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Avoiding Parking Tickets

The following tips will help you avoid parking tickets in San Francisco.

Do not park for more than 72 hours

The maximum on-street parking time limit in San Francisco is 72 hours (3 days). This rule does apply to vehicles with residential parking permits. Stationary vehicles parked beyond 72 hours can be cited and towed. In addition, street construction and other special events can sometimes require removing parking from a street with as little as 24 hours notice, so it’s a good idea to check your vehicle every day to ensure that no temporary restrictions have been posted on the street.

Always check for parking signs

Before parking a vehicle look 100 feet in both directions for any parking signs. Also check the curb to see if there are any color curb markings. A majority of San Francisco streets have street cleaning signs that restrict parking from once a month to every day including holidays. Many streets have daytime parking time limits, including Residential Parking Permit areas. On major streets and in the downtown area, also check that commute morning or peak hour tow-away lane restrictions are not in effect. Please call 311 to report any defaced, deficient or missing parking signs.

Watch for street cleaning regulations

Street cleaning violations are the most common citation in San Francisco. In commercial areas streets are mechanically swept at night or in the early morning hours. In residential areas street sweeping is more common during daytime hours. Street cleaning parking restrictions cease being in effect after the street has been mechanically swept by the Department of Public Works. Do not park on a street during street cleaning hours if you are not sure the street has already been swept.

Curb your wheels

If the grade of a street is more than 3%, a motor vehicle’s wheels must be curbed so that if the vehicle were to roll, it would move toward the adjacent sidewalk curb. The curb would then help to stop the vehicle from rolling further. When parking uphill, turn the steering wheel toward the street. When parking on a downhill street, turn steering wheel toward the sidewalk.

Do not block driveways

A driveway begins at the curb cut, or the point at which the curb begins to slope downward toward street level. A vehicle parked within curb cuts can be cited and towed. Even partial encroachments into the driveway area can result in a tow. Some driveways are marked with short red curb markings that indicate where vehicles should not park. Only red zones painted by the City with a DPT or MTA stencil are enforced. It is illegal for private parties to paint curbs or other markings on the street. Residents can block their own driveways only if the building the driveway serves has two or one units and the vehicle’s license plate is registered to the building’s address. All other types of driveway parking can be cited.

Do not park on sidewalks

A vehicle parked on any portion of a sidewalk can be cited for a sidewalk violation. A sidewalk citation can be given even if the pedestrian travel path is partly clear or if the vehicle is parked across a driveway. Sidewalks are the area between the curb and the building property line. Motorcycles are not exempt from sidewalk parking regulations. Bicycles can be parked on the sidewalk but their owners must ensure that the pedestrian path is safe and clear.

Respect all posted time limits

After exceeding the parking time limit on a street, avoid parking on the same block while the time limit is still in effect that day. The San Francisco Transportation Code requires that a vehicle be moved to a different block (or one-tenth of a mile) in order for it not to be considered stationary. A vehicle can be cited for a time limit violation even if its owner moved the vehicle from one side of the same block to the other. Not all vehicle tires are marked with chalk to check for a time limit violation, so do not assume that lack of tire markings means that there has not been time limit check. It is illegal to erase tire markings placed by a Parking Control Officer.

Obey parking meter time limits

The purpose of a parking meter time limit is to indicate the maximum time that any vehicle can remain on that parking space. Feeding parking meters is illegal. Vehicles that exceed the parking time limit of a parking meter can be cited regardless of whether the meter has been paid or not.

Use disabled placards correctly

The State of California issues disabled placards or license plates that exempt vehicles from parking time limits so long as the person to whom the placard is issued is being transported and is within a reasonable proximity of the vehicle. Exempted time limits include signed parking time limits, residential parking permit areas, regular parking meters, and green zones. The placard or license plate also exempts payments at on-street parking meters and allows for the use of blue zones. All other parking restrictions apply.


  • Many metered zones become tow-away zones during morning or evening commute hours. Disabled placards do NOT exempt the vehicle from tow-away restrictions.
  • Yellow meters and yellow zones are for commercial vehicles or 6-wheeled trucks (if the meter has a red top). Disabled placards cannot be used to park in these zones.
  • If someone displays a placard that is expired or has been reported as lost or stolen to the DMV, the vehicle can be cited $966 and towed.
  • If someone displays a disabled placard and the placard holder is not within a reasonable proximity to the placard, they can be cited for misuse of a placard ($966) and for the underlying violation (for example, for having an expired meter).

Use commercial yellow zones correctly

Yellow zones are in effect as indicated by signs or stencils on the curb. Standard yellow curb zones (or yellow metered spaces) are available for commercial vehicle loading for a specified time period, either 30 minutes or an hour. Special truck-only loading zones can only be used by commercial trucks with six or more wheels. Where there are parking meters these six-wheel zones are designated with signs and a red top meter. Non-commercial vehicles can be cited and towed if parked these zones.

Use passenger white zones correctly

Vehicles may stop in a white zone for active loading or unloading passengers for up to five minutes. The effective times of a white zone are posted with a sign or stenciled on the curb markings. Do not leave a vehicle unattended at a white zone or it may be cited.

Parallel park correctly

California law requires that the two right wheels of a vehicle be parked no more than 18 inches away from the curb. The only exceptions are (1) one way streets, where the left two wheels must be parallel to and within 18 inches from the left-hand curb, or (2) places officially designated with signs or pavement markings for angle or perpendicular parking.

Do not block crosswalks

A crosswalk is the extension of a sidewalk through an intersection and exists whether it is painted or not. It is illegal to park in marked or unmarked crosswalks. Never block disabled curb ramps located inside or adjacent to crosswalks.

Follow commercial parking restrictions

Commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating are restricted from parking in areas zoned as residential.