Bernal-Based Startup Offers Digital Alternative to Passive-Aggressive Parking Notes

Neighbor Regina wrote up this tasty little article about CurbTxt, a new service based in Bernal Heights that provides a high-tech — and vastly more neighborly — alternative to leaving passive-aggressive notes on parked cars:

Blaring car alarms, forgotten headlights, and neighbor-owned cars blocking your driveway can now be remedied with a text, thanks to a new Bernalwood startup called CurbTxt.

“This is our neighborhood passion project,” says CurbTxt co-founder Alex, as he speaks via phone from CurbTxt HQ, conveniently located directly above Precita Park Cafe.

You’ve probably seen CurbTxt postcards in Bernal’s cafes. The service, which is free, offers a civil solution to neighborhood parking problems (without the need for passive aggressive notes).

Start by texting your license plate number to 415-529-5775 from *your* cell phone (it has to be your phone). Then stick a CurbTxt logo sticker next to your rear license plate. That lets neighbors know they can alert you as well. The texts are instant and anonymous.

“We follow the parking madness on the Bernalwood blog and that served as an inspiration,” says founder Alex, who was also partially inspired by the fact he owns a vintage school bus. He says his ride is “non-standard” when it comes to parking, so he wants to be sensitive to his neighbors’ parking needs.

“This is a close-knit community, and it can be damaging when tickets or tow trucks get involved,” he says. “We can act more like neighbors by reaching out directly to each other.”

Alex believs towing is a “nuclear option” and he hopes CurbTxt will serve as a solution to “the big towing industry” of San Francisco. Our City’s aggressive towing and ticketing even shocks people moving here from other large cities. CurbTxt co-founder Ian just moved here from NYC and racked-up three parking tickets in his first three weeks here.

“The parking issues weren’t in the brochure when I moved to the city,” he says.

The three founders are using a very basic, SMS-based server to automate the process, allowing them to remain at their day jobs. But they think this project has the potential to become a fulltime gig. Our neighborhood, the only one CurbTxt currently supports, is certainly interested.

“I’ve already signed up, and I’m picking up more stickers for my TIC partners,” says neighborhood homeowner Emily. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. Two days ago I saw a car on our street with its lights on. I live on Treat up from the park and I asked around at Precita Park, but it didn’t belong to anyone. I would have loved to have just been able to text them. I love the idea of neighbors supporting neighbors. I hope it catches on.”

I signed up as well during my chat with Alex. Before we said good-bye, he made a fantastic final comment:

“We’re renters, and it’s hard for us to get involved like the more established homeowners. Sometimes we feel like we’re in the dark about issues. Maybe CurbTxt can help bring us into the fold.”

PHOTO: Courtesty of CurbTxt. From left, Alex Ian and Andrew.

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29 thoughts on “Bernal-Based Startup Offers Digital Alternative to Passive-Aggressive Parking Notes

    • Herr – Great question. We’ve got a few mechanisms in place to protect users and help them control the service. For example, you can text #block to tell CurbTXT to block a person sending you messages and #stop to receive CurbTXT messages all together. Other safeguards are in place and in the works.

    • Hi Patty – Yes, PPC has them as well as Charlie’s, Sam’s Harvest Hills, and the laundromat on Folsom. Just grab a flyer and take its sticker. We’ll also be in a few places on the south side this week.

    • Hi Nina – They’re not necessary, and we realize bumper stickers aren’t for everyone, so that’s why we made ours about the size of a silver dollar with a simple “C” on it. The stickers function as a signal to people in the know and other users rather than as an ad for CurbTXT. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where everyone assumes your vehicle is registered and the stickers are superfluous.

    • Nina: Unless I see the sticker on your car, how would I know to text you if you’ve left your lights on, or going to get ticketed for street sweeping? Really?

  1. Just don’t block driveways unless it’s your own. Dont make up parking spots, or say, “yah i fit” because you think so. If u dont fit in the curb dont park there. And your bumper counts! Some people line up their tires and are still hanging over into driveway. We didn’t paint one side so as to not prevent longer cars from using the spot, even though we were allowed a foot of red on that side. But people use that as permission to go over, yah know?

    It’s not only a problem for the user of driveway, but for those using the driveway to turn around. Can’t tell you how many times a cars front has been take off because a car parked over the curb into driveway. Heck, my husband backed into a car thar was blocking ours because he didn’t expect a car to be there.

    Yah, I think it’s really that simple.

    • Hi Anyway – When that careless person blocks your driveway, contacting them directly and instantly via CurbTXT may well be a faster way to get them out of the way than calling the DPT and waiting for them to arrive.

  2. Very interesting! I like it I think. (At the risk of sounding snarky because I completely understand that parking tickets suck, how is it possible to rack up three in as many weeks? Are the Bernal Heights street cleaning signs especially hidden?)

  3. Very interesting. I think it’s a solid idea with the potential to resolve some nasty neighbor stuff, if used correctly—one possible drawback being the sketcher potential to displaying a way for strangers to contact you privately, i.e. “hurry up neighbor, get out here your car’s being towed (I mean stolen, by me! Sucker!)” or “hey pretty lady, is 3am too late to say I saw you in your car today?”

  4. Cars are on the endangered species list in San Francisco, it’s going to only become more & more expensive to operate one here unless you have a garage to stash it in. Keep your day jobs guys.

  5. I wish you well with your enterprise, but even if I owned a car, I wouldn’t use it. I’m not your niche market. I’m old enough, and cranky enough, to feel like the premise is flawed.

    [i]We can act more like neighbors by reaching out directly to each other.[/i]
    True, yet, if we’re concerned with acting like neighbors, then don’t block people’s driveways (including the minimum clearance on either side). For that matter, don’t block sidewalks, crosswalks or double park (especially when there are spaces available to pull into right there). No one will call DPH on you for those things, but it’s not considerate to others and happens all the time.
    .
    [i]Alex believs towing is a “nuclear option” and he hopes CurbTxt will serve as a solution to “the big towing industry” of San Francisco. Our City’s aggressive towing and ticketing even shocks people moving here from other large cities. CurbTxt co-founder Ian just moved here from NYC and racked-up three parking tickets in his first three weeks here.[/i]
    Wow, so unless you got snagged every time, getting 3 tix in 3 months means you must have been bending (to put it nicely) the laws rather frequently. In New York, how many actual driveways did you block? There aren’t so many of those there, but I bet people would be upset if they owned cars (and many don’t) and parked them in private driveways that were being blocked by “considerate” neighbors with a weird idea of considerate.
    .
    [i]“The parking issues weren’t in the brochure when I moved to the city,” he says.[/]
    They have gotten steadily worse in the 15 years I’ve lived here with a serious spike in the last 5 or so. Do you think that is because there are more tickets going around? Or is the root cause because more people have moved in? Or because more with the money and lifestyle that “requries” a car have moved in? Or becuase our society has now redefined un-neighborliness as not texting a warning when someone is illegally parked as opposed to not illegally parking?

    (Sorry this was so long:)

    • Hi SAB,

      All good points. We definitely see both sides to the specific issues you’ve mentioned. It seems like a lot of our supporters are identifying with other issues and ask questions such as, “Why, when I leave town for 4 or 5 business days, can’t I leave my car in a legal parking spot without one of my neighbors calling the DPT to put a 72hr towing notice on it?” We think that kind of vigilante parking enforcement is ugly and overkill and we tried to come up with a solution.

      Discussing parking in this city is like playing Whack-a-Mole because there are so many situations and issues that can pop up and victimize even the most upstanding car owner–particularly ones without a garage/parking space. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, shit happens. And when shit happens to poorer people, it can be really devastating. Somebody described towing to me as a regressive tax, for example. CurbTXT is our way of being empathetic.

      • Alex: I am hoping to provide a point of clarification: Why does everyone seem to think that angry neighbors are calling DPT? DPT has several large vans with optical lasers that can scan license plates with OCR. Then, the three-wheeled vehicles come thru several days later and issue the 3 day tow notices. DPT has increased enforcement in Bernal Heights since 2 hour parking was expanded on the North Side of C. Chavez and other surrounding areas, precisely to stop people from outside Bernal using our hill as a parking lot. I support DPT’s efforts to tag and tow these freeloaders who are too cheap to buy an annual parking permit for their area. I also hope that CurbTxt will prove a civil way for Bernal neighbors to alert their neighbors to parking abuses, so that Bernal does NOT become the next permit parking area.

  6. Three cars got their windows smashed on Brewster last night. Would have been nice to be able to text the owners. Everyone get a sticker!

  7. How about you just park your car legally and respectfully? How novel.
    And no, your “driveway” is not a legal parking spot. That’s the sidewalk, doofus.

    • Would also like to point out that if you have a scooter or motorcycle it is ok to park on the street. Unfortunately, It’s not legal on the sidewalk, so if you’re on the street you’re just fine.

  8. ENOUGH ABOUT THE “PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE” I BOUGHT MY HOUSE ON NEVADA STREET IN 1995, SINCE THEN I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE…YES PLEASURE OF HAVING OVER 70 PLUS CARS TOWED. IF SOMEONE IS TOO IGNORANT TO NOTICE THE UNIVERSAL NO PARKING SIGN CLEARLY POSTED ON MY GARAGE DOOR YET STILL BLOCK 1/4 TO 1/3 EVEN 3/4 OF MY DRIVEWAY, THEN GUESS WHAT I CALL DPT RIGHT AWAY…”DPT OPERATOR 105 WOULD YOU LIKE IT TICKETED AND TOWED OR JUST TICKETED” “BOTH” IS ALWAYS MY ANSWER. AFTER A 14 HOUR WORK DAY THE LAST THING I AM GOING TO DO IS TAKE THE TIME TO LOOK FOR STREET PARKING WHEN I HAVE A FULLY FUNCTIONING GARAGE THAT I ACTUALLY UTILIZE FOR PARKING…IMAGINE THAT I USE A GARAGE TO PARK MY CAR. SOME IF NOT MOST OF MY NEIGHBORS THINK I AM A TOTAL ASSHOLE, WELL GUESS WHAT I DON’T CARE. THE LATEST VICTIM LIVED 6 HOUSES DOWN, HE PULLS UP IN FRONT OF ,MY HOUSE AND BLOCKS MY DRIVEWAY BY 2 FEET AND WHILE PARKING HIS CAR HE HAD OVER 600 FEET OF SPACE TO PARK HIS CAR IN! THEN OCCASIONALLY I GET ASKED “OH YOU USE YOUR GARAGE FOR YOUR CAR” DUH…OF COURSE, I DID NOT CONVERT IT TO A BEDROOM WHICH ON MY BLOCK SEEMS TO BE THE NORM. IT DOES NOT ONLY AFFECT ME, BUT ALSO MY NEIGHBOR DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM ME WHO CANNOT BACK OUT OF HER GARAGE WHEN SOMEONE IS BLOCKING MINE. IT COMES DOWN TO BEING RUDE AND INCONSIDERATE…ALL I KNOW IS WHEN I PARK MY CAR, I TAKE THE 10 SECONDS TO GET OUT AND MAKE SURE I AM NOT BLOCKING ANYTHING.

    • Hey Donatello,

      The first thing to remember when parking is of course being careful not to mis-park. But think about the other great uses, like when someone leaves their car lights on. Or if you noticed someone vandalizing a vehicle. With CurbTXT you could contact the car owner immediately, and take car of the problem before it gets worse.

      The other day at Precita Park I saw a hit and run. An SUV smashed into a parked car, and then zipped off. I wrote down the license plate # of the SUV. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to alert the owner of the damaged parked car about what had just happened?

      In any case, no one can tell you not to tow people. And of course you never have to help your neighbors either. But I think it’s pretty cool for those of us that WANT to help each other that CurbTXT makes that easier.

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