Couple fined $1,500 for parking in their own driveway

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 1:12 AM MDT
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) - A San Francisco couple was threatened with a $1,500 fine for using the carpad outside their home to park, despite the fact they’d been doing so for decades.

Judy and Ed Craine live on a steep hill in San Francisco, where parking can be a gravity-defying challenge. But they could slip into their driveway and park on their carpad, which they’d been doing every day for the past 36 years.

“To all of a sudden be told you can’t use something that we had used for years, it’s startling,” Ed Craine said.

Seemingly out of the blue, the Craines got a ticket for parking in their own driveway. It came with an enormous fine of $1,542, plus another $250 per day if they didn’t move the car.

“We got this email [saying] we can’t park in the parking pad anymore. I said, ‘What? That’s crazy,’” Ed Craine said. “We’ve been parking in that driveway every day and every night.”

The couple thought it was a mistake, but the ticket came from the city’s Planning Department, telling them it’s illegal to park in the front yard of a house.

“If we were found parking there again, it would be a $1,500 fine,” Judy Craine said.

The Craines quickly moved the car off the parking pad, but none of it made sense.

“Why are you taking away something that has great utility, not just to us but our neighbors that want parking spaces?” Ed Craine said.

As far as the couple could tell, the space had been used for parking since the house was built back in 1910. The Planning Department said if the Craines could prove that parking was a historic use on the lot, they might get a waiver.

“We could be grandfathered in if we show them a historical photo that showed a car or a horse-drawn buggy in the carport,” Judy Craine said.

After combing through hundreds of historic photos, the couple found an aerial photo from 1938 that shows their home and what Ed Craine believes is a car or horse-and-buggy pulling into the driveway.

“To me, it’s pretty compelling that was a car,” he said. “So, this little black blob looks like it’s pulling into our house.”

The Planning Department said the photo was not clear evidence.

Officials say the couple was violating a code section banning vehicles in a setback in front of a house, though it’s OK to park in front of a garage.

Planning Chief Dan Sider said it was enacted decades ago for aesthetic reasons to “ensure that front yards don’t turn into parking lots.” He said someone made an anonymous complaint to the city about the Craines. Two neighbors also got tagged for the same violation.

“I recognize that the property owner is frustrated. … But the planning code doesn’t allow for the city to grandfather illegal uses on account of their having flown below the radar for a length of time,” wrote Sider in an email.

For now, the carpad sits empty, as the Craines struggle to park on the hill. The only other thing they can do now is build a covered carport or garage.

“This feels really unfair and like we’re being punished,” Judy Craine said.

Officials canceled the couple’s fine once they moved their vehicle off the carpad.

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