As if parking in San Francisco wasn’t already difficult, the city’s planning commission took it a step further after threatening a couple with a $1,500 fine for parking their vehicle in their own driveway.
Ed and Judy Craine, a San Francisco couple who have parked car after car in their driveway for nearly 40 years, received a $1,542 warning from city officials stating parking a car in their driveway violated a code section that banned vehicles from parking in the setback in front of houses — regardless if it doesn’t block a sidewalk, ABC7 reported. To make matters worse, the city would add $250 per day if the car wasn’t removed from the driveway that “as far they could tell” was used as a place to park vehicles since the house was built in 1910.
“To all of a sudden to be told you can’t use something that we could use for years,” Ed told ABC7. “It’s, it’s startling. Inexplicable.”
“It was very surprising, to say the least,” Judy said. “I wrote them back saying I thought this was a mistake.”
But the city said otherwise and gave them a chance to prove that past residents have historically used the space a lot. If successfully, they might get a waiver.
“We could be grandfathered in if we show them a historical photo that showed a car or a horse-drawn buggy in the carport,” said Judy.
So the coupled sifted through personal photos and searched online for public documentation.
At first, they shared a photo of their daughter 34 years ago standing in front of the house with the front-right side of a vehicle barely visible in the corner. But the city said it wasn’t old enough. So then, the Craines pulled a 1938 photo showing their home and street with a bunch of “black blobs” with one that looked like it was parking in the driveway.
Still no luck.
“I don’t know what else they would be,” Ed said. “To me, it’s pretty compelling that that was a car pulling in or out of the parking pad.”
“They said that they were too fuzzy,” Judy said.
After sending photos and disputing the warning with the planning commission, city officials eventually agreed to drop the warning without any charging any penalties after the Craines parked their car somewhere else.
Planning Commission Chief Dan Snider told ABC7 in an email that the city enacted the law decades ago for aesthetic reasons like making sure front yards wouldn’t turn into parking lots.
“I recognize that the property owner is frustrated,” Snider wrote. “I think I would feel the same way in their situation. But the Planning Code doesn’t allow for the City to grandfather illegal uses on account of their having flown below the radar for a length of time.”
Snider said the city became aware of the Craine’s parking their car on their property after receiving an anonymous complaint. Two other neighbors were slapped with the same warning for the same violation.
The city said the Craines could use their parking space again if they build a covered carport or garage. But it sits empty now, and their neighbors just found themselves with another car fighting for an open parking spot.