Enforcement, Paint Solve 19th Avenue Sidewalk Parking Problem

IMG_0766.jpgA new line of paint between the parking lane and traffic lanes on 19th Avenue seems to be a comfort to motorists, who are no longer parking partially on the sidewalk. Photo: Michael Rhodes

Some San Francisco drivers have turned over a new leaf on 19th Avenue in the Sunset, where they have adopted the habit of parking on the street, in stark contrast to the previous widespread practice of parking partially or entirely on the sidewalk.

As Streetsblog reported in January, drivers nervous about the heavy volume of traffic passing by their parked cars had taken to widespread illegal parking, reducing 19th Avenue’s already skinny sidewalks to mere ribbons of cement and adding pedestrian hazards to one of the most dangerous streets in the city.

What’s more, as SFPD sergeant Steve Quon told Streetsblog in January, his station was not
inclined to enforce sidewalk parking unless there were significant
complaints or his station received some of the parking fine revenue.

"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," said Quon at the time. "There’s not a lot of pedestrian traffic on 19th. As you can see,
there’s nobody on it right now," he said at the time.

Starting in May, however, the MTA’s Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) began flyering illegally parked vehicles with a warning that they were to park in the street between the new white line painted by Caltrans and the curb, or risk being ticketed and towed.

"Supervisor Chu worked with the MTA to do the striping to show people where it was safe to park on the street," said Cammy Blackstone, an aide to Carmen Chu, supervisor for most of the Sunset district. "Obviously, it’s just paint, but it gives people a comfort level that it’s a reasonable place to be and I can not get wiped out by a car."

"That and the fact the they’re probably being ticketed," added Blackstone, who said she’s received a lot more calls this year from residents who’ve gotten parking citations.

MTA spokesperson Judson True confirmed that the DPT had stepped up enforcement in the area. "We did
increase our citation issuance earlier this year after
the edge line was painted, and after putting warning flyers on vehicles
that were partially parked on the sidewalk," True wrote in an email to

"We are pleased that the sidewalks are now clearer for

The MTA also worked with Caltrans to paint the new line along
the parking lane, said True. Caltrans spokesperson Steve Williams said the line was painted as part of a broader effort to improve pedestrian safety on 19th Avenue, which includes a double-fine zone, pedestrian countdown signals, and new ADA-compliant curb ramps.

Taraval police station didn’t rush to take credit for the improved
conditions: an officer who answered the phone at the station said DPT
enforces parking, and police wouldn’t have had anything to do with it.

still easy to spot cars parked in driveways on side streets and parts
of 19th Avenue, blocking the way for pedestrians, but with the prodding
of pedestrian advocates and the support of Supervisor Chu, DPT, and
Caltrans, getting cars to park fully in the parking lane has proven refreshingly effective.

Truck_hydrant_sidewalk.jpg19th Avenue then: drivers routinely parked with two wheels on the sidewalk. Photo: Matthew Roth

sidewalk_parking_small.jpgMore illegal parking from earlier this year, before the new enforcement. Photo: Matthew Roth
IMG_0764.jpg19th Avenue now: cars parked fully on the street. Photo: Michael Rhodes
IMG_0769.jpgWhile cars are no longer parked with two wheels on the sidewalk, some are still parked with all four wheels in the pedestrian right-of-way. Photo: Michael Rhodes
IMG_0773.jpg19th Avenue is still far from a haven for pedestrians.
  • WhateverSFPD

    “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,” said Quon at the time.

    Uh, isn’t the city seriously in the red because of a revenue shortage? And isn’t it law enforcement’s JOB to issue citations? What lazy morons.

  • If this works on 19th Avenue, can we do it on Cesar Chavez westbound from 101 and on Diamond going up the hill from Glen Park too?

  • SFResident

    Planting trees on the sidewalk would keep folk from doing this and make 19th a much more pleasant thoroughfare.

  • john k

    Are we sure those cars in the second to last picture are parked in the pedestrian right-of-way? Aren’t those cars just parked on paved-over lawns? If you look further down the block in that photo, you’ll see that some houses with lawns/trees extend all the way out past where those cars are parked. So only 3 squares are public right-of-way. If that’s the case, aren’t those cars parked LEGALLY on private pavement?

  • Nick

    The whole push for safety improvements came after a particular horrifying pedestrian death at 19th Avenue and Sloat.

    A car crashed and pinned a young woman against the street pole as she waited on the sidewalk for her turn to cross.

    It’s absolute BS that it took someone’s life to force the city to act when many of us pleaded with the city for years to do something about the known and specific problem with that intersection (vehciles making left turns into oncoming traffic from westbound Sloat).

    Lest we forget someone died here.

  • No, John K, the San Francisco Planning Code forbids the use of building setbacks for vehicle storage, so even if the vehicles are within the property line, they cannot be legally parked there.

    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.

  • john k
  • John K, I am not a lawyer, but that looks to me like a violation of the same code sections.

  • Kat

    It should also be noted that they narrowed the traffic lanes on 19th avenue in order to make the parking lane wider. This, unlike the change in the posted speed limits from 35 to 30 (on most of the street) has been much more effective in actually slowing traffic. I commute on or near 19th avenue from the Sunset to SFSU and greatly appreciate the improvements from all transportation points of view. The pedestrian signals are great for when I am taking the 28 or biking (I bike on 18th/20th) and the slowed traffic makes me slightly less afraid for my life as a pedestrian. New signals and traffic that *actually* moves slower (rather than just me) and the wider parking lane is nice for the few times when I drive. I look forward to more trees on 19th, the ones in the blocks between Sloat and Eucalyptus are nice and more mature than the new ones, so it would be great if they planted more and eventually the whole street was a little less unpleasant. (A longer pedestrian signal crossing 19th at Holloway would also be super.)

  • tommy

    yeah, it was strange that the article didn’t mention that the MAIN reason you want people parking off the sidewalk is to get drivers to go a little slower, being closer to parked cars (and, if the other lanes are narrowed, being closer to moving cars). this is what improves pedestrian (and bike) safety, much more than having wider sidewalks! that said, im a big fan of very wide sidewalks as well. they make the pedestrian experience more pleasant, allow for people to stop if they want, hang out, socialize. important for quality city life. and as much as the sunset could use trees, i think it is very important to only encourage tree installation where sidewalks are extraordinarily wide or where sidewalk widening is taking place.

  • NBP

    Any improvements to 19th Avenue would certainly be welcome. I go to SFSU and live and shop in vicinity of 19th Ave, which is the lifeblood of my weekly activities. There should be more sidewalk space and safer pedestrian crossings around SFSU, Stonestown, Lakeside (Ocean Avenue shops, Lowell High School on Euclyptus), at Taraval St (where I shop), and between Judah and Lincoln Way (Irving St Shops).

  • zsolt

    SFPD doing something about sidewalk parking? Somebody pinch me!

    Yes, John K, that is illegal as well. It is not the homeowner’s property, but public space. I’m sure people would think it strange if I would start storing old appliances in that space in front of my house, yet most don’t think twice parking their car(s) there..

  • Kat

    zsolt- if given the option, I’d rather see cars parked in driveways next to front yards than have that same structure be designed for more garages, which is both unpleasant to walk next to (more curbcuts and garage doors, less setback), and generally seismically unsafe. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_story_building). Although my preference for areas such as the Sunset is to have only on-street parking, no driveway curb cuts, and buildings that are set back with front yards.

  • zsolt

    @Kat: I’m not sure what you mean. Why would the structure ever be designed to have more garages? That would never be legal, either. These are single family homes we are talking about (john k’s link) that already have adequate provisions for one or two cars.

    The root cause of the problem in these neighborhoods is that 1) people use their garages as a storage space and/or 2) most of these homes have illegally constructed in-laws which are subsequently slummed out to family or poor renters, thereby further increasing the number of cars that need space. My house has a garage in which we keep our (quite rarely used) car. It also has an unused illegal in-law which we at some point will convert into legal living space. But we’re the big exception. My neighbor house (roughly the same size as ours) on the right has 3 families squeezed into it, the front yard is concreted over, and they constantly have 2-3 cars parked on the sidewalk (that’s in addition to the two they park on the street, and the one in the garage) – they even used to hang over in front of my house, until one day I called the DPT. My neighbors on my left are college kids who use their garage as a practice space for their godawful band, and consequently also park their 1-2 cars right on the sidewalk all the time.

    I have all but given up that the sidewalk parking problem ever will be solved, since it would take the actual enforcement of zoning laws (unheard of in this city), which would mean eviction for a lot of people, to get the number of cars down to a level that the neighborhoods were actually designed for.


Disabilities Advocates Launch Campaign to End Sidewalk Parking

Supervisor 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 […]