parking_meters.jpgThere is literally nothing in San Francisco that is worse than parking. It’s the kind of place where if you won a free Maserati on a game show you would just stare sullenly into space, because you honestly can’t figure out which is worse: owning your own car, or riding a bus that you could beat in a foot race.

Parking is the bane of all car-owners and also of all people who know car-owners. It is probably the main reason that sometimes when you see people they are in bad moods. It is definitely the main reason my boyfriend is sometimes in a bad mood, and also the cause of most of our fights:

Me: “Why are you letting this get to you? I don’t know who you are when you’re parking.”

Him: “I’m dropping you off at home.”

If you’ve only been a passenger you can’t fully appreciate the hideous horribleness of trying to find parking, on say, a Sunday night at 9 PM. Driving slowly around and around the same block like a stalker, which you basically are: a parking space stalker.

You squint at curbs, and wonder what color they are. You curse motorcycles, and start to seriously consider whether you’re going to have to abandon your car in the street like it’s a post-apocalyptic novel, and you are the last person looking for parking on earth.

That’s the worst part of course, the soul-sucking loneliness of the parker. The feeling is like being the only one left in a city overrun by zombies, and just wanting to park your goddamn vehicle so you can get inside your house and not have your neck eaten off, but you can’t because all the zombies already parked their vehicles before they turned into zombies and now there will NEVER be another parking place.

You make ever widening circles, thinking maybe down this street 14 blocks from where I live. The sign says you’ll have to move it at 6 AM tomorrow, but that sounds like a totally realistic proposal.

You can completely see why that sign wouldn’t want you to park here “Monday-Wednesday and Its Favorite Holidays from 6:23-8:04am,” and why the sign on the other side of the street would want something similar but completely different. You can’t read any of these signs in the dark.

And so you sit in the middle of the street in your Honda and lay your head down on the horn so that it makes one long bleat, that sounds like all of the loneliness and frustration in the world, and wonder how you ever got to this place, and are suddenly glad you have a car if only because it means you can leave.

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  • wordygirl

    When I lived in the lower haight, I decided to set my odometer one night as I was circling. I kid you not – I drove 10 miles before I parked my car (which, incidentally, got broken into that night and all my shit got stolen).

  • supertamsf

    Life is too short to waste time energy & frustration on parking. We live in the BEST CITY IN THE WORLD. Ditch the car and enjoy it.

  • phuong

    You’d think that having a car would get you places faster, but the trouble of looking for parking means it’ll take just as long if you rode the bus. I’ve driven in circles for half an hour during prime dinner time, only to be late to meet people. The car is the bane of my existence, but how else am i going to go to Target?

  • Jimbo

    What are parking problems?

    – Everyone Who Lives West of Stanyan

  • TK

    Until you’ve lived in North Beach, you have no idea what difficult parking is. One night I spent almost an hour looking for a space. I finally parked on Bay Street, about 15 blocks from my house. When I got home, there was a space open on my block.

    Happens every time.

  • John Murphy

    @TK I guess that explains how Aaron Peskin came to be then…

  • Greg Dewar

    Despite my current transit status, I used to own a car, a gas guzzling thing that was a pain in the ass to fit in many SF spots. However, if you let go of suburban expectations of parking, and realize some neighborhoods just plain SUCK to park in, and accept that yes, you will end up paying a parking ticket, then parking is not that bad.

    First, if you think you can drive up and find a parking spot right in front of your final destination, FAIL. You will not. Maybe you will, but if you expect it every time, you’re dreaming. Accept that you may have to walk a few blocks

    Second, some neighborhoods just plain suck for parking, as TK says. More importantly it’s the time. If you expect car park spots to open up in Nob Hill at 11pm, well, FAIL. Most of those people have parked for the night.

    Third, say good by to unscuffed bumpers – especiall if you have a stupid car like mine was – you’re going to be bumping up against that old VW, like it or not.

    Finally, don’t just sit there in the street blocking Muni, the trains, and 50 of your fellow drivers waiting for a spot. Go with the flow and let go a little and you’ll find something. Usually.

  • fritolait

    I would not own a car in San Francisco without also owning a place to park it.

    I would not live in San Francisco unless I’m in a place where driving is rare in the city itself, and I can walk everywhere (or take a cab)

    I follow these rules wherever I live in SF, and I’m happy (aside from being broke, since it’s so damn expensive to live here).

  • elainesantore

    There’s a Target at the San Bruno BART station, at Tanforan. And it’s two floors! I tell all of my SF friends to go to that one instead of the Colma one.

  • Steve Calderon

    I think the city charter says that in times of zombie apocalypse, it’s perfectly acceptable to park in handicap spaces, and also fines for double parking are automatically halved.

    For the non-zombie times (the “before times” as they will come to be known), nothing beats owning a scooter or a small motorcycle in this city. I seriously don’t know how people live here without them. Yes, it’s true that you have to stop texting and reading Facebook for ten minutes while you ride from point A to point B, but once you see this city from a scooter, you will never want to get back in a car.

    @phuong: The answer to your dilemma is ZipCar. I think I average around $20/month on ZipCars for all of my Target/Costco/hooker cruising needs. Although, now that I know about this easily BART-able one at Tanforan, I may go that route from now on!

  • sfresident

    @Wordygirl – you were doing it wrong. There’s plenty of parking near Duboce park – an easy walk to all of the lower Haight.

    I own a car in the city and I have to agree with Greg – you just need to modify your expectations and try to understand parking and transit patterns. Things like if you need to park near a major street then you should look for parking perpendicular, not parallel to the destination. I rarely have to walk more than about four blocks from my car to my house and I live in a very dense neighborhood. It’s not a bad deal for essentially getting to use a huge amount of public space for something like $70 a year (or whatever permits cost these days). If anything, parking in the city should be more expensive and difficult.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    People I know drive all the time in SF with no parking snafus and apparently developed a workable procedure.

  • Equiman

    I was more than a little surprised to see that our san francisco firefighters have a little

    scam of their own for free parking in the City. Wish I had one of those things for my dashboard.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02FHNl9CTJM

  • Mike Smith

    If you want to live in a dense, dynamic city like San Francisco then of course parking is difficult. If we had plenty of parking then it would be more like Houston. So make the choice. Either have a city compatible lifestyle, move to where your lifestyle is compatible, pay the market value for a convenient parking space, or simply accept being in a bad mood because you can’t find free parking.

  • Mr. Kurtz

    Hey, unless you are a childlless young hipster living in a rent controlled apartment, this town is not for you.
    The choice is not between Houston and what we endure now. There are a bunch of transportation Taliban who feel cars are inherently evil, and those who use them ought to be punished.

  • Mr. Kurtz

    Hey, unless you are a childlless young hipster living in a rent controlled apartment, this town is not for you.
    The choice is not between Houston and what we endure now. There are a bunch of transportation Taliban who feel cars are inherently evil, and those who use them ought to be punished.

  • sfsanity

    Yup, there truly exists a transportation Taliban in SF who find cars inherently evil until campaign season when they try to recruit your vehicle to mobilize volunteers and their materials, or to get potential voters to the polls. For sanity’s sake, if you want to own a vehicle in SF, it’s best to rent a parking space as close to your home as is possible.

  • friscolex

    If you live within the City limits (especially in certain truly hopeless neighborhoods as outlined above) and cannot live without owning a private vehicle (understandable but I’d estimate that about more than half of car owners out there could give it up), then it seems that sanity would demand the additional expense of a parking space rental.

    When I borrow friends’ cars, I rarely have a problem with parking, but I’ve been trained by the best: my father, who must have made sacrifices to the parking gods years ago, as his parking karma is stunning. I also read signs and remember that it’s a privilege, not a right. I also personally find that the taxi fare is always less than the worth of hours of my time.

  • friscolex

    If you live within the City limits (especially in certain truly hopeless neighborhoods as outlined above) and cannot live without owning a private vehicle (understandable but I’d estimate that about more than half of car owners out there could give it up), then it seems that sanity would demand the additional expense of a parking space rental.

    When I borrow friends’ cars, I rarely have a problem with parking, but I’ve been trained by the best: my father, who must have made sacrifices to the parking gods years ago, as his parking karma is stunning. I also read signs and remember that it’s a privilege, not a right. I also personally find that the taxi fare is always less than the worth of hours of my time.