A new law that took effect on January 1 in California is going to mean that more feet of curb space in San Francisco is likely to turn red in the coming year — and even if it isn't painted red, drivers parking their cars will be expected to respect a 20-foot buffer zone near every crosswalk.
The new statewide parking law is focused on "daylighting" around crosswalks, or removing visual barriers in order to increase pedestrian safety. This means that drivers approaching a crosswalk will have fewer things blocking their view of waiting pedestrians — especially children — at intersections. And it requires that about 20 feet of buffer space be created in the parking zone in front of every crosswalk.
The tricky part here is that across the state and even in corners of San Francisco, curbs may not always be painted red, and crosswalks may not be clearly designated — but the law applies regardless, even for "unmarked" crosswalks, whatever those are.
As the SFMTA explains, thanks to Assembly Bill 413, which was passed in October, drivers will be held responsible for staying clear of all 20-foot zones of crosswalks when parking — at least on the right-hand side of a two-way street, and on both sides of a one-way street — even if the curb isn't painted red.
In San Francisco, no fines will be issued until January 2025, only warnings. But, if the SFMTA has already gotten around to painting the curb red, you can, obviously, be ticketed for being a red zone.
"For pedestrians, daylighting means that they don’t have to venture into the intersection and peek around parked cars to see if they have a clear path to cross," the SFMTA says on its website. "This is especially important for children, who are less visible at intersections. At the same time, drivers get a clearer view of the intersection and can easily see if someone is waiting to cross from well in advance."
The new law allows local jurisdictions to paint red zones that are longer or shorter than 20 feet, depending on the context. So, as the SFMTA says, "When you see a red curb or parking prohibition sign next to a crosswalk just follow that distance. If there is no paint or signs, the 20 [foot] distance applies."
So, will parking enforcement be out there with measuring tape? That seems unlikely. And SF's curb-parking streets are already pretty well covered with painted curbs. But this could still create new ticketing opportunities in the future for eager parking cops.
As the Chronicle notes, San Francisco launched its Vision Zero iniative in 2014, with goal of reaching zero traffic deaths by 2024, but that clearly hasn't happened. There were 25 traffic deaths in 2023, and 39 the year before — and in the last year alone, 17 pedestrians were killed in SF.
The New York Times recently reported on the alarming trend of rising pedestrian fatalities nationwide, with the bulk of these deaths occurring at night. This trend is unique to the U.S., and one theory is that more pedestrians are getting killed due to distracted drivers looking down at their phones at night — combined possibly with pedestrians who are also looking at their phones. The investigative journalists on the case noted that in Europe, cars with automatic transmissions are far less common, so far fewer drivers have an extra hand free to be fiddling with a phone while driving.
The fine for parking in a red zone in SF, even a little bit in the red zone, is $108.
It's not yet clear what the fine will be for parking in a non-red, "daylighting" zone near a crosswalk.
Photo via SFMTA