San Francisco is one of California's busiest cities, and is also one of the most cultured city centers in the nation. As popular and trend-setting this cosmopolitan city is, San Francisco is a relatively small city nestled against the bay, which makes driving and parking a major problem. However, ParkMe is here to help you find that coveted San Francisco parking spot so that you can spend more time soaking up all that the city has to offer.
Searching for parking in a particular neighborhood? Click the links below to find the best places to park in San Francisco.
Lots of Spaces: There are tons of parking lots and garages scattered around San Francisco with an average of 339 spaces per lot, so if the lot you were heading to is full, drive a couple blocks away and there will most likely be another lot with open spaces.
Pier Parking: Parking along the coast of the San Francisco Bay, mainly within the Fisherman's Wharf, Embarcadero, and Financial Districts, can be pricier than in other areas of the city. The average rate for lots is around $3 for every 15 minutes or $12 for 1 hour. Street meter prices can also skyrocket to around $4-$5 per hour in some areas of the Financial District. Meters along the Embarcadero also run later than most parking meters which are free after 6pm. Meters along the Embarcadero run until 11pm every night.
Parking Meters: There are about 25,000 metered parking spaces in San Francisco. Most of these meters charge $2-$3 per hour and have a 4 hour time limit, but there are some areas where you can park for a mere $0.50 per hour or even pay $5.75 per hour! Be sure to READ THE SIGNS before leaving your car. Many streets within the city become tow-away or no parking zones during rush hour, and while most meters are free after 6pm, there are always some areas with meters that run all day and night!
Long-term vs Short-term Parking: Parking lot rates in San Francisco can get very confusing and you can very easily end up paying $3 for 15 minutes of parking when you could park all day for $10. Many lots have expensive short-term parking rates and relatively low long-term rates. The easiest way to calculate your total parking costs is to enter your entry and exit time in the ParkMe website and we will show you the exact cost of parking for that amount of time at each lot. Take the hassle out of figuring out your parking costs, let us do the math for you!
Pro Parking Tips:
Pro Tip 1: You can park in the yellow loading zone meters on Stuart and Spear Streets after 11am. Read the signs to make sure you can park that day, but after 11am the yellow loading zones become public parking zones.
Pro Tip 2: Parking in a lot or garage is often much easier than parking on the street. Not only are street spots hard to come by, but it can also be difficult for those who are not used to parallel parking on steep inclines (since San Francisco is practically a bunch of small hills). If you do find that rare open spot on the street, makesure to curb your wheels properly to avoid getting a ticket! The San Francisco Parking Enforcement are extremely strict about curbing your wheels, even on streets with slight inclines. When in doubt, curb your wheels! It's the safest way to avoid any unwanted parking tickets.
San Francisco Parking Tickets
In San Francisco, parking is enforced by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). The SFMTA operates and manages the entire surface transportation network in San Francisco from pedestrians, bicycling, transit, traffic, parking, and the taxi industry. Through the assistance of the SFPD, the SFMTA is authorized to enforce parking regulations and administer parking tickets, where they issue out an average of more than three parking tickets every minute! In an area where parking is in high demand and parking prices are even higher, the last thing you want to deal with is a parking ticket. So we have listed some tips and tricks to help you avoid and, if not that, beat a parking ticket!
San Francisco Parking Ticket Types:
The most common parking ticket issued in San Francisco are for meter violations and parking in street sweeping zones. These tickets can cost anywhere from $62-$72 per ticket, and are considered to be in the lower price range. Major parking tickets in San Francisco can reach up to $500-$1000. Some of the most expensive tickets revolve around parking in a handicap or blue zone without a valid placard or plate, or any other offense regarding the improper use, fraudulent display or forgery of a placard/plate. These violations will result in a $966 fine. Another major violation is the Obstruction of Traffic Without a Permit. This will cost you $519, and if you are a repeat offender with 4 or more offenses within one year, it will cost you $1,000 or result in 6 months in jail, or both. Check the complete list of parking violation types and fines for more information.
San Francisco Booting/Towing:
If you have 5 or more outstanding citations, your vehicle will be eligible for a “boot” during that period. To get the boot removed you will be required to pay off all of your outstanding citations in full PLUS the boot removal fee of $300. If your car is towed there is a towing and administrative fee of $453.75 (more for larger vehicles) and a storage fee after 4 hours. Check the SFMTA’s policies on booting and towing for more information on getting your car back.
Paying a San Francisco Parking Ticket
If you do end up getting a parking ticket and choose not to contest it there are 4 main ways to pay: in person, by mail, by phone, and online. Keep in mind that if you don’t pay or contest the citation by the date of the first due date there will be a late fee penalty of $27 (which will be raised to $28 on July 1, 2013).
To pay your parking ticket in person go to the SFMTA Customer Service Center at:
Customer Service Center
11 South Van Ness Avenue (near Market)
Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM
Note: There is a $3 processing fee per customer.
Using the envelope provided with the ticket, send check or money order payable to SFMTA for the amount of the citation and any applicable penalties. Write the citation number on the memo line of the check.
P.O. Box 7718
San Francisco, CA 94120-7718
Pay your ticket over the phone by calling:
- within the 415 area code (415) 701-3099
- outside the 415 area code (800) 531-7357
There is a processing fee of $2.50 per transaction per phone payments. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted.
Visit Online Services to pay your ticket online. Search for unpaid tickets by entering your license plate or citation number. Online Services accepts Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. There is a processing fee of $2.50 per transaction.
If your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration is on “hold” due to the delinquent parking citations, the citations should be paid at the SFMTA offices (11 South Van Ness Ave.), where you can obtain proof of payment to present to DMV and then register your vehicle. If you have paid for your delinquent Parking Citations at DMV, please be aware this payment record will not appear in the citation processing database for 6-8 weeks. If you have 5 or more outstanding citations, your vehicle will be eligible for a “boot” during that period. If you have paid your citations at DMV and then your vehicle is “booted”, you will have to pay those citations again. When the SFMTA receives payment from DMV you will then be eligible to apply for a refund.
If you cannot afford to pay your parking fines, you may be eligible to perform volunteer work or set up a three-month payment plan, by enrolling in Project 20. This is a program to work off the parking fines by doing either community service or participate in a payment plan arranged through Project 20 under the same contract. Effective July 1, 2010 the SFMTA will charge an administrative fee of $20 to sign up for Project 20. You must go to the SFMTA offices (11 South Van Ness Ave.), Monday to Friday, between 8am and 5pm. After signing a contract outlining terms and amounts, you will be sent to the Project 20 offices on 7th Street, near the Hall of Justice. Project 20 will also charge an administrative fee. Community service and payment plans are not an option if your vehicle has been booted or towed and you are trying to reclaim it.
How To Contest a Ticket
If you decide that you want to protest and appeal your parking ticket there are several ways for you to do so. The first step would be to download a protest form and send it to:
11 South Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94103
Be sure to send in copies of any evidence you wish to be considered with your protest. You have 21 days to submit an administrative review. If you are unsatisfied with the decision after an initial review, you may submit an appeal for an Administrative Hearing. Check out the SFMTA website for more information on the protest process.
Tips for Fighting Citations
You MUST send a letter of protest requesting a review within 21 days of the date the citation was issued.
You MUST include the reason the request, name, address, city, state, zip code.
You MUST sign the letter and date it.
MAKE COPIES of the letter and all evidence you want to submit!
A civil judgment may be filed with the Municipal Court if you owe $400 or more in unpaid parking penalties. A civil judgment can result in a levy against your assets, a lien against your property, or a garnishment of your wages.
You are not a charged a late fee for protesting, but reviewing your protest can take months.
Know Your Parking Rights
The law states that "...each sign's enforcement zone extends for 100 feet in each direction." If you want to know if you really deserved that last parking ticket check to see if there was a sign within 100 feet of where you parked. The average length of a car is 15 feet so check 7-8 cars away for a sign. This information can help in your decision on whether or not to contest a parking ticket.
Lots of erroneous parking citations written in San Francisco come from Parking on Grades/Block Wheels/Curbing your Wheels. These tickets will cost you around $57 and are applicable on streets with a 3% grade or more. A 3% grade is 1.72 degrees (picture a 45 degree ramp). It looks almost flat. Many of these citations are written in error because Parking Enforcement can’t possibly know the specific grade of every street in SF. If you want to disprove your citation go the The Surveyed Streets of San Francisco here. Enter a street name, and then set the limits (cross streets). Being a government site, it may not function properly the first time. Once you choose the cross street limits scroll down to the nearest cross street to where you were parked. Once the map comes up, click on “grade” on the right side and the percent grade of your block will be in the center of the street. If it’s less than 3%, then your ticket was written in error. Contest the ticket and include a printout of the evidence.