Viewers around the world reacted to the story of this couple from San Francisco. Many couldn’t believe a city would threaten a huge penalty for parking in their own driveway. Many offered to help prove it was historical use – and then – the proof they needed came from an incredible source.
“It just seems wrong.”
Judy and Ed Craine had been parking in the carpad of their San Francisco cottage for 36 years…when suddenly the city planning department declared it illegal.
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They had to remove the car or face a huge penalty: $1,542 plus $250 for every day they parked there.
“I said what, that’s crazy,” Ed said.
So they quickly pulled the car out – but it didn’t make sense.
“Why are you removing something that has great use?” Ed asked. “All of a sudden you’re being told that you can’t use something that we could use for years. It’s, it’s amazing.”
The town planning code prohibits parking behind a house to prevent the front yards from becoming unsightly car parks.
However, if they could prove cars were parked there before the law was passed in 1978, they could get a waiver.
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“We could be grandfathered in. If we show them a historic photo of a car…or a horse-drawn buggy in the carport,” Judy said.
“I did a number of searches online, Ed said, ‘checked historical resources.’
But finding a historical photo of their exact driveway seemed impossible. Until Ed finds an aerial photo from 1938. Zooming in shows their exact house. Ed saw a black shape he thought was a car, pulling into what he thought was the driveway.
“That’s our house…” Ed said. “That black speck looks like it’s going into our house…to me, it’s very convincing that it’s a car.”
But city planners said the photo was too blurry – no clear evidence.
However, after ABC 7 aired the story, the couple were inundated with offers of help (as well as comments about the San Francisco exit).
And then, a godsend.
“I happened to be watching Channel Seven, Michael Finney, and I saw this couple who were in a very difficult situation…” David Rui said. He manages the Pacific Aerial Surveys aerial photo collection of Novato in Marin County, which has millions of photos of his flights across the Bay Area dating back to 1928. Ruiz saw our history and knew he could help Ed and Judy.
“I just went through our flight database and found many flights and was able to take pictures,” he said.
Ruiz used map coordinates to locate their home among maps in the company’s database. He found two aerial photos of what appears to be a car in their driveway; the clearest was a photo from 1958.
Ruiz said the company flies over most of the Bay Area once every three years, including that neighborhood. “The question is, is there a car in the driveway as we fly over,” Ruiz said. Most people were at work with their cars when Pacific Aerial Services was flying overhead, reducing the chances of catching a car in the driveway. .
He found two — 1958 and 1955. .
“So April 23, 1958,” Ruiz said, pointing to an aerial photo taken with a film camera on a plane flying 6,000 feet above. Ruiz said he was able to enhance photos with 3D images and other tools. It’s trained to look for cues it’s a real vehicle, like shadows, context, and dimension.
“And here is the house in question, And right there is a nice car, parked right there.”
He pointed to an image that looked like a 1950s automobile. It was a snapshot in time, a view that went back in time. The viewer is transported to this moment of this era. “It definitely looks like a nice big American sedan, doesn’t it?” said Ruiz.
“It’s all based on film. We had a plane flying overhead, it’s flying at 6,000 feet, took this wonderful shot that you can enlarge,” he said.
It’s crystal clear to Ruiz – as Ruiz happens to be an expert trained during his career in the military to analyze aerial footage – particularly cars.
“As an Army imagery analyst, one of my specialties is vehicle identification,” he said.
So what about the black spot that Ed Craine found? The planning department would not accept it. But Ruiz says that blob was, indeed, a car.
He showed 7 On Your Side a lighter copy of this photo.
“He checks that it’s a vehicle, that it has height… so I told them there was no doubt in my mind as an expert that it was a a vehicle and if they needed me, to write a report or testify that I could do it,” Ruiz said.
The Craines showed the city this photo from 1958.
And that did the trick.
The city said it is now a legal parking space – grandfathered.
Ed and Judy, who didn’t want to go in front of the camera, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to park in our driveway again.”
Many thanks to David Ruiz.
“I’m glad it helped them. They seemed like wonderful people who were just in a tough spot,” he said.
Major help also came from a neighbor who rummaged through old boxes and found a photo from 1972 showing a car in their driveway. Others in the neighborhood also received violation notices for parking in their driveways. All came from anonymous complaints. If that’s you, let 7 On Your Side know.
Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
Do you have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
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