What are the Parking Rules in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Here you will find key laws and rules about parking in the San Francisco area, including the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, and others (make sure you know which city you are parking in).

Most of these rules apply to public streets, not private property, unless otherwise specified.

These general rules apply unless there are more specific restrictions, as would generally be indicated by (official) signs. So be sure to READ ALL SIGNS!

Also, we would bet there are some important driving laws you don’t know about so be sure to check out our Guide to Laws for Drivers in California.

If there are no signs about a particular parking restriction, does that mean it doesn’t apply?

In California, you are generally subject to all parking laws (as well as all general laws), whether there is a sign or not. One exception is parking restrictions related to street sweeping, which must be posted on signs at least at the entrance of each block, otherwise the restrictions are not effective.1Vehicle Code Sec 22507.6

But before towing you, you must be given notice, which is usually done by signs or by leaving a citation & warning on your car.2Vehicle Code 22651(n): “Whenever a vehicle is parked or left standing where local authorities, by resolution or ordinance, have prohibited parking and have authorized the removal of vehicles. Except as provided in subdivisions (v) and (w), a vehicle shall not be removed unless signs are posted giving notice of the removal.”

What are the general restrictions on parking?

Throughout California, you may NOT park:3Vehicle Code Sec 22500

  • within 15 feet of a fire station driveway or fire hydrant
  • on the street, blocking a public or private driveway
  • on a sidewalk4Vehicle Code 22500(f)
  • on a bridge (unless specifically allowed)
  • in a tunnel
  • more than 18 inches (1 and a half feet) from the curb when parallel parking5Vehicle Code Sec 22502
  • on a lowered section of curb for wheelchair accessibility
  • on private property without the owner’s permission6general California property law

In addition to the above, the following applies:

  • 3 day rule: In most cities, you can’t park in one spot for more than 3 days (72 hrs) at a time. Some of the cities that have this rule are SF,7SF Transportation Code Sec 7.2.29 Oakland,8Oakland Code Sec 8.24.030 Berkeley,9BMC Section 14.36.050 San Jose,10San Jose Code Sec 11.36.220 Daly City,11Daly City Code Sec 10.32.200 Santa Rosa12Santa Rosa City Code Sec 11-20.100
  • In most cities you must curb your tires on hills to ensure that the car rolls into the curb, not into the street
  • In most cities, when legally required to move your car due to going over a time limit, it is not considered moved unless you drive it a minimum distance. For SF, it is one block or 500 feet away.13SF Transportation Code Sec 1002 For Oakland, it is one block or 1000 feet away.14Oakland Traffic Code Sec 10.04.050
  • In SF, after the street sweeper has swept the street, you can park there, even if it is still within sweeping hours15SF Transportation Code Sec 7.2.22

Can I park on part or all of a driveway?

In SF, you can park in your own driveway as long as the license plate is registered to that address, and the building has no more than 2 units. But you can’t park on the sidewalk or the required setback.

How far (how many feet) from a driveway do I need to park?

The width of a driveway technically spans from the “curb cuts,” which is at the top of where the concrete slopes up and there is usually a cut or gap between the slope and the rest of the curb. If there is no curb cut, the driveway would span from where these curb cuts would be, that is, the top of the slopes on either side. If you are in this “curb cut” area, then you would be technically be blocking the driveway, even if you are not directly blocking the driveway. So you must not be in this curb cut area at all.

What do all the color curbs mean?

FYI: Where the curb has faded so badly as to be difficult to determine the curb color, it will not be enforced for curb color violations.

Yellow curb

  • commercial loading for the time period specified on the curb. Note: when enforced, you must have a commercial license plate.

Green curb

  • short term parking, as noted by signs or on the curb.

Blue curb: ONLY if you are the valid holder of a disabled placard, or are driving the holder16Vehicle Code 22511.7

White curb: ONLY for 5 min passenger loading. In San Francisco: In the case of white zones in front of apartment buildings, the Parking restriction shall be applicable only during the hours from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. In the case of churches, the Parking restriction shall be applicable only during the posted hours of services, and while the attendees are going to and leaving such services. Parking restrictions in white zones shall not apply during periods of time when the store, business or establishment adjacent to the white zone is closed.

Red curb: No stopping or parking at any time (unless sign indicates otherwise)17Vehicle Code Sec 22500

Are parking restrictions enforced on holidays?

Many parking restrictions are NOT enforced on holidays in San Francisco and surrounding cities. See our page on Parking Holidays in San Francisco area.

Am I allowed to park at a broken meter?

Yes. In the state of California, no city can ticket you for parking at a broken meter. But if there are time restrictions, you must follow these.18CA Veh. Code Sec. 22508.5

My neighborhood has a permit requirement. How do I get a permit?

For the city of San Francisco, see the SFMTA website on permit parking.

If I have a disabled placard, am I exempt from parking restrictions?

Yes, in California you are exempt from some of them, including:19California Vehicle Code Section 22511.5

  • Parking district permit requirements
  • time limits
  • meters – you don’t have to pay

You are NOT exempt from:

  • parking rules for red, white, and yellow curbs
  • “No stopping” zones
  • “No parking” zones
  • Street sweeping

See more on disabled placard parking at our Person with Disability page.

Resources

See more at SFMTA website

See options for Getting Legal Help in the San Francisco area.

How do I get a disabled placard? See DMV website.

Related Pages

Holiday Parking Laws

Driving Laws

See all Legal Guides

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