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The Strange Laws in San Francisco You Should Know

The Strange Laws in San Francisco You Should Know

California is no stranger to weird laws, and neither is San Francisco. These crazy San Francisco laws are bound to surprise and delight you. Team


4 min read

November 25, 2020

In California, peculiar state laws are nothing new. But strange laws do exist in several of the state's cities; San Francisco is perhaps the most unusual of them all, given its reputation for an easygoing way of life and quirky habits. Following our discovery that San Francisco was the first city to enact a "ugly law"—a now-expired 1867 statute that forbade ugly people from displaying their faces in public—we conducted further research to learn which other eyebrow-raising San Francisco laws were once valid and which ones are still in effect. Below is a list of some of our favorite weird San Francisco laws.

12 Strange San Francisco Laws

1. Trapping or killing birds is prohibited—with one exception: If the pigeons or other wild birds become a nuisance or hazard to public health. Sorry, pigeons, but San Francisco (and arguably the rest of the world) finds you a little too annoying.

2. Additionally, feeding pigeons on the street is against the law. There are even posted warnings around town concerning this offense. Although this law isn't commonly enforced unless someone files a complaint about it, it's still completely true. San Francisco seems to have a rather serious dislike of pigeons. 

We don't know what the deal is, but for whatever reason, San Franciscans are not big fans of pigeons.

3. According to San Francisco law, it is illegal for more than one person over the age of 13 to be in a public bathroom cubicle at the same time, unless they are accompanying a person with a handicap. So while using public bathrooms, it’s best to stay solo. This strange law ensures that you won’t take group mirror-selfie sessions in San Francisco’s public restrooms anytime soon.

4. If you were thinking about including a dead body in your front-porch Halloween decorations but decided otherwise, you avoided breaking a super-serious San Francisco law: It's illegal to display dead bodies for commercial purposes without the written consent of the deceased. To prepare in advance for next year’s festivities, you’ll need written consent from the deceased party prior to his or her passing. Oh, and you must find someone who passed away more than 100 years ago. Good luck.

5. Hitching animals to lampposts, fire hydrants, and growing trees is prohibited in S.F. So, think twice before tying your dog’s leash to the lamp post for a quick run into the corner grocery store or stepping inside a coffee shop to grab breakfast. If you’re wondering how you might be able to tell if the trees along the sidewalk are still growing, play it safe and just assume they are.

When in San Francisco, don't tie your dog's leash to a lamppost, fire hydrant, or living tree—otherwise, you'll be breaking the law.

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6. The sale of laser pointers to minors is prohibited—yes, believe it or not, San Francisco has a whole article (Article 48) dedicated to laws on laser pointers. First and foremost, don’t even think about handling one if you’re under the age of 18 unless you’re with a laser pointer-experienced adult. If you’re of legal age, make sure you don’t bring your handy laser pointer to the movie theater or a public event, and definitely don’t point a laser inside a car.

7. Distributing "ker chew powders" is prohibited. Now, you're probably wondering, What is ker chew powder anyway? No one seems to know. Trust us; we looked up the definition of this weird San Francisco law in any way we could—to no avail. However, it's still unlawful in San Francisco to sell or distribute "ker chew powders," "stink balls," or any type of substance that releases a horrendous odor. So, if you've been thinking about purchasing something similar for your April Fool's Day prank, it's best you start planning something else when in S.F. 

8. It's illegal to walk nine or more dogs at once. Yes, there's a strange law specifying that you're only allowed to walk up to eight dogs at a time—sorry puppy number nine. This law was passed in 2013 as a part of a number of laws on limitations on dog walkers.

Walk as many dogs as you'd like...just kidding. You can't walk more than eight dogs at a time in San Francisco.

9. Speaking of pets, it is illegal for dogs to hang their heads out of the car window. So, if you're envisioning driving through the streets of San Francisco with the windows rolled down and the wind ruffling your hair, no problem—just leave your dog at home. San Francisco law states that while your furry friend is in the vehicle, all windows must be rolled up.

10. Birds, fish, or reptiles are not allowed in parks. So, if you're thinking about bringing your goldfish out to the park for some fresh air—don’t. According to Section 5.01. of the San Francisco law book, dogs, cats, and horses are the only animals that are allowed to be brought to public parks. Oh, and if you’re using public transportation to get to the park with your cat, make sure he or she is on a leash—domestic cats are not allowed on public transport without a leash or a cage.

11. It's illegal to carry bread, cakes, or pastries intended for human consumption in an open basket when walking through the San Francisco streets. The story of Little Red Riding Hood would have a different ending if it took place in San Francisco: The young girl would instead be fined for skipping around with her exposed basket of San Francisco sourdough bread, before being sent safely back home. Whether you decide to drive to get your baked goods or devour them before leaving the bakery, do anything and everything to avoid being fined at all costs. 

Doesn't this sourdough loaf look scrumptious? Too bad you can't carry this bread home if you live in San Francisco.

12. You can’t be naked in public without a permit. For the first half of the 20th century, San Francisco didn’t have a law on public nudity because it wasn’t an issue to begin with; people weren’t always walking around naked in the City by the Bay. The arrival of the 60s brought in nudity as a form of political or artistic expression, resulting in the adoption of another funny law prohibiting it. But there is a loophole—if you manage to get a parade permit approved, you can don your birthday suit in public. If you’re not into paperwork, just head over to a nude-approved park. The north end of Baker Beach is one place where the National Park Service says it’s legal to be naked.

Looking for more peculiar laws in California? Here are the Weird San Diego Laws You Didn't Know and 35 Laws in Los Angeles That Are Strange but True.

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