Parking Drama
December 16, 2003 10:17 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I live in a small 4-unit apartment building in a residential part of Berkeley. Our neighbor, who lives in the house next door, just bitched her out for leaving her car parked on the curb adjoining his driveway. Her car, a small, gas-efficient economy car, is in perfect order, and was correctly parked, but she'd overstayed Berkeley's 72-consecutive-hour limit by a day or two, and he was miffed. He parks in his own garage, and seems to have no pity for her, even though the reason her car rarely moves is that she takes public transit to class daily. Anything we can do about this? How seriously would you take his threat to have the car towed next time?

Really, I don't know what he expects. His complaint would seem to be resolved if she'd simply move her car back and forth to different spots every day. It's not as if she's left some junker sitting there collecting rust. She just doesn't drive every single day. I would think that Berkeley folk would call that a good thing. He calls it "using the street as a parking lot."
posted by scarabic to Human Relations (31 answers total)
As a former resident of Berkeley, I'm not surprised about the neighbor sniping, especially between the students and the people who aren't students. And I have seen junkers collecting rust before.

(By posting this, I'm presuming you aren't in a Residential Permit parking zone. The stated goal of the City Council is to spread those zones until they blanket the whole city, because people are using city streets as Park and Ride lots to school now. Even so, in RPPs, one will encounter limits on the number of cars allowed per residence.)

I would take the towing threat seriously. Berkeley cops are pretty good cops by the standards of police work, but they do take neighborhood complaints seriously, and towing is not something that hurts their budget, since you pay for the tow.
posted by calwatch at 10:30 PM on December 16, 2003

Is it just 72 hours in a row, and then you get another 72 hours? If so as you say drive around. E.g. every two days (or say every Monday, Wednesday and Friday) you could drive the car around the block and park it again. If you rarely use it, maybe find somewhere to leave it off the street (e.g. a friends' place). In my experience dealing with busy-body neighbourhood control freaks is a losing battle if you are against any law, no matter how petty the law (and it's the control freak types who go to city meetings all the time who get these laws passed), mainly cuz they are on your case 24 hours a day, and just need one excuse to screw around with you. Maybe you could waste time finding if neighbour is breaking any ordinances, although this involves escalation (see the control freak point above). And yes cops love towing as it is an easy income generator. HTH
posted by carter at 10:56 PM on December 16, 2003

Move it every 72 or you'll lose it. Guaranteed he's serious.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:11 PM on December 16, 2003

Response by poster: Why would someone care? That's what I don't get.

I can understand perfectly well the justification for such a law. It would come in handy on lots of occasions. For example, when someone is storing cars long term, or when someone is parked badly and taking up 2 spaces, or to make it harder for someone to keep hanging on to that eyesore of a junker that doesn't run... I really don't get it here. Sounds like a case of a retired person with too much time on his hands.

Anyone got any interesting dirt on a Berkeley ordinance against those annoying motion-detector lights? Perhaps a building code to prevent upward-angled lights (light pollution) or anything on barking dogs? He's got both.
posted by scarabic at 11:31 PM on December 16, 2003

I live in one of the permit zones here in Berkeley, and I've gotten a ticket for just that--driving and returning to the same spot. Supposely they use a chalk mark on the tires in these permit zones to figure out whether or not you've moved your car within a certain interval, and if that's the case I have no idea how I got nailed for supposely not moving my car.

However, I'd still rather deal with the parking police than vengeful neighbors. I doubt your neighbor needs to present much proof (if any) to file his complaint to get the car towed, so you'll have to regularly move it to a different physical spot to appease him. I've gotten my car towed by the city of Berkeley before (for leaving it parked on a football day), and it costed me an arm and a leg, not to mention a heck of a lot more hassle than moving it to begin with. IMO the battle isn't worth fighting.

Luckily a space opened up in my apartment parking garage recently. It's expensive ($55/month), but worth it to not deal with the Berkeley parking situation. I'd definitely look into a permanent parking solution if it's at all possible.
posted by DaShiv at 11:32 PM on December 16, 2003

It's expensive ($55/month)

Wow, I paid three times that in San Franciso for a spot in my building. $55 sounds like a bargain in Berkeley.
posted by mathowie at 11:53 PM on December 16, 2003

$55 sounds like a bargain in Berkeley.

I pay more than that in Milwaukee.

Why would someone care? That's what I don't get.

There is no real good reason. As I live a block from campus, one that is largely made up of students that commute, I deal with neighbors like this all the time. Between special parking rules the non-student households have convinced the aldermen to enact, and streets parking being limited due to snow regulations, there is constant fighting over on-street parking. I get the impression that the non-students some how thing that if they make things difficult enough students will stop parking there (or it could just be payback for drunken freshmen making messes of their yards on the way back to the dorms?)

Anyone who is serious enough to threaten you with having your car towed, is most definitely serious enough to pick up the phone and call in the complaint. I would make sure the car is moved every 72 hours.

(I've had my car towed twice in four years for things I considered minor infractions)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:48 AM on December 17, 2003

In Seattle I think you have to move the car to the next block, not just to the next parking space. But I bet as long as it is obviously in a different spot (not just reparked in the same space) you may be OK.

I had a car towed for this reason a few years back. I lost the ignition key. (I did still have the door key. This was a 1970 Mazda and the two keys were different.) I put signs up all over the neighborhood - "Lost Key! Please Return!", and made plans for a friend to come hotwire the car that weekend to we could take it in to the shop, since it had been having engine problems when I lost the key, but my irritating neighbors had my car towed on Friday morning.

(Then I had my friend come to the tow lot to hotwire the car there instead. And guess what... it wouldn't start, though it tried to turn over. Never started again. Which was funny since it was running when I parked it, though roughly. We pushed it out of the tow lot onto a public street, then had a friend tow it home.)

The irritating neighbors had 3 SUVs, so they wanted the space. They knew I was a neighbor and the car was used almost every day. They didn't care. People like that will have you towed, so take this guy seriously.
posted by litlnemo at 1:32 AM on December 17, 2003

What level of proof is required? Couldn't you just say that you moved the car when the neighbor wasn't home?

Although, he might have friends that are watching your car all the time, too.
posted by ajpresto at 4:12 AM on December 17, 2003

Well damn, I might have to be nicer to my landlord now.

Since the Berkeley parking police are renowned for their merciless enforcement of all manners of parking infractions, I doubt they'll "require" much proof once a complaint is filed. And you never know what kind of dirt people with too much time can dig up on you as evidence. Maybe you can start a thread asking how to get back at your neighbor without incriminating yourself. :)
posted by DaShiv at 4:37 AM on December 17, 2003

parked on the curb adjoining his driveway

Is the car parked in front of his house? Homeowners tend not to like this, especially when they don't move in a while. It has nothing to do with you guys doing a great job saving the earth, he doesn't care about that, he's worried about the neighborhood looking junky or going downhill and he's trying to nip a small problem before it becomes a big one.

Why would someone care? That's what I don't get.

And he doesn't get why you don't get it.

Just move the car. Someday you'll have a house and you'll yell at the whippersnappers and you'll understand that one of the things dogs do is bark.
posted by sageleaf at 4:40 AM on December 17, 2003

ajpresto, I can only speak about Seattle, not Berkeley, but here what they do is the cops come around and put a sticker on the car. (They might chalk the tire too -- not sure.) Then they check again after the required time has passed. (It used to be 24 hours here, but now I think it is 72 like Berkeley.) If the car is still there, then it gets towed. So if you keep an eye on it and notice the sticker, you can move the car. I didn't notice the sticker on mine because the car was facing away from the house so I just didn't see that side of the vehicle, plus this was when Seattle had the 24 hour limit.

The bad part about this is that the stickers are a pain to remove. They do not want to come off.

I don't know how Berkeley does it, but I imagine it's something similar. They won't tow just on the neighbor's say so -- they have to prove that the car has been there more than 72 hours, so they will mark it somehow and then look in 3 days to see if it moves.
posted by litlnemo at 4:52 AM on December 17, 2003

Perhaps a silly suggestion, but have you ever talked to the neighbour about this? Bring him over a plate of muffins or something, get to know him, be... well, neighbourly. If you can find a way to get along, that's probably your best bet to avoid him calling the cops.

And yes, it sounds like he's hardly being the ideal neighbour now. So what? That just makes it easier for you to be the bigger person.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 4:54 AM on December 17, 2003

Parking spaces in my Manhattan building cost $380 a month. Street parking in Manhattan requires moving the car four times a week for street cleaning, whereupon one must either sit in the car for 90 minutes waiting for the probationary period to expire, or drive around for an hour or so looking for another spot.

Frankly, I don't know what you're complaining about. (And no doubt your neighbor is serious.)
posted by werty at 6:37 AM on December 17, 2003

Frankly, I don't know what you're complaining about.

Sure you do: they have an asshole for a neighbor, and are being hassled for a technically sound (no junkers) but ultimately petty reason.

I'm not sure what the ultimately hilarious specifics about parking on Planet Manhattan have to do with anything, except perhaps to skirt the question being asked.

Anyway, speaking as someone who has been in a very similar skirmish: don't waste your time getting into a turf war, scarabic. The neighbor needs only to make the phone call, and the cops don't really give a damn what your excuses are. Move the car from time to time, and then concentrate on non-actionable ways to make the neighbor crazy, such as inviting over crowds of hippies, letting your lawn grow, or loudly playing Hoobastank.
posted by Skot at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2003

Skot, at least two of those are actionable in most neighborhoods.

Don't start a war and don't retaliate. It bothers someone, even if you don't understand why. You can make this much worse, or you can shrug and move the car.

If the car truly isn't used that much, sell it.
posted by sageleaf at 8:53 AM on December 17, 2003

If your neighbor is being a prick about it, just move the car. After all, it's the law in your neighborhood.

It's very unlikely you'll be able to make him change his mind, and it's really not worth your effort. If you let him get to you, then you let him win.

An alternative would be to try and get the law amended, but I'm not sure you want to take it to that level.
posted by bshort at 9:09 AM on December 17, 2003

move the car and let karma take care of the rest.
posted by Hackworth at 9:38 AM on December 17, 2003

I know full well that playing Hoobastank is an actionable offense, thanks.
posted by Skot at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2003

Response by poster: I appreciate the thoughts about catching flies with honey. That is honestly how I'd rather handle it. Unfortunately, I was already under the impression that we had a good neighborly "hi there" kind of relationship going. Then he strode in like an angry father and dashed that to bits. I've seen him leave notes on other cars in the past and such, and I doubt there's much negotitating room in his policy. The last thing I'm going to do is kiss his ass now.

I once literally brought food over to a woman to discuss her crack of dawn leafblower use, and she threw the plate of food on the ground. I just don't think Americans give a shit about enjoying their neighbors. They'd rather enjoy nice clear rain gutters.

In other news, we can detect their WiFi router with one of our laptops, but don't know the password to join the network. Anyone know a good way to wreak havoc with them that way?

In the end I'll probably just leave him one of my famous snotty letters. Seriously, I should open a business.
posted by scarabic at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2003

Let it go, man. Let it go.

If you pursue vengeance, it will consume all your time.
posted by bshort at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2003

Why would someone care? That's what I don't get.

Berkeley is crawling with crazy, paranoid, and nosey neighbors. I've had people write notes on my TRASH to tell me I was throwing it away incorrectly. All over town, people are incredibly eager to tell you how to live and what you're doing wrong--it's annoying as hell. Parking is a big issue and I'm glad I have my $30 residential permit. Get one if at all possible.

To be happy here, I've found that it's best to institute the New York subway rule: no eye contact and ignore provocations. I'd move the car and let sleeping hippies lie.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:36 AM on December 17, 2003

Response by poster: Ok, vengeful impulses have pretty much died down. Writing that snotty letter helped us both a bit.

I have to recall that we refer to this neighbor as "shutup guy," because once, long ago, when we first met, we were lying on the bed together talking, and laughing hysterically, somewhere around like 7pm. After a particularly wild bout of laughter, he leaned out of one of his windows (facing ours) and yelled "Shut up!"

As I recall, we parroted "shutup!" in high-pitched voices and just fell into more laughing.
posted by scarabic at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2003

Response by poster: just to clarify - we haven't actually sent the letter.
posted by scarabic at 12:15 PM on December 17, 2003

Those letters typically are best kept that way... You can't reason with him and he has the letter of the law on his side. Settle for sabotaging his WiFi network and call it even. ;-)
posted by JollyWanker at 12:32 PM on December 17, 2003

I forget what garbles WiFi. X-10 cameras, or transmitters that send signals from your cabled TV to your non-cabled TV seem like likely candidates.
posted by thirteen at 12:55 PM on December 17, 2003

Writing and then not sending such letters is really really wise - if the guy is that big of a fussbug then he'd just be pleased to save such a letter and then show it off as "proof" of your bad attitude.

Oh and noises of joy next door always bother that type. If I were you'd I'd have lots of laughter (at reasonable hours) at your place. And give the guy a plate of seasonal cookies anyway. Sometimes being kind to the grump who doesn't deserve it is the best form of "nyah nyah, we're nicer people than you are." Not that you'll get him to be a nicer person, just to prove the point, y'know?
posted by batgrlHG at 1:18 PM on December 17, 2003 [1 favorite]

Being nice to harridans and curmudgeons is the sweetest revenge. It drives them up the freakin' wall.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:45 PM on December 17, 2003

having just moved to berkeley from somerville (ie: boston) i have to say that i found the parking to be MUCH better and friendlier...for instance, you can park your car overnight on the street (AMAZING!) without a permit. Best bet is to look on craigslist or locally for someone renting a space. i'd offer to rent her mine but i'm about to buy a car as i've figured out that you actually do need a vehicle in california (sarcasm people).

As for the berkeley people being nit-picky i'd also like to add that they're irritably and often freakishly friendly...really if i'm minding my own business why do you feel like you have to talk about me.....sorry, ranting now.
posted by NGnerd at 9:06 PM on December 17, 2003

I really don't get it here. Sounds like a case of a retired person with too much time on his hands.
Sight is the issue here. I may see why the neighbor is annoyed, your in an apartment, him in a house. Viewing a car in front of your home time after time becomes tiring, it ruins the "curb appeal". Think of the parked cars as "clutter". Obviously since he doesn't park in front of his "own" home and uses his garage, he enjoys a clean view out his front door and windows. The street is everyones yet it becomes tiring when you have to look at someone's else's stuff day after day. Add he may be "anal too, thinking a parked car drops grease thus ruining his curb appeal in front of his home, which would lower his home's value while viewing.
It's like the house on the block with more cars than drive way. Then using everyone's curb for their drive way leaving you with nowhere for your visotors to park.
PS: In the USA we park in a drive way and drive in park way.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2003

Add, ever try mowing your lawn near the curb while a car is parked there?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2003

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