Class Action Lawsuit Against City of Pasadena Over Parking Fines
A class action lawsuit filed against Pasadena this week could require the city to refund millions in parking fees and fines paid by drivers who parked near electronic “Pay & Display” kiosks.
The litigation, filed by the firm Abelson Herron Halpern on behalf of disgruntled drivers, alleges Pasadena improperly used the kiosks for years because the city’s parking ordinance only allowed traditional parking meters until earlier this year.
“Simply put, the City’s ‘Pay & Display’ ticket kiosks were not authorized parking meters and, therefore, the City’s collection of parking fees, issuance of citations and levying of fines were all unauthorized and improper,” wrote Michael Abelson, the attorney representing the driver, in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs in the case include a Pasadena resident fined $48 for an expired meter and two South Pasadena residents who each paid $1 at the “Pay & Display” kiosks in December 2016 and January 2017, respectively.
The litigation demands that Pasadena refund all fees and fines from January 2016 to January 2017 related to the use of the “Pay & Display” ticketing systems.
Pasadena charges about $1.25 per hour at the kiosks, but an “expired meter” citation might cost more than $45. An investigation by this newspaper in 2015 found that few of the citations appealed in Pasadena are ever dismissed.
It’s unclear how much Pasadena brings in from fines and fees related specifically to the kiosks. Pasadena received about $1.5 million from all parking meters and about $5.8 million from parking tickets in Fiscal Year 2015-2016, according to the city.
Abelson said there is already some precedent for the lawsuit – his own against the city last year.
A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sided with him last year when he presented the same argument during an appeal of his own parking ticket. The judge overturned Abelson’s ticket, after the city denied his appeals twice, because Pasadena’s definition for a parking meter hadn’t been updated since 1993.
About two weeks later, Abelson got another ticket in the same area. After going through the process a second time, he spoke with others who described similar experiences.
“I was told time and time again how unfair the parking system is in Pasadena, how maddening it is, how vigorously they enforce it,” he said. “Even when you’re in the right, you can’t get any remedy. No one will return your calls and they summarily deny everything.”
The City Council approved an update to Pasadena’s parking ordinance incorporating the newer kiosks in February, about a month after the plaintiffs filed a claim with the city.
Pasadena Spokesman William Boyer said staff initially began working on the changes in 2015 in an effort to keep the code up to date with new technologies. It was not related to any litigation, he said in an email.
The city declined to comment specifically on the pending class action suit.
A staff report from January 23, 2017 recommended modernizing the definition for parking meters after a “recent parking citation appeal resulted in the dismissal of a citation based on outdated language in the PMC.”
Abelson believes the report is referencing the personal ticket he got overturned in the superior court. Simply changing the language of the ordinance doesn’t make it right, he argued.
“If they were wrong to collect it, they need to give it back,” he said.