In any job, making a mistake once in a while is inevitable. But add to any job the elements of stress, name calling, 1001 rules to be aware of, and the fact that when you do your job well, the people to whom you deliver your services typically react with sadness, outrage, and despair, it is inevitable that even more mistakes will be made.
There are four jobs that I can think of that fit the above description: An IRS agent, an eviction attorney, a vehicle repo person, and a SFMTA parking officer.
In the case of a DPT officer, simply driving around in traffic all day, every day is incredibly stressful. The fact that nobody is happy to see you, and regularly call you names also must take a toll. But, I think it is those elements combined with the 1001 rules to be aware of that make the job more difficult to be accurate.
A recent news story revealed that in San Francisco, the likelihood of a parking ticket being upheld when contested in the first stage of appeal is only 70%. A C-minus. If that ticket is upheld, it will be accompanied by a response from SFMTA that says, “The circumstances you presented in your protest were insufficient to overcome the validity of the citation. The review has confirmed that the citation was properly issued and was valid."
However, when parking tickets are appealed for a second time, in person at an administrative hearing, the statistics reveal that tickets are upheld only 50% of the time. My experience with people writing to 7x7 and helping them fight a ticket is over 95% of citations being dismissed.
Why are there so many erroneous tickets being handed out? I think it’s for largely the same reason that so many valid tickets are being given out…the 1001 parking rules and regulations. It isn’t only difficult for drivers to follow all of the rules, but also for parking officers.
However, to avoid receiving a ticket, and for a DPT officer to properly issue a ticket, it isn’t necessary to know all 1001 parking rules. You only have to ask yourself three questions. They are similar questions that somebody waking up from a traumatic episode might ask. But hey, looking for and finding parking, at times, can also feel traumatic.
Where am I? What day is it? What time is it?
Where am I? Wherever you are parked, any sign within 100 feet of you (unless interrupted by a cross street), on the same side of the street that you parked, is enforceable and applicable to you. Your car must be parked inside the white hash marks if they are present, with your wheels 18 inches or less from the curb, and properly turned to prevent a runaway if parked on a street with a 3% grade or higher.
What day is it? Look at each sign and see if it is enforceable on that day. At 12 am, it may feel like Friday night, but it has become Saturday, so remember this when parking.
What time is it? Apply it to the sign restrictions, make note of when the rules change (for example 3-7 pm commuter lanes), and set an alarm if there is a deadline.
For DPT officers issuing tickets and for the department that reviews the first round of appeals, I think the same three steps above can be also be helpful to quickly determine whether a ticket was validly issued.
So, if you feel like you have been issued a ticket erroneously, chances are you are right. It will take persistence to have it dismissed, but it will be dismissed if it was issued in error. Follow the instructions on the back of the citation to appeal in writing. Include supporting evidence. Then, if and when that appeal is rejected, go down to the SFMTA office and request an in-person hearing. Within an hour, you will speak to someone familiar with the rules who is not under the stress of being in the firing line, and your ticket will be dismissed.
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