Prescription for Parking

City officials blame doctors for the misuse of disabled parking placards

Disabled activists are questioning the judgment of traffic cops as well as doctors, claiming they are often too quick to confiscate placards from legitimate users. Imperiale cites one recent case where the wife of a blind man parked and walked her husband to a nearby clinic. When she returned to the car, she was cited and the placard was confiscated. Technically, she was violating the law by using her husband's placard to get free parking. Greenstrand counters that parking control officers go out of their way to verify when someone is transporting a legitimate placard holder, but the disabled community isn't convinced the city does all it can to evaluate the law on a case-by-case basis.

"The city has gone overboard," Church says. "I agree there's a problem, but I don't agree with the way the city is trying to remedy it."

Any reform in the placard system seems a long way off. Newlin would like to see a change in state and federal law that would give cities greater authority to investigate questionable placard holders. He even has a plan to require dubious placard holders to undergo an examination by on-call physicians contracted by the city. Newlin cautions that this is just an idea and he hasn't pursued it. Imperiale favors a two-tiered system that gives wheelchair users greater privileges than those with other disabilities.

"I've been trying to push this on a statewide level with the DMV for about a year, but every time I call I get a different person," Imperiale says. "I get lots of complaints from disabled people all over the city asking for changes, but it's hard to get things rolling."

In the meantime, Greenstrand and three other parking control officers who concentrate on illegal placard use have plenty of work to do. On a recent patrol, the crew discovered that 15 out of 25 cars on Hawthorne Lane between Folsom and Howard had disabled placards. Four were illegal -- expired, fake, or unauthorized -- and many of the other cars sped away when the officers began ticketing.

"Placard abuse cuts across every ethnic and economic boundary," Greenstrand says. "It doesn't matter what color they are or how much money they have or what kind of car they drive. I've nailed everyone from millionaires to Muni drivers.

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