Drivers in SF got a blissful break from parking citations during Covid. But enforcement is back. In July alone, citations totaled more than $8.5 million, while in March, the city issued over 100,000 tickets, the first time it reached six figures since before the pandemic.
With parking-control officers back out on the street in full force, The Standard analyzed a trove of data from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). We found what types of violations you’re most likely to get dinged for, when to be most cautious about parking your vehicle and what might be the riskiest parking spot in the entire city.
San Francisco is sprinkled with danger zones. Some locations make sense. The retail-heavy Marina is home to the third-most popular spot to get a ticket and the No. 4 address is down the block from the Castro Theatre. The second-highest number of citations was given out on Potrero Avenue just across the street from Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
But 501 Terry A Francois Blvd. blew the competition out of the water as San Francisco’s riskiest parking spot. In just seven months, SFMTA issued nearly 1,070 parking citations at that address worth more than $114,600.
What exactly is going on at 501 Terry A Francois Blvd., you ask? The location is just blocks from the Chase Center and a short walk from Oracle Park. The street meters in these “special event” zones run late; they’re active 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 10 p.m. on “special-event” Sundays. In other words, on a day when street parking is free in many parts of the city, these meters cost an eye-popping $9 an hour.
More than half the citations issued at 501 Terry A Francois Blvd. were for parking in a tow-away zone. This suggests that Warriors fans rushing to see tip-off took a gamble rather than circle the block one more time.
What may make it an especially risky place to park is the city-managed lot next door. Eventgoers must be sorely tempted to use it; the rate is just $0.50 per hour during the late afternoon and evening, far cheaper than the $9 street parking. But this lot, which serves the Pier 52 boat launch, has a 90-minute limit during special events.
Most people heading to a basketball or baseball game inevitably leave their vehicle parked for more than 90 minutes—a fact parking control officers know well. It’s easy to imagine that on special events days, a fleet of interceptors descend on the area to issue overtime parking citations to any vehicles left in the lot for over 90 minutes and ticket everyone in the tow-away zone while they’re there.
It’s a good idea to ensure you’re feeding the meter anywhere in the city's northeast section.
The Standard determined the neighborhood of every citation documented by the SFMTA for the last week of July and found that the Financial District and South Beach were home to nearly 2,330 citations. The Mission came in second with almost 2,290, and the Tenderloin—despite its relatively small geographical area—took third place, with over 1,320 citations.
These dense neighborhoods have more regulations than other parts of the city, and SFMTA deploys more parking control officers to areas with more regulations, Erica Kato, SFMTA spokesperson, explained.
Stay cautious when parking during lunchtime or at the beginning of the workday. The Standard’s analysis of every parking citation issued in 2022 through the first week of August shows that by far, the most citations were issued between noon and 1 p.m., followed by the 9-10 a.m. range.
And though you might think feeding the meter is your best chance of avoiding a ticket, your top priority should really be avoiding street cleaning restrictions. That was by far the most common slip-up that people made this year. Parking meters were a distant second, followed by “residential parking” (which is to say, overstaying your welcome without one of those lettered permit stickers on your rear fender).
To sum up our data-dive into the parking world, let’s review what we’ve learned: Always check the street-sweeping sign, park cautiously when you’re downtown or in the Mission and avoid the 500 block of Terry A Francois Boulevard at all costs. But at the end of the day, the only way to make sure you don’t get a parking ticket is to leave your vehicle at home.
Noah Baustin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org