SFMTA to Change “Unclear” Sidewalk Parking Guidelines on Website

Image from the SFMTA website

The SFMTA web page that provides guidance on “how to park legally” currently tells drivers that “you may park in your own driveway as long as no portion of your vehicle extends over the sidewalk.” The text is accompanied by a photo of someone walking a bike past cars parked in “driveways,” but with their rear ends extending well into what appears to be the sidewalk.

After I inquired with SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose about the legality of those instructions, he said that the agency will change it. “The page is unclear and may lead one to think that it is OK to park anywhere as long as you are not blocking the sidewalk,” he said. “We are working on changing it now.” The SFMTA hasn’t provided the new language yet.

SF’s rampant sidewalk parking problem seems to stem partially from a widespread belief among drivers that they’re allowed to park in their “driveway.” There’s no telling whether drivers are genuinely confused about parking laws or by the definition of a sidewalk — or whether drivers blatantly disregard the law, and their neighbors’ need for safe and dignified passage by foot, stroller, and wheelchair. But either way, the SFMTA’s instructions on the matter need to be clear.

I pointed out to Rose that the SFMTA’s instructions appear to conflict with the SF Planning Code, which prohibits parking in setbacks, and the fact that all off-street parking spots must be permitted in zoning.

Livable City Director Tom Radulovich confirmed: “The Planning Code prohibits parking in front yards, side yards, or rear yards, so SFMTA is advising San Franciscans to break the law – and risk getting cited by the Planning Department,” he said.

It’s a little troubling that the SFMTA would have illegal and ambiguous instructions posted on its most easily-accessible resource for parking information. Of course, changing it just barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to clean up SF’s car-littered sidewalks. Ultimately, it would mean an upheaval in deep-seated misconceptions among drivers and parking control officers of what constitutes a legal parking spot, and a greater respect for the pedestrian realm. And given that many San Franciscans own cars solely because they can rely on free, illegal parking, bringing parking enforcement in line with actual laws would probably result in a lot of cars going up for sale.

We’ll post an update when the SFMTA website is changed.

  • davistrain

    Looking at this from a suburban area near Pasadena (and thus a long way from SF), I can imagine the outraged cries of “War Against the Automobile!!” that would be heard if the City tried to crack down on cars parked where they don’t belong.

  • Fran Taylor

    Check out SpotOn, the new way you can rent out your “driveway”:


    No definition of driveway, of course. So now, in addition to lazy louts who can’t be bothered to parallel park, the new rent-a-sidewalk app will further obstruct pedestrian space. Will the SFMTA finally care? Don’t hold your breath.

    After repeated requests for an explanation of why seven times more tickets were issued for residential parking permit violations than for sidewalk parking, the SFMTA finally responded by saying that it was because there were so many more RPP violations. No explanation of how they would know that. Does SFMTA actually count the sidewalk parkers that they DON’T ticket. If not, answering my question about the seven times discrepancy by simply citing the number of tickets being issued is a splendid example of circular logic.

  • Jim

    Is the portion of the driveway that is within the property line and not part of the public sidewalk still considered part of the yard?

    I don’t like how car owners are allowed to park at the curb fronting their garage. However, I believe it is state law that regulates that form of parking. Homeowners can effectively pay a one-time fee to the planning department for the curb cut, and receive a lifetime of free curb-side parking. The homeowner gets a new large door for their downstairs storage room/closet, and the public loses a parking space.

    MTA should have included curb cuts as “lost” parking spaces during their audit. I’ve seen whole blocks of public parking in the Richmond and Sunset lost because of multiple single-car garages. MTA/Planning Dept should charge a yearly access fee to “maintain” the curb cut; charge more if the curb cut is in a metered/RPP area.

  • voltairesmistress

    In a city full of serious streetspace problems, complaining about someone parking within their own property lines and not over any public sidewalk seems pettifogging to me. Similarly, who cares if someone parks parallel in front of their own driveway/curb cut? They are not taking parking away from any other person. It is merely a question of optimal aesthetics.

    Here are a few issues we should focus on, instead of complaining about any and all driver behaviors. 1) 1000 serious ped/bike collision injuries a year; 2) highly paid muni staff but a lack of funding for a good transit system; 3) a minority of citizens able to derail key street redesign projects because of lack of political leadership at the top of SF politics. Anything else people want to add?

    Let’s not emulate the way the city government already fails to prioritize, spreading a great deal of cash and energy on an endless better living list.

  • murphstahoe

    Similarly, who cares if someone parks parallel in front of their own
    driveway/curb cut? They are not taking parking away from any other

    Depends. If the garage is not being used for car storage, the curb cut could be turning what could be multiple off street spots into one. One that is only used when the owner of said curb cut wants to use it, never by anyone else.

  • baklazhan

    Er, isn’t that already the case? The owner of the curb cut–the owner of the building– is the one who determines who parks in the “multiple off street spots”. If they choose to park across the curb cut instead, it’s either because the inside space is being used for parking, and everyone has an arrangement regarding the blockage of the driveway, or it’s because the inside space is being used for something else, like a workshop, or bike or motorbike storage, so an arrangement isn’t necessary.

  • baklazhan

    My understanding is that the SFMTA never cites anyone for sidewalk parking, unless someone calls in a specific complaint about a specific location. They automatically cite RPP violations.

  • J.J.

    One problem with cars parking in the “setback” is how much time they spend maneuvering their vehicle on the sidewalk in order to get into the “setback.”

  • Sean Rea

    The curb cut is there to provide access, right? If you’ve configured your garage so that you don’t need that access (as my neighbors have, by stuffing it to the brim with boxes), I don’t see why what is normally an illegal parking spot becomes your private space for eternity.

    Maybe there’s some arcane law I’m not aware of, but it feels like an abuse of the system to me.

  • misterfranklin

    “I don’t like how car owners are allowed to park at the curb fronting
    their garage. However, I believe it is state law that regulates that
    form of parking.”

    Correct. It’s illegal under state law. CVC 22500(e):

    “No person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle… [i]n front of a public or private driveway, except that a bus engaged as a common carrier, schoolbus, or a taxicab may stop to load or unload passengers when authorized by local authorities pursuant to an ordinance.”


  • RoyTT

    Even if you use your garage for storage, you might still need regular vehicle access to the garage for moving stuff in and out. Such access would be difficult to achieve if there is always someone else’s car parked, blocking such access.

    There is really no way of knowing whether a garage is used for parking or storage, so I’d question whether any meaningful public policy could be developed about it.

    And I say that as someone who regularly gets annoyed that my neighbors park on the street (whether blocking their garage or not) when they have a perfectly good garage space that they are not using for whatever reason.

  • alfredo rossi

    Let me correct your post: “My understanding is that the SFMTA never cites anyone for sidewalk
    parking, EVEN WHEN someone calls in a specific complaint about a specific

  • sebra leaves

    Go ahead and make all the people with their own driveways mad at the SFMTA so they will support the Restore Transportation Balance initiative. Put them out of their misery. They have failed and it is time to say “Goodbye.” Go to
    restorebalance14.org for details.

  • the_greasybear

    Even when I have called in vehicles leaving less than a foot or two for pedestrians to pass, no tickets get issued. Basically, the only way to get a citation in San Francisco is to get on a bicycle…

  • coolbabybookworm

    When I call about sidewalk parkers in SoMa alleys I’ve seen tickets delivered. Downtown is definitely a higher priority area though, and they have PCOs in the area.

  • Guest

    If you’re going to park like an ahole just be a courteous one, like this person.

  • Just remember If you’re going to park like an ahole just be a courteous one, like this person.

  • SF_Abe

    You keep using that word [balance]. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

  • guest

    if the garage is used for storage the parking space is not ‘yours’ . kind of a hack but it makes sense–if you want a garage, you get the space, and can stick an add’l car in that space because you know you won’t block yourself.
    the city apparently will check before issuing a ticket.

    and yeah i don’t care at all if people block their own driveways on the sidewalk or road so long as the blockage doesn’t prevent the traffic (pedestrian, car, bicycle, stroller, whatever) from getting past. it’s a dense city. deal.

  • NoeValleyJim

    Back when I had a motorcycle, I used to occasionally get a ticket for parking on the sidewalk.

  • RoyTT

    Yes, when you call in DPT to have a car removed that is blocking your driveway, the officer asks you to prove it is your driveway. Typically that is done by having you open your garage door although it’s possible they’d accept a DL showing that address as yours.

    They will only ticket and tow if you can prove it’s your driveway. So a mischievous neighbor cannot get your car towed if it blocking your driveway.

    I agree with you that a properly parked car blocking your own driveway isn’t a hazard or danger to others any more than any other car parked regularly on the street. The annoyance comes more from the effective reduction in the number of available street parking spaces that causes.

    But as I said before, I don’t think it’s worth changing the regulations or enforcement practices. While someone parking a vehicle on their own land helps the parking situation on the street, and so likewise is not a priority for DPT. In fact, I don’t even think that DPT have authority to do anything about a vehicle that is off-street.

  • 94103er

    I hate those dumb notes more than anything. As if one can be magically, instantly summoned on a cellphone; instead, invariably, the offender does not answer his phone right away and the driveway owner spends extra time on that plus calling DPT to get the jerk’s car ticketed/towed.

  • There used to be something called Park Circa that tried this before. They actually published guidelines for parking on the sidewalk, entirely bogus ones, of course.

  • One has to be a persistent caller to get results. Also, after midnight it will be the SFPD instead of a PCO.

  • @sebra leaves – “Their own driveways” end at the sidewalk. State law.


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