San Francisco Parking Guide

San Francisco Parking Guide

San Francisco Parking Info

If there’s one thing that can make a great travel experience turn sour fast, it’s a run in with parking enforcement. If you’re headed to San Francisco, you want to make sure that you follow all the rules of the road, and especially those that apply to parking around the city. That way, your travel goes off without a hitch, whether you’re just driving into town for dinner and drinks or you’re renting a car from the SFO airport to see the city at your own pace.

This, however, is much easier said than done. When you’re competing with nearly 500,000 other registered vehicles in the city — not to mention those that belong to visitors — and there’s about half that many parking spaces…well, you’re going to have a rough time of it. Luckily for you, we’ve put together a few general tips for parking in San Francisco, along with more specific tips and guidelines for parking in various San Francisco neighborhoods.

San Francisco Parking Tips

Parking in San Francisco: The Basics

Regardless of where you are in the city, you want to make sure you follow some basic, common sense guidelines.

Don’t block access to a driveway unless you want to get towed.

Do not park in red zones (these can be identified by the red paint on the adjacent curb, marked with a DPT, SFMTA or SFFD logo).

Do not park in one spot for more than 72 hours (you must move your car at least one block away).

Only park in green zones (again, look for the paint on the curb) between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., Monday through Saturday. Keep in mind that green zones are intended for short-term parking, up to 30 minutes.

If parallel parking, be sure you’re parked 18 inches from the curb and that your car is facing the flow of traffic, and that your wheels are turned away or toward the curb if you’re parked on a hill.

SFO City Parking

What do the colored parking zones mean?

While we mentioned both red and green parking zones, you’ll notice other colors on the San Francisco curbs as well.

If you spot a gray curb with gray meters, that means anyone can park along that curb during authorized hours (some white curbs also have gray meters; if you see this color combination, it means that, during posted hours, the curb is only for passenger loading and unloading with a 5-minute time limit).

Yellow curbs are only for loading and unloading commercial vehicles. Don’t park along a yellow curb.

Blue curbs with blue meters are for those with disabilities; you must have a disabled parking pass to park in these spots.

What about meters?

There are tons of parking meters around San Francisco, and they’re mostly all in operation every weekday except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, with enforcement from 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday street meter operation only occurs around highly trafficked areas, such as Fisherman’s Wharf, the Embarcadero and Oracle Park. Most meters have a two-hour time limit (though a quarter of the city’s meters have either a four-hour limit or no limit).

What about San Francisco parking garages?

Since SF street parking is so difficult to find for visitors who maybe aren’t familiar with the area, garage parking is preferable for many. After all, you don’t have to worry about any time limits or weird hours of operation (usually). You just park and go. However, keep in mind that many parking garages in San Francisco are on the expensive side, and the rates can go up depending on holidays, special events, etc.

Parking Downtown San Francisco:

Downtown and Union Square are some of the busiest areas in San Francisco in terms of auto traffic, so finding a place to park can be stressful. Thankfully there are several good parking garages in the area. These include Union Square Garage, Sutter-Stockton Garage, Ellis and O’Farrell Garage and St. Mary’s Square Garage. These charge an average $4 per hour, or an average daily maximum fee of $36 (which also applies if you lost your entry ticket). If it’s garages in particular you’re looking for, downtown San Francisco offers over 7,000 garage parking spots.

San Francisco Chinatown Parking

Chinatown offers street parking, one open parking lot and four public parking garages. Saturday is easily the busiest day for traffic in the area.

Street parking in Chinatown can be a bit tricky, as there are lots of residential areas that aren’t always blatantly labeled, so make sure that, wherever you park, you thoroughly look for relevant signage before leaving your automobile. Metered spots are free 6 p.m.–9 a.m., Monday through Saturday and all day on Sunday.

If you prefer a garage to street parking, one of the best options out of the available four is Portsmouth Square Garage, which charges a mere $3 per hour.

A good tip if you’re shopping or dining in Chinatown? Ask the businesses if they can validate your parking.

Pier 39 Parking

Pier 39 does have its own parking garage across the street from the pier’s entrance plaza, open 24/7. Rates are $10 per hour (with a maximum daily rate of $50) through the week and $12 per hour on the weekends (with a maximum maximum daily rate of $60). Diners receive one–two free hours of validated parking.

Metered street parking in the area is about the same price and it’s pretty difficult to find open spots, as this tourist attraction is heavily trafficked just about all the time. Because of the area’s popularity, there is no free parking at meters regardless of day or hour.

Embarcadero Parking

The Embarcadero is another place where travelers flock and parking is at a minimum and a high price as a result of the crowds. Unlike some other areas around San Francisco, though, you can find parking lots as an option here, versus mostly just garages and metered street parking.

The Pier 27 Parking Lot is near the San Francisco cruise ship terminal and usually has open spots available through the week, for $20–$25 per day, depending on the day. The only downside is that the lot is not open when there is a cruise ship in port.

The Pier 15 Parking Lot near the Exploratorium is a bit more pricey ($20–$35 daily, depending on the day and time of arrival), but it does offer plenty of parking that’s often easily available.

You can locate similarly priced garages all along the Embarcadero. Street parking in the area isn’t advised, as it’s pretty difficult to find a spot.

Parking in San Francisco Districts:

Nob Hill Parking

One of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods, Nob Hill is relatively small, but you can still find parking here, though street parking is harder to find than lots and garages. Parking is most difficult to find on Sundays.

Some of the favored parking spots are St. Francis Memorial Hospital Garage, which is lower in price as it’s further from the main tourist attractions, and 750 Bush Street Garage, which offers valet service.

If you do park on the street, do note that you’ll likely find yourself parallel parking on a hill, so take the proper safety precautions and turn your wheels toward or away from the curb, depending on if your car is facing up or down the hill.

North Beach Parking

Parking in North Beach puts you in easy walking distance of both Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown, but one downside to parking in this neighborhood is the frequent local events and festivities, which close down streets to parking in the area. For this reason, if you plan on visiting North Beach and driving there, check around for what events may be occurring during your visit. Additionally, note that getting a good parking spot often requires you to arrive in the neighborhood relatively early.

There are no parking lots or garages in North Beach, so all parking is on the street.

SOMA Parking

SOMA, aka South of Market Street, is one of San Francisco’s largest neighborhoods and, as such, has lots of garages and lots of parking options to choose from. Additionally, this neighborhood is great for finding free parking. If you find street parking that does not state a permit is required to park there, chances are, the parking is free. Just be sure to watch your signs.

If you prefer lot or garage parking, though, check out the 470 Brannan Street Garage, open 24 hours a day and near to AT&T Park, and the 100 Henry Adams Street Lot, in the Design District.

Financial District Parking

San Francisco’s Financial District is not ideal for street parking, as part of the area is subject to residential restrictions and the signage is not that great. You’ll have to make sure to watch diligently for any indication that you’re parking somewhere you ought not.

For that reason, parking in a garage or lot in the Financial District is often your best bet. The Golden Gateway Garage not only offers cheap $3 weekend parking, but it also offers a shuttle, in case you want to park there and then ride to Chinatown.

Do note that many of the garages in the Financial District close in the evenings (for example, the Golden Gateway Garage closes at 10 p.m.), so watch your times.

Civic Center Parking

The San Francisco Civic Center has its own garage at 355 McAllister Street. The garage is open 6 a.m.–12 a.m. on weekdays, 8 a.m.–12 a.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sundays. The garage is closed during certain holidays and festivals (such as the San Francisco Pride Celebration). Rates start at $3 and there are more than 800 spots.

This garage is by far the easiest option for parking near the Civic Center, though you can find some limited metered parking if you’re willing to walk a few blocks.

Russian Hill Parking

Russian Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in San Francisco, and it’s filled with residential areas, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also filled with tourists driving through the popular streets known for their great views of the Bay. Because of the heavy auto traffic, street parking can be stressful. However, if you prefer street parking, the best place to do so is on Bay Street, between Polk and Van Ness. Here, you can park unmetered any time except for 4–6 p.m.

If you prefer garage parking, Vallejo Street Garage offers affordable pricing and convenient hours, as it’s open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

Sunset Parking

The Sunset parking situation differs depending on whether you’re in Outer Sunset or Inner Sunset. The former is more driver-friendly, as it’s less busy, with fewer popular attractions and businesses. Finding parking on Inner Sunset is a bit more difficult and more fraught with differing parking restrictions, particularly during rush hours. To avoid any confusion and an accidental towing, it’s recommended you park on Outer Sunset and then walk or take public transportation to Inner Sunset. In Outer Sunset, you can find relatively affordable street parking.

Mission Parking

The oldest neighborhood in San Francisco, visitors love seeing the Mission District. With so many people in the area, though, it makes parking a bit challenging.

If it’s street parking you’re after, avoid anywhere near Mission Dolores, where a parking permit is really the only way to be sure that you can park legally. Additionally, street parking overnight is not recommended, due to crime.

Garages and lots are really your best option in the Mission District, though you should expect to walk a bit to get to the heart of it all from your car. The Mission-Bartlett Garage is open until midnight weekdays and on Sundays, and until 2:30 a.m. on weekend nights, with prices per hour fluctuating between $2 and $5. An open lot is available on Lilac and 24th Street, with availability Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.–6 p.m., at $2.25 per hour. Parking is only permitted for a maximum of two hours at this lot.

Monthly parking in San Francisco is offered in all districts!

San Francisco Parking Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find San Francisco parking discounts and coupons?

You can find parking discounts and coupons through providers such as Groupon. However, rather than sifting through Groupon coupons that could or could not be right for your travel plans, you can instead easily sort through Way’s San Francisco parking options and not only see discounted options, but also the parking spots that are right for you based on your neighborhood and the sites you want to see.

Can San Francisco parking be booked in advance?

Yes! You can book advanced parking at many garages and lots around San Francisco. To see all of your options in one place, though, check out Way!

Where can I find overnight parking in San Francisco?

You can find overnight parking throughout most of San Francisco. It’s particularly easy to find overnight street parking (so long as you are in a safe neighborhood; to be cautious, remove your valuables from your car and either take them with you or place them in your trunk). Just look for any signage that might indicate street cleaning or loading that occurs during the night or early morning.

Where can I find motorcycle parking in San Francisco?

Motorcycle parking is available in metered and non-metered on-street parking areas, and in garages around San Francisco. Motorcycles can park in any legal car parking spot.

Where can I find oversized parking in San Francisco?

Avoid street parking and garage parking for oversized vehicles when traveling to San Francisco. Your best bet is to find a parking lot near your final destination, book your space ahead of time and then let the lot know you’ll be bringing an oversized vehicle. In some cases, you will be asked to pay for two parking spaces rather than one, depending on the size of the vehicle.

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