) have told their employees to enforce any instance of sidewalk parking they encounter.

When asked why the walking tour had seen so many illegally parked cars on the sidewalk, Supervisor Chu cited the limited enforcement capability of DPT.  “Unfortunately as a city we
don’t have nearly enough DPT officers to provide adequate coverage.”

Should the SAFE approach not get results, San Francisco advocates might take cues from Los Angeles, where the city has been sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to the tune of $1 billion for a pattern of failed enforcement of sidewalk parking (PDF).

UCLA Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup, who plans to testify in favor of the lawsuit, argues that “parking on the sidewalks has spread as predicted by the “broken windows” theory: if everyone can see that the city doesn’t ticket cars on the sidewalks in their neighborhood, they may be tempted to park on the sidewalk whenever the need arises. That has certainly happened in LA.”




  • “There are so many cars on the sidewalk on 19th Avenue, if we cited one, we’d have to cite all of them.”

    Am I missing something? Is there a maximum number of citations they can hand out? Are they worried about running out of paper? This is nuts!

    (also, I’m not familiar with the location but that last picture looks like it’s showing people parked on their front yards, not the sidewalk. A common pattern in the West side of town is very narrow public sidewalks, and concrete front yards which are private property and not illegal to park on)

  • jr

    You can park as far as your property line designates, if any part of your car protrudes into the public right of way of the sidewalk, you can be cited.

    I’d rather people block their own driveway in the actual street than blocking the entire sidewalk.

  • I’m not surprised that the SFPD “is not inclined to enforce sidewalk parking.” At a pedestrian safety meeting in the Mission in 2003, the police presenter, a man whose job included talking about street safety to schoolchildren, stood up and stoutly proclaimed, “The number one cause of pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco is pedestrian fault!” He handed around a table with statistics on such fatalities, and sure enough, number one cause was “pedestrian fault.” But the next several categories — red light running, speeding, failure to yield, etc. — were all “driver fault,” and they added up to twice the total for pedestrian fault. They were each listed separately, however, and thus fell below the pedestrian fault totals, which were all lumped together.

    So this cop, who couldn’t add, was spreading misinformation around to schools, blaming the victims, and doing nothing to solve the problem. Sergeant Quon’s comment shows that the SFPD still regards pedestrians as tall, wingless pigeons expected to jump out of the way of the city’s true citizens: cars.

  • dd

    what about parking the car tandem behind another car? and you live in the building? also, can a neighbor call DPT as a complaint even though it’s not their driveway?

    i got a ticket and it said on the ticket it was a complaint but the address from the complaint was next door. can this be contested?

  • tk

    From a different perspective, do you know how difficult it is to find a parking space in San Francisco? As a typical family of 4 members, 2 adults and 2 kids, we have 2 cars in the house hold. One of our cars is parked in the gargage while the other one has to be parked on the street. I came home from work from South Bay everyday in the evening at around 7pm and there is no parking space anywhere within a few block. I have 2 young kids who I need to drop off to school in the morning, and whoever has young kids should understand how difficult it is to walk a few blocks to your cars with a couple young kids.

    So what should I do with my car? I just did what everyone else did in the neighberhood. i.e. on my driveway, blocking park of the sidewalk. There is still enough space for pedestrian though. However, I have been receiving multiple $100 citations because of complaints (most of the times, I am the only one being cited even though my neighbors are doing the same thing. Maybe it was because my drive way is a little bit shorter than the others, so there is less room to pass by comparing to the others.)

    For this month alone, I have received 2 citations, but what else can I do with the severe shortage of parking spaces in the neighborhood? (Sigh!)

  • “For this month alone, I have received 2 citations, but what else can I do with the severe shortage of parking spaces in the neighborhood? (Sigh!)”

    1) Drive around looking for a legal spot
    2) Lease another parking space
    3) Sell one of your cars

    While I have only one child and not two – I also work in the South Bay and we have only one car, I take Caltrain to work, riding to the station on my bike. It would be simpler (read: Lazier) for me to just get another car, drive to work and to park on the sidewalk when I get home, but it would also be selfish. There are limited resources available – this presents you with a choice. Make one – and not one that requires other people to pay the consequences of your choice.

  • griffinmills

    “…who doesn’t know how to add.” Hey, here is a clue, statistics can be spun to support just about anything. Pedestrian at fault as the cause is not the same as pedestrian at fault for a category. Next time YOU make a chart and bring it and it can say and support whatever agenda you like.

    “…consequences of your choice”
    You know so very little of the situation yet you sit and judge from the most ridiculous of high horses. Please don’t try and act like it’s a simple “choice” to move your home because of parking issues. Oh yes, just traumatize the children and sell your HOME because some uppity child thinks it’s trendy to be green.

    I can only assume this is “suddenly” a “big issue” because we have hit some critical mass of cars necessitating all these shenanigans? It hasn’t been a big issue the last 40 years I’ve lived here but suddenly some old blind person realizes it’s a pain in the butt for them to wander around outside unattended and we have to rewire the whole city.

    The cops are also completely despicable. “We don’t get a cut.” is why you don’t ticket?? How about you do or don’t ticket because it’s the “right” thing to do. If the majority think it’s okay to park on 19th ave (and how can someone post here as a San Franciscan and NOT know what 19th ave is…) sidewalks then it’s PROBABLY OKAY TO DO SO. SFPD, don’t give “it’s not profitable” as an answer, at least go with the, “we have bigger crimes to chase” argument when you want to sidestep an answer, come on!


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