Dear Parking Guru,
Using the keywords "help to protest, SF, parking citation, insane, ridiculous, parking rules", Google directed me to your 7x7 Column. We received a street-sweeping ticket while on vacation in lovely San Fran this summer, and paid it. No problem there. However, we are in the process of contesting a "Hill Parking 3%" citation that we were allegedly issued on the same day.
My husband and I are from Washington D.C. and are by no means rookies when it comes to urban parking. We are old school and we make it a habit to curb our wheels whenever we park. Several months after our trip to SF, we received a letter from a collections agency about a "Hill Parking 3%" violation. We never received the citation (perhaps it blew away, or fell off, or was never put on our windshield to begin with). We never received any follow-up letter, or other communication about it and we are now being charged lots of late fees and collections fees.
The funny thing is that we only parked on the street one time in front of my sister's house while we were visiting. The other times, our car was in her driveway and we drove around with her in her car. This has really tainted my feelings about San Francisco and makes me wonder if tourists are being targeted because once they are home, they are over a barrel, and just pay it to be done with it.
It's quite unfortunate your city is trying to exploit nice people like us with wrongful parking tickets instead of making SF a welcoming place. Thanks in advance for all your help and taking on these matters. We lived in D.C. for two years and never encountered unfairness like this.
Soured on SF
Let me be the first to say don't let the DPT be a large factor in your judgment of our city. The parking police can be like sand in a sandwich for us too. You make a fair point that parking rules and structure are necessary, because it would be utter chaos without them. And, I also understand your anger and disappointment for feeling put over a barrel.
I've looked into your situation, using a map of the surveyed streets of SF
and have some good news for you. Your sister's street on which you parked is indeed less than a 3% grade. So the ticket was indeed incorrectly issued. I recommend sending in a copy of the map showing the grade of the street, along with a copy of your ticket. Oh, that's right, you never received a ticket, or a notice by mail–just a bill from a collections agency for $247 and have been told that you missed the window to contest the ticket. That is quite a barrel.
I would first find out if this letter is legit, or a scam. Call 415-701-3099 to verify that there is, in fact, an unpaid ticket on that license plate number. If this is a scam, you will know it because DPT will tell you that there is no ticket for you for a 3% violation.
This letter bothers me in several ways. This woman never had a chance to prove her innocence. Secondly, I am receiving more and more complaints about erroneous tickets. Third, drivers can now prove that the ticket was wrongfully given because the street was not 3% or over (which they should never have had to do) but, they have absolutely no way of proving that their wheels were curbed.
So, I have come up with a two-part plan that would permanently end the amount of time, money, and energy wasted on erroneous curbing-of-wheels tickets being issued.
Part 1: If the parking officers actually checked to see if the grade of the street was 3% or over before giving out "curbed wheels" tickets. But, there is no compelling reason for SFMTA to implement this because ineffiency is profitable. Think about it. Most out-of-towners erroneously given a ticket, when hit with a collections letter probably just pay the fine.
Part 2: What if there was a simple amendment to the 3% law, easily drafted and approved by the Board of Supervisors that simply requires each parking officer to take a photo of the alleged un-curbed wheel of the vehicle as evidence? I'm sure that there will be a whole host of other reasons judging this idea as impractical. But is it?
I take at least 10 pics a day with my phone...just for fun, and I can print them quite easily. Red light cameras take thousands of pics each year of red light runners as evidence. So, why not in this situation? If SFMTA actually did this, it would be such a great and bold act of goodwill, and a large step in the direction of showing that handing out citations is not simply an unspoken tax to raise revenue for MUNI. And, Soured in SF will come back next year to SF and spend her money in our businesses.
Any objections? All in favor, leave a comment and say "aye."
For other radically practical notions about parking and social order, click here.
Dear Parking Guru,