Anybody Else Get a Parking Ticket They Didn’t Deserve?

San Jose’s parking enforcement officers are a notorious bunch. The cash-strapped city, not too proud to strip the couch cushions as it scavenges for revenue, has an army of these ticket punchers at the ready, ruthlessly hunting down the tardy. They seem to have a sixth sense for expiration. More than a few times this year I’ve found a ticket on my windshield, just several dozen seconds after the meter ran cold.

I suspect many of the men and women who make up the parking police are upstanding, hard-working individuals who simply found a steady way to pay the bills. But a part of me also worries a fraction of these adult hall monitors take some sadistic, passive-aggressive pleasure in their work; a snarling smile creeping up as they cruise away in three-wheel hatchbacks while some poor sap in the rear view shakes a fist to the sky.

That was me a couple weeks ago, when I returned to my parking spot to find a ticket on my dash, minutes before the meter should have been set to expire.

Like many people who live and work downtown, I hailed the recent installation of Smart Meters as a revelation. Rather than lugging a sack of currency around town, or refusing to throw a little change in the tip jar because I’d need that spare nickel down the line, parking now only required a quick slip of the credit card.

But my $2 fee for two hours was somehow brushed off the morning of July 14, when I was rewarded with a $40 fine near the corner of South First Street and San Salvador. A co-worker had the same experience in that area a day later. A week after that, I tried to park and found out that Smart Meter rates had bumped from a dollar to $2 an hour.

Unsure what to do, I contacted David Vossbrink, the city’s communications director, to find out what kind of program they’re running over there. How could a relatively law-abiding citizen like myself get a ticket after doing the right thing? Could other people have been falsely accused of exceeding their allotted time? When did San Jose all of a sudden start charging San Francisco parking rates? And why do meter maids file their teeth down to sharp points?

Here’s what Vossbrink had to say:

“I just got clarification from our parking gurus. It turns out that your meter was malfunctioning on July 14, and the Smart Meter shows that you did indeed pay your two bucks for two hours. At this point you certainly may, and should, appeal the citation—instructions are on the back of the ticket. Best to do it sooner than later so that you don't miss any deadline.

“If your colleague had the same experience with a citation at a Smart Meter before we implemented the new rates on July 22, then they should appeal too.

“We have not had any spike in complaints, citations, or malfunctions in our meter since we have deployed them. The good news is that you drew the short straw, rather than a whole bunch of people. The bad news is that it was you and not someone else.”

Actually, it’s probably a bit of good news I was the one who got an errant ticket. After reading this, others might realize they too received a ticket they didn’t deserve. Or maybe it will just give people a chance to vent.

As a tip for anyone who does come into human contact with San Jose's parking police, it’s worth noting that you cannot be ticketed if you get to your car before the ticket is placed on your windshield. Remind the person in the bicycle helmet of this when you get into your car and drive away, while they kick rocks before finding another unlucky victim.

Josh Koehn is the managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @Josh_Koehn.

14 Comments

  1. > But a part of me also worries a fraction of these adult hall monitors take some sadistic, passive-aggressive pleasure in their work;

    News bulletin, Josh:

    It’s not just the Parking Compliance goons.

    It’s the IRS, the EPA, the BLM, the NSA, the CIA, the ATF, OSHA, the SEC, the FPPC, Homeland Security, etc. etc.

    You may think that Obama loves you, but it is now a matter of public record that one of Obama’s recently retired agents, Lois Lerner, thinks me and many other American citizens are “TeRorists” and “a**holes”.

    Just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

  2. Why is it that you have to appeal the ticket if it is their fault and they admit it? They should apologize and fix it for you. So much for customer service, this city from top down, not all but a significant group have absolutely nothing but utter contempt for the regular citizens in this city. They go out of their way to show that contempt when ever they can.

    • That is exactly what I posted, but for some reason the post never appeared. It is ludicrous that anybody should have to be forced to take the time to appeal a faulty meter. Why should anybody have to waste precious time out of their own life fighting a ticket issued because of meter that the city knows was broken? Not only that, but to have the “privilege” of appealing the ticket, you must send in the fine first, and get a refund if you win the appeal. Mr. Vossbrink’s response was patronizing and insincere. This attitude is so typical of this mayor and current administration, save a few. Do the right thing Mr. Vossbrink, and find out how to get this ticket dismissed.

  3. Good luck with the appeal. I am disabled with disabled plates and got a ticket for parking in a “A” permit zone. Went through the appeal process each time showing them the parking ordinance which allows disabled parking in any “A” or “C ” lot. Each time it was denied at every level until I got to the where I had to pay a court fee of double the amount of the ticket just to be heard. San Jose is as crooked as it gets.

    • Parking Control takes its orders form the Mayor and City Manager – it is a completely separate entity from SJPD.

  4. Ok Josh got a parking ticket and this isn’t the first but this may be the first time that he got one he didn’t deserve. The CIty should do the right thing and recall the right thing and squash the ticket. Not only was the ticket apparently issued in error but Josh is once again “carrying the City’s water” by alleging that San Jose is “cash strapped.” The Capital and Special budget funds combined have nearly $2billion. The General Fund is purposely left anemic to support the City’s claim that it is broke and then it uses the media to repeat the fallacy – in tacky anecdotes like this no less.

    I really think that while Josh’s anger and frustration is justified it should be aimed directly at the City of San Jose and his employer SJI/Metro/Dan Pulcrano!!! First and San Sal is just a block away from the Metro/SJI World Headquarters. If I recall, wasn’t SJI/Metro upset with its boy Sam for not intervening to save the Metro’s employee parking on S. First Street that was wiped out due to the expansion of the Park at S. First and Williams (what a fitting name “Parque de los Pobladores”)?

    That’s really got to sting considering SJI/MEtro Endorsed for Liccardo for Mayor. Didn’t Sam vote to allow your favorite competitor and stealer of newsracks the MercuryNews FREE PARKING in a taxpayer owned and subsidized parking garage to accommodate Merc employees relocating from Ridder Park to Downtown SJ?

    Further it has to hurt that Boss Pulcrano has no pull! Not only does he loses parking for employees but, he doesn’t provide alternatives – not even “green alternatives” like VTA passes, or incentives to bike to work like that clown at the Merc!

    I also have to wonder why it is that Josh doesn’t have a “press pass” or (if they still exist) a special “Press” License plate for his car? If he has a plate or a pass: did Josh in all his smug superiority forget to display it/then??? Maybe Josh doesn’t rate the pass or the plate. Maybe SJI Metro isn’t considered legitimate. Maybe Pulcrano should look into getting Josh one?

    Isn’t irony a real pain sometimes?

  5. As I wrote long ago, San Jose has a knack for behavioral modification with their over zealous parking citations. The parking cops simply “train” visitors to “avoid” downtown since it can be costly. Skinner would be proud.

  6. I have spent most weekday afternoons for the past few years eating lunch at Original Joe’s and playing liars’ dice afterward with a small coterie of folks who are also at Joe’s several lunches per week. Several of my friends park at the meters, and trot out to feed more quarters as necessary. For years before the new “smart” meters were installed, they have complained that for your dollar you got only 55-57 minutes, not 60. This cannot be an accident, since it is so pervasive. The city relies on the fact that it is more expensive for most working folks to pay the $40.00 than to contest the ticket. This requires a deeper investigation, Josh. Also, I’ve been told that the new smart meters “zero out” when you leave; so if there is time left, the new parker no longer receives the benefit of the time you left remaining on the meter.

  7. What he didn’t write and may not yet know is that he must pay the citation before appealing it. IF he wins – and the private company running CSJ’s parking ticket program has the process gamed – then he gets his money refunded. What he may come to find is that neither the parking firm nor the City will tell you why your ticket is upheld after you lose the appeal. They just tell you, “Because we said so” before explaining that the only way they’ll disclose why they upheld it is if you file a claim against the City in small claims court.

  8. The city’s parking contractor has been scamming the public from Day One. Some 15-20 years ago I parked on San Pedro Street near the criminal courts. I arrived at 8:15 a.m. and put in money for 2 hours. I returned to my car to find a ticket which was marked as having been issued at 8:52. The meter and the street sign both stated that meter enforcement commenced at 9:00. I wrote a letter explaining that even if I had put no money in the meter, I could not get a ticket until after 9:00. I received a form letter stating my appeal was denied, but I could pay the fine and go to court to contest it. To do so requires two appearances, one to get a hearing date and the second the hearing date itself. I wrote another letter, enclosed the first, and asked that both letters be reviewed by someone who read English and could tell time correctly. The system is a total scam, and has been from the start. It needs to be fully investigated, Josh.

  9. I don’t normally respond to articles but this one is really irritating. I too received a ticket 4 minutes before the meter expired on 4th street last November. I had a witness, took time stamped photos and fought it. I appealed by mail and again by actually appearing at a hearing. It was not about the money it was about the principle. They still said that I owed the money. I don’t think that the City of San Jose understand that their parking patrol practice’s are a reflection of everything they do. Want people to obey the Laws and support your Department. Don’t give them a ticket.

    • “Obey laws and support your department.”…what department? If you are trying to suggest or imply that Parking Enforcement officers are part of SJPD then you are sadly mistaken.

  10. Someone, maybe you Josh, should go back and investigate the original intent and purpose of parking meters. Their purpose was not to collect money but rather regulate and control parking in downtown business districts. By having a time limit people would not leave cars parked all day thus leaving parking spaces for shoppers who support the downtown business’s. “Here’s a place to park your car, get into the hat/shoe/drug/cigar/underwear/jewelry store” and then go on your way – leaving that space for the next customer/auto.

    Now, ironically, local govt has turned regulated parking into a money stream dampening the retail customers enthusiasm for shopping downtown which has slightly been offset by validated parking in lots.

  11. Hey! Josh, baby!

    I beat my “Failure to Stop” traffic ticket!!!

    WHOO! WHOO!

    $238 snatched out of the grasping mitts of oppressive-progressive Big Government.

    Now, THAT’S what I call social justice.