A Public Response to the Anonymous Neighbor Who Left This Cranky Note on Rhoda’s Car Last Week

The residents of Bernalwood take justifiable pride in the neighborly goodwill people here display toward one another. Yet if there is one topic that turns even the most affable local into a snarling and self-interested Hobbesian, it is street parking. In the struggle for automotive survival, woe be unto the miserable soul who might infringe upon another’s prerogative to park.

Rhoda is a Bernal Heights resident who found the anonymous note shown above affixed to the windshield of her tiny, Bernal-optimized Smart car last week. Rather than seethe about this privately, Rhoda chose instead to seethe to Bernalwood — and with her permission, we are quite happy to republish her response here.

I live on Newman St, and this morning I woke up to find this nasty letter taped to my car.  The offended neighbor left it anonymously, with no contact info for me to respond to their complaint, so I thought I would send my response to our fabulous neighborhood blog, and should the blog masters deem it worthy, post it, so that perhaps next time that neighbor might leave contact info along with the offending letter, so that I might actually engage in dialogue directly with them.  To my neighbor:

While I commend you for  your commitment to the enforcement of the law, I would like to point out, that:

1.  I was not in violation of the 1 foot rule – in fact I left approximately 16″. Shall I paint the inch marks on the curb for you so that in the future that’s more clear?

2.  Not all of us have garages and driveways in which to park our vehicles, and in consideration of that fact, I purchased a Smart car so that I would not have to take up excessive, precious space on our street.  The spot where I parked by your driveway is only big enough for my car, so I parked there, leaving extra space in other places on the street for our other neighbors who own large vehicles and don’t have garages – would an inconsiderate neighbor do that?

3.  Laying on the horn of your car for 5 minutes in order to get someone to move their vehicle that you deem “too close to your driveway,” does not qualify as being considerate to your neighbors, especially when those neighbors are still sleeping – just sayin’.

That is all.


Well said.

Meanwhile, for a very neighborly set of guidelines from a local garage-owner who’s home is “bracketed by two Smart Car-sized spots,” don’t miss these thoughtful rules-of-the-road from Bernalwood reader CG.

34 thoughts on “A Public Response to the Anonymous Neighbor Who Left This Cranky Note on Rhoda’s Car Last Week

  1. I didn’t think that the letter was offensive at all. There are many worse ways to say what, I think, they said politely. The point being, if your car is blocking the ingress or egress of their driveway/garage, and they can’t safely maneuver around your car, then you shouldn’t park it there. I am assuming they don’t have enough room to just back straight out and they need to turn a bit to avoid cars parked across the street.

    And for leaving their contact info … I wouldn’t have left my number either. It’s really not a matter of discussion. Your car don’t fit so don’t park it there.

    • The car fit, with more than a foot to spare. So I guess according to “Your car don’t fit so don’t park it there,” since it fits, she’s welcome to park there.

  2. As someone with a “short” parking space in front of their house, I can sympathize with the writer of the note. Even if the “offending” car fits into a short space, it can be very difficult to get a car in and out of the garage if your street is narrow, because having a car parked in the spot(s) adjacent to your driveway limits your ability to maneuver in and out of the garage.

    Now, the SmartCar owner says there was a 16-inch space between the end of her car and the end of the curb, so perhaps what I’m describing doesn’t apply here. I’m just saying that it can be hard to assess the impact a car parked in spots adjacent to a driveway will have on the ability of the driver to get a car in/out of the garage.

  3. While most of my neighbors would disagree I find anonymous note of this type to be incredibly passive-aggressive and cowardly. If you can’t say it to someone’s face (or deal with a phone call) just suck it up. Alas, though, Bernal is prime country for this sort of nonsense. And my last name is Shopes (lest I be called a hypocrite).

    • I would argue that anonymously posting the note and a reply on the internet ups the passive-aggressive level considerably.

      If the note author had refrained from being cute (“commitment to the environment”) and also cited the reason for why there’s a problem (I’m guessing turning radius on a narrow street) maybe Rhoda would feel rightfully embarrassed instead of indignant.

    • How arrogant of you to call out someone to be cowardly. I feel it is very inconsiderate for one to crowd the space next to a resident driveway. Why should one have to say it face to face??? That just leaves room for the offender to get back at the complainer because they were called out. No one has to suck up anything because you feel that way. Just understand the laws and obey them. I guess you would rather have a ticket on your windshield than a note from a neighbor.

  4. Well, my old neighbor used to mace and attack people for blocking the inches surrounding her driveway, so said passive-aggressive and cowardly anonymity can keep conflict at arm’s length.

    “Dear crazy macing neighbor: If you would like to discuss this further, please call me at XXX or come on by to XXX and we can settle this in person.”


    • That’s perfect! While your neighbor is in jail for the assault and battery, you can park as far into their driveway as you want!

      • Ha haaa! They took her in so many times, but she was always back in about an hour. I left a good three feet in front of her driveway and blocked my own so she wouldn’t flip on me.

  5. This is great on so many levels. Being a Bernal Dweller myself, the public parking space out front is slightly small, and I get very territoral over it. I realize it isn’t “mine” and I haven’t gone so far as to put cones or trash cans in the street to block it…but I’ve been tempted on a bad day!

    Our driveway is turn-of-the-century narrow, requiring us to pull straight out. If a medium or large car parks in front of our house, over fitting the parking space by a few inches, it’s impossible to get our car out. I have been guilty of putting a note on the car, but only after I’ve exhausted the search for it’s owner. And, I am nice (and they know it’s from us.) In our small ‘hood we usually know who the car belongs to. I love it – that I know who owns what car.

    My neighbors have saved me from tickets by knocking on my door. For that alone, I’ll always give the greatest consideration to shitty parkers. We all have our bad parking days.


  6. What is Rhoda whining about? The first letter was perfectly legit. If someone was blocking Rhoda’s driveway and she couldn’t get her car out of her garage I imagine she’d have the offender towed, rather than honk for 5 min. I guess next time Rhoda blocks someone’s access to their garage they should just sideswipe her car? Is that what she wants?

    Suck it up Rhoda, you are most likely the rude one here. Maybe you should consider getting a scooter. Or using Muni.

    • Did you bother reading the second letter? She wasn’t blocking the driveway. Maybe you should consider reading the whole post. Or not replying if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

  7. I think the “all caps” aspect makes the letter seem angrier than it is. And generally, people who type in all caps are nuts.

  8. Wait – if she has no idea who this person is, why is she complaining that they “lay on their horn for 5 minutes”? Sounds like some aimless backlash to me. The first note is perfectly reasonable, and as a homeowner who has to deal with rageful idiots routinely parking 6 inches PAST the driveway entrance, I also wouldn’t leave my contact info on a note like this. What’s the point? Street parkers who are inconsiderate enough to physically block a driveway are usually the types to throw bricks through home windows. Or in this case, write indignant and venomous blog posts about private matters. If they left their info, it would now be plastered around the web because they wrote a reasonable considerate note.

    I recognize her claim of 16″ leeway and all that, but seriously, take the note for what it is and move on. You are not a victim, you were not ticketed nor towed. What do street parkers want homeowners to do? Stay home? Everyone knows the frustration of driving around for an hour and a half for street parking, but have some consideration for the suckers who pay for a parking space but physically can’t leave their houses because of a blocked driveway.

  9. The reference that the City requires you to leave a foot from the curb cut is total BS. There are published and posted rules and that ain’t one of them. http://www.sfmta.com/cms/penf/indxpkenf.htm

    If you think you need more space to pull out than your curb cut allows, you can request an official red zone be painted. Note that painting a fake red zone is of course illegal (it’s called vandalism, if nothing else). If you see a fake red zone (without official stencils), you can both ignore it and report it to the authorities.

    So who’s wrong in this case? The person who made up fake rules to try to intimidate their neighbor who was doing nothing wrong. Pretty cut and dry. And totally deplorable if you ask me.

  10. My driveway is blocked almost every damn day. Sometimes more than once a day. I tried being agreeable, patient and forgiving. I have tried many different signs. Nothing makes a difference. Now I just call and try to get them ticketed or towed.

    I have been known to use the horn when I am trapped in my garage. I feel bad about it, but I don’t really have any other option.

    • I think a lot of people don’t realize how much time you have to waste waiting for a blocking car to be towed. It’s not a fun “gotcha” moment, it is inconvenient and frustrating. It is always the person who blocks a driveway who is the jerk, not the person who is forced to wait for someone to tow them to get out. (I am talking here about actually blocking a driveway and not just encroaching on some made up personal driveway space fake law as the original letter references.)

      I assume people aren’t intentionally putting themselves in a position to make you have to tow them, but rather that they are somehow unaware that it is an active driveway there. You may want to consider having red zones installed at the edges of the driveway. They could help queue people in to the fact that there is a driveway there that they are blocking. http://www.sfmta.com/cms/pcurb/13450.html
      (They don’t always approve these, but if they’ve got a record of many complaints/tickets/tows here, it could be more likely to be approved).

  11. It’s a “he said/she said” situation and without pics we’ll never know. Bottom line for me is that the first letter is reasonable and the response is a little too self-righteous. I mean, come on Rhoda, you didn’t buy a Smart car to make room for other people. No, you bought a Smart car because you thought it would let you use spots that nobody else can use. That’s all well and good but spare us the crap about your benevolence. Also, intentionally ignoring the horn-honker is pretty cowardly, particularly for someone who is apparently so connected to the ‘hood.

  12. Pingback: The Letter of the Law on Street Parking Near Driveways | Bernalwood

  13. Pingback: The Letter of the Law on Street Parking Near Driveways | Bernalwood

  14. I would really like to know why, if Rhoda heard her neighbor laying on the horn for five minutes because they could not maneuver out of their driveway, she didn’t run downstairs and just move her car? If she wanted to “engage in dialogue directly with them,” would not that have been an opportune time? Also bothering me is what exactly she wanted to talk with them about … to debate whether or not they could get out of their driveway?

    Eh. This just bugs me. I am glad I don’t have to deal with this stuff.

  15. Our previous neighbor in the Upper Haight used to just hit whomever parked too close to her curb cut. She didn’t care about her BMW SUV bumpers and she certainly didn’t care about the motorcycles, mopeds and other small vehicles that had the audacity to park near her driveway (and despite the fact that she knew the vehicles belonged to her neighbors). (She’s gone now, so park away!).

  16. This sounds like a situation where the homeowner got used to nobody being able to park along the scrap of curb left in front of their house by their garage curb cuts. With the arrival of Smart cars, they are losing their “privilege” and get to experience what people with driveways that abut longer parking spots always have – the urban reality of maneuvering out of your private parking space. The issue is not the Smart car, it someone losing their assumed right.

  17. Folks – think yourselves lucky you don’t live in Newport, Wales, United Kingdom (home of last years’ Ryder Cup). This is the note I got left on my windscreen today


    My error: I parked in the road too far back from a driveway, meaning there wasn’t quite enough space to fit a big executive car behind me before the next driveway. Plenty of room for another small car. Perfectly legal. Unreal. Have a nice day all!!!!

  18. I did not find the note rude or offensive, I have had similar problems. He said, she said as far as how close the car actually was. Where I live you can pay $15 to have the area painted red in case you have an overabundance of people who park too close to your driveway.

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