Other Parking Enforcement Complaints

Once issued, tickets can't be appealed even when they are unjust, some say.

Along with a growing number of complaints about the parking changes
implemented by the city council, many Oakland residents are also
reporting numerous citations that they say are virtually impossible to
appeal. In light of the more aggressive rules, many of these frustrated
drivers worry that the inability to appeal citations is another city
tool for closing the budget gap.

Michele Bloom received a ticket at 5464 College Avenue in April for
parking after the meter had expired. Her husband, Russell Bloom,
however, had evidence that his wife could not have violated the code:
The citation was issued at 12:37 p.m., and Bloom had a receipt showing
that his wife purchased one hour at 12:00 p.m. But his first appeal,
after the city’s “complete and careful review” of the facts and
evidence, was denied a month later.

So Bloom, a lawyer, contacted the mayor’s office, the city
administrator, and the parking department to express his outrage
— but got no response. He finally reached the mayor’s assistant
and explained the situation. Within ten minutes he got a call from
Parking Director Noel Pinto advising that Bloom request an in-person
hearing. He wanted an immediate explanation on how his appeal could
have possibly been denied, but he was told that they have no comment on
the first denail and he can only request a hearing.

Months later, he finally went before an administrative judge, who
ruled that the ticket was falsely issued. “But they were putting the
burden of labor on the victim,” he complained. Bloom estimates that he
spent forty hours dealing with the ticket — time he pointed out
that most residents would not devote for a mere $45.

Karin Seritis, who works for Caltrans on Grand Avenue in Oakland,
received a ticket in May for parking in a two-hour zone for more than
two hours. She said she always keeps track of her car and had moved it
from 23rd Street, where it sat for only 41 minutes, to Waverly
Street, where it was parked for a little less than two hours. The
citation, however, said that she had been parked on Waverly for more
than two hours, but Seritis claimed that the parking log’s initial time
was incorrect. The day after the ticket was issued, she said she
contested it on the phone to a parking enforcement supervisor, who
responded that according to the meter maid’s log, the car was parked at
the intersection of 23rd and Waverly so “this is a good ticket.”
Essentially, the parking department claimed that she had not ever moved
her car.

She took an entire day off of work to fight it in person, but she
was denied in the first appeal. She fought a second appeal and lost
because the city claimed she did not have enough evidence that she had
actually moved her car. “It was basically guilty until proven
innocent,” she said.

Seritis is not alone in her outrage. At least three of her
co-workers at Caltrans complain of similar tickets. Jasjeet Sikand said
that for the last two years he has worked in the area and paid several
justified tickets in violation of the two-hour limit. He said he has
also fought in vain against two tickets that were incorrectly issued.
One time he got a two-hour violation citation at a broken meter where
he said he was parked for only an hour. He sent an e-mail appeal and
never heard back. When he went to fight in person with a dated hard
copy of the e-mail, he said he was told that their computer system was
down at the time he sent the e-mail and they “typically deny first
appeals anyway.” He requested a hearing but first had to pay $50. The
ticket was issued in January, and he still hasn’t heard back about a
court date.

Meanwhile, Caltrans employee Adolph Wyrick said he got a justified
ticket on Grand Avenue for remaining too long in a space. The following
day he paid the $35 fine. Nearly a year later, however, he received a
letter saying he had never paid for the ticket and now owed close to
$200 in late fees. When he called, the department said that they had
just — a day earlier — received his $35 check. He didn’t
have the time or energy to fight it, so he shoveled out the full
amount.

In September, Caltrans employee Roberta Littlefield received a
notice in the mail that she was late paying a ticket for a violation
for parking on Valdez Street. However, Littlefield said that she never
even received the ticket on her car in the first place. In addition,
she received three tickets this year for parking on Valdez —
where she claims there is unclear signage. Only one of her appeals was
granted, but even for the ticket that was voided, she said it still
seems unclear if and when she will get her money back. After taking a
15 percent pay cut as a state employee, she said she no longer can
afford this. “I could use that money,” she said. “But once they’ve got
your money, they are not gonna let it go.”

Parking director Pinto has a lot to say in defense of these kinds of
grievances. Firstly, there is no such thing as an automatic appeal, he
said. For example, sampling four recent business days, he said that his
department voided 135 citations. A typical four-day period includes a
total of 5,700 citations.

Pinto admits that mistakes can happen, most likely with handwritten
citations that he is currently working to replace with an electronic
system. But he said his department is efficient at correcting such
mistakes. He said there can legally be discrepancies between the first
appeal and second appeal in-person hearing because the independent
court has the jurisdiction to make an entirely different ruling. “There
are a handful of people — who I am willing to bet are repeat
offenders — who say these things just to blast the city,” he
said.

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