January 15, 2010

List DPT calls for parking offenses

EveryBlock is a handy way of keeping track of activity in your neighborhood. I noticed that you can list the calls placed with DPT about parking, and the case's resolution, here. According to this link, yesterday (Jan 14), no less than 156 calls were made about parking. Keep them coming!

January 13, 2010

Didn't quite fit in the garage

John Holtzclaw sends in this gem, a frequent occurrence at the garage at 751 Ellis.

January 12, 2010

More about sidewalks and front yards

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.

What to do when street parking is verboten? Easy...

Just park on the sidewalk.

Used car lot

January 9, 2010

Here's the sad thing:

According to the sign on the gate, this is the entrance to a daycare. That's right! It's never too early to start teaching 'em about the virtues of sidewalk parking!

Hey... I left some room there in the front!

Just beautiful!

Does the sidewalk parking law apply to... boats?

Seriously, how would you even ticket this thing? Also, the recurring theme of sidewalk parking in front of "No Parking, Tow Away" signs is a in full display here.

Very neighborly

The three musketeers

I wonder about the significance of the cone

Two more sleeping beauties

Oh the irony

Of sidewalk parking under a NO PARKING sign. Okay, it's a street cleaning sign, but still.

More driveway parkers

How much nicer would this street look without these cars parked on the sidewalk? How much more inviting would it be for people to take a walk, if the sidewalk would have some nice gardens in the front, a row of trees and maybe a bench or two? But no dice with these motorists.

The driveway myth

Some people believe, or claim to believe, that this car is parked legally. It's in the house's driveway, right? Wrong! San Francisco houses typically have zero setback, meaning that the property line ends with the street facing wall. The space the owner of this car would describe as "my driveway" is in fact not "his" or "hers". It's public right of way, and thus the car is parked illegally. The only time this car should be on the sidewalk is during entering / exiting the garage.

None shall pass!

Technically, this car is not on the sidewalk...

It hovers over it.

How much is a sidewalk parking ticket?

According to Article 300 of the San Francisco Municipal Code, it currently is at $100, making it one of the more expensive parking tickets you can get in the city.

SFMTA Flyers - use or not?

The SFMTA's parking division offers flyers that you can download and post on cars parked on sidewalks, in driveways, red zones, on abandoned cars, etc. However, this is not something we at the SFDSP recommend. It is misguided to ask private citizens to do the SFMTA's job. Unlike DPT officers, you do not have a mandate or right to enforce parking laws, or to post signs or tickets on anyone's vehicle. The SFDSP recommends not to confront sidewalk parkers in person. It may go well and end in a satisfactory resolution, but it may not (and many people are awfully touchy about their cars and their misguided views of their "rights" to block the sidewalk). It is best to err on the side of caution and let the authorities deal with the problem. As a general policy, never touch any vehicles, and it is certainly not recommended to get into an argument with anyone. The bottom line: it's best to call in sidewalk parkers (and other offenses), and get MTA to do what is their job -- enforcing parking laws.

January 8, 2010

Parking lot ahead - turn sharp left

Trailer trash

Another personal favorite of your Commissioner. I wonder if someone is actually living in the trailer, it seems likely. (The white Beetle in the back is parked as well and not moving.)

The container shrub adds a nice touch of green

It's morning in America

Some don't even remove their front garden

They just park right in front of it.

A truck that's almost bigger than the house

Smack in the middle

What pangs of conscience?

Pangs of conscience is for pussies.

She ain't going nowhere

A personal favorite of Commissioner Concrete.

Lone ranger

How long until the tree is gone?

To make space for a fifth and sixth car?


Mr. T

Pangs of conscience?

This is a creative way of sidewalk parking that the Department comes across every once in a while. The sidewalk is not wide enough for a car to park on it and leave enough room for a person to walk by. The solution: park halfway in the street, and halfway on the sidewalk. Note: this is still full-way illegal.

Long-term car storage

Doesn't look like these cars are moved a lot. Thus the car parked on the street is illegally parked as well (you can't take the same spot for more than 72 hours).

Geometric games

Halfway job

Clearly an experienced subject, the lack of license plate makes ticket evasion much easier.

Real Americans park their truck on the sidewalk

Note American flag.

At least they left the trees.... for now.

SUV right-of-way

There is a good discussion of the concreting over of front yards, and sidewalk parking, going on over at SocketSite.

Excerpt from one of the comments:

Fourth of all, most of these homes were designed as single family homes. The fact that some owners have illegally converted them into multi-family/boarding houses with parking lots out front in order to make ends meet does not excuse them from zoning requirements, which I might add, were on the books well before these folks made these conversions. The homeowners did not *need* to buy small homes for large families and multi-tenants, that was an optional choice. Likewise whatever you think of MUNI, it does exist and transportation is not impossible in the absence of a car. Parking pads are, in most cases, a matter of convenience and choice, not necessity. This is not a basic human right, and no one will die because 20% of the front yard was converted to greenery.

In essence your argument boils down to because they started breaking the law, they now *need* to keep breaking the law, and we should therefore allow them to continue to break the law while our city turns into a concrete flooded wasteland.

Welcome from Commissioner Concrete!

An example of what my department is concerned with.

On behalf of my entire staff, I welcome you to the San Francisco Department of Sidewalk Parking. Note that we are not affiliated with any official San Francisco government agency or department.

The SFDSP's mission is to raise awareness, in a somewhat light-hearted way, of a serious problem in San Francisco. Their garages cluttered, converted to in-law units (mostly illegally), or unable to hold their excessive number of cars (and given that city streets are already chock full with that unmistakable manifestation of the American Dream), many of our fellow San Franciscans seem to think it is in their right to park their private vehicles right onto the public sidewalk. Often this means that street trees and front gardens are removed and concreted over (both are illegal), to make place for vehicles to park on it (also illegal). This practice not only turns entire once-charming and attractive neighborhoods into blighted, ugly, and depressing seas of concrete, but it also endangers pedestrians, harms the environment, and runs counter to the city's professed goal to create walkable, sustainable communities. The city has long been reluctant about confronting this problem. While you can report sidewalk parking to the DPT anonymously at 415-553-1200 (and in most cases, they will come out and ticket), it is our view that the City should take a much more aggressive stance against this blight and be more vigilant on enforcing zoning and permit laws.

The Department will be posting some of the more instructive examples of sidewalk parking and sidewalk blight, as well as background analysis and information on the legalities of certain practices, the authorities' response and efforts, and how you can help fight sidewalk blight.

I encourage you to contribute to the Department's work. Send your pictures and submissions to me.

Yours truly,
Commissioner Concrete