On December 30, 2008, the City of Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau issued me a $145.00 parking ticket and towed my car away from the 3330 block of Olympic Blvd. and Western.
I had to pay $208.00 to get my car out from a garage that was less than one mile away and pay an additional $145.00 to administratively contest the ticket.
Actually, my friend's car, which was directly behind mine was also towed away at the same time. We had met up at a Korean restaurant there and had parked on Olympic since we didn't see any signs.
The nearest parking sign to our cars was more than 105 feet to the rear of our cars, at the entrance to the block. There were no other signs on the block in front of us.
I contested the ticket via telephone to begin with. It was denied.
I appealed that decision and had an in-person administrative hearing where I presented two witnesses, 6 photos, a mapquest map of the block and oral evidence. They denied that administrative appeal too.
I found out later that the appeals process I went through only covered the ticket itself and not the impound/tow and the $208.00 fee I paid to get the car out! Believe it or not, they make you go through two seperate appeal hearings for the ticket and the impound even though they both arise from the same ticket! They certainly don't make it easy.
In April of this year (2009), I again appeared for an administrative hearing with my two witnesses, my photos, etc. Again, they denied the appeal.
So, today (April 14, 2009) I filed for a de novo trial of the citation and tow with the Los Angeles Superior Court in Van Nuys. I had to pay an additional fee of $25.00 to file the appeal.
The long and short of it is that the sign, as measured by tape, was more than 105 feet behind where we were parked and neither one of us (all three of us are in our 40s, and educated professionals) saw the sign despite looking around.
Directly across the street from where our cars were towed, meaning the North side of Olympic, the same block has two sets of signs on it, whereas the South side where we were towed from only has one at the entrance to the block.
The other anomoly is that there were three light posts in front of the area where both of us were parked, however, non of those posts had any parking signs on them! The other strange part is that all those posts had worn out weather ring marks on them that showed they had signs on them in the past!
We were cited under Los Angeles Municipal Code section 80.70 for parking in an anti-gridlock zone and towed.
I filed a "missing parking sign" report with the Bereau a few weeks after the tow. They never responded to that either.
I received two "Statements of Decision" from the Bureau for the two administrative hearings I attended. By the way, the Bureau does not even allow you to put on your witnesses yourself. They ask you to step outside and the "hearing officer" interviews your witnesses herself!
The standard for signs in the Municipal Code is found at 80.10 "Signs Required". That section reads as follows:
"No provision of this chapter for which signs or markings are required shall be enforced against an alleged violator if, at the time and place of the alleged violation, an offical sign or marking is not in place and sufficiently legible and visible to be seen by an ordinary observant person."
I argued at both administrative hearings that neither one of us (three educated, seasoned, experienced 40 year olds) saw any signs at the time we parked there. That, there was no way we could have seen the sign 105 feet behind us, and/or reasonably believe that that sign covered our cars. I argued that though there were three posts present in front of us, non of them had any signs. I argued that the reverse side of the street has two signs: one at the entrance and one in the middle, whereas the South side only has one at the entrance. I produced pictures to prove all this.
I also impeached the traffic officer's statement that the sign at the entrance of the block was only 40 feet behind our cars, instead of the 105 I and my witness personally measured.
Nothing seemed to phase the hearing officers. They both could not wait to get the hearing over with it. It seemed like nothing would sway them.
Sure enough, they both denied my appeals. Their statements of decision do not address the core legal issue, meaning, was the sign "visible to an ordinary observant person." Instead, both statements rely on a California Vehicle Code section that covers street cleaning tickets. That section says that only one sign is required at the entrance to any block.
The logical import of the Burea's position is that it doesn't matter how long a block is, nor how far behind a parked car a parking sign is. So long as there is a parking sign at the entrance of a block, a driver is obligated to walk the entire the lenght of the block and to read every sign behind the parked car no matter how far. It takes this position despite the very opposite side of this same streat having two signs: one at the entrance of the block and one in the middle.
Clearly, if there was a sign in the middle of the block where we parked, we would not have parked there.
In the least, there is a conflict between the Municipal Code and the Vehicle Code. However, the City doesn't seem to care.
Why should the City care when it makes $380.00 a pop from these tickets?
I think this is a total rip-off and is unjust. I wonder how many hundreds or thousands of people have also been unjustly towed away and fined from this block!!!
I will keep you posted regarding my Suprior Court De Novo Trial.
I think this would make a good "Class Action" case.
Basically, the City is maintaining the position that three educated, seasoned, observant and professional individuals in their mid 40s were all not "ordinary observant perosns" because we didn't see a sign 105 feet behind us, despite looking!
Dollars to donuts the two-away rate on the South side of Olympic is at least double what it is on the North side of this block because on the South side there is only 1 sign.
I don't know. I will try to conduct discovery on this and see if the City will produce documents to show this disparity.