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Ask the Parking Guru: Can You Protest A Ticket Because the Sign Was Too Far Away?

Photo via prayerboi516 on Flickr.com

It's no secret that parking in the city is a bitch. So we've enlisted local parking guru and author of  Finding the Sweet Spot, David LaBua, to dish out weekly tips on navigating the ins and outs of city parking.

Hi David,

I found your site online and it's amazing! Today, I was parked in Pacific Heights for only 45 minutes while I went to a couple of stores.  When I got back to my car, I had a ticket on my windshield and the description of the violation said "permit parking."  I looked around and sure enough, way (WAY!) up the block there was a sign that said residential permit parking only but I hadn't seen it from my car's location and I had walked in the opposite direction of the sign after I parked. I’ve never gotten a ticket before in San Francisco, but this ticket is about as big as a grocery store receipt, and it doesn’t even look real.  Do you think I can protest this ticket because the sign was so far away?
 
I swear to god, my mood for the day often centers around parking.  I think I spend probably 20% of my life worrying about parking in SF.  Sometimes I don't go to parties or movies or anything at night because I don't want to deal with the parking issue. I haven't been to North Beach in a few years for simply this reason. 
 
Sincerely,
Confused H.G.

 
Dear Confused H.G.,
 
First of all, I am sorry that you got a parking ticket.  $65 is a serious chunk of change to waste.  I am also sorry that you have missed out on parties, movies, and North Beach.  But I have good news.  Your situation and view of parking in SF are exactly why I wrote the book.  There are four possible outs for you to not pay your parking ticket, and I think I have some information that will have you worrying less, partying more, watching more movies, and eating more Italian food.
 
First let’s take care of the ticket.  Your first out may be using the 100-foot law to your advantage. The municipal code states that, "...each sign's enforcement zone extends for 100 feet in each direction."  However, if the sign up the hill is more than 100 feet away from where you received your ticket, then you are home free as that sign’s enforcement area did not extend all the way to you.
 
The second out that you have is that you were only there for 45 minutes.  You are in violation of the residential parking permit law only if you park without a permit for more than 2 hours during the time that the sign states it is in effect in that neighborhood.  If you were there for only 45 minutes, you should not have been issued a ticket.  Hopefully you can prove that you were not there for 2 hours.  If you can show a store receipt from another part of town, a coffee receipt, a credit card receipt, or a transaction on your Fasttrak account, then you should be clear based on this reason too.
 
Thirdly, make sure that the ticket was for your vehicle.  It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book ever since parking tickets started being issued in 1947 in SF.  People will take their parking ticket, and put it on the windshield of a similar make, model, and/or color car, and hope that you do not know your license plate number, and will just pay it.  They have nothing to lose.  Many people reading this article have probably paid a ticket or two that wasn’t even theirs…another good reason to know your license plate number.  Put it into your cell phone right now.
 
Last, but not least, this ticket may be a bogus ticket from a criminal (but extremely creative) group that gives out counterfeit parking tickets in the hopes that you will pay online with a credit card to their offshore account. The only website where you can pay your citation to the city of San Francisco is at www.SFMTA.com or www.services.sfgov.org. The official mail-in address for SF parking citations is P.O. Box 7718, San Francisco 94120-7718, and the official pay by phone numbers are 415-701-3099 or 800-531-7357. Any other address, website, or phone number is bogus.
 
So, there you have it.  Now, about your worrying for 20% of your life about parking, and not going to North Beach any more…in the book, there is a page that tells you how to access the webpage that has secret spots shared by other drivers.  You don’t have to buy the book to access it though, just share a great spot of yours, I will verify it, add it to the list, and then give you the code to access the secret page.
 
Sincerely,
David