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Why fighting a parking ticket in L.A. may be a losing battle

| June 11, 2014
Electronic parking meter in L.A.

A Los Angeles parking meter. From allaboutgeorge.

Think meter maids in Los Angeles got it wrong when they issued you a ticket? Fight the citation and you may be looking at higher fines, taking time off work to engage in hours of futile argument, and threats that your tax refund will be withheld and your car registration denied when you try to renew it.

That’s the situation Bill Seers found himself in when he received a ticket for parking at an expired meter on Grand Avenue in the city’s downtown. The driver used a credit card to pay for two hours of parking but was issued a $63 ticket less than an hour after paying. He contested the citation and included a copy of his credit card statement showing he’d paid for two hours of parking.

The city responded by claiming that his payment was overdue and that its initial request for his credit card number had ben returned as undeliverable mail. The city added late fines as a result, bringing the total Seers owed to $175, an increase of more than $100.

When he requested a hearing on the matter, the city sent Seers a notice of delinquency and told him that his state tax refund would be withheld until he paid $175. The letter also said that his name had been flagged for the DMV, which had been instructed not to renew his car registration.

“That’s a form of extortion,” Seers told NBC4 I-Team Investigation, a local news show. “They kind of got you in a spot where you are going to pay this ticket whether you like it or not or whether you agree with it or not.”

It’d be easy to dismiss Seers’s accusation as anecdotal, except the numbers support him. In 2007, the city amassed $125 million in revenue from parking tickets; last year, it collected $157 million-plus.

Also in 2007, 50 percent of contested tickets were canceled during initial reviews conducted by L.A.’s Parking Violations Bureau. Last year fewer than 34 percent of tickets contested by drivers were dismissed.

The problem may lie in large part with Xerox, the vendor responsible for handling disputed tickets for the city. It uses a subcontractor—PRWT Services—to handle the work; the company has overseen the process since 1991.

But not very well, argues actor Jeff Galfer. The Angeleno filed a class action lawsuit against the city, Xerox, and the Department of Transportation Management in 2012 for what he alleges to be unfair business practices. Galfer created a website about the litigation, listing among the grievances “no actual ability to contest tickets” and “unfair and unwarranted late fees.” The suit continues to make its way through the legal system.

Until the courts decide Galfer’s case, L.A. drivers, who average a ticket every twelve seconds, are on their own fighting what appears to be an increasingly apathetic city agency. When NBC4 asked Robert Andalon, head of L.A.’s Parking Violations Bureau, if he could understand why citizens feel taken advantage of by the city’s process for disputing tickets, he answered, “Not really.”

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Category: Enforcement, Municipal, Parking management

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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