Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Disabled Placards Mean Free Parking For Some

Why is there such a strong correlation between living in a liberal city and being a con-man?

I mean, sure, I perpetrate minor cons from time to time – driving a little too fast on the freeway or calling in sick to stay home and watch television – but there's no overarching objective to it all.

I've been aware for some time of the handicapped-license-plate scheme that seems to be all the rage in Bay Area cities. In case you weren't aware of this one, here are the parameters:

  • Somehow, perfectly healthy people get these plates from doctors, or they use a car owned by a disabled relative. Either way, I can't remember the last time I saw someone who actually looked disabled get out of a car with the blue tag.

  • Not only do they park in the few handicapped spots in parking lots, they also get free, unlimited parking at all parking meters in Oakland and San Francisco.

So, little surprise that people somehow scam their way to get these things. Why pay $40 a day to park at Embarcadero Center when you can get free street parking courtesy of our “compassionate” government?

I was shocked this morning to read in Matier & Ross' column that the situation has reached the point where “50,000 placards are held by San Francisco drivers.”

Just as an FYI, San Francisco only has around 750,000 residents. Some percentage of them are under the driving age, and some percentage don't even have cars. This must mean that between 10 and 15 percent of the people in San Francisco are disabled. Is that even possible?

Of course it's not. It's just one more example of the everyday cons we've come to expect from our fellow citizens. And, heaven forbid the government do anything about this. That might risk offending the small but important voting constituency of disabled people.

I can't be the only one who has a problem with this whole situation. Every time I go to downtown Oakland to take care of one matter or another (I avoid it whenever possible), I have a terrible time finding parking. And, inevitably as I walk down the streets toward my destination, I see lines of cars parked at expired meters with blue tags hanging from their rear-view mirrors.

So what then is the solution? Let's pretend for a moment that we don't live in a Marxist state and something might actually be done about this:

  1. Any time someone is caught using someone else's disabled permit, the penalties should be severe. Not the $100 mentioned in the Chronicle. Violators should be prosecuted in a meaningful way.

  2. Placards should not entitle holders to free parking at meters. There's just no rational explanation for this policy.

  3. Probably, the disabled person should lose his or her placard upon more than one infraction. I realize there is some possibility that the disabled person is being terrorized into allowing the placard's use, but my guess is in general they allow it because they see no downside.

  4. Standards for giving out disabled placards should be much, much more restrictive. A city the size of San Francisco should have maybe 5,000 of them issued, not 50,000.

I realize this problem has less import than the violence plaguing the East Bay, but it's these sorts of quality of life issues that make a place less livable and set up the preconditions for anti-social behavior. It's a simple fix, and it should be implemented.


  1. While I agree with you that misuse of placards sucks and there should be higher penalties and stricter enforcement, I do not see the connection with liberal cities. I am guessing the abuse is comparable in the OC, Phoenix, and other metropolitan bastions of the neo-con frenzy.

  2. Doubt it. But, I'd love to see any evidence you have.

  3. Mr Boss Man you got it backwards. You make controversial claims without any evidence, I call you on it, and then you tell me I need evidence. My point was not that drivers in conservative cities misuse placards, but they very well might and you need to have evidence to make your claims.

    What's more important bashing liberals or actually being right?

    I see you've gone to the Bill O'Reilly school of conservative thought.

  4. I actually did research this after your comment. I came up with little.

    The problem is you're asking me to research a lack of evidence. Meaning, no matter how hard I dig, all I can do is come up with a lack of news reports about such issues. And, you can just repeat your claim.

    It'd be much simpler for you to simply point to a "conservative" city where this happens. I don't have the time to dredge through every city in America looking for stats. I can tell you that my research did find this issue only in liberal bastions such as SF.

  5. This is probably the worst post you've ever made.

    Although I agree with your overall point, the line: "who actually looked disabled" is just ignorant.

    People get the placards for lots of reasons, not all of them make them "look disabled". For example, Heart problems make it hard for people to walk, but they might not "look disabled" to you. If you are going to be this ridiculous, you might as well specify what the look is that you are seeking.

    The reason the handicap placard exempts people from paying at the meter is so they don't have to run back and forth to feed a meter, which is difficult for people with handicaps.

    Better to be glad you are not handicapped, and to focus on more meaningful issues. The excess numbers of handicapped placards demonstrates how poorly run even well intentioned goverment programs are in the Bay area.

    Regarding your point on enforcement, I would much rather have the police focus on crime that has more impact on the lives of people in Oakland.

  6. mauipearl -

    1. I agree that some percentage of disabled people have disabilities that are not immediately visible. My point is that literally 100 percent of the people who have the placards appear healthy to me. Surely you'd agree the number should be more like 10-30 percent tops, not 100 percent.

    2. "Feeding the meter" is illegal, so that part of your reasoning is flawed.

    3. This is absolutely a meaningful issue. I believe it is part of the reason for the death of retail in downtown Oakland. No parking means no customers. Plus, this is exactly the kind of "quality of life" crime that, when ignored by the government, encourages people to move up to worse crimes.

    4. On the question of "impact," I suggest you investigate the broken windows theory and its impact in New York. The theory is not perfect -- far from it -- but it is certainly part of that city's revitalization. Ignoring petty crime is a big, big mistake.

  7. One more point to make. Mauipearl - are you suggesting you believe that 10-15 percent of San Francisco's population is disabled? If so, does that maybe suggest our view of what constitutes a disability is too broad?

    I want those spots available for people who truly need them. I just don't see how you can possibly argue that's what is happening today. It does the disabled no good to have a bunch of non-disabled people using those spots.

  8. I don't know if it's a liberal or conservative city but when there is real economic benefit people will take advantage- and why shouldn't they. Parking meters in SF/Oak are outrageous and a ripoff- why should you pay for something you don't even use? You could meter so that you pay for exactly the minutes you use - not soak you for $2 of $4 for 1 hr. so that when a clerk surprises you and has the item at the ready you didn't just pay for an hour. There are meters that are like a fast pass and you activate them when you pull into a spot and stop the clock on your own when leaving- of course we don't have them & there are many other high tech parking solutions. Parking fines in SF are outrageous too. A placard is free - all you need is a DR. signature and it's free parking, unlimited time. Why not? i mean the same DR. that gives you a note for your "medical" marijuana can cite the same "disability" to get you a placard. The city plays games with property owners, be they real property or cars yet criminals who have nothing - the homeless who defecate everywhere, sleep on the streets and have nothing well they those fines they accumulate cannot be collected- but with RE and car registration they've got ya- and now you're fighting back. surprised?

  9. I suggest that someone, if they are in doubt about what constitutes a disability, should look at the list of disabilities in the ADA. I have multiple valid disabilities but never applied for a placard until my Neurological problems and pain issues became too survere to ignore. I too take the liberal use of Disability Placards with anger! There should be a 1 infraction use of the placard. If a infraction is deemed deliberate, their placard privileges revoked by a judge or arbitrator. If someone "took" the placard without the permission of the holder, there should be a larger fine and or jail time. The people who do this get 2 strikes and then the house should fall on them!!!

  10. Good government is not a liberal or conservative issue.

  11. This is prevalent in Oakland as well. I have some chores that caused me to go to downtown (Chinatown) oakland for 3 days this week, from 10am to around 3pm. In the 3 blocks surrounding a parking lot, 40% - 50% of the cars have the blue or red placard hanging.

    I don't understand why they should be exempted from paying meter because they can easily park in the parking lot - which has elevator - and they don't need to 'rush back'. In any case, anybody who can't walk fast should take that into account when they pay for the meter in the first place.

    Anybody know which law enacting bodies to lobby for to get rid of this silly exemption? Failing that, maybe we can put an initiative in the ballot next time.

  12. In SOMA in San Francisco where I work daily parking in a garage costs $20 - 28 per day. Metered parking costs 25 cents a minute - that works out to $3 per hour or $27 for the nine hours that the meters are active.

    I see fully 50% of the metered spots nearby the office occupied by handicap placard vehicles and they don't move all day. It's the same vehicles every day, and they are nice cars too.

    If you multiply the $27 dollars a day that these parkers do not pay in meter fees by 5 days a week and 52 weeks a year, this is over $7000 in parking fees that the city is not collecting. In addition there is no turnover for these spots since their meters do not expire, so even people willing to pay $3 an hour (in coins - like people carry that many quarters) are not able to find a spot. All people emerging from these cars are moving just fine. Yes, I do know that there are handicaps that are not immediately visible, but if the argument is that handicapped people cannot move very fast so therefore cannot get back to the car in time to pay the meter, then people who are issued placards should be required to have to have an actual physical handicap.

    So... while the rest of us dutifully pay the parking meter or parking garage fees these people are abusing the handicapped placard system - ripping the city off for $7K annually per parking space and taking spaces from people who are actually handicapped or those who would pay the meter. No wonder they drive such nice cars - they are saving $7K per year!!

    This rampant abuse needs to be investigated and readdressed to give actual handicapped drivers spaces to park and others metered spaces that turn over every few hours.

    Please check out the neighborhood around 2nd and Howard in San Francisco. End the scam!

  13. I'm a liberal, and I believe free parking for the placard holders is a scam. While SF contemplates installing parking meters in GG Park, not one city official I've contacted is willing to touch the political third rail of offending the disabled - fake or not. While I agree with you on this matter, it is disappointing that you feel the need to blame "liberals," many of whom probably hold the same common-sense beliefs you do, for the rampant abuse of placards.

  14. Interesting thread. I broke my hip and neck in a auto accident 4 months ago. I walk with a cane, and crutches on bad days. I've never broken any bones in my life so this is definitely new to me. I agree that it's not a liberal or cons issue. Those terms are thrown around carelessly by the confused. Anyway, it sucks how long it takes me to walk up a goddam hill that only 5 months ago i used to sprint up with high knees for anaerobic workouts. I currently walk like a 90 year old lady pulling a shopping cart. (no offense to 90 year old ladies with shopping carts) I see the benefit and reason for the city not forcing me to move my car constantly, or to have to burn a half hour every couple hours to walk out of a building and feed the meter, many times of which is parked a block or more away. (meters of course have limits). The issue I see is definitely in the precarious issuing of placards. As with many issues, sometimes standards need to be redefined when there becomes overwhelming need. It is the short sighted who look at the con artists who use placards as the problem, forgetting that a licensed physician approved of the whole deal. A physician doesn't go to medical school to learn how to apply their Hippocratic oath to local city parking issues. But if cities with significant parking issues wrote simple directives to MDs to address inconsistencies, that could have some positive impact. A little backing for the doc to tell his patient "hey I know you're a little stiff sometimes when it rains, but, uh, that doesn't qualify for a placard anymore!".
    There are certainly layers to this issue. And kudos to whoever said above "be glad your not handicapped", you are so right. Because believe me, though it's only temporary for me, it really, really, realllllllly sucks. I'd give anything to be able to run effortlessly downstairs and up Jones St right now to feed my meter.

  15. As an afterthought, we haven't even touched on the issue of massive amounts of baby boomers who are currently pushing 70 years old!!! This has to have some kind of effect on our data. Many of whom I would imagine qualify as handicapped, for various reasons, and legitimately so! But yes, I do suspect that when grandson needs to run up to the Mish for some fresh produce, the temptation to break the rules, rather than scrounge for spare change is just too great. Lol for this, you gotta look at enforcement. Legislation that will certainly create some very dynamic, touchy situations no doubt. Perhaps ID is tied to actual placard? It IS a DMV issue, and costs $6 (not free as someone said above) and would show up on registered drivers info, along with all the other normal reportings, (warrants, FTAs, prior infractions, suspensions) I am a legit user of a temporary placard and would have no problem being ID'd just like for anything else.

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