It's hard to root for someone like Mike Schroeder, the political adviser to OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and disgraced, felonious, adulterous ex-sheriff Mike Carona and one of the prime people behind our vile GOP. But when the subject is a wrong parking ticket, we'll root for Vader. And when he wins one for the little guy against the evil SanTana meter maids . . . well, my OC political reality has just been shaken to its core.
The battle between Schroeder and SanTana began on July 15, 2010, when Schroeder parked at 8 in the morning at 830 N. Ross St., not far from the district attorney's office, where his wife, Susan Kang Schroeder, works as Rackauckas' head spinmeister. That stretch of Ross is metered, with little lines designating exactly where people should park, so Schroeder made sure to position his black Porsche 998S convertible just so, and then put in enough money for an hour and a half to ensure he wouldn't get a ticket.
An hour later, Schroeder returned to his car and found a parking ticket, along with tickets on all the cars on Ross. Nearly all still had time on their meters. SanTana's notorious meter maids ticketed Schroeder under the city's municipal code section 36-132, which establishes regulations for no-parking zones, something Schroeder couldn't understand. After looking around, he found a small sign (the middle one above) below the parking meter, which stated that the parking spots became a bike lane from 7 to 9 a.m.--the exact time frame Schroeder and others had violated. Although the picture is blown up here, it's hard to notice because it faces the street, which means a clear view of it is blocked whenever anyone parks next to it. For perspective, here's a shot Vader took:
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"You can't see it, because the car blocks it," Schroeder says. "And there's nothing on the meter itself that tells you about that ordinance."
Rather than pay his $65 fine like nearly everyone else in the world would, Schroeder looked up the code. "There's nothing in it about a fine if you violate it--it just says you can get towed, but nothing about a fine," he said. "It doesn't say anything at all about bike lanes. It does say that the director of public works can put up a sign to prohibit parking, but only if the City Council passes a resolution or if an engineering study is being made, but I couldn't find anything that suggested that."
Schroeder decided to contest his ticket on Dec. 14 at an administrative hearing before the Santa Ana Police Department that he described as a "joke. I had to pay $45 just for the hearing, the fine and everything upfront--$110." Unsurprisingly, the police didn't find in Schroeder's favor, so he took the next step: appealed in an Orange County Superior Court. There, Schroeder made his case that there was a lack of foundation for his ticket--that there were no engineering studies or City Council resolutions allowing the temporary bike lane, that the municipal code didn't call for a fine for a violation. Amazingly, Commissioner Jane D. Myers found in his favor, and he's getting a full $110 refund for the cost of the fine and the police hearing.
"It's just a moneymaker for the city, and they have to give beyond reasonable doubt that the city gave people notice," Schroeder says. He's planning to write a letter to the Santa Ana City Council asking them to clearly mark the temporary bike lane as a bike lane, or at least note it in the meter.
"I appealed the ticket because when I got it, all the cars in the street had the same thing happen to them, and when I went back to take a picture, there was a new round," Schroeder says. "Someone needed to stand up and show that what the city was doing wasn't right."