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98$70 Parking tickets for expired Permit Parking stickers

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  • gzahara
    Aug 7, 2008

      Beginning in early July, the city began issuing $70 tickets to cars parked for more than 2 hours without the new residential permit parking (RPP) stickers.  The parking division said they had mailed renewal notices to all RPP holders in mid-June.  One problem: I have talked to 10 people in the neighborhood who said that they did not receive their renewal notices.  I was a little skeptical and thought these people just didn't want to admit they forgot to return their RPP renewal form.  But when I (who also did not receive a RPP renewal notice) went to the parking division to renew my parking permit, 5 people walked in within a span of 10 minutes who said they also did not receive their RPP renewal notice.  The common refrain was "I received my renewal notice last year; I don't understand why I didn't get it this year."  This was the case citywide, not just in our Area F zone.  People from the Area A and Area C zones also said that they didn't receive their renewal notices.  Two different employees privately confided in me that there must have been some error on the city's part because they had been hearing this from many people every day for a few weeks.

      The way I see it, there are 2 explanations:

      1) The parking division made on honest mistake and unintentionally failed to mail a significant number of renewal notices.

      2) The parking division intentionally neglected to mail a significant number of renewal notices in an effort to rack up as many $70 parking tickets as possible.  This is an intriguing hypothesis given that the parking division is part of the Finance and Management Agency instead of the Public Works Agency.  Given the enormous pressure on the Finance and Management Agency to maximize revenue because the city is facing a budget shortfall, I believe it is possible that upper management concocted this scheme and has engaged in impropriety.   I understand that the city may have to search for creative ways to increase city revenue, but bamboozling or tricking hundreds of residents out of $70 is unacceptable.

      The parking division has a clearly established policy of mailing renewal notices to existing RPP holders.  In fact, last year, the city was late in mailing these notices and therefore waited until late July/early August to begin issuing tickets.  They told RPP holders that they wanted to be sure every renewal notice had been mailed before they began issuing tickets.  So when many of us didn't receive our renewal notice on time this year, we assumed the city was late again.  Unfortunately, the city simply didn't mail many of the renewal notices at all, and decided to begin issuing tickets anyway.

      Making matters worse, the city requires all residents to pay the full one year RPP sticker fee retroactive back to July 1 even if you purchase the renewal sticker after July 1.  Yet, tickets issued after July 1 are not waived once you purchase your RPP renewal sticker.  So if you get a ticket on July 15th, and renew your RPP sticker on July 17th, you are still on the hook for the full amount of the July 15th ticket even though you are forced to pay for a one year RPP sticker that begins on July 1.  This doesn't make sense; this is double-jeopardy.  Think of your car registration: if you get a $150 ticket for expired registration tags, but then you renew your registration, you get refunded the amount of the ticket (except for a $20 administration fee).        

      Bottom line: I believe the city might be in violation of one or more state laws.  If you did not receive your renewal notice and you got 1 or more $70 tickets that the city would not waive, please email me your name, date of ticket, and ticket number.  I am compiling a list.

      I will give the city the benefit of the doubt and assume they made an honest mistake.  If they admit they made a mistake and reverse some of these tickets, then that will be the end of it.  However, if the city refuses to reverse some of these unfair and potentially unlawful tickets, I will contact Chip Johnson and Phillip Matier/Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle, Robert Gammon and Chris Thompson of the East Bay Express, KTVU TV, and local blogs.

      Please click "reply" to this email to let me know if you did not receive your renewal notice and you got 1 or more $70 tickets.

      Zahara Gaitan-Smith

      Downtown Lake Merritt neighborhood resident