People Living in Cars Upset Business Owners

A bus parked on Treat Avenue received a warning to move in three days.

A bus parked on Treat Avenue received a warning to move in three days.

Every day, on the northeast side of the Mission, two of the most quintessential San Francisco problems clash: parking and homelessness.

Owners of businesses in the industrial area south of Folsom Street between 14th and 18th streets have been complaining about the dozens of people who live in cars and take up coveted parking spaces. The vehicles are as small as a mini-van and as large as a tour bus.

“Okay, park here overnight, but leave in the morning when people come in to work,” said Alex Watson, an employee of a distribution center on Treat Avenue.

Business owners are quick to point out, however, that people parked in the area are respectful for the most part. According to owners, some people living in cars have jobs and just can’t afford rent.

Others do take issue with the long periods of time that the people living in cars remain parked. The only parking restriction in the area is street cleaning once a week.

“Yeah, they take parking spaces from my clients,” said Ally Karn, the beauty operator for Curl Up and Dye. “But everyone’s gotta go home somewhere — what can you do?”

Kathy Landuat, who works at the distribution center, said she wants the Department of Parking and Traffic to uphold the law that no one can park in the same space for three days.

“We are the ones who are getting tickets for double parking,” she said.

Landaut is already concerned because the upcoming construction of a park on 17th and Folsom streets will mean even less available parking.

A man who declined to give his name and appeared to be in his early 30s parked his red tour bus on 17th Street. It takes up about three parking spaces. He said he tries to be mindful, and he follows the law.

“I am sorry to hear that [business owners] are upset,” he said. “I try to stay out of people’s way.”

The man, a dance instructor, said he uses the bus as an office. But upon inspecting other vehicles like his, it appears he is using the bus as a place to sleep, which is illegal.

“If they change the zoning here, I’ll follow the law,” he said, which means he will find parking elsewhere in the city.

He said he usually stays in the Dogpatch neighborhood, but the city recently changed its zoning and now requires daily street cleaning there.

Richard Talavera, the manager of the Mexican Bus, an old school bus for hire that gives tours around the city, parks in the area occasionally. He parks here because it is so central to the city, but said his bus is different because it is not lived in, like the others.

“I really feel sorry for these guys,” he said. “One way to solve the problem is to be consistent [with enforcement].”

Police have recently begun posting pink warnings on these vehicles, asking them to move within three days or risk a $75 fine or possibly being towed.

These warnings are rare, Talavera said. He usually sees them only two to three times a year.

On the website See Click Fix, Jason Albertson, the manager for the city’s homeless outreach team, encouraged residents to call him with specific information about the vehicles that people are living in, so his staff can reach out to the people.

“We will (and have in the past) outreached in this area; people living in vehicles are especially hard to connect with,” he wrote. “Our resources are limited; we can outreach to an area several times, but if the folks are not there at that time, we don’t have success and it is a poor use of our time.”

7 Comments

  1. Roza Yquema

    What. Is. The. Matter. With. You. Idiots? Times are hard. Have you noticed this? These people are doing no harm except creating a minor inconvenience to people who are much, much better off. Parking enforcement should lay off, too. Be glad they’re not completely homeless.

  2. ls

    This has gone on at least the three years I’ve been around the Mission. I’ve never noticed any problems with these folks, and quite frankly, people have to sleep somewhere. I’m honestly just tired of people getting up in arms about poor people sleeping either on the sidewalks or in their cars. Seriously people is there anything that says “I’m a loser” more than picking on those way less fortunate than you?

  3. ….. people really dont have anything better to do than nitpick on every … damn thing thats going on in their neighborhood. This is SAN FRANCISCO, not …….Los Gatos…move to the suburbs if its such an issue.

    GOOD …….. POST.

    my girlfriend and I have been thinking about buying a camper/bus and living in it….i had no idea it was such an issue.

  4. Sean

    The 3 day rule is anti transit, when I used to have a car I parked it for a week at a time and took transit/biked. If I had to move it more often,I would obviously drive it more. A week is just fine. Only 25% of SF customers drive to shop anyhow.

  5. Joel

    Agree with the comments so far. Give em a break. Times are tough right now. There’s been a camper parked on my street for a while taking up parking, and I hadn’t considered that someone might be living in it, but if they are, fine. They need the space more than I do right now.

  6. Osedo

    I concur with the prior posters, folks down on their luck living in funky campers are preserving their dignity, which is worth far more than a parking space. I bike home past lived-in buses every day, and it’s always a peaceful scene. Most of these streets are pretty desolate otherwise – like Jane Jacobs said, eyes on the street make streets safer. (Very minor quibble with this piece…I think the author meant east of Folsom, rather than south of Folsom, since we’re talking about la Misión and not Soma).

  7. Chris

    Better that people are sleeping in their cars / vans than sleeping on the streets.

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