Parking tips in SF

With a reputation of being a green city, San Francisco is nevertheless a place where people appreciate their car (or cars). Parking could be tricky though, unless you know how to deal with it...



Parking your car for free

In most residential neighborhoods, parking is free for unlimited time or for a few hours. Road signs indicate the number of hours you can park for free (generally from 1 to 3 hours). Don't forget to put an alarm on you mobile in order not to forget to move your car once the limit is exceeded, unless you like tickets...


Also check streetcleaning day and time on roadsigns. Parking may be free, but if it's streetcleaning day, parking is strickly forbidden. A tip : if you can't see a single car parked on a street (or just one or two), it might be streetcleaning very soon. And be aware, tickets for streetcleaning are expensive.


Except for downtown SF, most supermarkets (Safeway, Wholefoods, Andronico's...), pharmacies (Walgreens...) and some stores (Potery Barn in Castro, Sport Basement...) have a parking lot for their clients where you can park for 30mn or 1h for free. Nice!


At last, as you probably already know, schools offer pick-up and drop-off for your kids. No need to park, just wait in line (sometimes in the middle of the street!) and wait for your time to come. 



Parking meters

In shopping streets and downtown SF, parking is not free, even on Sundays since January 2013. SFMTA website

Actually this has been mofified summer 2014. For now on, parking meters have to be paid on SUnday only in a few very busy neighborhoods. Otherwise, it's ok. Sundays parkmeters are free.

You can pay with quarters, pre-paid cards or with your debit card.


Pre-paid parking meter cards

How to buy them online or elsewhere (addresses by neighborhood).

User guide.




So useful! Download the app on your cellphone, key in your bank information and that's it, pay from wherever you are and add some time if necessary.

A few dollars is always much cheaper than a ticket!



Mix public transport and car ? 


Parking BART users guide


Works @ SFO parking.

More info.



Tickets (what French people call a PV)

In San Francisco, tickets are common and expensive ($50 or so, but it can go up very fast). Ask around you, they are almost impossible to avoid completely.

Be careful about "Interceptors" which are always around the corner waiting for the first second of exceeding parking. They are quick and not merciful at all.


Now let's say that in spite of our warnings, you have a ticket... How do you pay your ticket?

Go to online services, then Parking Ticket Payment and it's done... "Thank you for your payment!" ... your welcome!

Very useful, but the transaction is not free, 2.50$ actually.

You started grumpy... you finish even grumpier!!



Parking stickers et parking permits

Parking stickers allow you to park in your neighborhood even in the streets that have limited parking. They don't apply to streetcleaning day of course! 

Call (415) 701 3000 to get more information regarding your street and neighborhood regulation.

How to proceed?



Towed cars, wheel-clamps and miscellaneous good surprises...

How to get your car back after that kind of funny adventures?

User guide.


A few things you would want to know...

... being towed costs $503.5 (if it is the first time) otherwise it is $595.5

... add a $110 ticket waiting on your windshield when you get your car back

... think twice when you park your car and you feel like your car does not overstep that much on the driveway.

... think twice when it is your driveway that is ''overstepped'' before giving a call to the city. Yes, it can be very annoying, but the consequences of your call are so painful too.



Address you should know: to pay your ticket for instance.

SFMTA Customer Service Center, 11 South Van Ness Avenue,

Monday through Friday - 8:00 am till 5:00 pm.

(415) 701 3099


If your car is nowhere to be found and you want to check if it has been towed:

(415) 865 8200  (Autoreturn)


If, unfortunately, it has been stolen:

(415) 553 0123



Drive and park safely!