December 21, 2005

parking debacle

I am having an ongoing parking ticket debacle with the City of Santa Monica.
Parking tickets are another “big thing” in LA. Most
of the parking authorities are independent companies,
with incentives for employees to issue as many tickets
as possible per shift. So what you have is a thriving
business with highly motivated staff members, 10 000
cars for each mile of LA freeway (so I have been told
by an arguably reputable source) and not nearly enough
parking. Guess who’s grinning all the way to the bank?

During the acting master class I took in SM (ooh, that
looks bad, but it’s only Santa Monica!) we all parked
in a lot that had 10-hour parking meters. One morning,
a colleague and I parked side-by-side and dutifully
paid for our 10 hours. When I returned to my car at
14h30, I found a citation on my windshield. It was a
$50 fine for illegally parking in a permit holder's
space. Huh? I didn't see a sign indicating that it was
illegal to park there? B also had a fine on his
car. So there I was, mortified at this ticket (yes, I
am fairly easily mortified, especially considering
that I had made it my mission not to collect parking
tickets and support the scam.) So, whilst I was still
reading this citation with indignation, a little
Hispanic man approached the car with a signboard and
metal pole. He proceeded to hammer the latter into the
ground in front of my vehicle and attach the former to
it. This sign proclaimed the space to be for permit
holders only. (Ah, mystery finally solved, but have
you ever?!) My ticket had been issued at 12h09, thus
2.5 hours before the return of the wandering
signboard! It was being maintained off site, if you
don’t mind. It was like something from a cartoon, only
it was happening to me and they were charging me $50
for the pleasure of finding myself in this ridiculous

Naturally, I refused to pay a ticket issued by an
opportunistic and cheeky meter maid,
and thus began the letter-writing and evidence
gathering… I drafted a letter and forwarded it to
B, who replaced my name with his. So it was that
B and I mailed almost identical letters to the
city council, offering each other as witnesses to the
non-existence of the signboard at the time we parked
that day, as well as the name and number of the young
man who returned the prodigal signboard to it’s
rightful home.

In due course, the rental car company received a
reminder urging me to pay for my delinquency – I
gleefully ignored it, knowing my case was foolproof.
And then another letter arrived. I was so smug when I
opened it…until I read ‘Your claim was rejected. Your
evidence does not prove that the violation did not
occur’. Then B called to say he’d been LET OFF and
they recognized that the citation was issued in error!
Hey – I wrote the letter that got him off and it made
no difference to my own case?! I was so mad.
My friends have suggested that ‘they’ are probably
trying to rip me off because I was in a rental car,
thus obviously a tourist who will not be able to fight
this for very long…if so, they were wrong. None so
determined as the unfairly fined! Rest assured, I sent
them a photocopy of my original letter, B’s
identical one, the letter they sent Band an
essay. Of course, this time I had to pay the fine
before I could contest it once more. The council have
given themselves 30 - 60 days to review the situation
once more and then another 60 – 90 days to refund the
fine… and so I wait, patiently, for justice (and $50)
to be restored.

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