How to keep the peace with your neighbors when parking is tight

Street parking is an issue that can easily create conflict among neighbors in almost every part of The City.

When I first moved into my house, almost 30 years ago, parking was rarely a problem. Most of the people who lived on my block were seniors who had been there for decades. Most houses had only one car, and that car was parked in the garage. Finding parking was easy.

But, over time, the neighborhood changed. It’s now mostly younger families. Many use their garage for storage or as an added living area, not for cars. So they park on the street. And nearly every house seems to have more than one vehicle.

Like most San Francisco neighborhoods with attached single-family homes, there’s barely enough space to park a car in front of my house.

The house on the other side of my driveway has a little more curb space, but still only one car fits there. It seems that cars are almost always parked on both sides of my driveway, and they frequently encroach into my driveway. I have to be very careful not to hit either as I drive into or out of my garage.

Just last week, an SUV was parked in front of my neighbor’s house, with its rear bumper nearly half a foot into my driveway. Combined with another car being parked in front of my house , my car had only a few inches of clearance .

What made it even more annoying was that the driver of the SUV had left over a foot of curb space in front of their car. I don’t know who drives the SUV, so I couldn’t just knock on a door and ask the driver to move it. Finally, after waiting almost a week with the car just sitting there, I left a note on the windshield pointing out the problem and asking the person to be more considerate in the future. It took almost three more days, but someone finally noticed the sign, and moved the car forward about a foot. I could finally go in and out of my driveway without worrying.

All of this parking carelessness is illegal, of course. Legally, a driveway begins at the “curb cut,” where the curb starts to slope downward. It’s illegal to park in front of a driveway or to park your car so that any part of it extends into a curb cut. There is an exception though. A vehicle registered at a driveway’s address can encroach into a curb cut. But, in multiple unit buildings, no vehicle – even one registered at the address – can block any part of the driveway.

It’s also illegal to park your car so that it extends into a red zone painted on either side of a driveway. And it’s illegal to leave a car parked in the same spot for more than 72 hours, something my neighbors often seem to forget. Most of these rules are not enforced unless someone complains.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who calls the Department of Parking and Traffic asking for cars to be ticketed or towed. I just wish people would be a little more considerate when parking. Before walking away from your car, make sure neither of your bumpers are jutting into a curb cut. If one does, get back into your car and move it a little forward or backward … or find another parking space. Your neighbors will thank you.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area. She is a guest columnist.