Open Letter to London Breed and the Board of Supervisors

March 17, 2020

Dear Mayor, SFMTA Board of Directors and Board of Supervisors:

You may anticipate seeing a lot of emails and messages coming from the residents of San Francisco who are “sheltering in place” regarding the parking regulations that have been announced by the SFMTA Director this week. I was hesitant to add my voice to the issue at first, since I understand the intense pressure people are under to mitigate the many problems relating to the new order.

After seeing an article that indicates SFMTA is still towing homeless vehicles and that the city is losing 4.7 million dollars a year on the towing program, I decided to act. We heard the towing program has stopped so I hope that article is inaccurate.

Ticketing is still a problem according to residents who are protesting it, so I decided to add my voice to theirs and request a Sunday parking program be enacted during the crisis.

There is a lot less traffic without the commuters streaming in to work and the streets are empty.  The need for parking turnover was given for parking meters and time limits and since that problem is temporarily suspended all parking restrictions should be suspended as well.

The city needs to support those who are still working and volunteers in every way possible. The last thing they should worry about is parking tickets. Volunteers and health care workers are distributing food, taking care of people aging in place and sheltering in place. Residents need to take care of their families. There is no excuses for ticketing and towing during a national “shelter in place” emergency.

Federal, state and local governments are rushing to establish programs to keep small businesses alive. Making parking easy is one of the cheapest ways to support the businesses that are open. Eliminating the fear of tickets will eliminate some stress for the workers who are losing income.

Please rethink the parking policy and establish a Sunday parking policy for the City of San Francisco as long the “Shelter in Place” program is in place.

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizen

Towing worsens hardships of Oakland’s homeless

: sfchronicle – excerpt

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has been advising people to stay indoors as smoke from the Camp Fire makes air quality hazardous. I’ve been concerned about how the smoke is impacting people living in the Bay Area without homes.

I thought about Kelly Thompson and his friends, some of whom sleep in tents. Thompson is retired and a Vietnam veteran who lives in a small camper in a West Oakland field. I wrote about him this month after his pickup truck was towed at an RV encampment near 20th and Campbell streets…

The East Bay Community Law Center is part of a coalition of legal aid and civil rights organizations reviewing constitutional issues around the towing of vehicles belonging to homeless people. On Nov. 7, Osha Neumann, a supervising attorney at the law center, sent a letter to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf chiding the city for towing vehicles before it opens places for people to park their RVs and campers without hassle… (more)

Coalition Demands End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

News from LCCR – SF Bay Area and Bay Area Legal Aid – Press Release

October 11, 2018

Contact: Taylor Brady, TBrady@baylegal.org, (510) 250-5234; Matt Kovac, mkovac@lccr.com, (415) 510-9601

Civil Rights and Legal Aid Groups Demand End to City’s Unconstitutional Towing Practices

Groups issue letter to City Attorney over violation of low-income people’s 4th Amendment rights

SAN FRANCISCO – One day after a federal court ordered the City of San Francisco to return an impounded car to its homeless owner, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, represented by Bay Area Legal Aid and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, is demanding that the City immediately cease towing and impounding vehicles over unpaid parking tickets unless the City determines the owner is financially able to pay.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Bay Area Legal Aid issued a letter to City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera this morning demanding an end to the current towing policy, citing Monday’s ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California…

“The City is taking and selling the cars of low-income people across the city simply because they cannot afford to pay parking tickets. We call on the City to end its current towing policy and adopt a constitutional, common-sense approach to collecting on tickets that does not punish low-income people,” said Elisa Della-Piana, LCCR legal director...

“No one wins under the City’s current towing practices,” said Rebekah Evenson, Director of Litigation at Bay Area Legal Aid. “Poor people lose their cars without any opportunity to show that they couldn’t afford to pay.  Residents of the City lose, with increased poverty and homelessness. And the City loses financially: the value of these cars rarely covers the cost of tow and storage, and the cars are often sold at a loss. It’s time for reform.”

The City Attorney has until Friday, October 19 to respond.

Read the full demand letter here.

.. (more)

Homeless SF residents sue to stop city from impounding their cars

By : curbed – excerpt

Unpaid parking tickets deprive homeless residents of only shelter

A San Francisco man has sued SFMTA in an attempt to keep the city from impounding the cars of homeless people for whom their vehicle is also their only shelter. It turns out he’s not alone.

KQED reports on the story of Sean Kayode, who had been living in his 2005 Mercedes Benz until the city seized it in March. The reason: unpaid parking tickets.

Kayode, who now resides at a homeless shelter, says in his suit that the car was not only his home but also his means of income as a delivery driver. Civil rights attorney Jude Pond alleges that the California law that permits cities to impound cars with five or more parking tickets is unconstitutional…

It turns out that the lawsuit in question, Smith v Reiskin (SFMTA director Ed Reiskin is named as the principle defendant), actually predates Kayode’s woes.

James Smith, described by his attorney as a “64-year-old lifelong San Francisco resident whose only source of income is $1,140 in Social Security each month,” lost his car months earlier and was the first to seek succor from the courts… (more)

RELATED:
Smith v Reiskin

 

Book ’em Danno: The San Francisco neighborhoods with the most parking tickets

By : bizjournals – excerpt (includes map)

San Francisco holds the dubious distinction of the highest average ticket price on the country, with the city issuing $124 million annually in tickets, according to research from parking startup SpotAngels.

The company combined city data with their own parking data on spot location, regulation and average ticket price to analyze the neighborhoods and locations where cars receive the most tickets and why.

The neighborhoods with the most parking ticket revenue are led by SoMa with $11 million followed by the Inner Richmond and the Mission, with $10.5 million and $9.5 million, respectively… (more)

The number one complaint of drivers used to be tickets. I think that may have changed, but is still really high on the list of annoyances. We understand that many tickets that are contested are found to be lacking and are eventually dismissed. See some details on how to appeal tickets: https://metermadness.wordpress.com/tickets/

Lose your car over a parking ticket? San Francisco scrutinizes harsh punishments

…Around 4,000 cars get sold off in San Francisco every year because their owners can’t pay. Rowe herself knows two other people who have lost their cars because of parking tickets. I spoke with one man who was living in his car while he worked a retail job. After his car got towed, he not only lost the place he slept every night, but he also lost his job. His car was eventually sold off by the towing company…

Financial Justice Project

To many in city government, these punishments are too severe–among them are San Francisco’s treasurer. So the city established a program called the Financial Justice Project to look for ways to make smaller fines more fair to poorer residents…

Ferguson is a city of 20,000 people; in 2013 there were 30,000 citations in a single year. After that report on Ferguson, San Francisco City Treasurer José Cisneros wanted to start tackling the problem locally. He started the Financial Justice Project in the fall of 2016…

Basing fines on a person’s income

Income-based fines are already common in parts of Europe, and was attempted in the U.S. thirty years ago. Judith Greene, who created those programs in New York City and Phoenix, AZ says they worked well. “More people paid in full and the court system actually ended up collecting more money.”…

San Francisco is in a good position to tackle this: it’s a well-off city with a lot of economic inequality. But Stuhldreher worries that other municipalities might not have the same momentum…

 

New Marina Parking Restrictions Targeting Car-Dwellers Upset Homeless Activists

: sfist – excerpt

Another in a long line of SFMTA measures restricting large vehicles from parking overnight on certain San Francisco streets was approved on Tuesday, this time focusing on the Marina. The Examiner reports that the rules, which effect vehicles over 22 feet long and 7 feet tall, are specifically designed to address a safety hazard some residents allege is caused by people living in their cars.

The ban prohibits parking on specific Marina streets from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., and has homeless activists crying foul. “We are very concerned about the possibility of expanding this failed strategy,” the Coalition on Homelessness’s Kelley Cutler told the paper…

Perhaps in response to those criticisms, the SFMTA is now floating a scaled down version of an idea first proposed earlier this year by then “homeless czar” Sam Dodge. SFMTA senior analyst Andy Thornley told the Ex that one possible solution to the perceived problem of people living in cars would be to identify vacant lots and allow parking overnight in those spaces. However, in Thornley’s mind, each morning the RVs would need to head back out on the streets to find parking for the day — likely an extremely time consuming affair as anyone who has every tried to park a truck in the city can attest.

At this point Thornley’s idea is just that, an idea, and no apparent moves are being made to make it a reality. Interestingly, however, this may be the last new ban on overnight parking we see for a while. Gwyneth Borden, who sits on the SFMTA board of directors, said that she will not approve any additional overnight restrictions. “We won’t be entertaining these issues in the future,” she said — words which might allow some RV-dwellers to sleep just a little bit easier…(more )

RELATED:
Banned From Numerous SF Streets, Homeless Czar Now Wants RV Park For Homeless Vehicle-Dwellers

San Francisco’s unfair towing charges

by Emily Green and Lizzie Johnson : sfchronicle – excerpt

San Francisco’s exorbitant towing fees represent an unjust penalty — and an unwarranted windfall for city government.

Tow trucks in San Francisco haul away more than wrongly parked vehicles. They effectively seize paychecks from drivers who need to fork over hundreds of dollars to retrieve their vehicles. It’s an unfair policy that city lawmakers must fix.

That change of direction can’t come soon enough. The penalties here are far higher than other major cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where strict parking rules are needed to keep traffic flowing. Along with sky-high rates go another troubling factor: San Francisco’s transit overlords use the annual haul of 42,350 vehicles to cover expenses barely related to towing…

Reporters Emily Green and Lizzie Johnson delved into the towaway numbers to produce another level of unfairness. Transit budget maestros are dumping other costs onto the towing bill in the name of the city’s overarching transit-first policies that downplay private vehicles. Curb painting, ticket-writing salaries and city vehicle maintenance are all chalked up to towaway work, which is carried out by private contractors. Even a slice of MTA Director Ed Reiskin’s pay is tacked on to the towing program. It’s a stretch that officials justify by saying other transportation programs would be cut if the towing fees weren’t so high…

There’s a need for serious parking restrictions on San Francisco’s crowded streets. Along with this simple mandate is another requirement for balance, fairness and honesty. The city’s towaway contract needs revamping… (more)

RELATED:
Towing fees to come down after SF supervisors complain :
The cost of getting towed in San Francisco is going to come down by at least $75 as the Municipal Transportation Agency agreed Tuesday to reduce its fees after supervisors criticized them for being exorbitantly high, unfair and unduly regressive…
The administrative fee pays for every cost directly and tangentially associated with the towing program, including the salaries and benefits of the citation enforcement officers who enforce towing restrictions, the paint to paint red zones on curbs, vehicle maintenance, and even part of MTA Director Ed Reiskin’s salary.
Supervisor Aaron Peskin said that is wrong. “I question why a portion of the MTA director’s salary is being passed on to these people who have their cars towed.”… (more)

How are cyclists paying for their costs? paint, signs, enforcement, Ed’s salary and official time attending bike meetings? How are those costs being covered?

 

We fought a tow fee and won

TRUE STORY: How we found a tow fee and won.

My husband just fought a tow fee and we received a full refund without going to court. Go on SFGOV and check out the law. If you have questions or think the tow company circumvented the law in any way contact the DA. Ethel helped us get our money back. If we went to small claims we could have sued for 4x the amount. The tow company made a few mistakes. For example I tried to pay with AMEX which is a city requirement and the tow company said they didn’t take it. Who knew! Ethel from the DAs office was the go between who advised them they violated the law. I can’t tell you how good (and a bit surreal!) it felt to get our $590 back from the towing company! Good luck!

A large percentage of tickets are handed out erroneously. If you have any questions about the validity of your ticket, you should fight it. Thanks to everyone for helping us get through this awful experience with helpful tips.

Fixed on ‘Shark Tank’: Interview With Owner

heavy – excerpt

Fixed, an app that takes the stress out of getting tickets, entered the Shark Tank on January 15. Users simply take a picture of their ticket and through the app, they are connected with a lawyer. Heavy interviewed David Hegarty about his San Francisco-based business that has expanded to New York and expects to be in more cities in the near future.
To read all of Heavy’s Shark Tank coverage, click here. (more)

Fight parking tickets with Fixed. Goood to hear FIXED is getting media attention. Beating tickets and fighting the SFMTA is by far our most popular subject, even though the stories are not on the front page, but listed under Complaints. Illegal tickets are handed out to both car drivers and Muni riders and all are mad about that.