The Letter of the Law on Street Parking Near Driveways

Stencils of Doom

There’s been a lot of debate in the comments about Rhoda’s response to the anonymous neighbor who put an exasperated note on the windshield of her parked car regarding a perceived driveway encroachment. The debate has been spirited but commendably civil — especially given the intensity of the passions that parking problems can arouse.

Amid the to-and-fro, reader Rebecca turned to the DPT’s official rulebook to point out that “the reference that the City requires you to leave a foot from the curb cut is total BS. There are published and posted rules, and that ain’t one of them:”

A driveway begins at the curb cut, or the point at which the curb begins to slope downward toward street level. A vehicle parked within curb cuts can be cited and towed. Even partial encroachments into the driveway area can result in a tow.

Some driveways are marked with short red curb markings that indicate where vehicles should not park. Only red zones painted by the City with a DPT or MTA stencil are enforced. It is illegal for private parties to paint curbs or other markings on the street.

Residents can block their own driveways only if the building the driveway serves has two or one units and the vehicle’s license plate is registered to the building’s address. All other types of driveway parking can be cited.

So sayeth the Official Arbiters of Parking Legality. Hooray for facts! Hooray for Rebecca for bringing facts to the party!

Our beloved DPT even offers a handy print n’ bitch windshield flyer — with objective visual guidelines! — you can use to scold blatant driveway offenders.

(Thanks to someJuan for the pointer to the DPT flyer!)

Photo: The Stencil of Doom, by Telstar Logistics

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35 Responses to The Letter of the Law on Street Parking Near Driveways

  1. someJuan says:

    The SFMTA website even has a flyer which one can print and place on a car that is blocking one’s driveway. It lets the vehicle’s owner know that they are parked illegally and can be towed.

    Download it at:

  2. phoenixsf says:

    Myabe someone might know something about this… My neighbor on Army street has a curb cut in front of his house but there is no garage (or even a garage door) in the house since a in-law unit was built downstairs. There is no garge to block. Yet this guy still puts those DPT fliers on any car that parks in the driveway spot. Can a car that is parked in this spot be legally ticketed or towed. Again , there is no garge and not even a space to pull the car in w/o blocking the sidewalk.

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      Fascinating question. I suspect your neighbor is whack. But you might put a call in to the DPT. 415.553.1631 If you call, report back with what they say, please.

    • bhdweller says:

      The last time DPT came to ticket for a blocked driveway they made me open the garage door and show them it was actually a garage. Hasn’t happened before though.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I’ve actually asked this question before and the answer is that their policy is to only ticket if you are actually blocking an active driveway. Should you get a ticket for parking in an old curb cut where there is no driveway? Absolutely not. I am assuming here that no part of the area is a red zone and that there’s no legal parking area on the “sidewalk”. (Sometimes the building is not built to the property line and they actually own part of what seems to be the sidewalk. As long as it’s not the public sidewalk and the area is otherwise legal, my understanding is that they are actually allowed to park on the portion of the sidewalk within their property line.)

    The responding officer is actually supposed to check that a) the driveway is an active driveway and b) that the person calling it in lives there, but I’ve heard that it depends on who you get.

    Note that these policies are different in other cities (like Oakland), and being policies, could change without you realizing it. But when I talked with them about it last year, that’s what they said.

    • EH says:

      This brings up another interesting question about whether people who rent garage spaces in other buildings have standing to have people towed from in front of them.

      • Rebecca says:

        Well, I had asked specifically whether a nosy neighbor could call and have you towed from in front of your own driveway. So the response that it has to be someone who lives there may be oversimplified. I assume they have some way to deal with garage rentals and whatnot.

    • igj says:

      We have had a few folks towed from in front of our driveway (we have a red stencil curb marking). Each time, the responding officer asked us to open our garage door to ensure that it was an active driveway being blocked – ie, that we either did or could have a car parked in the garage. So, it seems that checking for active usage is not that uncommon.

  4. Sharon says:

    What really annoys me the most are the people who think that the spaces in front of their house is their private parking spaces and will leave notes on your windshield or confront you when you park in “their spaces”.

    Wake up, they are NOT your personal parking spaces, they are public parking spaces!

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Hear, Hear. That used to happen to me when I lived in Santa Cruz. Totally insane.

    • word says:

      True, but if someone paid $750,000 for a house, they may want to use the parking spot in front of their house.

      • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

        It’s nice to want things.

      • Rebecca says:

        This kind of mentality cracks me up. I had a roommate in college who believed that because she paid tuition, she should automatically be allowed to park on campus without having to purchase a parking pass. Nearly a hundred tickets and a withheld diploma later, she was still convinced that her tuition entitled her to park on campus.

        The hard facts are that you didn’t buy a house with a private parking spot out front. Find a way to make peace with that or consider moving somewhere that can better satisfy your wants and needs. Subjecting your neighbors to your angry delusions does not seem to be a good answer for anyone.

      • KT says:

        Unfortunately, that’s the kind of selfish, entitled mentality that leads to discord and conflict.

      • word says:

        “Find a way to make peace with that or consider moving somewhere that can better satisfy your wants and needs. Subjecting your neighbors to your angry delusions does not seem to be a good answer for anyone.”

        Wow, Rebecca! Sounds like you have issues! Where did you get all that from my post? I actually have a two-car garage with ample space to park inside and out, so this doesn’t pertain to me at all. I assure you I have been in Bernal longer than you have and my neighbors and I all love and respect each other (and our parking spaces!). Grow up, chill out – relax!

      • Rebecca says:

        Word, it’s good to see you don’t count yourself among the deluded! Someone has to be their voice, I suppose. I stand by my response to the sentiment you put forth in your original comment, though it does not apply to you personally. There are a lot of angry delusions flying around when it comes to parking. I believe the neighborhood would be a better place without such lies and hostility and I hope no amount of time living in Bernal, growing up, chilling out or relaxing would inure me to such behavior.

      • Leigh says:

        If they paid THAT much for the house, they should have a driveway.

      • steve says:

        I agree, I don’t care about people parking outside my house (it makes it look like someone is home even when I am not) but my neighbors like to park outside my house because they have way too many cars and don’t like parking in their drive way, they also have their big SUV’s right to the edge of my driveway which makes it hard to see down the road when I am backing out, then I have to leave my trash two house down on collection day. Annoying but not enough to start an argument with the neighbors when there is nothing I can do about it.

  5. marco says:

    Is there a DPT sign to put on windshields of cars that leave six feet between the edge of the driveway and the front bumper and take up two parking spaces?

    • Todd_Lappin says:

      Ha! I had one of those in front of my house this morning.

    • Janet C says:

      I just leave a note directly stating “You are taking two parking spaces. Could you please move forward or back so that someone else can park their car here? Thanks in advance.”

      Please note the language is direct, neutral in tone, and not passive aggressive. I’ve only needed to do this when there is work being done by whichever infrastructure authority (PG & E, Water Dept., etc.) and there a lack of parking spaces in the neighborhood.

  6. KT says:

    Is the car pictured above next to the DPT flier (the one with the parked front bumper and the red circle) indicating that that car is parked illegally/incorrectly? Because that’s how I always park in my neighborhood in the Sunset and I’ve never once received an angry note from neighbors or had my car towed/ticketed. Very curious. Thanks.

  7. Bernalgirl says:

    @KT: while it’s a little easier to manage out in the flat Sunset, if you park that way and the person who parks on the other side of the driveway does the same thing, the driveway is effectively blocked. Even if the space remaining is technically wide enough for the car that lives there, there’s just no way to make the angle to pull out and into the street (or in from the street).

    We have a lightpole on the other side of our driveway. If someone parks like the car in the DPT photo, we’re stuck. We try to manage because parking is scarce on Bernal Hill, but if I don’t have someone to guide me out, chances are I’m going to have to call DPT and have that person towed if I really need to go somewhere.

    • KT says:

      But if my bumper (or the farthest part of my car) is NOT encroaching the driveway/curb, but it is really close, is that illegal?

      I am new to the city and have never dealt with this stuff before.

      Also, in the Sunset, everyone appears to park like in that flier on both sides of the driveway. My home has cars parked like that on both sides and it doesn’t box us in because we are able to pull out directly on to the street. So is it simply that the Sunset allows parking like that?

      Thanks for answering my questions. Just want to make sure I’m not being a jerk parker.

  8. Heather says:

    I remember hearing since I moved here (17+ years ago) that, so long as where the tire hits the pavement is in front of the red curb, curb cut, or crosswalk line, etc.) that you are “legally parked” despite the additional length of bumper involved in any direction. I’m not sure if the law changed since then, but clearly, this is in error (though it seems to be a ubiquitous misconception.) It would appear that they flyer is specifically trying to say that it’s not your tire (which is “just fine” going by the rule that was so widely passed around), it’s your bumper that matters.

    I know I am still sometimes guilty of erring on the side of this “urban myth, “Oh, my tire is well clear of the line/red curb/what have you.” (Though not when it comes to driveways.)

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Yeah, I had always heard that, too, but clearly it is not the case. Which, I guess, makes sense, when you think about the fact that many vehicles, especially 70’s boatcars, project two or three feet beyond their wheels.

  9. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    Had the first incident of this today at my place, someone sticking a good 2′ into our driveway, preventing us from getting out in order to drive to the airport. Didn’t recognize the car, and tried knocking on neighbor’s doors and even yelling in the middle of the street. Nuthin’. So we called a cab to the airport, and DPT to ticket the inconsiderate feeb who was blocking us in.

    Traveler made it to the airport, and the aforementioned feeb received his/her aforementioned ticket. DPT officer offered to tow the car, but I told him not to. Hopefully it will be moved by tomorrow morning when I need to get to work.

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  13. unintended consequences says:

    this is a 1st world problem, I know – – but can I be “time stamped” while parked in my own driveway? (legally parked, parallel, blocking my own drive, but not occupying a parking spot)

    I was under the impression that parking in my own drive, is not occupying a spot, and therefore relieves you the the 2 hour limit. I’ve seen people parked like this all day long without getting a ticket with no residential permit.

    Recently, however, I was ticketed. I was time stamped while parking in my own drive. I was parked there for 20 minutes. I left to run an errand, and returned to park in a different location. I parked there for another 20 minutes – although, it was 90 minutes later…. the total elapsed time was indeed over 2 hours, but parked in 2 different locations – – the first one, not even a parking space! (i realize this is confusing)

    I was ticketed for exceeding the 2 hour limit – wtf?

    • Belen says:

      If you have your errand receipts (assuming you went and bought something or got a service that gives a receipt) that prove that you left you could fight that ticket.

  14. Daniel Fulmer says:

    Is there anywhere in the MTA sections concerning illegal driveway parking that actually states what constitutes an “active” vs “Inactive driveway”, and if you can park in a inactive driveway? It seems common sense to me if the driveway cannot be used due to the garage door not being able to open and a sheetrock wall 4′ behind the garage door, that it is legal to park in our neighbors driveway. Also his car cannot be parked in the driveway without blocking the sidewalk. The renter left a note saying the next time I parked there he would have me towed. If he calls to have me towed, will the MTA officer present ask him to open the 20+ year un-openable garage door to check if there is a car inside?

    • Mary Lopez says:

      It becomes a problem when they park in front of your house to engage in sexual activities
      drinking, littering till the early morning hours, playing loud music on their radios, and disturbing, your peace,and sleep, littering in front of your property, and throwing trash
      unto your yard, having so many cars, that they even go as far as alos blocking your driveway, and right of way!

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