Sporting News

The wonderful world of sport, packaged to appeal to a city of blasé cafe intellectuals

The Parking and Traffic Commission is far more sporting, as are our major media. The DPT board voted 3-2 earlier this month to ask for a change in state law that would allow cities to decide whether to let residents park on sidewalks. Currently, the California Vehicle Code, a boringly safety-oriented document, forbids any parking on sidewalks.3 Meanwhile, San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Ken Garcia has written no fewer than four pieces championing sidewalk parking.

One San Francisco lifestyle guide sportingly suggests that "if you do park illegally for some reason, you should probably remember the somewhat counter-intuitive fact that blocking the sidewalk is a cheaper ticket than blocking part of a bus stop."

Indeed, the $25 fine is low enough that people in my neighborhood every day find it cheaper to risk a ticket than obtain legal parking. Anxious to learn the rules of this fun new game, I contacted Diana Hammons, spokeswoman for the Department of Parking and Traffic, which enforces parking rules. The DPT recently suggested that the fine for parking on sidewalks be raised to $50 from $25, a sort of leveling of the playing field, if you will. But the agency seems to maintain a very sporting attitude toward sidewalk blockers.

"The goal is always to achieve a balance. If there's two different sides -- that's always a goal when you have two different forces. It's between pedestrians and motorists. It's competing interests," Hammons says, by way of explaining the department's law enforcement policies. "Already, responding to the sidewalk complaints does take quite a bit of time. Someone has to be sent out to that location. It's not a priority to cite for sidewalk blocking, aside from phoned-in complaints. You can never have enough staff to address every single violation in the city. If you did, I don't think it would create a healthy atmosphere for the residents."

DPT Deputy Director for Enforcement James Howard suggests residents determine which laws they will live by on a block-by-block basis. "We all need to sit down and talk about it. If you've got parking peace on the block, where the neighbors are getting along with the way things are, why change that?" he says.

So, it appears, lawbreaking that endangers the lives of the elderly, children, and the handicapped will be overlooked, so long as people living in the neighborhood are willing to go along.

That's bold sport indeed.

Let the games begin.

1 This wouldn't be a real sports page without the agate-type section at the bottom of the story announcing final scores. To wit ...

Number of times platitudinous phrases and words used by Michael Fineman:

"Honest" -- seven.

"Right thing" -- nine.

"Good faith" -- five.

"Heart" -- four.2 "Peloton" was originally a military term used to describe soldiers marching in formation. It now describes the pack of bicycle racers that forms during the miles before a final sprint. The term is also used to describe the sport in general. "The European Peloton" means something like "the day-to-day goings-on in European bicycle racing."

3 Parking Commissioner César Ascarrunz was among the two who voted against the sidewalk parking resolution. In comments phoned in afterSF Weekly's Monday deadline, Ascarrunz said, "We've got to educate people; there are now 37,000 people working downtown who don't live here. Twenty thousand of them drive a car to work. Why don't they use public transit? We'd have 20,000 free spaces."

Then, switching back to Spanish, four-time mayoral candidate Ascarrunz said, "Soy el único que trabaja para el pueblo. Soy el único."

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