This is part 3 of a Sightline series on parking requirements. Read parts 1, 2, and 4.

On the subject of curb parking, everyone seems to have a story — and what the stories reveal is surprisingly important to the future of our cities. I’ve been asking my friends, and I’ve gotten an earful. Listen.

1-Parking-mapSoon after advertising executive Necia Dallas moved into a house in Portland, Ore., she found on her door a detailed, hand-drawn map specifying the curb spots where each resident was permitted to park. The map, left by an anonymous neighbor, indicated that Necia was welcome to park in front of her own house but that it was, “Optional! Because of your driveway. ” Jon Stahl of Seattle also got a parking map as a house-warming gift (pictured above).

Brent Bigler

To claim the spots in front of their homes, people resort to illegal yellow or red curb paint, earnest oral pleas, or — above all — notes left on the windshield. Lots and lots of notes. “Not here, man. Not here,” said one missive that Seattle architect Rik Adams got on his windshield. A West Seattle resident’s read, “Dear Driver, This is not a park and ride. We the neighbors would appreciate if you would find another spot to park.” Audrey Grossman’s said, “Don’t park your liberal foreign car on the American side of the street.” Brent Bigler of Los Angeles left a response to the note he found on his windshield in May and got an angry rejoinder. It says, among other things, “You’ll be towed tomorrow period” (pictured at left).

Necia Dallas

Some people even put up their own, extra-legal no-parking signs, like the one pictured at right in Shoreline, Wash. (or the one described here). More creative is Steve Gutmann’s Portland neighbor who “has a fake plastic parking meter that he puts on his planting strip in front of his house.”

To enforce their claims, neighbors sometimes go to great lengths. Shaun Vine, when he trespassed on a curb space in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, found his car boxed in. A homeowner had punished him by parking two autos bumper to bumper with Vine’s. Worse is what happened to Jenny Mechem’s friend in Chicago who had the temerity to park in front of someone else’s house one winter day. Neighbors packed snow around his car and turned the hose on it, freezing it in place.

Renee Staton of Seattle says, “A neighbor unscrewed my windshield wipers (which flew off while driving on I-5 during a sudden downpour) and poured acid on my hood because I was parking in front of their house.” Natalie McNair’s Tacoma neighbor got in his extended-cab Ford truck, put it in low gear, and plowed McNair’s parents’ Subaru Outback out of the space in front of his house. In San Francisco, Lisa Foster’s neighbor pushed her car into his driveway so that he could get it ticketed and towed. “I started using my emergency brake after that,” says Foster.

angry notes on car
Andrew SorensenYou get the picture.

The good people of Washisngton, D.C., have been known to egg curb intruders and Angelenos sometimes throw paint at interloping wheels. Mindy Cameron of Seattle remembers living in San Francisco and seeing an outsider park in front of a neighbor’s house. “The nice, otherwise calm, young professional neighbor,” she said, “came downstairs in his khakis and button-down shirt, and smashed in the guy’s front window with a baseball bat.”

A brief history of parking