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Categories: SF Parking

Street Parking San Francisco: The Ultimate Guide

Street Parking in San Francisco can be tricky. Finding a spot is only half the work. Understanding the parking rules and keeping your car safe are other challenges.

View San Francisco Parking Map

This guide is here to help with:

Tips for street parking
Understanding San Francisco Parking Rules
Where to Park in San Francisco for Free
Finding Cheap Parking

Tips for street parking

If you’re new to parking in San Francisco, here are the tips that will help keep you car safe and avoid a parking ticket each time you park.

1- The curb, meter and parking signs:

✅ Did you check if they allow parking now? (curb and meter colors, and parking signs explained)

2- Your car:

✅ Is it facing the flow of traffic?
✅ Are the wheels within 18 inches from the curb? (only if you parallel park)
✅ Are the tires curbed to prevent runaway? (only if you park on a hill)
Uphill – turn them away from the curb
Downhill – turn them towards the curb
✅ Did you make sure the bumpers are not extending into a driveway, crosswalk or color curb?

3- The authorized parking duration:

You’re parking in a…
✅ Parking meter?
Meters often have a time limit. After it is reached, you must move your car at least one block.
If the meter is broken (doesn’t accept any form of payment), the limit is 2 hours.
✅ Residential area?
These areas often limit the time you can park unless you have the corresponding residential parking permit. After the time limit is reached, you must move your car at least one block.
✅ Area with other restrictions?
Street cleaning, tow away and no parking hours can come into effect after you park.
✅ Free parking area with no restrictions at all?
The 72 hour rule always applies in San Francisco in the absence of other restrictions: you are allowed to park in one spot for up to 72 hours and not more!

4- Payment

✅ Did you pay the meter before leaving your car?

5- Safety

✅ Did you make sure you didn’t leave anything visible nor valuables in your car?
There is a car break-ins “epidemic” in San Francisco, in particular in these neighborhoods.

6- Moving your car on time

✅ Did you set a reminder to move your car before expiry of the parking meter, residential time limit, street cleaning or before the next restriction comes into effect?
You can use the free SpotAngels app to automatically set reminders for you when you park. It is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Understanding San Francisco Parking Rules

To make sure you can park in a spot, you need to check the curb and/or parking meter, the parking signs and know if there are any suspensions happening.

Curb and meter colors

Gray curb
Purpose: Street parking for all.
Who can park: Any vehicle during authorized hours.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and a tow if you park when not authorized.
Meters (if any): Gray on this type of curb.

Red curb
Purpose: For “No Parking” zones
Who can park: No one.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and a tow.
Meters (if any): No meters on this type of curb.

Yellow curb
Purpose: For loading and unloading of commercial vehicles.
Who can park:
During effective hours, only vehicles with commercial license plates.
Outside of effective hours, all vehicles.
Check the curb or nearby signs for effective hours.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and a tow if you park when not authorized.
Meters (if any): Red (for multiple axle trucks) or yellow (for commercial vehicles) on this type of curb.

Blue curb
Purpose: For street parking dedicated to people with disabilities.
Who can park:
Vehicles with a valid disabled parking placard or license plate.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and a tow if you park when not authorized.
Meters (if any): Blue on this type of curb.

Green curb
Purpose: For short-term street parking, usually 10 to 30 minutes.
Who can park:
During effective hours, all vehicles for the posted duration and vehicles with a valid disabled parking placard or license plate for any duration as long as the signs authorize it.
Outside of effective hours, all vehicles for any duration as long as the signs authorize it.
Check the curb or nearby signs for effective hours.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket if you park when not authorized.
Meters (if any): Green on this type of curb.

White curb
Purpose: For passenger loading and unloading, with a time limit of 5 minutes.
Who can park:
During effective hours, vehicles may only stay for a few minutes with the driver inside.
Outside of effective hours, all vehicles can park for any duration as long as the signs authorize it.
Check the curb or nearby signs for effective hours.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and tow if you park when not authorized.
Meters (if any): Gray on this type of curb.

Everything else you need to know about San Francisco parking meters

Parking signs

The most common parking signs in San Francisco are:

Street Cleaning

Purpose: To enable street sweeping.
Everything you need to know about SF street cleaning
How parking is restricted: You may not park during the posted hours unless the street sweeper has passed by already.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket if you park when not authorized.

Residential Time Limit

Purpose: To secure street parking for residents and business owners of a neighborhood.
How parking is restricted:
If you hold a permit, you may park and the time limit doesn’t apply.
If you don’t hold a permit, you may park for the time limit posted. You may not park in the same block right after the end of the time limit.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket if you park when not authorized.

Tow Away

Purpose: To increase number of lanes for traffic during rush hour.
How parking is restricted: You may not park during the posted hours.
Risk: You get towed and get a parking ticket if you park when not authorized.

Temporary signs

Purpose: To use the side of the curb for construction, moves, events.
How parking is restricted: You may not park during the posted hours.
Risk: You risk a parking ticket and tow if you park when not authorized.

SF Residential parking permits

Who is eligible:
If you live, own a business, teach, provide regular health care or childcare, or are a diplomat in a neighborhood with a residential parking permit, you may apply for up to 4 residential parking permits for a given address.

Cost:
A residential parking permit costs $128 per year. The fee is reduced to $63 if the permit area expires in less than six months.

What is your permit area:

How to apply:
Apply for a SF residential parking permit on the SFMTA website

SF Parking Holidays

San Francisco parking rules are not enforced during holidays but be careful since it depends on the parking rule.

Street Cleaning
In residential areas, street cleaning is not enforced during the all legal holidays below.
In other areas, the rule is different. You can find all the details here.

Residential Time Limit, Tow Away
In all areas, residential time limits and tow away are not enforced during all the legal holidays below.

Parking Meters
In addition to Sundays, parking meters are not in operation on the 3 holidays flagged with a * (New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day,Christmas Day).

SF Parking Holidays 2019
New Year’s Day * – Jan 1, 2019
Martin Luther King Day – Jan 21, 2019
Presidents Day – Feb 18, 2019
Memorial Day – May 27, 2019
Independence Day – Jul 4, 2019
Labor Day – Sep 2, 2019
Columbus Day – Oct 14, 2019
Veterans Day – Nov 11, 2019
Thanksgiving Day * – Nov 28, 2019
Day after Thanksgiving Day – Nov 29, 2019
Christmas Day * – Dec 25, 2019

If you’re leaving the city for the end of year holidays and would like to know where to park your car to avoid street cleaning, here are some tips. Keep in mind that the 72 hour rule always applies in San Francisco, even though it is not often enforced.

SF Parking Tickets

Cost:
SF parking tickets are among the most expensive in the country. Parking during street cleaning hours costs $73 for example. Parking during tow away hours will cost you over $400 in tow and parking ticket fees.
In 2016, the city of San Francisco issues parking tickets for a total worth more than $124 million.

Highest risk areas:
The most tickets blocks in the city are 300 Townsend St., 500 Mission St. and 400 1st St. The worst neighborhood for parking tickets is Financial District.
Check the data for your neighborhood

Paying for a parking ticket or tow:
All the instructions to pay for a parking ticket are on the ticket itself when you receive it. You can also pay online here.
If your car was towed, you need to call 415.865.8200.

Make sure you always pay your parking tickets on time. If you don’t, the consequences are pretty serious after some time.

Where to Park in San Francisco for Free

Street parking is free:
-In areas with residential parking permits:
For 72 hours straight when you have the corresponding parking permit
For the posted time limit and overnight when you don’t hold a permit
-Overnight in many areas (including with parking meters) provided that there is no other night time parking restriction such as street cleaning or tow away, or a loading zone with early operating hours. To find overnight parking, you can visit this overnight parking map.
-In areas where there is no parking restriction at all or only street cleaning.

Finding Cheap Parking

Even when there are no free of charge options where you’re heading, you can find cheap parking meters or parking lots/garages . Keep in mind that San Francisco is generalizing demand-responsive pricing for parking meters so in the same area prices can vary by a lot.

For more convenience, see open spots, prices & rules while on the go with the free SpotAngels app available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

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