While common in practice and rarely enforced, parking in the setback/driveway between a home’s garage and the sidewalk in San Francisco is technically illegal per Planning Code Section 132(f), and that includes the parking/storage of any motor vehicles, trailers and/or boats.

In addition, the curb cut in front of a home, which is often used as a protected on-street parking spot, is dependent upon the ongoing need to access a legal garage. And when a home’s garage is converted into a living space, either legally (think ADU) or illegally (as is the case here), the right to a curb cut is effectively forfeited and must be removed, as the owners of what was billed as a three-unit building at 704 Broderick Street, when purchased back in 2016, are now painfully aware.

In order to maintain their right the home’s curb cut and driveway, the building’s garage will need to be restored.  And the unpermitted ground-floor unit, which the owners of the building had managed as a rental through 2019 – at which point the tenants of the unit were evicted and San Francisco’s rent board suddenly became aware of the third unit’s illegality – will need to be removed, the plans for which have been drafted and are now working their way through Planning.

54 thoughts on “Surprise! That’s Not a Legal Parking Spot (Or Unit)”
  1. I used to report these kinds of sidewalk parkers to 311, but they never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever got a ticket. Most of the time it would come back “private property.” So I stopped. It’s good to know that 311 was lying to me the whole time.

        1. Not sure why? Because cars parked in driveways, which often overhang onto sidewalks, create an ugly visual, much like graffiti, that degrades the look of a block. It broadcasts the message that the block doesn’t value its own appearance. That said, I often use my driveway the same because it is convenient, but it’s wrong and indirectly hurts my neighbors.

          1. The existence of a driveway (which probably replaced a little garden) creates an ugly visual whether or not there’s a car in it.

          2. It is a horrible sin and crime, deserving of severe punishment, perhaps time in a penitentiary. As San Francisco now has no more serious problems, having finally raised the Tenderloin above the level of a third world country, there should be a harsh crackdown on evil-doers who park in their own driveway. Hurting one’s neighbors, contributing to undervaluing the appearance of the block, as you say, is wrong. Absolutely wrong. We should start a petition to force the city to put an end to this scourge against humanity.

      1. Micro-aggression is not appropriate in any forum online or in-person. Also, name-calling is a form of aggression. Additionally, your reference is not an appropriate use of CAREN act, as It only applies to 911 calls. Check your facts before you lambast your neighbors for something the politicians legislated. You will get more success lobbying the supervisors to change the law in your favor.

        Nobody wins with laws are not followed consistently, and if they are unenforceable then we need to lobby our politicians and not waste effort terrorizing each other. Hope you have a nice holiday season filled with joy and enthusiasm about your future and love your neighbor as you do yourself.

    1. They don’t come out because the PCO doesn’t want to waste their time. It is always going to be the same PCO, they know it is you calling, and they don’t want to bother some person about being 6” into the sidewalk. I’ve handled this exact thing from the PCO side — it is annoying for them too.

    2. I would disagree. I’ve been called on and ticketed. Things I learned as a new homeowner. The red car is probably still on private property. The van/SUV thought is creeping onto the sidewalk though. SFMTA does ticket for that if 311’d. (I ended up getting a tiny car so that it could fit in my tiny driveway.)

    3. Goodness, Karen. Mind your own business. When even 311 doesn’t [care] you shouldn’t either. No cars blocking anyone. Get a hobby.

    4. Every Euro city I’ve been to seemingly = park wherever you can…backwards, sideways, in some tiny space, blah blah blah. Here there seems to zero accommodation for parking. I’m around Valencia and 22nd, where there is construction from at least Mission to Guerrero. Individual houses get spots in front blocked because they’re doing some kind of construction. Shared spaces removes more parking. Street cleaning reduces where you can park as well. SF is awful.

  2. I’m perplexed as to why the city would allow “forgiveness” of the removal of units the Dolores mansion recently cited on this site, but is holding strong on the 7’6” ceiling height (California’s min is 7’0, Oakland recently switched from 7’6” to 7’0) and is forcing illegal units like this to be removed entirely (admittedly in may have other major code problems).

    Loosening ADU restrictions *dramatically* seems like a complete no-brainer in terms of housing stock, income for homeowners, and safety. Seems like it would have huge support and minimal NIMBYism.

    1. Agreed. What is up with SF holding strong to that 7’6” legal height? If they would lower it to California’s 7’ that would encourage some illegal ADUs to become legal and increase the housing stock. Any clues on this SocketSite?

        1. You can sniff around all you want, but the online real estate sites including Redfin / Trulia / Zillow all say the same thing – 1988 square feet and sold for 425K.

        1. Not quite. The August 2018 transaction was designed to yield three owners of the “three-unit” building, after which the tenants in the ground floor unit were evicted.

          1. OK…so does that mean the ground floor unit was one of the three units or was it a forth unit?

  3. If there was actually still a garage here, I would see no problem with the car parked there, as it’s able to do so without infringing on the public right of way (sidewalk) in any meaningful way (it looks like 6-7′ of clear passage between the car and the planters adjacent to the driveway.)

    But given that there is no garage there, this is equivalent to parking in the yard. The curb cut should be removed and a new street parking space created in the process. Or the garage needs to be restored. You can’t have it both ways.

    I notice the owner has illegally painted the curbs red too. Those are not MTA markings.

    I’m pretty sure you’d be legal to park across that “driveway” on the street.

    1. Let’s get one thing straight – there never was a garage there. ALL of the garages in the Victorians on this block were added be taking out ground floor rooms and a front garden. These houses date from the 1890’s – before houses ‘needed’ garages. The previous owners added the cutout, and used to park a very large car, blocking the entire sidewalk. The current owners are working with the City to mitigate the problem one way or the other. This all takes time. Give them a break!

      1. From Planning with respect to the property above: “Our records indicate that the subject property is currently authorized for a two-family dwelling use with one unit on the second floor and another unit on the third and fourth floor. The ground floor was originally authorized as a garage for parking use. The garage on the ground floor at the above property was converted into an independent and separate third dwelling unit with its own kitchen without the benefit of a permit and approval from the Planning Department.”

        But property records do indicate that the unpermitted unit has occupied the ground floor since at least the 1960s.

    2. The actual cut curb also looks a bit sketchy. Like it was done unauthorized to create two private parking spaces. The one in the set back and one at the curb cut for use only by building residents. I wonder if a car would be ticketed if blocked this space?

  4. What did the 3R report show when the property was purchased in 2016? It should have noted that the property was 2 legal units.

  5. i used to live in the building on the other side of the purple one on the left! 1-bedroom on the 3rd/top floor for only $1450 in 2009. sigh. i loved that place. so much light and the shower was my fav of any apartment i’ve lived in – sunlight, breeze, high water pressure, extra elbow room.

  6. In what world does it make sense to require an apartment to be replaced by a garage? If I had my druthers the owners would be required to install a curb blocking the driveway and the apartment would be legalized. If for some reason that’s too difficult to do, just allow the status quo to persist. The City doesn’t need to fix every violation out there, especially when the “solution” is worse than the violation.

  7. Anyone notice the minivan parked into the sidewalk in the driveway of the home on the left? It can be hard to see how the minivan is perfectly OK while the little red car needs to be kicked to the curb — literally.

    Until you think about how the original garage conversion basically appropriated the resources of the neighborhood to the owner at the time. So they basically forced the neighborhood to shoulder the burden of street parking for the car that would have been in the garage, *plus* shoulder the burden of yet another car for the home that went *into* the garage. And then they effectively reserve the street parking space where their “curb cut” (which looks like someone took a pick axe to make) is for their own car. We wouldn’t allow them to put up a sign saying “This street space is reserved for my car”, but they achieve exactly that by hacking out a curb cut that effectively takes away TWO street parking spaces for their little car.

    So the original converter basically demanded their neighbors pay all the costs while they pocketed the money from the rent for the illegal unit, knowing that they’d make more money whet they sold. The only way to stop that is to make clear that building codes will be enforced, and should someone pay them a dime more than they’d pay for the building before the conversion, potential buyers should be on notice that sooner or later, they’ll lose all of the money the converted pocketed from them.

    As for the blocking of the sidewalk, had some homeless person put their tent in that same sidewalk space, the city would have rolled out the red carpet for them. So I have little patience for the argument that blocking the sidewalk is somehow offensive when a taxpayer does it. As long as you don’t pay a cent in taxes, the city loves everything you do: stealing, pooping, blocking sidewalks, breaking windows and generally wrecking the ambiance of wherever you go. As soon as you become a taxpayer, the city just sees you an endless source of cash to be milked, while offering virtually nothing in return, and suddenly, rules must be followed.

    1. tipster’s comment about “the red carpet” is perfectly insane. The city has again doubled down on harassing people who have no home other than a tent. Unless you want poor people to just die, they need shelter from the elements just like you and I do and a tent is nothing compared to a real home.

      Check your privilege.

  8. The referenced Planning Code section says no obstructions are allowed in a “required” front setback area. Are all set backs “required”? My house sits back from the property line some 15’. This set back is not required. Plenty of room to park a car within the property line, but not in the garage. I can’t see how sec 132(f) is 100% pertinent to all set backs.

    1. Absurd rules like this are simply to garner leverage with whichever party we are demonizing today. Imagine trying to reconcile a city with this guideline fairly enforced with the present streetscapes of the Sunset or Bayview.

  9. Man, SFGov. To replace our porch in kind we had to pay thousands for a full spec of the house, but our neighbor did a months long gut reno sans permits, 7 12 hr days a week with an unlicensed “builder” whose address is a vacant lot in the east bay. So honestly we wonder why people avoid permits? Meanwhile we are told the teeming chop shops and drug camps and hourly tent camp fires are all for the best. But ooohwee, alert the mothership that someone is parked out front of their house and KER-POW ALICE! Right in your keister!

    1. And here is the problem. Following the rules is slow and extremely expensive. Breaking the rules, especially if you’re politically well connected or have the right expeditor, and you’re fine.

      It’s almost as if Planning makes the rules impossible to follow, which means that the only way to get anything done is to hire an expeditor, which happens to be a great gig for people who formerly worked at Planning.

  10. Concerning the ‘illegality’ of the parking, I don’t think meter maids can roll around town giving tickets based on Planning Code violations. They give tickets based on the Transportation Code. They have no cause to ticket the little red car, unless it blocks the public right of way.

    What were the grounds for eviction of the tenants occupying the unit?
    Was it an Owner-Move-In with a TIC split?

    I’m not sure the greater good is better served by an empty driveway with a garage and one less housing unit for the city. Legalizing the unit as a JADU seems a likely possibility. No parking for the JADU unit would be required given the proximity to public transportation.

    1. A little sleuthing on the SF Building Department website turned up this:

      Complaint #201525561
      02/09/15 – converted garage to a living unit

      Complaint #201879881
      07/25/18 – Illegal third unit on the ground floor
      10/11/18 – site insp revealed habitable space @ ground floor, wet bar but no kitchen, communicating stair to 2nd floor, not as separate unit. further research required regarding planning dept notice of enforcement. pe
      04/22/19 – no illegal unit. pe

      1. Unfortunately, that’s an incomplete history and record of events.

        From Planning: “In July 2018, it was reported to DBI that an illegal unit existed on the ground floor at the above property. It has been brought to the Planning Department’s attention that the stove from the kitchen in ground floor Unit A was removed prior to the DBI inspection of the ground floor in October 2018. A permit was not obtained to remove stove from the ground floor” (and it was subsequently replaced).

        And, per the Planning Department’s investigation since, “the ground floor was rented as a separate unit (Unit A) at least from 2016 to 2019,” as outlined above.

        1. I suspect nothing will change about this situation for years. Except maybe there will be one fewer units available to rent in SF.

          1. The unit was effectively removed from the rental market when the tenant was evicted last year, prior to the NOV and enforcement action now at hand.

          2. Okay well, if it was an owner-move-in as implied then the city has one more household being displaced elsewhere if the owners can’t occupy their own ground floor unit.

  11. Quick question for all the complainers. How long have you lived in SF? I’m pretty new here, only 30 plus years, but I dont see the slightest problem with that car parked there.

    In my experience the only people who ever have the slightest problems with stuff like this in SF are almost always people who were not living in SF ten years ago and very unlikely to be living in SF in ten years time. The typical ten year tourists. Because the rest of us never seem to have much of a problem with our neighbors trying to make the best of living in a very crowded city.

    Now everyone who actually knows SF very well should be able to give at least a few examples of how the SF DPW street street signage / street works have not conformed to even the most basic State regulations over the decades. My favorite was the T intersection outside the Hoover Middle School which had the Stop and Yield signs reversed for what must have been decades before being finally corrected in the mid 1990’s. Saw a bunch of near misses (including students) due to that illegal signage. Then there are the several intersection merges that are technical legal but confusing. If you have a driving license you can guess correctly (and safely) but cyclists who never studied the Rules of The Road and who dont know what the CVC 21000’s actually are assume wrong and end up dead..

    I dont know if the incorrect speed limits signs on the Central Freeway / I-80 merge (they are reversed) is CalTrans fault or the DWP’s fault. They have been like that since at least the 1980’s.

    Given the voluminous, arcane and sometime contradictory City and State codes and regulations I can guarantee you that there is not a single structure in SF that does not violate some code or other. And that includes absolutely all City owned buildings despite all the waivers they get. Are the Public School buildings in the City still exempt from almost all modern seismic regs? I know the private school buildings have to conform to the highest seismic building standards. Yet another reason to send your kids to private schools.

  12. Ugh, why would they make them remove the ADU instead of removing the curb cut? Totally backwards. Keep the ADU, we have a housing shortage, get rid of the curb cut. This is why we can’t have nice things in San Francisco.

      1. I’m using the term loosely. Sure, it’s an illegal ADU, but is it really so unsalvageable a path to legalization is impossible?

  13. I don’t see a problem with parking in front of a garage if there is no one residing in it…there would be enough room for the handicapped on the sidewalk, too. Not a safety hazard, not disrupting anyone. Also, I thought only the outermost 2 squares are the cities’? Why is it deemed illegal to park on land that I bought?

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