General San Diego Street Parking Tips
The city of San Diego is known for its steep inclines and breathtaking views of the bay. It’s a crowded city and parking can get competitive but luckily, the city has plans in place to increase the number of street parking spots available to residents and non-residents alike. A portion of all metered parking revenue even goes to developing new parking spots, parking garages, and programs. Keep reading to find out about San Diego’s colored curbs, metered parking rules, overnight parking rules, and more.
Keep these parking rules in mind:
- If you’re parking on a hill with a 3% grade or higher, ‘cramp’ your wheels – turn them towards the curb on a downhill and away from the curb on an uphill, or risk a ticket.
- Vehicles can’t park on a public street for longer than 72 hours.
- Parking is prohibited in alleys, except for the purpose of actively unloading goods or passengers, unless the alley is specifically designated as an alley parking zone.
- If you’re driving a commercial vehicle, parking in residential areas is prohibited unless you’re actively loading or unloading the vehicle.
Parking is prohibited:
- in an intersection or a crosswalk;
- within 15 feet of a fire station driveway or fire hydrant
- on a sidewalk or parkway;
- on the roadway side of a parked vehicle (double parking);
- in a bus stop;
- in a tunnel;
- upon a bridge (unless otherwise posted);
- in such a manner that obstructs the free use of the street;
- in a center median strip unless signs are posted permitting parking on the median; and
- in front of a public or private driveway (even your own driveway!)
San Diego Parking Signs and Meters:
The City manages approximately 5,700 metered parking spaces. Currently, meters accept payments from the following:
- Credit Card (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover)
- Mobile Phone Payment on meters displaying a green Parkmobile sticker.
- Near Field Communication (NFC) payments such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay on certain enabled meters.
Here are common parking signs throughout the city:
Short-Term Time Limit Parking: Parking is limited to the time period stenciled on the curb or posted on a sign. In most cases, the time limit is either 15 or 30 minutes. Short-term time limit parking zones are in effect 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Sundays and City holidays excepted, unless otherwise posted.
No Parking: If no hours are specified, you’re not allowed to park here at any time. Check the sign for specified hours to see whether certain times of day are unrestricted.
Street Sweeping: During street sweeping hours, your car will get towed if you park near this sign. Check out our street sweeping guide to learn more.
Residential Parking: Only cars with residential parking permits can park here. You can apply for residential and visitor parking permits online.
Is there much free parking in downtown San Diego?
Free parking downtown is scarce, but it does exist if you know where to look. For instance, there are three secret free street parking spots on Ash street between 3rd and 2nd on the north side of a one-way. Watch the signs: if you see a suspicious lack of cars on a block, parking could be restricted for street cleaning.
Visit this San Diego map to find free downtown parking by navigating to the downtown area of the map. You’ll see streets with no parking meters as well as hourly metered parking.
We recommend parking downtown in Golden Hill. If you are looking to head to the Gaslamp Quarter, Golden Hill is only a short half mile walk. Try 22nd street or any of the blocks between A and Broadway.
Need to park overnight?
If you’re looking for overnight parking in residential areas, check the signs nearby and keep the 72-hour rule in mind. If you’re parking in a commercial area or business district, make sure you know exactly when the parking meters begin ticking the morning after you park.
Better yet, visit this San Diego overnight parking map to find out how long you have until the meter begins and use the app to set a phone alert to remind you when you need to move your car.
Pay Attention to Curb Color Rules When You Park:
Keep in mind, no portion of the vehicle should extend into the restricted area or you’re at risk to be ticketed and stay 15 feet away from fire hydrants at all times, regardless of curb color.
RED CURB: NO PARKING/NO STOPPING ZONE
A red curb means, “no stopping any time.” When signs are used in place of a red curb, the prohibition is in effect on the days and times specified on the sign otherwise, this restriction is in effect 24/7.
WHITE CURB: PASSENGER LOADING ZONE
Vehicles are allowed to stop for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers on this curb. The time limit is three minutes or ten minutes in front of a hotel. Passenger loading zones are in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, unless otherwise posted.
YELLOW CURB: COMMERCIAL LOADING ZONE
Trucks and commercial vehicles can stop for 20 minutes to load or unload goods. Passenger vehicles may also stop for three minutes to load or unload passengers. These zones are in effect from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday thru Saturday unless otherwise posted.
BLUE AND GREEN CURBS: ONE-HOUR AND TWO-HOUR TIME LIMIT PARKING ZONES
These curbs are designated by signs and zones are in effect from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Saturday. That means metered parking is free on Sundays!
When are parking meters enforced?
The majority of parking meters are enforced Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. but if you’re in the Hospitality Zone Downtown or the Hillcrest Commercial Zone in Hillcrest, those meters operate until 8 p.m. Metered parking is free on Sundays. Always check the posted signs for enforcement hours to avoid those pesky tickets. Even moving trucks don’t get a pass – everyone is required to pay the parking meter.
DISABLED PARKING ZONES
Vehicles displaying a disability placard or license plate from any state are able to park at green curbs and time limit zones with no time restriction. Additionally, disabled drivers can park at any metered parking spot for free!
If you park at a broken meter, the city recommends that you move to a meter that is functioning properly. To report the broken meter, call the Parking Meter Shop at (800) 808-5998. Keep track of the number on the parking meter before you call, which can be found on a metal plate toward the bottom of the meter, on the street side.
What are the most common parking tickets in San Diego?
If you have a parking ticket in San Diego, pay it within 21 days or risk an even higher bill! The city of San Diego also offers a payment plan for low-income residents. Find out more about that program on their website. Here are the most common parking tickets and their costs:
|Ticket||Cost||First Late Fee||Second Late Fee|
|Wrong-way parking on a one-way street||$59.50||$47.00||$10.00|
|Failing to cramp wheels while parking on a grade||$59.50||$47.00||$10.00|
|Parking or standing in a fire lane||$77.50||$65.00||$10.00|
|Vehicle was not moved in 72 hours||$53.50||$41.00||$10.00|
|Parking in a loading zone||$57.50||$45.00||$10.00|
|Overnight parking in a restricted area||$59.50||$47.00||$10.00|
|Temporary no parking / Tow-away zone||$52.50||$40.00||$10.00|
|Parking in a disabled space without a placard||$452.50||$0.00||$10.00|
How do I pay a San Diego parking ticket?
Drivers with parking tickets are encouraged to pay online using the city’s website.
What do I do if my car gets towed?
If you believe your vehicle may have been towed by the City of San Diego, search AutoReturn, the website the city uses to document towed vehicles. If you’re unable to locate your vehicle using AutoReturn, call the Police Non-Emergency phone number at (619) 531-2000.
When are San Diego’s parking holidays?
Parking enforcement holidays are limited to parking meters, yellow commercial zones, short-term green zones and 1- to 2-hour time parking zones. All other parking regulations are enforced on the following holidays. Be sure to read parking signage for time frame restrictions and parking guidelines.
|January||New Year’s Day||January 1|
|January||Martin Luther King, Jr. Day||January 21|
|February||Presidents’ Day||February 18|
|March/April||Cesar Chavez Day||March 31|
|May||Memorial Day*||May 27|
|July||Independence Day*||July 4|
|September||Labor Day*||September 2|
|November||Veterans’ Day||November 11|
|November||Thanksgiving Day||November 28|
|December||Christmas Day||December 25|
*Parking Enforcement will patrol and enforce other parking violations in the beach communities on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day holiday weekends.