Car owners without garages in San Francisco are tensing up in preparation for an announced May sweep by the SFMTA's Parking Enforcement team, which is set to cover every district of the city in search of parking rule violators. But those parking enforcers are tense themselves, imagining they could be targets for assault.

We learned about the coming crackdown last week, which is a piece of Mayor London Breed's multi-pronged and updated Vision Zero plan. It sounds like this is being partly driven by the SFMTA, and stems from complaints about scofflaws in various neighborhoods getting away with things — like parking across sidewalks in driveways — for the last several years that they wouldn't have before, because SFMTA staffing levels had dipped.

Now that the agency is fully staffed up to 2019 levels, SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin said last week that it was time to remind everyone what the laws are, and that there would be "intensive enforcement" efforts in the month of May.

"This is happening because in many San Francisco neighborhoods, given the scarcity of parking control officers that we have faced for several years, there are people who think that the rules don’t exist,” Tumlin said during an SFMTA board meeting, per the Chronicle. “So we want to make sure that we get the word out that we are finally able to start enforcing all the rules."

But the rank-and-file at the agency doesn't sound too thrilled with being on the front lines of this citywide effort.

"Not only are we already risking our safety every day out there doing work we are not trained or fully equipped to deal with, but we’re also expected to do work that would traditionally be associated with the police or public works," says parking control officer Trevor Adams in a statement.

As KTVU reports, Adams and other SFMTA employees are holding a rally today (Thursday) to call attention to their safety concerns around the crackdown. Parking enforcement officers in particular fear that by announcing the crackdown and sending them out to punish residents with fines for things they may have been doing for years without penalty, they could be putting their lives in danger.

Parking enforcement officers tell KTVU that they've already been experiencing some of this tension, and that they've had knives and guns pulled on them when they've tried to confront double-parkers who turned out to be drug dealers, or drug users.

Tensions over residents' cars being ticketed for parking in their own driveways already spilled into the media earlier this month, with tickets being issued for illegally obstructing sidewalks. At the the time, the SFMTA warned that just because one hasn't received a ticket for blocking a sidewalk in the past, does not mean one won't be ticketed in the future, because rules are rules — and the agency has received complaints from residents with mobility issues who are forced to move onto the street to get around such cars.

KPIX's report on the issue highlighted the Sunset District specifically, where short driveways crossing sidewalks tend to be common, and some electric car owners park there while they charge their cars.

Also, a new statewide law that many car owners may not be aware of just took effect in January, which is focused on "daylighting" areas around crosswalks and intersections. The law requires parked cars to stay 20 feet back from a crosswalk, even if the curb has not yet been painted red to reflect the new law. (Fines for this aren't supposed to be issued until 2025, though, only warnings.)

The SFMTA is trying to put out messaging suggesting that they're not on a hunt to punish San Francisco car owners, but it might be hard not to take it that way if you get an expensive ticket.

"The goal of this operation is not punitive. Rather, it is to ensure that our streets and sidewalks are safe for all, including drivers," said SFMTA spokesperson Michael Roccaforte, speaking to the Chronicle. "Drivers who are parked legally have nothing to worry about, and these violations are easy to correct. Sidewalks need to be clear and unimpeded by parked cars so people with mobility needs and pedestrians in general can have room to safely use them."

We'll see how this goes!

Update: The protest/rally happened Thursday afternoon outside SFMTA headquarters on South Van Ness, involving dozens of parking enforcement personnel carrying signs that say "Fix Our City: Staff Up San Francisco."

Previously: SFMTA to Do 'Intensive' Sweep For Parking Violations In May

Top image: A San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic officer places a parking ticket on the windshield of a car on January 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. In an effort to eliminate a projected $21.2 million budget deficit by June 30, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency ordered parking and traffic officers to write more parking tickets and plans to reduce employee overtime. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)