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Even the parking cops are mad about the ticketing crackdown

Parking cops get tickets too!

A group of people protesting, holding signs like "FIX OUR CITY." A woman in the foreground shouts, wearing sunglasses and a cap.
Parking enforcer Jeanette Harrison protests outside of 1 S. Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

San Francisco parking enforcers want you to know a human being is inside those funny little Interceptor ticketing mobiles—and they don't want the new parking crackdown either. 

Officers on the beat say they are worried increased enforcement aimed at making the streets safer will inflame the hostile situations and assaults they already face while doing their job.

"We experience it on a daily basis,” said Trevor Adams, president of the parking control officers’ union chapter. “Our officers are threatened or put in compromising positions that they really don't have the means to deal with.”

Adams, a 17-year veteran, said his colleagues are tasked with "deterring lawless individuals" armed only with "a badge and a computer to write tickets."

Parking officer in a blue uniform writes a ticket by a car, with a handheld device and paper.
Trevor Adams, an SFMTA parking control officer, prints a parking ticket on Chestnut Street in the Marina in 2017. | Source: Paul Chinn/The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images

Tina S., who has a social work degree from San Francisco State University and declined to give a last name for safety reasons, said she tries to be empathetic but that communication breaks down when she’s on the job. 

"If they start yelling and screaming, I just walk away because I don't want to escalate the situation,” she told The Standard. 

Tina said she’s even been attacked by two young women parked in a car at a Mission District bus stop. 

“Someone was blocking the handicapped zone, where tickets are over $400. I'm like, 'No, you cannot park here,'” she said. “They kind of ignored me until I let them know, 'You cannot park here. This ticket is going to be a lot of money.'"

When the driver moved, she double-parked. 

“OK, so now you're just doing tit for tat,” Tina recalled of an incident some years back. “So I cited the vehicle, and I got called a whole bunch of derogatory names, everything in the book.” 

Afterward, she went to sit in her parking vehicle. “I had my door open. I should have left the area, but I wasn't thinking. As I was doing my notes, the girls came back. They started throwing eggs and milk all over me inside my vehicle.”

‘People who think that the rules don’t exist’

The officers’ concerns follow San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Jeffrey Tumlin’s recent announcement that staffing levels for parking control officers are the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, Tumlin said his agency will unleash an intensive enforcement crackdown across the city, descending upon one supervisorial district per week to change what he claims is a perception that city drivers can brazenly flout parking laws.

“In many San Francisco neighborhoods, given the scarcity of parking control officers that we have faced for several years, there are people who think that the rules don’t exist,” Tumlin said at a recent SFMTA Board of Directors meeting. “We want to get the word out that we are finally able to start enforcing the rules.”

But workers are pushing back, saying their job is already dangerous as is, and that a push for more enforcement will only put them at further risk. 

In a separate incident at the start of 2023, a man hit Tina’s ticketing device out of her hand, grabbed it and drove off with it. 

“It was recovered because it's trackable,” she said. “They found it somewhere down in San Jose.”

Tina wants readers to know that even parking cops get parking tickets sometimes—including her.

“If I get a ticket, you know, shit, I'm crying, you know? We have to look for parking,” she said. “We can't just park anywhere. We have to pay for parking ourselves when we are out here. When we come to work, we don't have anywhere to park. We don't have a free parking lot."

On Thursday afternoon, a crowd of enforcement officers, car cleaners, station agents and others gathered in front of SFMTA’s headquarters on South Van Ness Avenue. Workers held signs that said, “Fix our city,” and yelled, “If we don’t get respect, we don’t get peace.”

"Safety is our top priority at the agency," an SFMTA spokesperson said. "Thanks to our efforts, crime is down 48% since 2018 within our system. Our parking control officers are provided de-escalation training, self defense tools, and have access to our internal dispatch center that communicates directly with SFPD for any assistance they need."

Supervisor Connie Chan, who is up for election in November, said the recent directive from SFMTA did not consider the workers who enforce parking.

Instead, she said more focus should be put on driving violations like running a red light or stop signs, which are handled by the police.

“If the policy goal here is to keep us safe, then we need to do traffic safety enforcement, not ticketing,” Chan said. “What is safe for workers is also safe for San Franciscans.”

A convoy of small white utility vehicles, each with an amber light on top, drives down a road.
San Francisco parking control officers zoom around through the Richmond in Interceptors. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Across the city, there are 370 parking control officers, 130 car cleaners and 68 station agents, according to Service Employees International Union Local 1021 spokesperson Ella Sogomonian.

The union is currently in negotiations with the city over renewing the transportation agency workers’ contracts. Last week, over 20,000 employees struck tentative deals with the city in a contract that includes pay increases over three years.

Along with the transit workers, nurses are also still trying to hammer out a deal and have raised similar concerns about on-the-job conditions.

Officers with SFMTA on Thursday say they feel they lack proper training and support from their department. Union chapter president Adams said the agency provides "very little, if anything," in the way of recourse when officers are assaulted or threatened.

Adams said his co-workers "have come to me with being assaulted, being punched on the job. They have had all kinds of things thrown at them, everything from tomatoes to glass bottles hurled at them.

“The scariest situation I've had to deal with was somebody picking up a brick and throwing it at me,” Adams said. “I was like, ‘This man's about to knock me smooth out with this brick.’” 

Gabe Greschler can be reached at
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