How to protest a parking ticket in San Francisco
1. Pay it
If you agree the ticket is issued correctly, and you decide to just pay it and get over with, simply go to SFMTA pay by web service and pay the ticket off.
2. Contest it
If you chosen to contest, DO NOT pay the ticket. And DO NOT use the envelope you got with your ticket. Write a letter explaining the reason for your request (meter malfunction, curb paint faded, missing or obscured sign, valid permit displayed or other explanation). The letter must include your name, address, city, state and zip code. The letter must be dated and signed by the person who is challenging the citation. Please make sure to make a copy of the letter and store for your records. Make sure to try and include as much evidence in your favour as possible. Pictures of the spot you were ticketed on taken with a cell-phone, explanation on why this is not the right thing to do to give you a ticket. Everything works. Alternatively, instead of writing a letter yourself, you can use SF MTA Protest form to contest your ticket.
Send your contest of the ticket to SFMTA. Citation Review Center 11 South Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94103-1226. Phone: 415.701.3000. You have 21 days to request a review of the citation. SFMTA uses the postmark on the envelope to verify timely action. So make sure to make it to the post office within the next 21 days.
It may take a while before you will be notified by mail about the desicion. Sometimes it takes months till you get something. The good news is the late fees do not apply and you do not have to pay your ticket until you get the result of the review of your ticket.
Now, most likely when you do get the result of your review it will still state the same, that you did the violation and have to pay. But fear not! Do contest again! At this point you can request a hearing by mail, or choose to appear in court. Again, as with the original ticket, you have 21 days to request a hearing. You may choose to have an in-person hearing. In which case you must come to 11 South Van Ness Avenue, Monday - Friday, between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. A hearing officer will deside whether to dismiss the citation (a refund will be mailed) or to deny your protest. Sometimes a decision will be mailed pending the outcome of a survey or other investigation. But a better option is to request hearing by mail. Again, write a letter with all the detailed explanations and evidence. At this point you will have to enclose a check for the amount of the original ticket. But hey, by now it's been several months from the time your ticket was issued. And you still may be able to get a refund if the hearing desides in your favour. The hearing by mail may take some time, up to a couple of months. And depending on the desicion you may be refunded for the fine you paid. The net result, by mailing just two letters you were able to not pay the ticket for a couple of months, and if you are lucky, you did not pay anything. Totally worth a try.
In some severe cases you may be denied an administrative hearing. In that case you have thirty days from the hearing desicion to appear at Superior Court, 850 Bryant Street, Room 145, Monday - Friday, between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, to request a de novo hearing in front of a traffic judge/commissioner/referee. You will have to bring the documents for your citation. Upon your appearance, a court date will be set. Superior Court charges twenty five dollars per a citation case. If the judge desides in your favour you will be refunded for everything: the court fee and the ticket.
But better yet, avoid the ticket in the first place. Use a mobile app or an interactive San Francisco street sweeping map to find out what the street cleaning schedule is on your street and park your car appropriately.
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