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…

 

San Francisco just hired America’s first-ever ‘director of financial justice’ to get rid of fees that ‘unfairly punish’ a specific part of the population

 

: businessinsider.- excerpt

The city of San Francisco has hired the country’s “first-ever director of financial justice for a city,” reports The California Sunday Magazine in a short profile of the director, Anne Stuhldreher.

At her post, Stuhldreher will be tasked with determining “which government fines and fees unfairly punish the poor and middle class,” in San Francisco, according to Cal Sunday…

Stuhldreher will lead the Financial Justice Project, a new venture in conjunction with the San Francisco’s office of the treasurer and tax collector. It aims to reform the local and state governments’ purportedly harsh financial penalties for a range of infractions, from traffic tickets to criminal dues. The revenue generated from these fees and fines is used, in part, to balance public budgets.

According to Cal Sunday, if a traffic ticket goes unpaid for 20 days in San Francisco, the resident is subject to a $300 late fee that can wind up with a collections agency, potentially damaging their credit.

Further, the San Francisco Treasurer reports that “four million Californians — 14% percent of adults — have had their drivers’ licenses suspended because they can’t afford to pay traffic fines and fees.”

According to the project’s statistics, these debts and others become especially crippling to the financial lives of middle and lower-income residents.

But Stuhldreher’s efforts go beyond traffic fines. She’s also concerned with the burden the criminal justice system places on families who can’t afford to pay for a night in juvenile hall or for the cost of their electronic bracelet, for example. According to Cal Sunday, she’s studying whether a local system similar to that of some European countries, where fees are based on a person’s daily income, would work in San Francisco.

Check out the Financial Justice Project for more information, including profiles of San Franciscans who’ve been affected by the city’s steep fees…(more)

RELATED:
Read the full story at The California Sunday Magazine

The most popular part of this site if the ticket information. This is a huge problem for the people who live and work in San Francisco and the city has ignored it for too long. Hopefully this will help protect the people who are most at risk from these torturous programs. I expect this will be popular article.

 

 

 

Our Sad-Sack SFMTA has a New Approach to the Evening Rush Hour – Will It Make Unpopular Mayor Ed Lee Less Unpopular?

sfcitizen – excerpt

Here you go, this is the former approach, AFAICS. The SFMTA would time the lights* on Bush so that many people attempting to cross Sansome during the Evening Drive would end up Blocking the Box of the intersection. Then a PCO would record license plates to issue three tickets in one signal cycle. It looked like this:

http://sfcitizen.com/blog/2015/03/25/fish-in-a-barrel-this-sfmta-pco-can-hand-out-multiple-105-block-the-box-tickets-in-one-minute/

Fish in a Barrel: This SFMTA PCO Can Hand Out Multiple $105 “Block the Box” Tickets in One Minute.

Of course, the SFMTA could jigger the lights around the neighborhood of Bush and Sansome in a more efficient way, but then this meter maid wouldn’t be able to park her Cushman and then stand in the intersection to generate so many tickets that she has trouble with all the receipt tape she’s generating. See?… (more)

7J7C4219 copy

This is one of the techniques the SFMTA uses to harass drivers. There is no excuse for the traffic gridlock they are creating by messing with the timing on the traffic lights. They can alter them at will. We are told that one of the few things the SFMTA staff can do without a SFMAT Board vote is to change the timing on the traffic lights. A lot of people who care about this subject should show up and demand that the timing is changed.

California unveils amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets

By Kurtis Alexander : sfgate – excerpt

Millions of California motorists with suspended licenses have a chance to win back their driving privileges at a discount, starting Thursday, under a state amnesty program for unpaid traffic tickets.
The state is cutting fines by at least half and waiving late fees for payments on tickets that were due before Jan. 1, 2013, an effort to eliminate what Gov. Jerry Brown called a “hellhole of desperation” for those who can’t afford penalties and lost their licenses as a result.
Brown signed the amnesty legislation in June. It takes effect Thursday and runs until March 2017… (more)

Great idea but, they have to be kidding. They are waving fees for payment on tickets that were due before January 2013? Who is still around after that long? How will this help the poor folks who were desperate in 2013? Two years late. Sort of like the brand new affordable houses they are building for future residents long after most of those who need them have left. Who is going to get on a lottery for a home that will not be on the market for two or more years? And who is going to benefit after losing their car and or license two years ago?

Local California Drivers Can Now Contest Traffic Tickets Without Having To Pay Fine First

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Motorists in some California counties will no longer have to pay traffic tickets before they can contest them in court under a new rule adopted Monday by the state court system’s governing body.

The Judicial Council voted unanimously to abolish the practice of demanding bail as a prerequisite to challenging a traffic citation. The vote came as state officials have raised concerns that traffic fines and penalties are ensnaring minority and low-income residents. Fines have skyrocketed in California over the past two decades, and courts have grown reliant on fees as a result of budget cuts during the recession.

The Judicial Council’s decision takes effect immediately, and also requires courts to notify traffic defendants that they don’t have to make the payments to appear in court in any instructions or other materials they provide to the public.

“I am proud of the rule that has been developed,” California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. “This is an important first step to address an urgent access-to-justice issue.”…

The ACLU challenged the practice, saying a court appearance was a right that should not be contingent on someone’s ability to pay. The pre-payment requirement disproportionately affected minority and low-income residents, according to the ACLU…

Monday’s vote came as Gov. Jerry Brown last month proposed amnesty for residents who can’t afford traffic fines and penalties that have resulted in 4.8 million driver’s license suspensions since 2006.

Under Brown’s plan, drivers with lesser infractions would pay half of what they owe, and administrative fees would be slashed from $300 to $50. Brown called the traffic court system a “hellhole of desperation” for the poor… (more)

I wonder what kind of effect this will have on SFMTA’s billion dollar budget. Not much.

S.F. mayor pushing for special cameras to bust speeders

By Phil Matier and Matier & Ross : sfchronicle – excerpt

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee wants to bring in special cameras that would be used to ticket speeders.

Is he kidding? It is almost impossible to do the speed limit now. If he wants to bust speeders eh will have to clear up the traffic jams first.

Heads up, lead foots, Mayor Ed Lee is moving ahead with plans to bring speed cameras to San Francisco.

“It remains in our legislative agenda,” Muni spokesman Paul Rose said.

The cameras could be fixed or mounted on vans and first would be deployed near schools and seniors facilities. They would operate in much the same way as red-light cameras, using radar to track speed and then snapping a photo of those going over the limit.

“It’s a proven way to reduce accidents and fatalities,” said Rose, noting that Portland, Ore., New York, Seattle, Chicago and the District of Columbia are already using the gadgets.

As with red-light cameras, the new speed-trackers would capture the vehicle’s license plate along with the time, date and location. The vehicle owner then would be issued a $100 fine by Muni. The police would not be involved.

“Unlike a regular speeding ticket, it would not be a moving violation and would not go on the person’s driving record,” Rose said. The tickets would not be subject to the various state surcharges that can turn a $100 moving violation into a $400 fine.

In short, the speed-camera ticket would be more like a parking citation. And, as with a parking ticket, the car owner would be responsible for the fine — no matter who was driving.

Money from the tickets would go into road safety initiatives.

Rose said none of the city’s legislative representatives has offered to author the change in state law that is needed to make the cameras a reality, but that the mayor would keep pushing no matter what(more)

Feature Disabled After San Jose’s ‘Smart’ Parking Meters Unexpectedly Reset, Leading To Tickets

cbslocal – excerpt

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose’s “smart” meters have been leading to lots of unexpected tickets for drivers, and the city is making them just a little bit dumber to solve the problem.

Some of San Jose’s new ‘smart’ parking meters downtown have been resetting to zero when some heavy trucks pass, leading to tickets for drivers.

A lot of construction and heavy machinery around downtown has led to a lot of parking tickets.

San Jose lawyer Todd Rothbard has been snapping photos with his cell phone when he feeds meters outside the superior courthouse.  He had gotten three tickets in less than two weeks.

“I would have paid it if it had just been a single ticket, because it’s well more than $40 worth of time goes into presenting a case, and telling them they’ve got a problem,” Rothbard said.

San Jose did own up to the problems and have disabled the troublesome reset function on some meters. But, the city is relying on people to report the faulty tickets themselves… (more)

California Appeal Court Finds Red Light Cameras Unreliable

Legal controversy continues to dog California’s automated enforcement programs, despite the best effort of state lawmakers to encourage photo ticketing. The second-highest court in California decided Thursday that the red light camera program in Riverside “did not produce reliable evidence” in rejecting the $500 citation that Redflex, a private, for-profit vendor, had mailed to Viktors Andris Rekte.

Rekte, a lawyer, challenged the ticket he received for allegedly making a rolling right turn a split-second after the signal turned red at the intersection of Tyler Street and State Route 91 on October 26, 2012. Rekte argued the charge should be thrown out because the yellow light was illegally short; he was not provided a copy of the video evidence before trial; the photo ticketing vendor set up equipment in a way that obscured the view of the traffic signal; and the evidence produced by Redflex lacked a proper foundation.

Don Teagarden, a city employee, testified that he “reviewed” the ticket that Redflex sent to him. Since Redflex bills its service as a “turn key” operation, Teargarden proved to have little to do with the process. His direct knowledge of the evidence was limited.

“On cross-examination, operator Teagarden acknowledged he could not tell if the monthly inspections of the equipment conducted by Redflex included verification of the time intervals for the signal lights, and did not know if anyone employed by the city of Riverside checked to make sure the system was calibrated properly,” Justice Manuel A. Ramirez wrote for the Court of Appeal majority…

The majority also expressed disapproval of the dangerous state of the intersection and declared the evidence produced by a questionably calibrated device inadmissible.

An inadequate yellow light interval renders a safe stop impossible, and constitutes an emergency justifying the entry into an intersection when the signal turns red,” Justice Ramirez wrote… (more)

Longer yellow lights make crossing intersections safer for everyone. All modes should be able to judge how long they have to pass through an intersection when the light turns yellow, including pedestrians. The lack of consistency in the yellow light program leads to confusion and panic, which causes more accidents.

 

 

Muni uses anti-terrorism funds to catch fare cheats

By sfexaminer – excerpt

Since 9/11, cities nationwide have been flooded with funding from the federal government to help prevent more terror attacks on the country.

The money goes to many efforts, like enhancing disaster preparedness across government agencies or beefing up anti-terrorism tactics in local police. It also makes its way to public-transit systems for various policing strategies.

In San Francisco, one of those strategies is catching fare cheats… (more)

We hope that Muni will have some funds left should they need them to deal with terrorists. Considering the high number unwarranted tickets due to technical glitches, there must be better ways to spend the money. Details on how to fight the Muni fare evasion ticket complaints:
Fight fair evasion tickets

RELATED:
Federal Anti-Terrorist Money Used By Muni To Tackle Fare Evasion In San Francisco – By Jeffrey Schaub : cbslocal – excerpt – (audio track) SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Since 9/11 San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has been using federal counter terrorism grants to help catch bus and rail fare cheaters on Muni. But there are questions about whether such use of funds is appropriate… LISTEN: to the audio track… (more)

We are not the only ones who question this.