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A San Francisco couple is suddenly fined $1,500 for parking in their driveway, as they have been doing for four decades

SAN FRANCISCO – It seemed so unfair. They’d been using their Carpad for decades—when suddenly the city said it was illegal. Not only that, they were threatened with a $1,500 fine — a hefty fine even for San Francisco. The only way out? Step back into San Francisco history.

Parking in San Francisco is a difficult part of life here. You’ll find a seat… but still get a ticket.

It seems particularly unfair for Judy and Ed Craine.

“We always use the carport,” Judy said.

“Parked in that driveway every day and night,” Ed confirmed.

They live on a steep hill where parking can be a gravity-defying challenge.

But they could slip into their driveway and park on their carpad, which they had done every day for the past 36 years.

But not anymore.

“We got this email saying we can no longer park in the lot. I said what, that’s crazy,” Ed said.

Out of the blue, the couple got a ticket for parking in their own driveway.

“It was very surprising, to say the least,” Judy said.

And worse? It came with a huge fine: $1,542 plus an additional $250 a day if they didn’t get the car off their carpad.

“I texted them back that I thought it was a mistake,” Judy said.

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But it wasn’t a mistake. And no ordinary parking ticket. It came from the city planning authority, telling them it was illegal to park in front of a house.

“And if we parked there again, there would be a $1,500 fine,” Judy said.

And so they quickly pulled the car out — but none of it made any sense.

“Why are you taking away something that has great utility?” Ed asked.

Ed and Judy had parked there for nearly four decades. And as far as they could tell, the plaza had been used as a parking lot since the house was built in 1910 – one of the first in their Noe Valley neighborhood.

“Suddenly being told you can’t use something that we could use for years. It’s, it’s terrifying. Inexplicable,” said Ed.

And so the planning department presented them with a challenge: Prove that parking on the property was a historical use, and they could get an exemption.

“We could be grandfathers. If we show them a historical photo that shows a car…or a horse-drawn cart in the carport,” Judy said.

They immediately dug up a photo of their daughter 34 years ago – a barely visible part of the car.

But officials said: not old enough.

“I did a number of searches online,” Ed said.

And so they combed through hundreds of historical photos.

Much showed the early days when there were few streets or houses.

“There were empty fields around our house and our neighbor’s house,” Ed said.

But finding a photo of a car or horse in the driveway, before the days of iPhone cameras?

Almost impossible.

And then bingo.

“It’s pretty convincing to me that it was a car,” Ed said.

An aerial photograph from 1938 pinpoints their home – and Ed is sure he can see a car – or horse-drawn carriage – pull into his driveway!

“So this little black speck looks like it’s going to drive into our house,” Ed said.

From above it looks like a stain. But Ed says it has to be a car – like all the other blobs you can see along the road.

“I don’t know what else they would be,” he said. “It’s pretty convincing to me that it was a car pulling in or out of the parking lot.”

They quickly sent the photo to the planning department – the proof they need!

Right?

Not correct.

“They said they were too blurry,” Judy said.

The planning department said this was not conclusive evidence.

Officials tell KGO’s 7 On Your Side that the pair violated a section of code that bans vehicles in a back-up in front of a house even if it doesn’t block a sidewalk.

Planning chief Dan Sider said it was enacted decades ago for aesthetic reasons, to “ensure front yards don’t become parking lots.”

However, it is ok to park in front of a garage, like their neighbors,

“I don’t think our car looks worse than all the cars that are stacked in front of garages,” said Ed Craine.

And why enforce the rule after all these decades?

Sider said someone filed an anonymous complaint with the city. Two neighbors were also flagged for the same violation and parked in a front driveway.

In an email, Sider wrote:

“I know the property owner is frustrated. I think I would feel the same way in her situation. But the planning statute doesn’t allow the city to allow illegal uses because they’ve flown under the radar for a length of time.”

And so their carport sits empty – the oil stain testament to lighter days – as they struggle to park on the hill.

“I had to use my head to hold the trunk open while I was getting groceries,” Judy said.

“We have to prove we’re innocent … although I don’t feel guilty,” Judy said.

The city closed the case without imposing penalties after the couple retrieved the car from the carpad and kept it off. And the city says they could build a covered carport or garage to park there — or maybe find the old photo.

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/san-francisco-parking-violations-driveway-carport/12012860/ A San Francisco couple is suddenly fined $1,500 for parking in their driveway, as they have been doing for four decades

Dais Johnston

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