By now I’ve learned my lesson about parking in Sacramento. Avoid it if you can. If you can’t, be vigilant.
There are most likely three different signs placed at various locations along the block on which you are parking that indicate some combination of rules. Don’t miss a single sign and don’t be a minute, or an inch, out of compliance – or a hawk-like parking citation officer will swoop in and leave you a little gift tucked under your windshield wiper.
I get it. I understand that in a city full of people trying to park, you must enforce an agreed upon set of rules that allow people to park as needed and for maintenance such as street sweeping. I’m also all for encouraging the use of public transportation and bicycling.
However, even with the best of intentions, you are not safe from parking citations. A combination of broken meters and overzealous officers leads to frustration and citations that are not even legal. I have been ticketed twice outside of my own house with a residential parking permit in its proper location. Both times it was corrected, but caused aggravation and cost me time and effort.
This latest citation was the last straw. I parked along a very familiar street at 10:40 a.m. on a Monday. You can park for no more than two hours Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. without a residential permit. I diligently returned to my vehicle at 12:30 p.m., only to find a citation on my car. The citation incorrectly said my car had been present at 9:24 a.m., more than an hour before I had parked there.
These wrongful citations are not only unjust and irresponsible, they breed mistrust of city government.
The solution is achievable: Hold parking officers accountable for incorrect citations. Put parking rules on one sign to avoid confusion. Fix or remove broken meters (even the new “smart” meters have malfunctioned on me). Maybe even send wrongfully cited parkers a letter of apology.
As a resident who is currently counting my pennies as I hunt for a job, the exorbitant cost of a citation ($52.50) is a big deal. I am no longer going to silently take my lumps when I have done nothing wrong. My mental and financial well-being can’t afford it. This is an issue that the city must address.
Ginny Fitzpatrick is a National Science Foundation fellow and a freelance writer.