California’s Confusing ‘Daylighting’ Law

There is no excuse for ignorant laws.

high-resolution photo of pedestrian, architecture, road, street, town, alley, city, urban, cityscape, downtown, taxi, cab, intersection, crosswalk, lane, publicdomain, automobiles, skyscrapers, pedestrians, buildings, windows, americanflag, infrastructure, neighbourhood, road surface, residential area, human settlement, metropolitan area, nonbuilding structure
CC0 Public Domain image from PxHere

LA Times (“‘Daylighting,’ a new law that California drivers must know to avoid a ticket next year“):

California drivers will need to double-check where they park this year as a new law on the books has created a no-parking buffer around marked and unmarked pedestrian crosswalks.

Drivers are typically not allowed to park their vehicles in the middle of an intersection, on a crosswalk, in front of marked curbs, in a way that blocks access to fire hydrants or too close to a fire station entrance, among other prohibited parking spots.

Now drivers will need to consider the areas around crosswalks as no-park zones, because of the law that went into effect at the start of the year. Over the next 12 months, drivers will receive a warning if they violate the rule, but citations will start to flow on Jan. 1, according to state officials.

Drivers will need to get into the habit of leaving a 20-foot gap between their vehicle and any marked or unmarked crosswalks. Assembly Bill 413 does not specify what constitutes an unmarked crosswalk and whether that applies to a sidewalk curb or ramp.

Some form of the rule have been implemented in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, Calif., and Portland, Ore., according to the bill authors. Other jurisdictions may have their own variations and exceptions to the rule in California. The new law applies to all jurisdictions that have not addressed this parking issue.

Bill author Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José) said the concept of leaving a clear line of sight for all modes of transportation is called “daylighting” and aims to prevent a vehicle from obscuring the view of motorists who are approaching a crosswalk.

“Daylighting is a proven way we can make our streets safer for everyone, and 43 other states have already implemented some version of daylighting,” Lee said in a statement that accompanied the bill’s introduction last year. “By making it easier for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists to see each other at intersections, we can take a simple and important step to help us all safely share the road.”

While the concept strikes me as perfectly reasonable, the execution is bizarre. In places where street parking is the norm, there’s typically fewer spaces than there are people wanting to park. It simply can’t confusing as to whether a given spot is legal.

The obvious solution is to mark the “daylight” zones where parking is not permitted. Typically, this is done by painting the curb, posting signs, or both. While I realize that this is expensive in a vast city like Los Angeles, as a practical matter only a relatively small portion of “unmarked crosswalks” are going to be busy enough to require marking.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Scott says:

    Well, that is clear as mud. Unmarked crosswalk? Isn’t that, by common language, not a crosswalk?

  2. MarkedMan says:

    A couple of weeks ago I saw a woman walking and texting on her phone walk blind into a moderately busy street. Fortunately at that moment there was a break in traffic. She crossed the street without ever looking up. And last night I was walking and came to an intersection and there was a guy in a giant pickup truck slowly rolling towards me. Would he speed up? Would he stop? Could I cross? I elected to wait and as he got closer I realized he was texting away and paying no attention to his surroundings. Based on these two anecdotes I conclusively state that all pedestrian car accidents are caused by texting.

  3. ptfe says:

    In places where street parking is the norm, there’s typically fewer spaces than there are people wanting to park.

    This is objectively false, just so you know. There are often fewer spaces than people wanting to park very close to the location of interest and/or for free. People able to walk more than about 4 blocks can easily find street parking almost anywhere. Indeed, if Americans weren’t so well-trained to look for free services for their cars that minimize their exposure to the outside world, they might recognize that pay-to-park and spending 5 minutes walking to and from your car are not absolute horrors.—riha-reports/18806-research-riha-parking-report.pdf?sfvrsn=d59a2d33_0

    [New York City]
    Parking Utilization

    An NYC DOT study of the on-street parking near Barclays Center showed that more than half of metered parking spaces were vacant on non-events days and 30 percent of these stalls were still available during a Nets game. “Parking occupancy increased on event days; however,
    most sampled blocks still had available spaces” (New York City Department of Transportation).

    A parking occupancy study from 2016 for the West 108th street area showed garage and parking lot occupancy to vary between 66 percent to over 100 percent depending on the time of day and the location (Nelson \ Nyggard).

    Parking Utilization

    Parking utilization has been declining in Seattle for at least ten years (PSRC). The Puget Sound Regional Council’s parking utilization studies of seven Seattle neighborhoods found that the average daily occupancy rate ranged from 43 percent in Lower Queen Anne to 64 percent in the
    Central Business district.

    We really need to dispel this notion that parking doesn’t exist. People do not want to pay for street parking, and when they’re told to go to 123 Alphabet Street, they don’t want to look 6 blocks away for a parking spot because what am I supposed to do, walk?!? Just think how often you go to an address in a clearly busy area, then drive a quarter of a mile to park in a clearly not-busy area, rather than circle the busy area in some way to find moderately primo parking within a few blocks of the destination – I’m guessing the answer is almost never. (This is probably universal, I only know the circumstances in the US.)

  4. Robert in SF says:

    An interesting subtlety (?) I saw on a San Francisco reddit thread that I now can’t find:

    This bill would prohibit the stopping, standing, or parking of a vehicle within 20 feet of the vehicle approach side of any unmarked or marked crosswalk or 15 feet of any crosswalk where a curb extension is present, as specified.

    This means I think that the buffer zone only applies to the side of the street from which traffic approaches. So each two way street won’t require buffers down the street both ways from the intersection, just in the direction of the oncoming traffic.

    At an intersection with a two-way street where someone crosses, they look left for oncoming traffic. If they are crossing on the side of the street where traffic is coming from, they need the buffer (to their left). But the buffer won’t be required on their right because the intersection itself is the buffer.

    This will have the most impact to one-way street intersections (which we have a fair amount in SF) since a person crossing will always be on the side of the street from which traffic approaches.

    I also believe they are just issuing warnings and not tickets for the first year, to give time for physical changes and/or people to get used to it.

    The bill would, prior to January 1, 2025, authorize jurisdictions to only issue a warning for a violation, and would prohibit them from issuing a citation for a violation, unless the violation occurs in an area marked using paint or a sign.

  5. Tony W says:

    @ptfe: My favorite examples of this are when people are going to the county fair or other simlar large venue.

    I always want to ask the folks who drive in circles for 30 minutes looking for a close spot – ‘Did you come here to avoid walking?’

  6. James Joyner says:

    @ptfe: @Tony W: My experience in downtown areas—granted, mostly in the DC metroplex, Baltimore, Annapolis, and NYC—is that it’s generally very challenging to find street parking. I’m willing to walk a reasonable distance and, indeed, when I worked in DC tended to walk places within 2-3 miles rather than move my car and try to park again. Some places at least have pay garages available (often for exorbitant rates) but many areas don’t even have that.

  7. gVOR10 says:

    Going back decades to my High School drivers ed, an unmarked crosswalk is anywhere a sidewalk or other walking path crosses a roadway. The ubiquitous example being sidewalks at intersections in residential neighborhoods, which a driver is expected to treat as a crosswalk whether marked or not. Unmarked crosswalks have always been an explicit thing in traffic law. (Do they still teach driver’s ed in HS? Watching people drive I assume not.) The majority of crosswalks outside downtowns are unmarked, because painting them, and maintaining the painting, would be absurdly expensive. Same applies to painting to mark daylighting zones. So I’m failing to see the problem in the CA law. And this goes back to our previous truck posts. Once upon a time, people were taller than cars and could be seen past cars. Even smallish children were taller than the hoods of cars and could be seen entering the, perhaps unmarked, crosswalk. Now many vehicle hoods are nearly as tall as adults.

    Even if I accept James view, this illustrates an observation I’ve made before. Liberal errors and excesses tend to be silly and cost a little money. Conservative errors and excesses tend to be very expensive and get people killed.

  8. de stijl says:

    @Tony W:

    The Minnesota and Iowa state fairs are notorious for bad parking. For stupid people, anyway. People, some people, get used to parking at grocery stores and strip malls for routine trips and get utterly discombobulated when they need to park in a satellite lot and take a shuttle bus for an event that hosts a hundred thirty thousand people a day. It’s a mixture of entitlement, ignorance, and bull-headedness. I’m going to slowly circle this block for an hour to snag a primo curb-side spot, dammit!

    It’s way less stressful to park a mile away at a friendly restaurant or bar, get liquored up a bit, and take a shuttle bus. But that is way outside of their comfort zone. Public transit!?! Shock! Horror!

    People near the site make a killing by renting out parking spots on their lawn by the day or hour. Cash money, IRS doesn’t need to know. If you Tetris/Jenga it right you can fit a crap ton of vehicles onto an average urban residential lot. It’s a total 18 hour hassle, but you can make pretty big bucks up front cash money by being a DIY bootstrapping parking lot for ten days a year. Some folks hire local teens to manage the process.

    It totally makes sense. If you live nearby the venue and you know it is going to be a huge life disruption and a major pain in the ass, why not exploit a very willing market?

    Best bet: shuttle bus. Second best bet: drop the wife and kiddies off semi-near the entrance gate, find a spot, and hoof it back. A half mile walk isn’t going to kill you, ya lazy ass bum.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: Another problem with city parking is that neighborhoods can change within a few blocks. The reason there may be plenty of parking is because the odds of your car getting stolen or a window smashed may be much higher there.

    FWIW, we have street parking by zone in my downtown Baltimore neighborhood. When we first moved in and my wife went to get the parking permits, the clerk remarked how lucky we were because the ratio of parking permits to spaces was 70% (7 permits for every 10 spaces available). When she asked about the much bigger adjacent neighborhood of Federal Hill she was told it was 120%! And they are even more screwed because they have 2 hour permitless parking in most of the area, so ticketing involves marking a car and then coming back in two hours. But because we are adjacent to the stadiums there is no gratis parking whatsoever, so if you don’t have a permit you will be ticketed, booted or towed.

  10. DK says:

    Another, more big picture solution is to invest in reliable and extensive urban mass transit, like peer nations. We Americans sometime struggle with long-term planning, tho.

  11. Jay L Gischer says:

    @DK: With all due respect, the US is very dissimilar geographically than most of its peer nations economically speaking.

    We are much bigger, much more far-flung, than most European countries – with the one exception of Russia. China and India are that big, too, but they aren’t really “peer nations” are they?

    We were an early adopter of automobiles and built a whole bunch of transportation infrastructure around them, which isn’t easy to walk away from.

    And then there’s the emotional attachment people feel to their cars and the sense of power and autonomy it gives them.

    I think we’re only going to address these issues by offering something that just feels better. This is probably going to incorporate autonomous, electric-powered vehicles in some way, but man, this is really murky. It’s hard to say where it’s going.

    I think the automobile, in an urban setting, is under a lot of pressure, though. But for intermediate travel – going 50 miles or something like that – it’s still a very good option, probably will remain so for quite some time. We’ve grown so rapidly it’s hard for mass transit to keep up, and to serve the dispersed way in which we have decided to live.

    I mean, the message seems to be to give up a bunch of things – large houses, large lots, autonomy to travel whenever desired, and the sense of power and control you have at the wheel. What would you get in return?

    There needs to be a good answer to that question.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    We were an early adopter of automobiles and built a whole bunch of transportation infrastructure around them, which isn’t easy to walk away from.

    Yes. But it’s more than that: we’re re probably the only WEIRD country that was mostly developed after the invention of the automobile. We literally built most of the western half of the country around the expectation of being able to drive.

  13. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    Parking in San Francisco is just not fun. I’ve been driving into the city for almost 50 years, and I know all the tricks, but taking BART is always preferable for me if it’s practical.

    Hopefully, this will all change, younger people don’t seem to be that into cars and driving. Here’s to a future with good public transportation – something that we once had in CA, but lost – or perhaps “had stolen” is a better way of describing what happened.

  14. anjin-san says:

    @James Joyner:

    We literally built most of the western half of the country around the expectation of being able to drive.

    Sorry, but that is not the case. I can recall many times when the older generation in my family talked about how good public transportation was in the Bay Area and LA before it was willfully destroyed by automobile and oil interests starting in the late 30s.

    If we had stayed on the original path focusing on public transportation, the problems of both climate change and traffic would be greatly mitigated.

    If we had high speed rail from the Bay Area to LA, I would probably get down there 4-5 times a year instead of once. But of course we live in post-Reagan America, which means we can’t have nice things.

  15. matt says:

    @anjin-san: Well in Jame’s defense he did say “most of the western half” while leaving the time frame up to interpretation. It’s hard to argue with that as you drive through either of the Dakotas, Wyoming etc…

    Sure some of the cities in California had some nice things going but that doesn’t cover most of the western half of the USA.

    I upvoted you because I agree with you overall especially the Reagan part.

  16. Richard Gardner says:

    The New Urbanists seem to want to force everyone in cities to use mass transit. Urban villages, Increased density, infill. Big difference between urban cores and mixed use, and residential. Someone mentioned Lower Queen Ann in Seattle (PSRC study) being at 43% during the day. The place is mixed use with businesses, restaurants and multi-family housing (much replacing single family over the past 20 years). Much of the street parking is pay during the day. In the evening good luck getting a parking place. At night the apartments with zero parking spaces fill the on street parking in many areas.
    Across the street from me a single lot is now three houses (2 occupied in the past year plus the original 1908 Craftsman) with at least 5 families (asking rent for the largest was $3700). If you have a bus once an hour in a mixed use area (neighborhood center) there is no requirement for any on-site parking so the streets are packed at night. This leads to lots of on-street parking and neighborhood disagreements.
    These daylighting laws will make a bad situation worse by removing a significant amount of parking (??? 20%). Maybe in 20 years (cough 40).

  17. anjin-san says:


    in Jame’s defense he did say “most of the western half”

    True, but most of the western US is empty. The population of the Bay Area is greater than any western state except California. The county I live in has as many people as Montana, and quite a few more than Wyoming.

    So a huge amount of infrastructure, and most of the cars are in CA, and much of that is in the Bay Area and LA. So, the benefits of robust public transportation, or the harm done by weak public transportation here and in SoCal is wildly disproportionate.

  18. Luke says:

    @Scott: In California, generally, there are “crosswalks” at every intersection, even if not marked as such. For example, a 4-way stop in a residential area with no marked crosswalks would still have “unmarked” crosswalks unless crossing was specifically disallowed. This was more relevant before the law that legalized most “jaywalking” was passed. @Scott: