Big fines ahead for disabled parking abuse
Scamming free parking at a meter or scoring a prime blue-zone space by displaying a fake, stolen or borrowed disabled parking tag could soon cost a lot more.
A state law that took effect Friday allows cities to charge anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for violating disabled parking laws. And San Francisco, where finding a parking space can induce extreme behavior, is wasting no time. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency will consider raising its fines for fraudulent use of disabled plates, placards and tags to $825, from $100.
Fines for lesser offenses, such as parking in a disabled space without a disabled parking pass or blocking access to a blue zone, would rise by 10 percent to $330.
The board will also consider allowing parking control officers to issue disabled citations, which, in the past, could only be written by police officers. That change was also enabled by the new state law.
Abuse of disabled parking permits in San Francisco is a serious problem that steals money from the agency's already lean budget and makes it difficult for those needing disabled parking to find available spaces. The state Department of Motor Vehicles has issued 52,600 disabled plates and placards in San Francisco - 1 for about every 15 residents.
"Disabled placard abuse is one of the most significant challenges to parking management in San Francisco," said Judson True, agency spokesman. "It's a fraudulent way of people being able to park free for an unlimited time. It hurts all motorists, disabled or not."
True had no estimate on how many fraudulent placards are on the streets, or how much revenue the increased citations would generate. In the fiscal year that ended in June, police seized 2,099 fraudulent placards, and in the first quarter of the current budget year, which ended in September, 689 fake disabled tags were confiscated.
"If that pace continues," True said, "we will see more than a 30 percent increase."
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, wrote the bill that allows the hefty fines out of concern that the city's streets are filled with drivers abusing disabled parking tags.
"Go down any street that has parking meters, and more than half will have a disabled placard that means they don't have to pay," she said. "A lot of people are misusing it to get free parking."
While the bill was designed to benefit San Francisco, Ma said, she found that abuse of parking permits is a problem in other California cities, including Oakland and Los Angeles.
"Anywhere there are parking meters," she said, "it's a problem."