On October 19, 2005, Yunor and I went to dinner at Philip’s new place in San Francisco (he had just moved down from Portland a month before). On our way home, we found was a parking ticket for $50 for having parked for more than two hours in a particular spot. The ticket claimed we had been parked since 4:12pm, which was impossible as we had not arrived until 6:45pm.
Driving home to Berkeley, it occurred to me that I could even prove that we were not parked in San Francisco for two hours starting at 4:12pm because we used FasTrack to pay the bridge toll at 6:00pm. I’m opposed to FasTrack data being used prosecutorially — either secretly by law enforcement or openly by zealous divorce lawyers — but I think it’s okay to be used defensively and by the one who generated the data point in the first place. So I enclosed with my letter to the city a printout from my account page on the FasTrack website indicating that I crossed the Bay Bridge, and therefore was not parked in San Francisco, at 6:00pm.
Months passed. Every two months I received a letter from the City of San Francisco (posted first class at a cost to the dear citizens of the City) informing me that they had not gotten around to reviewing my case but that they would in due course. In April 2006, I got a letter indicating that my letter of protest had been reviewed and that the citation was valid. If I wished to protest further, I must pay the fine and either appear in person or request a hearing by mail. So I paid, ginned up a new cover letter, enclosing copies of all correspondence so far, and made my request.
The correspondence continued. I received a note indicating that the citation had been dismissed because the owner of the vehicle had paid the fine and therefore my request for a hearing was also dismissed. At first, I figured this meant I would get a refund, but after re-reading the letter a few times, I realized that they meant because I had paid the fine, there would be no hearing. Sigh.
I wrote yet another letter explaining that I was the one who had paid the fine (in accordance with the City’s instructions) and that I very much desired the hearing. I also noted that if the outcome of the hearing was that the ticket was dismissed, I would like a refund of my $50.
I’m writing this blog entry to celebrate the “Notice of Parking Violation Hearing Decision” I received yesterday. The city says I’ll get my refund in 1-2 weeks and that “no further action is required.”
Throughout this process, PDFpen proved invaluable, as I was able to paste together disparate documents: the ticket from my scanner, the FasTrack page from Safari, and my own letters hastily written in TextEdit. I was also able to apply my signature and to keep records of my correspondence.
It’s a shame that the San Francisco Department of Parking & Traffic doesn’t do E-mail, as that would have saved the City of San Francisco and me a fair amount of time and postage. I suppose it’s also a shame they don’t use PDFpen, but surely that is not lost on you, dear reader.