SF merchants mock MTA with "worst ticket" contest

August 16, 2011 8:33:50 PM PDT
San Francisco merchants are fed up with how they believe parking tickets are hurting business. To prove their point, they decided to hold a little contest.

Eric Shaw's parking tale began on New Year's Eve. He was waiting for a spot next to a Walgreen's.

"The lady was loading a bunch of stuff from Walgreens into her trunk," Shaw said.

To avoid blocking traffic, he pulled over into a bus zone. He waved at the parking officer, who drove by and then when the space opened up, he parked and went on his way.

"About two months later, I get a parking ticket in the mail and I think it must be some kind of mistake," Shaw said.

But it was no mistake. He received a $250 ticket for blocking a bus stop.

He appealed, but the MTA wouldn't budge.

"You shouldn't be stopped in a bus zone at any time," MTA spokesperson Paul Rose said. "That slows down Muni, which accounts for a lot of the traffic throughout the city."

Shaw won an honorable mention in a contest to find the most outrageous parking ticket story.

Sophie Constantinou was another contestant; she got two tickets in one week for overstaying a two hour parking zone.

"I don't know why I got this ticket," Constantinou said. "I moved my car."

But the MTA told her she did not move it far enough.

"You can't move around the corner, you can't move across the street, you can't move down the block, you actually have to be a complete city block away from where you were originally," Constantinou said. "Now that doesn't, these signs, it doesn't say that, it just says two hour parking."

Constantinou lost her appeal, but she won the grand prize.

"They're going to pay my ticket! I'm very excited," Constantinou said.

The small business owners who organized the contest say they are trying to prove a point: that San Francisco's parking enforcement has become so aggressive it's scaring away their customers.

"The minute you walk into the business, he comes back, within five minutes, you get a ticket for $50 or $55 or more," grocery store owner Subhi Halim said.

Halim says it makes it hard to compete with stores that have parking lots.

But the MTA says they're trying to help small business.

"If we didn't enforce these parking spaces, what we'd see is people sitting in these parking spaces all day long and that would mean less traffic for the businesses in the area," Rose said.

Rose adds the MTA has written fewer tickets this year than last.


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