Another motorist who thinks he/she owns the sidewalk.
A reader comments on SFDSP:
You are awesome!Hey, I read your interview on Streetsblog and I wanted to comment on the part about your neighbors paving over grass to make a parking space.I'm not sure about the planning code in your area of the city, but my (possibly WRONG) understanding is that removing a lawn and replacing it with concrete is illegal in most parts of the city unless you get a permit first. And nobody does. Not sure if you can do anything about it when it's done rather than in-progress, but you might want to look into that.And if you do find out the deal-i-o on that, I would love to know what it is.
Thanks, Martin! (And, since I haven't mentioned it here yet, mega thanks to Streetsblog for the interview!)
I actually do know some things about this. It is true, concreting over front yards in front of houses without a permit is illegal. In fact, District 11 ex-Supervisor (now Judge) Gerardo Sandoval has introduced legislation in 2008 targeted at illegal concreters.
The City could start issuing citations to property owners who pave over their front yards or violate any other planning code.
A citation for a violation would carry a fine of $100 if it was not fixed after 30 days, and $500 if not fixed after 90 days.
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said that “giving the department some tools to do some of this enforcement is extremely important and hopefully [the Planning Department] will use it.”
Sounds good! The problem? To my knowledge, this law has never ever been enforced. I did report the concreting of the front yard which I witnessed, to the Planning Department. They told me they would assign an inspector to investigate, but the concrete is still in place and frankly I am not expecting it to be removed. (I just can't wait until the cars show up over the newly created sidewalk "parking spots"!)
It gets better, though. There is actually another, older and little-known entry in the planning code (Section 132(g)) in San Francisco which stipulates that "at least 20 percent of the front yard to be devoted to landscaping or plant material". Of course, that requirement is also routinely violated or "forgotten".
In general, I think a few words about the sidewalk and front yard in front of properties are in order. While property owners are generally required to keep "their" sidewalk section clean, accessible, and also pay for any repairs, they do not own the sidewalk. They (or their renters) cannot park there, they cannot put anything there without a permit. The city encourages (in fact, as we have seen, requires) the installation of front yards - which benefit the community and the environment in a variety of ways -, and may also issue permits for "permanent encroachments" (benches, planters etc - I have no experience with these permits but maybe some of you can chime in), but that is about it.
See it this way: with property ownership and renting come rights and responsibilities. Caring for the sidewalk in front of your house and keeping it in good order is one of your responsibilities. Yet so often, people somehow turn this into their (supposed) right to do as they please and park their vehicles on the sidewalk. They clearly are on the wrong side of the law - and of human decency.