For decades, Judy and Ed Craine parked their car in the driveway in front of their San Francisco home. Parking in the Golden City can be tricky with its steep hills and busy streets, and the Craines say they were lucky to have a spot that's all their own for the past 36 years.
That is, until they received a $1,542 fine for parking on their own property -- with the threat of a $250-per-day fee if they didn't get the car off their carpad.
The Craines told ABC-affiliate KGO-TV that the San Francisco Planning Department is enforcing a decades-old section of code that bans motor vehicles of all kinds from being parked on a carpad or setback in front of a house unless it's accompanied by a garage or cover.
"I wrote them back saying I thought this was a mistake," Judy Craine said.
Added Ed Craine: "To all of a sudden to be told you can't use something that we could use for years, it's startling. Inexplicable."
The Craines believe the space has been used for parking since the house was built in 1910. So the planning department told the couple that the city would waive the fine if they could prove that the lot has historically been used for parking.
The Craines dug up a photo of their daughter from 34 years ago, where their car is just visible in the driveway -- but officials said the photo wasn't old enough.
Then, after a lot of Googling, they found a blurry aerial photo from 1938 that shows a car -- or a possibly a horse-and-buggy -- pulling into the driveway of the home. But the planning department says they never were shown this photo and will reconsider Craines' parking plight.
"The 1938 aerial photo shown in ABC 7’s segment was never shared with the Department," Daniel A. Sider, the chief of staff at the San Francisco Planning Department, told ABC News. "The first we learned of it was during Friday’s broadcast. To that end, we’re reopening the matter and hope to have more clarity in the coming days."
The planning department was alerted to the Craines' use of their driveway by an anonymous complaint that was lodged against the Craines and two of their neighbors, who were also tagged with the same violation.
Sider told ABC News that the anonymous request about their property was made last year, but was not enforced until the Craines sought to renew their permit to use the property for short-term rentals. The Municipal Code bans new permits until outstanding code enforcement issues on the property are resolved.
Sider previously told KGO that the code was enacted decades ago for aesthetic reasons.
"I recognize that the property owner is frustrated. I think I would feel the same way in their situation," Sider said in an email. "But the Planning Code doesn't allow for the City to grandfather illegal uses on account of their having flown below the radar for a length of time."
The city has since closed the case against the Craines and threw out the fines after the couple agreed to no longer use the carpad. However, that may be under reconsideration if the 1938 aerial photo passes the test.
City officials told the Craines that the couple can build a cover for the carpad, or a garage, if they want to continue to park there.