Dear Parking Guru,
I woke up this morning and thought that my car had been towed. I was wrong. I just forgot where I had parked. However, it raised a question. I have four outstanding parking tickets this year and can't pay them. With all of the late charges and fees, etc., I owe over $500. Do they boot or tow cars for outstanding tickets? And what do I do if I don't have the money? Paying the rent comes before paying $72 for being 2 minutes over the meter limit. My car is probably only worth $500. Should I just blow it off, let them take it, and start over with a new car or scooter?
The good news is that you haven't been booted and towed...yet. I will lay out the alternatives and you can then structure your plan of action.
Your first alternative is to do nothing about your tickets. You will not be booted and towed for outstanding tickets until you have five tickets, and you only have four. Seeing that you have already gotten four tickets this year, it is not a big stretch to believe that ticket number 5 is in your future. And when that ticket is issued, a bell goes off on the DPT officer's handheld computer, indicating that you hit the Magic Number Five. The officer will immediately call the dispatcher, and a shiny bright yellow boot will be custom fitted onto your lovely chariot's wheel. You will then have 72 hours to pay all of your fines in full or your car will be towed and impounded.
If you are booted and towed, that process will add $500 for the tow fee to your insurmountable debt, plus $300 for the boot removal fee plus $63.50 for each day that your car is impounded. So, you ask, "Why not then just walk away from it?"
Because, like leaving any relationship without clearing up the unresolved issues and responsibilities, you are more than likely destined to repeat the dysfunctional pattern in your next vehicular relationship, and the unfinished business will also show in ways that you never imagined. The next time you go to DMV, you will be reminded of the way that you broke up with your last car because when you go to register the new love of your driving life, there will more than likely be a bill waiting for you for several thousand dollars for the unresolved, unpaid tickets and impoundment fees. You will then have to deal with it before you can conduct any business with DMV again, including renewing your driver's license
How can you get free and clear of your parking citations if you don't have the cash to pay the fines? Instead of paying the fines, there is a program in SF that allows you to work them off by doing community service. It is called Project 20, and you can do community service to make our City a better place in lieu of paying the fine. One important part of the deal, though, is that for each hour of community service that you perform, you will only work off $6 of the fine. That's right, 6 bucks an hour. Not quite as low as prison labor, but in order to pay off your $72 downtown meter violation, you will have to do 12 hours of work. It's less than minimum wage, but you'll get some exercise, fresh air, and maybe make some new scofflaw friends. You can check it out here, and then click on the "Alternative to Paying Fines" link.
Once you've done your time and cleaned up ten miles of coastline to pay off your fines, it is time to replace your old parking habits with new ones. Two quick tips for the expired meter violation that you received: When you feed your meter, set the alarm on your watch or phone to go off a few minutes before your meter is about to expire. It will take 15 seconds to do and will sooner or later save you $72 and prevent you from taking that first step down the slippery slope of Boot Hill. Many meters also now offer a pay-by-phone feature that will send you a text when your meter is about to expire, and will allow you to add money if allowable.
Learning all of the hidden rules and parking laws such as the 100-foot law, the 3% grade law, and the 72-hour law (that all help raise $90 million in parking fines for SF), and how to avoid violating them, is also in your best interest.
To learn more parking tips, tricks, and secrets, click here.