Parking Prices Add to Pain of Bay Area Living

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According to SpotAngels, in 2017 San Francisco had the country’s highest average parking ticket cost – $97.40 – ahead of New York City, with an average price of $71.40. That same year, parking ticket revenues generated South-of-Market produced $11,383,000, the most in the City, with Downtown having the greatest number of tickets levied per available parking space; 10 to 11 citations for every single parking spot.

The City and County of San Francisco issues more than 60 different kinds of parking citations, ranging in price from $66 to $600, excluding fees due if a vehicle is towed.  If a car is hauled to one of the City’s two Impound lots, at 450 Seventh Street or in Daly City, retrieval charges include a $283.75 administrative fee, $229 tow charge, and, after the first 24 hours of “storage,” a $50 to $60 a day parking fee. 

If a vehicle collects five or more delinquent citations, a yellow boot is attached to its wheel, rendering it undriveable. It costs $505 to have the boot removed; if payment isn’t made within three days the car is impounded.

For vehicles that have never been previously towed the administrative fee is reduced to $200.75. Drivers can have the entire fee waived if they have an annual income at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level based on household size. A one-person household would need to have a yearly income of less than $24,280 to qualify, with a two-person household required to earn less than $32,920. Each additional household member adds $8,640 to be low-income-eligible.

Under the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Community Service Program drivers can perform a public service to pay down their parking citation, working for the equivalent of $15 an hour, up to $1,000 a year. The length of time allowed to complete community service, and minimum ticket payments, varies depending on the amount owned.  For instance, for citations of $150 or less service must be completed within six weeks of the ticket, with a $25 minimum payment; $151 to $300 tickets have to be finished within 10 weeks, with at least $50 paid; $301 to $600 citations have a 12-week completion time and a $75 minimum fee. Low income drivers can have one enrollment charge waived each calendar year.

According to SFMTA, between program launch in 1976 and 2016, 524 drivers provided 8,000 hours of community service, with half of these hours related to performing neighborhood clean-up under the auspices of San Francisco Public Works and the remaining time associated with 45 different organizations, including the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. 

SFMTA offers a monthly payment plan regardless of income.  Applications must be submitted within 60 days of a citation, with an initial $25 fee – $5 for low-income households – and minimum monthly payments of between $25 and $50.

Various Apps have emerged to help drivers dodge citation charges. After appearing on the television show, “Shark Tank,” in 2013 “Fixed” was launched to enable drivers to photograph a ticket and send it to a lawyer, who could then identify common errors and draft a customized letter protesting it, reducing most of the legwork and time people had to spend fighting a ticket. The App was blocked in San Francisco, among other large cities, just two years later.  It has since been acquired by the law firm Lawgix.

“Xstreet” offers information on street cleaning schedules and other parking rules to help users understand limitations in particular areas. It sends cellphones alerts noting street sweeping days and when to move parked vehicles.  Launched in 2016, the service relies on community members and public data to keep drivers abreast of parking regulations and spaces and avoid infractions.

Crowdfunded in 2014, SpotAngels deploys a Bluetooth feature to remind drivers when to move their vehicles to avoid a ticket. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company allows users to check for parking spots real-time, helping to find free and cheap parking. The App can also be used to determine in which areas parked vehicles are most at risk of being cited.

According to San Francisco Open-Data, the City generates $124 million annually from parking tickets. These funds help support parking enforcement assets: “parking control officers,” deployed on the ubiquitous three-wheeled SFMTA vehicles with blinking lights; and administrative overhead. In 2018, SFMTA’s board of directors approved a $1.2 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2019.