How much % jerkface is calling in a complaint on parking violations?
March 22, 2019 11:54 PM   Subscribe

My neighbors violate parking code constantly, I think they should be called in, my wife says I should let it go. Help settle our disagreement please.

I live in San Francisco where we have a loosely enforced law on the books that says you can't park your car in the same spot for more than 72 hours. On our street, in our particular neighborhood, the street sweeping happens on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month. We have 2 neighbors in particular that have cars that they never drive, and park for 2-3 week periods in the parking spots closest to our house (directly in front of, and next to). They literally come out and move their car when the meter maids come through on street sweeping day, then wait for the truck to come by, then move their cars back into the spots, and leave them there until the next street sweeping day. They do this for months on end without fail.

This has meant we have had to park our car further from our house, and sometimes not even on our block. I feel what they are doing constitutes storing a vehicle in a public parking space, which is exactly what the law was written to prevent. That said, this seems to be a contentious issue on NextDoor, and the way the MTA's website puts it, it does sound like some people have used this complaint / enforcement procedure to harass neighbors at times.

If I were to call it in, it would be anonymous, but I'm certain they would suspect it was me, and quite frankly once they are forced to move I would use one of these spots if I saw them available. I don't want to harass my neighbors but I also feel what they are doing is selfish, inconsiderate to everyone else trying to park on our street and, when it comes down to it, against the law.

Is it worth the call, or is this something I shouldn't give as much of an eff about as I do?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I lived in San Francisco for ten years up until 2011. In my experience, if you had to park on the street you were lucky to have parking on the same block. There's a lot of parking shit that I feel is just stuff you have to deal with in a city. The pricier the neighborhood, the easier it was to find street parking.

At 16th & Mission and in the Tenderloin, I didn't even bother owning a car. At Pine and Hyde, I just had a scooter. In the Mission and Noe Valley I briefly had a car but mostly relied on a motorcycle.

Even when my ex and I had garage access from our apartment in Noe Valley, the upstairs neighbors would park their giant SUVs just far enough into the driveway that we couldn't open the garage door enough to get our motorcycles out. We'd have to go bug them in the morning when we needed to get to work.

I'm an extreme advocate for public transportation within the city and the East Bay but it's way less practical to take it anywhere else.

In summary: There's a lot of parking shit that I feel is just stuff you have to deal with in a city.

Your neighbors aren't breaking a law that's regularly enforced. Portland OR drivers constantly running stop signs aren't breaking a law that's regularly enforced. I feel your frustration.

And this may be way more than you're asking, but I realize that when I rail and rage against a relatively minor issue it generally means I'm frustrated by something larger that's out of my control.
posted by bendy at 12:30 AM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ratting a neighbor out to The Man, however justified it may be, seems like not doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and as such, adding to the shittiness of the world. I think you personally would be less happy, not more happy, if you called in the parking violations, knowing that.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 12:34 AM on March 23, 2019 [20 favorites]

My otherwise very conscientious next door neighbor lady has left her nonagenarian father's 40-year-old truck parked out in front of our homes for the past two years. 18 months of that it's been unmoved (one tire is fully flat, and in summers, the grille plays trellis to wild sunflowers growing in the cracks of our street).

It's an eyesore. And her dad's home health aide and guests often park directly in front of my house, leaving my own guests without a space.

But I don't have the heart to rat on her. It seems un-neighborly. She's been pretty understanding when I've been too ill to attend to the weeds in my front yard, and calling the truck in would disrupt the balance of peace and friendliness. So the truck stays.
posted by mochapickle at 1:45 AM on March 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

Since they are not using it much why don’t you go over there, introduce yourself with some cookies and offer a parking spot swap? ie have them park their car where your car is (preferably still on the same block although further away) and you get their spot.

It’s a bit of a gamble. They may say no thanks which you should just shrug off and walk away. Even if they agree, if you park in a more regular pattern, that spot may be taken up by someone else who doesn’t understand the arrangement while your car is away and now you don’t get the spot and neither does your neighbor so everyone is a loser and it’s your fault.

I grew up in SF and feel you but I don’t think this is worth a fight or energy. (And I’m convinced my parents are sitting on a gold mine with a house that has a garage)
posted by like_neon at 2:02 AM on March 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

Perhaps remember that even if those cars weren’t right there all the time, they’d still be on the street in other spots, and others would often park in those two spots. Turning them in isn’t going to significantly improve your own parking situation.
posted by Sukey Says at 2:44 AM on March 23, 2019 [34 favorites]

I wouldn't do it, mostly because you said they'll suspect it was you. It'll make for poorer relations between you, unpleasantness when you see them, possible retaliation, etc. I agree with the suggestion above about talking to them and seeing if they'll work with you on this one given that they don't use their cars much.
posted by sunflower16 at 3:32 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

On street sweeping day, just pull your car into the spot first before they come back. When they argue, say hey, it’s a public street. Very nicely. Very, very nicely. Repeat until they get it.

New York style (other than the “very very nicely part,” here we’d say “too bad, asshole”). Once would be enough.

But in NYC you move at least once a week or you get at least a ticket, and maybe a tow.
posted by spitbull at 4:09 AM on March 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

100% jerkface. I love in Philly, notorious for its parking issues. Parking is at a premium, so it’s first come first served.

The best you can do is knock on their doors, explain you commute daily and while you understand that it’s not always possible, you’d appreciate if they try not to park in front of your house when another spot is available so you at least have a shot of parking in front of your house.

In addition to jerkface, what you’re proposing is futile. So many city people own cars and keep them parked for long periods because they only need a car on occasion. What you’re proposing would just piss your neighbors off, it wouldn’t cause them to stop parking on the street. They’d maybe move their cars more often. And if somehow it prompted them to get rid of their cars or park them elsewhere, 2 more spots in a low-availability parking situation is not going to magically allow you a guaranteed spot in front of your house. Someone else is going to park there.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:45 AM on March 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

So I have the exact same problem. Chicago. Added to the situation is that they use it for storage of a their illegal vendor stand they set up outside so they don't have to carry their stuff. So now I permanently have to carry my things further because of how fucking selfish they are.

But they are most likely illgeal aliens, can't afford a garage space and the consequences of reporting are too high.

I'm in the do nothing catagory. Even if I hate it.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:09 AM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

I just don’t see how it would actually improve your parking situation. You might sometimes get the closer spot but if you are regularly moving your car then you are always taking a gamble that you won’t have a close space. I think if you report it, you get to do it once. And maybe they’ll get a ticket and change up their behavior for a time and maybe they won’t. But, for your sanity, I think you should try to reframe this in your mind. Pretend they do move it every day and are just lucky to get the spot back. It’s no different than if it was any other car there when you get home from work.
posted by amanda at 6:19 AM on March 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

Your wife is right on this.... Let it go. The feelings you have are very real. In parking scarce environments human nature get real weird and territorial. I've seen it and I have felt it. Its hard, but you can work through these feelings.

The thing is though, this has literally nothing to do with you and nothing good can come from reporting them. Maybe you report it and these people will get a ticket (and not change a thing or get even more territorial). You'll still be mad about it, but probably even more so as it doesn't get resolution.

Let it go, get a fitbit and see all those steps you get walking to your parking spots. Or throw money at this problem and rent a parking spot. The mental piece of mind is truly priceless.
posted by KMoney at 6:33 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another thing to consider is would you really want the "move your car every 72 hours" law universally enforced? It basically discourages people from using public transportation or walking. "Ah, well I've got to move my car anyway or risk a ticket, might as well drive to work/the grocery store, etc instead of walking."
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:54 AM on March 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’d say count your blessings. Also in Philly (worse, South Philly) and I’d love if my biggest problem wasn’t people parked on sidewalks or in crosswalks blocking curb cuts. And they move their cars for street sweeping instead of being stubborn forcing the city to cancel the whole program? AND you still often get a spot on your block? Bliss.
posted by supercres at 7:23 AM on March 23, 2019

As usual, I seem to be the dissenter. Zero percent. If people want to play the "I got mine, the rest of you can screw" card, I think that gives you carte blanche to ask for enforcement of the law. The more that isn't the case, the greater the jerkiness of the move. If they nod politely to you when you pass on the street: 10%. If they reply when your small children say hello: 50%. If they help your aged mother bring her bags in: 75%. If they bring you when your family is all down with the flu: 100%.

To be clear, I am interpreting "jerk move" as "should I feel bad about this personal behavior" rather than "is this going to inflame some asocial asshole that is my neighbor?" Which is probably a more serious concern. Having said this, I live in a suburb, not a dense city, and things definitely change based on the density of rats in the cage.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:31 AM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not only would I never do this, I would personally judge anyone who I knew had done this. It is 1000% not your business, even if they are using “the two closest spots”. And more importantly, I promise you, you don’t want to get into a full fledged neighbor war over parking spots, where the neighbors start looking at every petty unenforced violation you’ve ever done.
posted by corb at 8:03 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh also: I’ve lived in Brooklyn. The endgame of parking wars like this is people all idling double parked on the other side of the street so that they can fight for parking spots the instant the street sweeper is gone. It’s not a good look and increases, not decreases, the car traffic.
posted by corb at 8:07 AM on March 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have this argument with people in Chicago all the time. We are talking about *public* parking spaces, right? No one is entitled to the PUBLIC parking space in front of their house, unless they are handicapped and have the appropriate signage put up. No one else. I now live in a two-car household, to my immense shame, so we park one car on the street (wherever there is space because, again, it is a public street and everybody gets to park there) and also pay for a spot behind our house, because it is annoying when you come home at 1 a.m. and have to park a half mile away. If you want to guarantee a particular space you need to pay for it.

In Chicago you’re supposed to move your car every 7 days. This past summer we had a car that no longer worked but also couldn’t get towed for about three weeks (we were donating it and that was their timeline). We were really frustrated and stressed about it, and I remain grateful to my neighbors for not calling it in. Once, a decade ago, I reported a car that had been sitting parked, with no tires and a smashed windshield, for about two months. Honestly I wouldn’t even do that again. Everybody’s got problems.

If you want to change your headspace, remind yourself that when those cars stay parked, they aren’t fighting you for space on the roads and making the traffic worse. It’s a good thing that some people only drive once or twice a week.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:23 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

(I think amanda’s reframing suggestion is also good, and possibly even true. I get home from work around 2-2:30, so I usually get the same spot back. Someone who worked more normal hours might absolutely think that I don’t move my car...)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:28 AM on March 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

To quote our dear lord and savior Walter Sobchak “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?”

I am all for breaking stupid laws. But ordinances like parking limits are a “play fair, be nice to others, don’t be a dick with public property, we all pay for this” rule. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this in... UNLESS this is a reaction to something else going on in your life. I myself am prone to digging into weird projects like calling code enforcement on shit that doesn’t really matter, because I’m stressed out and having a trauma reaction, which my busted ass brain thinks “control your environment, man!” is the solution (spoiler alert, you’ll just find something else to focus on instead).
posted by furnace.heart at 8:28 AM on March 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Unless parking in SF has gotten significantly easier in the two years since I've left (extremely doubtful), it's unlikely that this is really meaningfully affecting your parking. It's true that this means that you will never get the spot immediately in front of your house, but from my experience in areas like that, even if there isn't one car there 24/7, it's pretty unlikely that you'll get the spot right in front of your house anyway. You're lucky to get a spot on your block.

I know that seeing their car parked in front of your house raises your hackles, especially when there's not even another open spot on your block, but it's really not like that spot in front of your house would have just been sitting open if their car wasn't there. It's not really your neighbors causing your parking troubles, it's the whole parking situation in SF.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:39 AM on March 23, 2019 [9 favorites]

if I were to move forward on "calling it in" anonymously or otherwise, I wouldn't do it without first giving them some kind of warning. This could be as simple as an anonymous note on their windshield (written as unemotionally as possible). Just remind them of the rules, perhaps even sympathizing with why they might feel the need to do what they're doing, but point out that their "solution" has become your problem, and at some point, you're going to act.
posted by philip-random at 8:58 AM on March 23, 2019

The street belongs to the city— you do not have dibs on the space in front of your house.
You just don’t.
Call parking enforcement if you like but you’ll just be changing which car parks in front of your house.
And getting irritated at another neighbor every time there is a new car there.
posted by calgirl at 9:49 AM on March 23, 2019 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure if I would call bylaw or parking enforcement.

I don't really care about being a dick. But I do care how I spend my time, and it seems like it would take an awful lot of energy to document where they're parking and their license plate, look up the number of the parking people, wait on the phone or whatever to talk to them, explain they're violating parking laws, and then wait some more for these guys to get a ticket.

And, at the end of the day, there's no guarantee that you'll get to park in that spot anyway.

I don't really care about their feelings, but I do care about my own feelings, and it seems like a pointless emotional investment. Owning a car can be a major pain in the ass sometimes (most of the time?) like this particular situation.
posted by JamesBay at 9:53 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another no vote for calling. The actual 72-hour rule in San Francisco, as generally practiced in my experience, really boils down to "move your car to not get residential parking permit and street cleaning tickets, and unless your car is outright abandoned beyond that, you're good." It's legal to move your car back after the street sweeper has come by.

Yes, technically, state law requires that the car be moved every 72 hours. But the law as enforced isn't really about preventing "storing a vehicle in a public parking space" (you, too, are storing your vehicle in a public parking space because you park on the street overnight; you just use your car more often). If that was the goal, you'd be required to get a garage space to be allowed to own a car. The law is more about dealing with complaints about abandoned cars, and your neighbors haven't abandoned their cars; they just don't drive much.

While it's irritating, you don't have any particular reason to expect to always be able to park your car on the street in front of your home (many, many people in San Francisco cannot do this, or even park on the same block, and the city could not physically exist if everyone had that expectation). And beyond all that, I'm not understanding what the practical impact of reporting them would be in terms of solving your problem. You'd call, DPT would come out, chalk the tires and stick a warning notice on the car, your neighbors would see it, get annoyed, and move the car to the nearest available space. You or someone else would take the space they previously occupied, you'd go drive somewhere, and sooner or later they'd move back since they're home more often and would see the spots empty. You could play that game forever, but it doesn't sound fun or useful for anyone, and the city has no actual ability to make the first-come-first-served nature of parking spaces fair. These neighbors seem to be home during the day and don't drive much, and that's an inherent advantage you can't match in securing parking spaces, even if there's draconian enforcement of the 72-hour rule (which there is not). Ultimately, they want to park near their homes too, and only so many people can do that at one time with the available space.

Since people want to park in your neighborhood, somebody is going to take those spots. The situation feels unfair to you because it's never you who gets them, but would things really be that much better if, after you reported your neighbors a bunch of times, it merely sometimes had a chance to be you instead of someone else?
posted by zachlipton at 9:57 AM on March 23, 2019 [10 favorites]

The fact that they move their car when the street cleaner and meter maid come means that they are complying with the law, in so far as it is enforced. Feel free to snag their spot when they move. There’s no expectation that you will be able to park your car in front of your home in a city.
posted by deanc at 10:05 AM on March 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

Many people I know feel strongly that others should not park legally in front of their home. If there are spots that are equally convenient and you can persuade them to park there, do that.

When I lived in town, I printed up a flyer to the effect of On _date_, car _color/make/model_ with _licenseplate_ blocked the driveway at _address_. City regulations require X feet from driveway to remain clear. The residents at _address_ just want to have safe access. Please park carefully. I kept notes and if the same car kept blocking my driveway, I'd call for enforcement; if I hit them while backing out or in, it would be my fault, so Nope.

I would gently suggest that if this is the worst neighbor problem you have, life is pretty okay.
posted by theora55 at 10:49 AM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Many people I know feel strongly that others should not park legally in front of their home.

Importantly, those people are wrong. (I agree with you, though, that blocking a driveway or curb cut is a dick move and should absolutely be reported/enforced.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

I believe that free parking is the bane of the devil, and we should be paying to park on the street. But/and: Your goal here is to park on the street. It's a shared resource. In San Francisco, planning code has historically required an absurd amount of off-street parking. If you're needing to use that on-street parking regularly, you've apparently converted some of that city code mandated off-street parking to other purposes.

So there are no good guys here, including you, because you're wanting to abuse that shared resource too.

Don't make the call.
posted by straw at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

To echo a comment above, actual enforcement of the 72-hour rule discourages the use of public transit, which is bad for you in all kinds of ways.
posted by lab.beetle at 1:50 PM on March 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Let it go.

San Franciscans DO NOT CALL THE COPS ON THEIR NEIGHBORS for anything less than a direct safety threat, personal property issue, or a blocked driveway. This town only exists because of a long history containing a distinctive "who cares" attitude towards a certain level of mostly harmless lawlessness. The consequences of this are not entirely positive, but they're part of what makes San Francisco San Francisco.

The 72 hour rule is there so actually abandoned cars can be towed (and lately, it's been used against homeless RV camps). Someone with a working car, parking it on their own street, is not breaking the intent of this law. They are as entitled to a spot on their street as you are.
posted by toxic at 2:36 PM on March 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

If their cars were not there you would be able to park in those spots--once every couple of months. Because after all, other people would park in those same spots.

Plus, never start a fight with your neighbors if you can avoid it. Never.
posted by LarryC at 12:09 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

It absolutely never occurred to me that I should be mad if I can't park on my block because other people are parking there. That just sounds like how it is to have a car.

You can ask them to move, if you want. But that won't get you what you want, which is to park in those spots; someone else will just park there. There is nothing reasonable you can do that will cause you to reliably be able to park in those particular spots.
posted by value of information at 1:30 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

This has meant we have had to park our car further from our house, and sometimes not even on our block.
This really isn't a big deal in SF. Before we rented a garage, I would regularly have to circle for 30+ minutes for parking and take whatever I could get, sometimes a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Even if you're in one of the neighborhoods with ample parking, there are no "dibs" just because a space is in front of your house. (Also, in case you didn't know, you're allowed to block your own driveway if you have one, but the car must be registered to your address to avoid citation.)

SF is a big city with a lot of people, and limited street parking is just part of the deal with living here.
posted by kdar at 10:12 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think OP's point isn't that they're upset about having to park further away. I think their point is that the neighbors are being selfish dicks by keeping their cars in the same spots (the prime spots for this building, no less) effectively forever when they never even drive.

I totally think they are being selfish dicks. OTOH, if they move their cars around to random spots, or pick some new spot on the next block, they'll just be taking up someone else's prime spots. So....I dunno what they're expected to do, really, especially since they're not actually breaking any laws.
posted by sunflower16 at 4:03 PM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm in philly and routinely report abandoned / undrivable vehicles because they think up the street and often have parts stolen (or the whole car was stolen and left there for the carcass to rust n rot), windows smashed (with bonus glass on the sidewalk) and other unpleasantness that seems to just invite more petty crime. Someone elses bad time doesnt have to steamroll me, I report them and they are usually towed quickly. That said I would not report a car that I know belongs to a neighbor that I also know they drive. Unless you stalk them you simply dont know how often they really drive and honestly if they are able to start the car to move it they drive it often enough that the battery isnt dying.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:37 AM on March 25, 2019

I'm in SF and I submit complaints to DPT from time to time against my downstairs neighbors who, in fact, have threatened and started fights with their neighbors, not to mention doing burnies when arriving or leaving the street. They also have 3+ cars, one parking space in the building, and a seemingly-primary hobby of rearranging them on the street and in our garage to minimize their walking distances when they aren't leaving them in place for a week or two. I probably wouldn't mind so much if they weren't jerks, but they are. I did find out that even parking-permit holders have to follow the 72-hour rule.
posted by rhizome at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2019

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