How to fight a ticket for blocking your own driveway in San Francisco?
February 26, 2013 5:01 PM   Subscribe

i've been living in an apartment building in san francisco for 10 years and have a one-car garage. for much of that time i parked my car on the street, parallel to the curb, blocking my own driveway to some extent. i also had friends park there cars there, and when i had a rental car, i parked it there on and off for several months. no one ever got a ticket. a couple months ago i parked a friend's car there overnight and got a ticket. apparently someone had called in a complaint, although the car was extending only into my own driveway, and by a small amount at that. i protested the $98 ticket, saying that i was the driver and the only one authorized to call in a complaint, but it was denied. i have no idea who called in the complaint, and DPT will not give out that information. i plan to do an in-person hearing. has anyone successfully fought this sort of ticket?

From the research i've done, it looks like Vehicle Code section 22500E specifies that no car can be parked blocking a driveway. But there's an exception (#57; click here) that says if the car is registered to that address, and the building the driveway serves has two or one units, parking is legal. The spirit of the law seems to say that if the driveway only serves one car, it might apply as well, since the point is not to block anyone else's passage.

The SFMTA site also clearly states that you may block your own driveway, though the phrase "within the curb cut" is a little murky (does that mean entirely within the driveway cuts, or just that you may extend into the curb cut?): click here. How "your own driveway" is defined is important here--who knows?

And I guess the potentially difficult issue is that the car wasn't registered to that address at the time.

Any suggestions of any type gratefully accepted!
posted by roxie110 to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As you say, it was your friend's car that was ticketed, not your own: the letter of the law AND the spirit of the law both say if this car was NOT registered to your address, then the ticket is valid. It doesn't matter who, if anyone, called in a complaint; quite possibly no-one did, and it was just the result of a random drive-by by parking enforcement.

Also, why do you want to know who might have called it in? What do you honestly think that will accomplish, other than make that person call the cops and accuse you of harassing them? Even if this ticket WAS the result of an individual calling parking enforcement, there's no way that person could get rid of your ticket.

(Oh, and could you please use more capital letters where they're appropriate? Thanks!)
posted by easily confused at 5:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

I can't help you on the letter of the law, but maybe I can shed light on why it would matter to someone else enough to call it in. FWIW, when my neighbors across the street park across their driveway and there are cars parked on both sides of my own driveway.... I have trouble backing out without hitting anybody. Or I did when I had an SUV and not a little car, anyhow.
posted by Andrhia at 5:25 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Incidentally I've heard that enforcement in this area has changed. Nothing on the books yet, but the issue is receiving attention.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Check 7x7 Magazine's Parking Guru columns. The author answers reader letters - if the issue hasn't been covered already in a past column, it might be worth sending the same note over there.
posted by psycheslamp at 5:35 PM on February 26, 2013

I'm a bit confused by your question. Do you own this car?
posted by sm1tten at 5:44 PM on February 26, 2013

I'd say your reasoning is sound enough, that you parked a car under your control in front of your own driveway. Try the in-person hearing, why not.

As for the definition of curb cut, I would guess that it's to the top of the cut, not the bottom. There's usually a line in the curb or sidewalk (apparently called "a contraction joint") at the top, which I use to determine whether my bumper extends into the driveway.
posted by rhizome at 5:55 PM on February 26, 2013

Response by poster: I should make clear that the ticket was the result of a complaint; I confirmed that with DPT.
posted by roxie110 at 5:57 PM on February 26, 2013

Mod note: Ask Metafilter works best if we keep it on the understanding and benefit-of-the-doubt side all around, folks. That goes for snarking about spelling and arguing with answerers both.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:05 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I should make clearer that the residential parking section of the SFMTA website says without qualification: "Did you know? You can legally block your own driveway by parking parallel to the curb within your driveway’s curb cut."

On that page, there is no link to a vehicle code or other information saying the car has to belong to you or be registered to your address. That might be my best bet in support of a hearing.

@ Andrhia: there are no driveways across the street, only parallel parking. The only possibilities for the "complaint," given that I was impinging on no one else's space, are an error (they ticketed the wrong car), a prank, or some sort of vindictive behavior (that I can't even guess at).

The DPT training manual, which I have accessed online, states, "Issue cite only on complaint of person who controls the property. Verify name and address of complainant. Must show proof that they have access to garage." Clearly, this was not done, as I was the only person in control of the driveway, and with access to that garage.
posted by roxie110 at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

or some sort of vindictive behavior

... or maybe a neighbor saw an unfamiliar car parked there and called it in as a favor to you.
posted by juliplease at 6:22 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @ juliplease... In a way, it would be nice if it were that kind of building, but it's not. My landlord likes to rent to people who won't stay for more than a couple years so she can keep raising the rent between tenants. There's so much turnover no one really knows anyone.
posted by roxie110 at 6:32 PM on February 26, 2013

Definitely do the in-person hearing. But before you do that, look very closely at the ticket and make sure that it is actually for the car in question. When I lived in Berkeley, it was not uncommon to find a ticket that someone had planted on your car in the hope that you'd pay without looking too closely.

It's an outside chance, but worth a look.
posted by corey flood at 8:32 PM on February 26, 2013

The car that was parked in the driveway was not yours, and so not registered to the apartment. So, strike one according to your own reading of the statutes.

And you don't control that apartment, really. I mean, you have a landlord, right? So you are renting from someone. You don't actually own the apartment. So you don't own the driveway, either, technically. The landlord does. That might be your strike two.

Since you are quick to point out that the person in control is the only one who can make the complaint, did it occur to you that maybe your landlord may have called in the complaint? A stranger's car was parked across the driveway, not a car registered with the apartment. Maybe your landlord had a problem with that.

I doubt you have a leg to stand on as far as contesting the ticket legally. That said, cops don't always make it to court to make their case, so if you choose to go that route, you could luck out and have it dismissed anyway.
posted by misha at 5:19 AM on February 27, 2013

The other stuff you've cited does not take precedence over statute law. The actual statute says that a vehicle blocking a driveway must be registered to that address. There's nothing sinister going on here; whoever does the ticketing ran the plates, discovered that they're not registered to your address. Boom, law = broken.

It sucks, but I doubt you'll have much luck fighting this.
posted by Salamander at 7:52 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To follow up... I asked for an in-person hearing and presented my case, including some supporting evidence. The hearing officer turned out to be extremely sympathetic. She told me she would call the person who phoned in the complaint to find out what the motivation was, as she was curious herself how I ended up with this ticket. A couple days later she left me a voicemail telling me she was going to dismiss the ticket, and she sent a follow-up letter telling me I'd get a refund shortly for the $98. The letter stated "I find that the basis of the complaint was misguided and that, in this instance, you had the right to block your own driveway."

Needless to say, I am very happy and very relieved! Maybe I just got lucky, but it's clearly worth it to take a shot at fighting a ticket you feel is unfairly issued.
posted by roxie110 at 1:24 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, I should also mention the dismissal letter states, "This decision does not in any way establish a precedent for other violations." SFMTA being careful!
posted by roxie110 at 1:25 PM on March 15, 2013

This is why I don't discourage people from engaging The System when things don't make sense. Congrats!
posted by rhizome at 1:48 PM on March 15, 2013

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