Did Kafka Write the Parking Rules for San Francisco?

About six months ago I visited San Francisco, where among other things, I gave a [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUY9ahSCMG0 tech talk at Google] on "The Wires the Control the Public Mind." The talk itself went fine, but during my trip, I stumbled into a [[w:Franz Kafka|Kafkaesque]] situation with the local parking authorities.

The problem happened when I visited Ted Nace, who organizes the [http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Coal_Issues CoalSwarm portal] on SourceWatch. I parked my car in a one-hour free parking spot half a block from Ted's home. After we had talked for a bit, we left the apartment to grab some lunch. Mindful of the one-hour parking restriction, I moved my car across the street before we ate to a separate location. The lunch was quick, because I had to get to another meeting. We were back at my car in less than half an hour, only to discover a ticket with a $50 fine for overtime parking.

Several months of correspondence and phone calls followed, during which I was told that I could protest the fine, but then got slapped with an extra penalty for nonpayment of the original ticket while I was waiting for them to respond to my protest. I phoned their office and was told that the penalty (and the subsequent letter from a collection agency) had been issued erroneously. My protest was then denied, but I was told that I would "only" have to pay the original $50 fine. But wait! There was one more chance for appeal. All I had to do was send in my $50 check, along with a letter appealing the decision. So, that's what I did.

To my surprise, the result that came back from "Hearing Officer M. Hawkins" actually found in my favor. "You can expect a refund in the mail in 1 to 2 weeks," Hawkins wrote. "No further action is needed." Thank you, M. Hawkins.

But here's the part that I still don't quite understand. The letter from Hawkins begins by informing me that "my vehicle was parked in the same location, or within 1/10 of a mile (across the street), for a period longer than the posted time authorized in that area." This surprised me, and I have not been able to find any documentation of a rule saying that cars must be moved further than 1/10 of a mile from their original location when you repark them. I did find a San Francisco Chronicle articles which says that cars must be moved [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/01/BA0GUP11U.D… at least a block away] from their original location. If that's the case, it would appear that Hawkins thinks I'm guilty but is cutting me a break.

But how is anyone supposed to know that this is the law and comply with it? It certainly wasn't stated on the one-hour parking sign where I would have seen it. Maybe it's buried somewhere inside a municipal ordinance, but I haven't found it there either (and in any case, I wouldn't have seen it there when I was actually parking my car in San Francisco).

Finally, if this is indeed the rule, it seems designed to make people waste their time driving short distances for no particular purpose other than to put more vehicles on the street, contributing to road congestion, wasting fuel and putting more pollution in the air. Why exactly would this sort of rule be desirable?

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