It has been said that you're not a real San Franciscan until you've had your car towed in the city. I beg to differ, since I haven't been towed yet (knock on wood!), but that's only because I obsess over curb colors, parking meters and street signage, and have even on occasion tipped a bum to keep an eye out. Although, even at that, I've had my fair share of parking tickets.
The most infuriating was a $40 fine for not curbing my tires "enough" while parked in the very affluent, residential neighborhood of Pacific Heights on a street that was so nearly flat I debated not curbing my tires at all, but thought I was better off curbing them just to be safe. Clearly I wasn't playing it safe "enough." There was also that time when I found a note on my windshield letting me know it appeared that the registration tags had been stolen off my license plate, which would have been very thoughtful had it not been attached to a ticket for missing registration.
I suppose there is some solace in knowing I'm not alone in my frustrations and that there are more crafty folks than myself creating tools to help San Franciscans spare our sanity and pocket books the pain of future tows and tickets. Finding the Sweet Spot has a clever flow chart on their website that tells you all of the places where your car could be should you discover it is no longer at the curb where you left it. There is also an app called VoicePark that will guide you to the nearest unoccupied, legal parking space.
If you're willing to spend the cash, there are always garages. This is probably worthwhile for some of you when compared to the wad of tickets in your glove compartment; you just have to know which ones to use. I can't give away my best spot or you'll be sure to flood them and I'll never get a space again, but just to give you some idea - there's a small garage just blocks from Union Square where I regularly get an evening flat rate of $10 or $15, depending on how full they are. Believe me, ten bucks is well worth it when you want to bounce around to restaurants, bars and shopping without worrying about feeding a meter or getting scratches.