A lot of cars in the street

NorthlutFebruary 17, 2012

Why do some neighborhoods have so many cars parked in the street? I'm talking about suburban residential neighborhoods where everyone has a garage and driveway, not the city where people have no choice but to park in the street. I think it looks so cluttered, and it drives me nuts. I find it a huge turn-off when I'm looking at houses.

I'm just curious about what drives this. Maybe it's an area with more people living in the houses than the house is designed for? Or a neighborhood where people have more than the average amount of possessions, so their garage is filled with stuff instead of cars? It seems to be correlated with neighborhoods that have other factors I dislike, like poorly maintained yards and houses. But not always. I just don't get it.

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Or it could be a family with a few teenage drivers (or older) who have their own cars.

Around here when that happens, often the garage is used for storage and so they park on the street or in the driveway.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Yeah, I understand why a few houses here and there might have cars parked in the street, and that doesn't bother me (much). But I've noticed that there are certain neighborhoods where it's an epidemic. If one house has their cars parked on the street, it's fine. If every house has their cars parked in the street, it's annoying.

At least Streetview usually helps me identify those kinds of places before I trudge out there.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 9:03PM
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It may be as simple as the neighborhoods that are an epidemic don't have restrictions prohibiting street parking.

I think there are two factors that drive street parking.

The first is not enough room in the driveway/garage for the cars (or if cars are there not enough room to back out). If there is enough room people usually park in their driveway or garage.

Now assuming there isn't enough room there is a simple reason why one neighborhood might have cars in the street while the other doesn't - deed restrictions. It is common here for many subdivisions to prohibit or limit on street parking by residents or any overnight on street parking. So maybe the places that have a lot of on street parking don't have restrictions against it.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 10:46PM
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For us, there is one factor that determines if and when We park in the street - convenience. It's much less hassle to park in the street than it is to park in the garage, even though our street is a bit longer in distance from our front door. It's also very obvious that our neighbors follow the same practice and that none of us care when it happens. That being said, we live with ordinances that prohibit street parking between midnight and 6am.

We are a 2 car family with a 2 1/4 car garage that is only used for a modest amount of storage.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 5:24AM
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Do you mean during the day, or overnight too?

I'm in a very nice suburban neighbourhood, and during the day there are many cars parked on the street... people park & take transit downtown or walk to a nearby hospital or the river (which has walking paths & a park). It makes it hard to get out of my driveway, so I usually back in, but otherwise, I don't have a problem with it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 8:06AM
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I think there can be many reasons, and street view doesn't always tell you why. The camera might have driven by during a party or gathering, you never know. If you look at my house, you'd think I keep a boat trailer in my driveway, which I don't, so I pretty much know what day the camera drove by when I did happen to have one there.
In California, there a many areas, which can often be defined ethnically, where multiple generations commonly live in the same home, so they have too many cars than can be accommodated in the driveway. Sometimes the garage is informally converted into a living space, so no cars in the garage means even more cars on the street. Some families just have too much stuff. I rented a house from a single Chinese mom with two teens (SF Bay area) and they had all 2400sqft, 4 BR and 2-car garage crammed with stuff.
I think it's well worth the time to just drive around a neighborhood you're considering, weekday, evening, and weekend, to get a feel for the area. If people are out In their front yards or working in their garages, I'll talk to them to see how friendly the neighbors are and find out about kids and schools. I know there are people on my street who think it is unsightly to keep our cars in our driveway, because this used to be a cars-in-garage kind of neighborhood, but we're undergoing a generation change here, so it is more common now (just less so on my particular street).
I think you're thinking the right things, if you are uncomfortable with it now, it's not likely to get any better.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Around here, I think it's because the garage is full of junk, the home is small, the driveway is narrow, and residents have more than 2 cars. Our garage is full of bathroom remodeling items, tools/equipment, my bike/bike trailer, sewing area/washer&dryer area. Our home is small and there isn't much storage space. Two cars side-by-side in the driveway is kind of hard to get in and out. DH parks his car in the driveway, I park my car in a paver area next to the driveway, but we have a third car (an old Toyota truck) that he keeps on the street. I'm not entirely sure why it lives on the street, but I know that if he doesn't keep it there then the neighbors often parked a car there.

Our neighborhood has a lot of rentals, and the homes w/rentals often have more cars than homeowner homes. So I think the # of cars on the street can indicate size of home being small, the garage being minimal in size, and higher number of rental properties.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 12:29PM
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The simple answer is that people's ownership patterns of vehicles has changed, but most urban/suburban architecture is still stuck on the (inadequate) two car garage scenario.

They days where there was a single family car shared by all are long gone. Today, each adult individual owns at least one car, plus maybe a motorcycle, weekend sports car, or boat, etc. You will have on average 3 things needing parking space but only a two car garage. Add in a single driving age teen, and now you're at 4 vehicles. And teens turn into grownups with their own weekend vehicles and still live at home. Due to the down economy, they don't move out on their own like they used to. You're seeing lots of 30 year olds still occupying their old kid rooms in the family house.

Plus there is all of the stuff that modern families can't seem to let go. One of the hottest businesses for the last 10 years has been mini storage units. Even though the modern house size has steadily increased, it still doesn't seem to be large enough for today's consumer oriented society. People buy more stuff than they need, and then when the garage is full of stuff, they buy storage space to house stuff. Our now very mobile society feels a lack of roots and connection with their past without carting around boxes and cartons of things that give them that mental connection. If you've ever clicked through the channel listings and come upon Storage Wars, you'd see how sad some of this is. A lot of times, the "stuff" is old clothes and old furniture that has almost no monetary value, yet people have paid to hold on to it.

So, cars on the street is a complex sociological and psychological response to individualized mobile modern living that home design still hasn't yet managed to integrate well.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 12:32PM
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This happens because the builders put the houses too close to the street, and that only allows 2 cars to be parked in the driveway. You get company, or you have teenage drivers in the family, and you have no other choice but to park in the street. Everyone else also does this, and before you know it, you have a one lane street. I agree - this whole scenario is very ugly. It makes the neighborhood look like a slum. It is also very unsafe. You increase the chances of a kid running into the street from between parked cars. It's also a lot harder for a fire truck or ambulance to get through. If you watch a lot of these houses, you will see their garages are so crammed full of stuff, that there is no room to get a car in. You can blame that on the owner not being organized. But the rest of it is the because the builder is doing things as cheaply as possible. They save a lot of money building shorter driveways and narrower streets. Then again, maybe you can't blame it on the builder - afterall, if people would stop buying into places like this, it would force the builders to do better.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 1:56PM
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"I think it looks so cluttered, and it drives me nuts."

You might try just getting over it.

it is a public str4eet and as long as the parking is not illegal what is the issue?

Many folks have more cars than garage spaces.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 3:02PM
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All these posts have great explanations for why there are so many cars on the street. My story adds another.

We rented a townhouse a few years back. It was in a different state halfway across the country, so only my husband saw it prior to us signing the lease. It was fairly new, having been built at around the height of the housing boom, and had what appeared to be a two car garage.

Upon moving in, however, we realized that there was no way on earth that DD's Jeep and my Toyota Camry were both going to fit, even with EVERYTHING else stored in the basement. Literally two compact cars would barely fit in that "two car garage". Two mid-size? Forget it.

Being a cold climate (one 4x4 in the family is seen as practical) and seeing how at the height of the housing boom, larger cars were still in style, we were puzzled at how the builder could have got away with those tiny garages. Looking around our neighborhood every evening, we could see every single neighbor was in the same boat: at least one car sitting on the driveway.

Thank Heavens we were only renting the place! We moved rentals as soon as our lease was up, in part because the rent was way too high for having such a useless garage. Lesson learned. We recently made an offer on a house and wrote into the contract the requirement that we could test to make sure both our cars fit.

So now whenever I see a lot of cars on the street or in driveways, I take it as a hint to measure the garage carefully. Most garages are fine... but I still feel bad for the buyers of those awfully overpriced and underplanned townhouses.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 4:38PM
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"You might try just getting over it."

Or I might try just not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a house in a neighborhood I don't like the look of. It's no different from not wanting to buy a house in a neighborhood where everyone has bright colored paint jobs on their houses, or where the street signs are purple, or where the mailboxes point South. I'm not trying to make people who park in the street stop doing so, or to say that people who park their cars in the street are wrong. Obviously there are many valid reasons to do so, and it doesn't bother a lot of people. I just don't personally like the way it makes the neighborhood look, so I don't want to spend my money there.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 8:19PM
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BTW, thank you for the advice to measure the garage, booksandpages. That's something that never even crossed my mind, and I will be absolutely sure to do so now.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 8:21PM
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Our town is very mixed in terms of lot size and house size. Here those with larger lots and driveways tend to keep their cars off the street and those with small lots tend to park the overflow on the street. Basements are rare, so most people have stuff filling part of the garages.

Luckily our immediate neighbors all keep their cars off the street, but further down the street there is a stretch of smaller lots, which all seem to have teens and extra cars. A friend lives across from those smaller lots on a larger lot and it does detract from her house to have several cars parked on her side of the street 24/7. So something to look out for when you are shopping for a house.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Here in Florida, cars are parked in the streets so boats and RV's can be parked on the lawns and driveways. We have decided that we will only look at houses in deed restricted neighborhoods. BTW, this was something we didn't want to do but after seeing so many streets, lawns and driveways filled with 'things' we decided deed restrictions weren't so bad.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2012 at 10:37PM
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We live in a neighborhood with short driveways, 'stuffed' garages and lots of cars parked along the street. As Cas66 said, its unsafe because you cant see well and there's a good chance of kids and dogs running into the street. Snowplows can't do a decent job in winter, either. If you'd like to have friends over for dinner, they won't find a space to park so you'd better save one for them in advance. When shopping for a home, we visited this neighborhood several times but always during the day -- check your potential new neighborhood at night when everybody's home.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 9:11AM
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Unincorporated parts of Florida and perhaps some cities have no rules (or don't enforce) rules about yards and vehicles, but many cities do.
Here in St Petersburg (not far from where Jane is/was looking at homes), city ordinances cover the reasonable aspects of homeownership that an HOA or deed restrictions might cover. Inside city limits, you will not find cars or boats or RVs in yards, and in driveways only from Thur evening thru Mon morning. I've gotten a ticket for having my small utility trailer parked in my driveway after 8am on a Monday. We got a crack hotel shut down partially because the neighbors would measure the lawn and every time it went over the limit they would call code enforcement. Anyway, just don't want anyone to think that all of Florida is a big redneck junky-yard haven, although that sort of thing is not difficult to find. Check your city ordinances.

The garage post reminded me about our house in MD, with a huge 2-car garage but with two individual decorative doors (barn-shaped?). We kept our sedan and utility trailer inside because there was no way we could squeeze the minivan through the door. No way could a big SUV get in there, either.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 10:03AM
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"Or I might try just not spending hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a house in a neighborhood I don't like the look of."

Why have any on street parking then?

There are numerous reasons to not like a neighborhood, but residents using legal on street parking is hardly one of them.

I would wonder why no one has enough money for cars if the neighborhood was bare of parked cars.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I think what she's talking about is the newer subdivisions with the narrow streets. You get people parking on both sides of the street, and you are left with one lane - opposing traffic have to take turns letting each other through. I also view this as an eyesore, and a safety issue, and I would not be interested in living there. I hadn't thought of the snow removal - yes that is also a problem. It has nothing to do with legality, nobody ever mentioned that - it just creates an eyesore and safety issues.

In the older (or better planned) subdivisions where they allow plenty of room to do this and still have 2 lanes of freely moving traffic, this is not a problem. But even those subdivisions have plenty of off-street parking so more than just 2 cars can be parked - that's the biggest problem here.

I never gave thought to the smaller garages, but they are right - that is also a big problem. They build a 20'x20' (I wouldn't be surprised if they build 18'x18') and that doesn't give you room for any storage, or for larger cars. They probably also build them with low ceilings, so even if you could get your truck in lengthwise, the top of the cab will not clear. The simple answer would be for people to organize their things better and only drive cars that will fit, but you know how that goes.

The main reason this has become such a problem is builders are cutting costs any way they can. In my opinion, in doing so, they have been creating a lot of very ugly, almost slum-like neighborhoods. Maybe the houses are nice and brand-new now......but what are they going to look like 10-15 years from now? Another problem I see - nobody ever builds sidewalks any more. You get these big rip-rap laden drainage ditches in everyone's front yards, and people have to walk in the street. You get an ice storm and run a car into one of those ditches and your screwed. It's just plain ugly to me. I'm not looking down on anyone who does choose to live there, I know a lot of people don't have a problem with it. I see a lot of problems, and I just choose not to live in a place like that. That's just me.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Around here, there's a lot of older houses that don't have garages. Or garages that are too small to hold modern mini-vans and SUVs.

There are also houses that were built without driveways and later owners have had to fit them in where they can.

At my dad's 1880 Victorian, the slope up from the street to the driveway is a carved granite slab. After decades of repaving the street, it's an awkward angle to drive into the driveway and the bottom of my car scrapes the granite every single time. I only park in his driveway on winter nights when on-street parking is banned.

I tend to park my car on the street during the day, because I'm running errands and fetching kids from school and taking them to practice. The setup of my house and driveway is such that it is easier to park in the street. I put the car up at night, but during the day, the street is the best place for my car.

Another reason some people park in the street is because their kids are playing in the driveway. They might have a basketball hoop on the garage, or if there are no sidewalks, the driveway may be the only safe place to roller skate or things like that.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 8:05PM
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All of the posts explaining WHY the problem exists are all true. The question I would be more concerned about is how it influences the market value of the neighborhood.
In my experience, there are a few items that really hold back a property in a buyer's mind. Some of these are homes located on a busy street, power lines, public easements, and too many parked cars on the street. No matter what the reasons are, it IS an eyesore to most buyers which brings down property values.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 8:23AM
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"There are numerous reasons to not like a neighborhood, but residents using legal on street parking is hardly one of them. "

Don't mind brickeye. I think he's just trying to win some sort of forum jerk award recently. It is none of anyone's business what criteria you use to pick a house.

If you really don't like the look, you might just restrict your searches to neighborhoods with an HOA. Most, but not all, have rules covering on-street parking. Of course, the tradeoff for living someplace that restricts otherwise legal activity for others is that is also may restrict your own.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 8:42AM
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I live in a city where there is no overnight parking on the street. Ah it's wonderful! Their garages are still full of crap but at least they have to park in their driveways.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 11:26AM
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If you park in my street at any time you get a ticket.
If you park in the swale with even half of two tires in the street you will get a ticket.
I even hold my breath if someone stops and only gets out long enough to run to someone's door and back.
And this is a sleepy residential area in a backwoods small town of under 4K people.
No HOA but I think the mayor lives in this neighborhood because the police presence is pretty high :)
I love it.

Unless there is a designated parking lane that still allows for normal traffic to pass IMO folks should store their property on their property, not leave it sitting on the street.
I would not want one of my vehicles left in the street anyway- too prone to damage.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 11:42AM
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We have a parking overnight ordinance where I live, in a neighborhood where everyone has at least one car in their driveway because the garages are so tiny. Forget about having overnight guests... it's always a hassle trying to figure out how to finagle everyone's vehicles. We used to bother with it, but friends and family have found it to be an issue and don't ask to stay the night anymore because of it. It's strange to have to park cars on the front lawn I guess- no one else around here does it regularly and you get sideways looks if you have a car on your lawn. But I do live in a neighborhood where there's no neighbor comradery. Kids don't play outside, no one talks to each other. Last summer I couldn't find a single teenager to mow my lawn for me, even for $50 bucks- for example. And, I know I'm not scary... just some mom with two young kids pushing a jogging stroller everywhere. I can't figure it out.

I'd rather live in a neighborhood that was friendly and didn't care about vehicles on the streets, than live in a neighborhood that's so stuffy. I'm glad we're moving soon.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 11:46AM
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Having my side of the garage full of pre-remodel supplies has been a blessing as I park in my driveway instead and chat with the neighbors who are either parking in their driveways or in the street (we are the only house with a 2 car garage and driveway). Previously, I'd just drive into the garage and never interact with them. We have a wide street so the parking does not impede driving. We also have sidewalks so that the street parking is not an issue. There's never a shortage of curbside for visitor parking. Perhaps those are more important factors than just the street parking itself in terms of annoyance.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 1:38PM
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