San Francisco Parking: Tips and Tricks

San Francisco is one of the first metropolitan areas established on the west coast of the United States thanks to its ample waterfront and the natural shelter of the bay. What does that have to do with finding a parking spot? Plenty.

The older the city, the longer it evolved without city planning for personal vehicles. Compare the wide boulevards of Los Angeles or San Diego with the I-can’t-believe-this-is-two-ways narrow streets of San Francisco. Coupled with the exponential growth of Bay Area tech companies over the last 15 years and the resulting population increase, parking becomes quite a challenge.

Never fear! Armed with a little knowledge, you can park confidently in the City by the Bay.

San Francisco Parking: Tips and Tricks

If you’re gunning for one of the 238,000 street parking spots, be sure to obey the first commandment of San Francisco parking: Thou Shalt Not Block a Driveway. This is a sticking point for residents of all neighborhoods and you can be ticketed or towed at their discretion.

A resident may block their own driveway, but the car must be registered to that address. Often, the edges of the driveway will be painted in red and marked either “DPT” or “SFMTA” in yellow. Those tags are important to note, as some residents have been known to do their own red painting of curbs in order to ensure parking for themselves. Crafty, but not legally binding.

Next to note for street parking in San Francisco: signage. It is not uncommon to see multiple posted signs noting the parameters of parking on a given block. These will tell you when cars need to be cleared for street cleaning (usually twice a month), whether there is restricted parking for non-residents (in some neighborhoods residents have zoned parking stickers), and any further restrictions that may apply. Read them all, and read them twice. Parking fines in San Francisco are no joke, and if your car is towed, you can count on paying at least $500 to get it back.

Green curbs indicate short-term parking. If there is no sign or meter, you can park for 10 minutes only. If there is a meter, it will be for 15 or 30 minutes – read carefully! These are enforced between 9 am and 6 pm Monday through Saturday. Meaning, that unless otherwise stated, green curbs are fair game for parking on Sundays and overnight, but once again, look for any posted signage that might indicate alternative hours, because you don’t want that ticket!

If you’re heading to San Francisco to spend some time in much-loved tourist areas like Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, shopping in Union Square, or taking a meeting in the Financial District, street parking is both limited and metered. Your best bet is to opt for a parking garage. There are many options, but few offer the price confidence of booking online. Especially when it comes to special events like holidays, parades, and Giants games, parking pricing and availability fluctuate. California Parking offers patrons the ability to reserve a spot online in one of their many parking garages around San Francisco. It’s a favorite recommendation of residents welcoming out-of-town guests for the day because it’s straightforward to book and in a city known to be expensive, California Parking rates remain some of the most reasonable. The max rate for a weekend day is $12, or less than the cost of a Lyft from the Ferry Building to Ghirardelli Square.

No matter where you want to stop your car and start your feet, remember to check for time restrictions and variations!

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