A few days after my tow hearing, I received a letter from Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, in response to a correspondence I sent earlier asking her, the head of DOT, to put in writing what the DOT uses to determine what a school day was. Her letter stated that they use the school website’s calendar. Funny because neither Silvia Vasquez nor any of the multiple parking officers I interviewed on the streets mentioned this. But at least we had a definitive position from the Department. I recalled looking at the website the day I got towed and in the heat of the moment I couldn’t ascertain when summer School started or ended. Now I see why; The only option under the Hollywood High School website’s menu is the LAUSD calendar; the same one I used in my decision to start parking there. After getting this letter, I looked again and, after doing some digging, I was actually able to find a school calendar. While it was not under the main menu, it did actually say when summer school started and ended.
I just realized something after looking at the School’s home page: I first figured out how to park legally next to Hollywood High School during the summer session over 10 years ago. The School’s website’s main menu only offers the LAUSD calendar. It was so long ago and has never been a problem so I don’t remember if I got the idea of using the LAUSD calendar from the school’s website itself or if I simply decided to defer to the highest authority. I can tell you that for at least the last few years, I just Googled “LAUSD calendar” and got the information I needed. Now, according to Seleta Reynolds, I’m supposed to ignore the readily available LAUSD calendar and somehow know to defer to the school calendar, which nothing in the menu area of the homepage indicates is even there. Pointing this out would have been a more concise defense going into this.
Anyway, Hollywood High School’s website’s home page has nine options at the top and six at the bottom. Scrolling over these options will reveal 115 separate choices, which in addition to the six at the bottom, produce a grand total of 121. Absolutely NONE of these produce the school calendar. One does however, produce the same LAUSD calendar I used. G.M. Reynolds’ assertion that the school’s calendar should be used would be a huge task and a lot to expect for someone simply trying to park a car: First, they’d have to have a smartphone with sufficient data (this rules Grandma and poor people out). Second, they’d have to figure out what school they’re parking by. Third, they’d have to find the website and then have the intuition to know not to use the LAUSD’s calendar easily found in the menu, but to search further. Being that this ticket was purposeless because buses do not use the space they’re meant to reserve, I’d still argue that the LAUSD calendar I’ve used for the last decade is a better guide than a cumbersome and misleading school website to determine when buses need this curb space to park. But at least we now have a concrete position from LADOT of how they determine what a school day was. Now we can take it to the judge.
I finally had a hearing on the ticket:
On October 15th, I went to the hearing for the ticket portion of my DOT debacle. I must say, after this hearing, I can surmise with confidence that there are some major cognitive issues in LA’s Department of Transportation. Somehow they can’t seem to grasp the fact that I knew there was summer school but because buses do not operate, the school has no need for the curb space.
I woke up and was there an hour early for my 10:30am appointment. The pleasant male receptionist signed me in and made copies of any evidence I might use. He also gave me an email to send the examiner a link to video I had taken of the place I was towed from. I sat down and organized my paperwork. My main goal at this hearing was to efficiently communicate that there was no purpose for this ticket.
The examiner, Marcos Hernandez, called me in around 9:45am and the same guard from last time waved me down for weapons with his wand, then pointed me to hearing room #3. Examiner Hernandez desk was cluttered with paperwork and she had two computer monitors that sat high up. She left the door cracked open and for some reason when I tried to close it, she insisted that I leave it open. She turned a voice recorder and informed me that the hearing was also being video recorded. After swearing me in, she asked me for evidence and testimony. I began by looking in her eyes and clearly stating,
“I am not arguing that there was no school that day, rather I am saying that the bus service these parking regulations clear space for does not occur.”
I then asked her if I was clear and if she understood.
She nodded yes.
We got into the specifics and she asked several questions. After about 15 minutes of discussion she literally summarized my case this way:
“So you’re saying that there was no school that day.”
I almost fell out of my chair but kept it all in, composed myself and explained to her that that was not my argument and I was saying the bus service these regulations clear space for does not occur and the new enforcement that got my car towed is purposeless. She repeated my words back to me but who knows if she understood or even took it into consideration.
What’s the point of a “hearing” where the examiner doesn’t hear you? Examiner Hernandez asked me about the email from Vice Principal Dovlatian I submitted. I pointed out that it was him saying there’s no bus service during summer session. She then says, “Vice Principal,” emphasizing that he was not the actual Principal. I could already see she was listening to my testimony with the intent of discrediting it, picking out any element that might legitimize the citation. She then mentioned that summer school might not be the only activity buses used that space for. C’mon! What kind of hearing is this? It couldn’t be more obvious that her goal was solely to legitimize the ticket. Her crass approach insulted my intelligence. Judges and Lawyers are so clever that you usually don’t realize they’ve gotten over on you until you’re driving away from the courthouse. I could sense Examiner Hernandez’s angles from a mile away.
After a little more questioning she finishes by telling me that schools could have other activities that require curb space during summer. This was complete bull. I pointed out that the ticket specifically said “summer session” and the email from the Vice Principal proves that the activity associated with summer session, namely the bus service, does not occur. I think it went over her head because she didn’t acknowledge it. With all the details out there, she felt a need to conclude by giving me some general advice about parking near schools. Her advice was basically to never to park near a school because the Department of Transportation could summarily tow your car without any true cause. This is exactly what I would expect from a department funded by the revenue generated from these purposeless tickets. It’s like the fox guarding the hen house.
Who are these Hearing Examiners? What qualifies them to conduct these hearings? They clearly don’t have the capacity or are unwilling to weigh facts or understand details. When you clearly say that you’re not arguing that there was no school during summer and a few minutes later they ask if you are arguing that there was no school during summer, there are some major cognitive issues at play. Examiner Hernandez also seemed to be getting mad whenever I’d push back on her notions. Am I not allowed to explain my disposition to what she declares? She said, “I’m not going to argue,” which confused me. I let her speak and even stopped speaking when she cut me off. I never raised my voice or said anything disrespectful. Did she seriously considered my not agreeing with her an “argument?” It made me wonder what the qualifications for being a Hearing Examiner were. They use Latin legal terms like Prima Facie (from the looks of things) and talked about the “preponderance of evidence,” a legal term simply meaning what the evidence indicates. Does being a hearing examiner require a law degree? Obviously not, but what legal training do they receive and, more importantly, are these hearings just obstacles to citizens getting true justice? I’d rather deal directly with a duly appointed judge or at least a lawyer than be inconvenienced by Hearings Examiners that can’t hear.
I’ll wait for a decision but my hopes are low that she even understood anything I said. However she could be like a Judge I dealt with once in Van Nuys Small Claims Court. After enduring a long condescending lecture to the courtroom about his ability to objectively view a case’s details being far superior to average citizens’, I presented my case against T-Mobile. They didn’t even bother to show up so I went forward as if there would be no opposition. The Judge then asked me so many pointed questions that would benefit T-Mobile that I was boiling inside. I thought he was a corporate boot-licker until I got the decision by mail. I WON! Turns out he was just having me push back on his objective thoughts about the case. This was brilliant and since then, I never completely doubt anyone. Perhaps Hearing Examiner Hernandez is a brilliant person in disguise. At the end of the hearing I asked her not to take my disagreement personally. We bid each other a pleasant farewell and I left.
Stay tuned for part 6, where I break down the decisions from both so-called “hearings.” It appears both Silvia Vasquez and Marcos Hernandez, while being “Hearing Examiners,” can’t seem to hear.