CA couple allowed to park in their driveway again after threatened with $1.5K fine from city

ByMichael Finney KGO logo
Tuesday, July 12, 2022
SF couple allowed to use driveway again after $1.5K fine ordeal
A San Francisco couple who was threatened with a large fine for parking in their own driveway can now park there again.

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco couple who was threatened with a large fine for parking in their own driveway can now park there again.

Judy and Ed Craine had been parking in the driveway of their cottage for the past 36 years.

They recently received a $1,500 ticket from the city's planning department saying it's illegal to park in the front of a house, unless it's accompanied by a garage or cover.

On Monday, the planning department reversed that decision, saying evidence shows the space has been used for parking since the 1950s. And so, it's been grandfathered in as legal.

The Craines live on a steep hill where parking can be a gravity-defying challenge. But they had always been able to slip into their driveway and park on their carpad.

For a while, they thought they wouldn't be able to do that anymore.

The couple were told parking in front of their house was illegal, despite the fact they'd been parking there for nearly 40 years.

"We got this email saying we can't park in the pad anymore. I said what, that's crazy," recounted Ed.

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

And worse? It came with an enormous fine: $1,542 dollars, plus another $250 per day if they didn't get the car off their carpad.

"I wrote them back saying I thought this was a mistake," Judy said.

But it was no mistake. And no ordinary parking ticket. It came from the city Planning Department, telling them it's illegal to park in the front of a house.

"And if we were found parking there again, it would be a $1,500 fine," Judy said.

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

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

The couple had been parking there for nearly four decades. And as far as they could tell, the space was used for parking since the house was built back in 1910 - one of the first in their Noe Valley neighborhood.

The planning department gave them a challenge: prove that parking was a historic use on the lot, and they might get a waiver. Right away they dug up a photo of their daughter 34 years ago - a part of the car barely visible.

But officials said: not old enough. And so they combed through hundreds of historic photos. Plenty showed the early days, when there were few streets or homes.

They even discovered an aerial photo from 1938 that they thought showed a car, or horse-and-buggy, pulling into their driveway. But officials said it wasn't clear evidence.

After more digging, city officials eventually found there was enough evidence that showed the space had been used for parking for decades.