"Akit is the man. He knows Clipper." (spenta)
"It’s a fantastic blog for any San Franciscan."
"Your blog is always on point, and well researched!" (Nina Decker)
"Everyone's favorite volunteer public policy consultant..." (Eve Batey, SF Appeal)
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(Empowered Follower)
"If anyone at City Hall wants to make public transit better for all San Franciscans, it would be wise to follow Akit religiously...
or, better yet, give him a job."
(Brock Keeling, SFist)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DPW Gives No Citations and Inspects TWO DAYS AFTER Tow-Away Permit Expires for Champion Cleaning

Before you start reading this blog entry: If you haven't read the entire saga, start with the initial story, the laws I reference, and a first update.

Calling 311 for a Case Update
After I filed a report with 311, and was forwarded to the Department of Public Works for an inspection to be completed, I didn't hear a peep until I called 311 for an update this evening.

The update I was given by the 311 operator about my case, the DPW inspector went to the location on JULY 29TH.  That's TWO DAYS after the construction signs expired and the construction crew finished the job; this meant the DPW inspector could not site Champion Cleaning for breaking multiple laws, including the Transportation and Public Works Codes (click here to review the laws I cite for this particular incident).

Also, didn't the inspector notice the traffic cones with the signs on them too?  The cones with the signs are still on the streets today (July 30th).  The laws explicitly states it must be posted on wood, metal, a construction fence, and a wood/metal pole (e.g. telephone pole and parking meter pole).  Putting it on a traffic cone is unacceptable.

The watch says 7/28. It's an atomic watch. Click to enlarge.
I should also note, as the tow-away signs are still on the streets and was not removed after the tow-away period ended (July 27th), Champion Cleaning also broke another law, Public Works Code 724.3 (a) states: "...and shall remove it immediately upon termination of the permit."  The signs, a-frames and cones are still on my street on July 30th, and the inspector missed that one too when inspecting the location on July 29th.  See photo with the watch.
It begs to ask the question, why did DPW take so long to investigate this?

Here's an example of a situation where DPW fails at their job:
Today is Friday, and a construction company wants to do some underground work on my street. The project is going to happen on Saturday and Sunday, and I witnessed the tow away signs are being posted this morning, and the signs states the tow-away is effective on the upcoming weekend.

I call 311 at 8AM and complain to the city that the construction company placed the signs with less than the mandatory minimum of 72 hours notice, and they forward my case to DPW. However, the DPW inspector doesn't go on Friday, they go on Monday when the construction project is already completed and the tow-away permit has already expired; therefore DPW cannot cite the construction company for violating the law.

It's the same exact situation to me.  I complained to the city on Thursday morning, and they don't send an inspector until Monday when Champion Cleaning is long gone and the permit for the tow-away is expired.

If DPW doesn't quickly investigate citizen complaints of construction companies posting tow-away signs giving less than 72 hours notice, any construction project that lasts 3 days or less can easily get away with breaking the law multiple times and not get caught; this is because the agency won't send an investigator for a few days.  By the time DPW investigates, there's nothing to find, therefore no citations issued.

When I called DPW on Friday morning, the lady said it's likely an investigator won't show-up until Monday; I even told her that by Monday, the construction crew will be LONG GONE.

A Horrible Conversation with the 311 Operator
When I was having a conversation late this evening with the 311 operator, he said that if someone's car was towed away, the person could argue at a hearing that 72 hours notice was not provided, and the car should be released at no charge.

Does this 311 operator know how annoying it is to get your car towed all the way across the city to a lot next to the Hall of Justice, and hassle with getting a hearing at the SFMTA office on Van Ness & Market?  There is the possibility the city may say the tow was valid when you know it isn't, and you'll be paying over $400.00 for the tow fee, plus any possible storage fees at the lot.  But don't forget, if you have a job, taking time-off to go to the tow lot and get that tow hearing means lost pay or losing your vacation time you've saved.

If one of my neighbor's car was towed the same day they plopped that sign on my street, you might expect the the owner of the car to have a fistfight with the constriction workers the next day for calling the tow truck.

If Champion Cleaning gave the required 72 hours notice, this means none of my neighbors' cars would be towed (unless if they can't read).

Note: I do not know if any cars was towed on my block or not.  I have to assume it didn't happen.


Hello, Police?
I also have to ask the question.  As I was present when an infraction was committed (watching Champion Cleaning crews placing the signs), why did the police refuse to help me by telling me to call a different city department?  Why didn't the officer at the Taraval station let me file a police report, or why didn't an officer drop by and talk to me so I can sign a citizen's arrest card?

A crime was committed, and if I read the state laws about citizen's arrest correctly, a citizen can sign a citizen's arrest card if the citizen personally witnessed an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony was committed.

Yeah, it makes me look like an asshole by calling the cops and if they arrived to give them a ticket, but at least Champion Cleaning would know that you don't mess with the neighborhood residents, especially those who left their car on the street and took Muni to work.

Don't mess with Akit, you'll get nailed on my blog.
The Lesson?
So what should the city government and construction workers learn from this?
  1. Champion Cleaning must respect the laws regarding 72 hours minimum notice.
  2. Do not put signs on cones.
  3. DPW needs to respond to these allegations much sooner.
  4. The police needs to respond if a person witnesses a crime.
  5. Stop making citizens call in circles to get the proper people to respond to this problem.  I shouldn't have to call three city agencies and be told it's "somebody else's problem."
  6. Don't fuck with Akit and his neighbors.  If Champion Cleaning continues to do the same practice they've done on my block and others nearby, expect another angry blog entry and a phone call to the Mayor.
Lastly, a commentator said I'm "a pain in the ass," in a good way!  Thanks Mike!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The War Against Illegal Tow-Away Construction Zone Signs (Champion Cleaning)

Hello assholes!
The saga continues.  Get yourself up to speed by reading my first blog entry about this, and the second one.

On Friday morning, I decided to make a call to San Francisco 311 for an update.  The answer I got back was the same old thing: They took my report, passed it on to Department of Public Works, and that was it.  I asked the operator to transfer me to the DPW and I spoke with a female staff member on the phone.  I explained the situation to her, provided my 311 case number, and said an inspector will be investigating it three days.

Three days?  I told the lady the construction signs and crew will be long gone within 48 hours.  I tried to put some pressure on her to get the shit done, I also asked her what DPW will do if Champion Cleaning calls for a tow truck when they failed to provide a minimum of 72 hours notice of posting the signs.  She couldn't answer.

It seems every time I call the city, many either don't give a damn, don't want to be helpful, or just pass the buck onto some other department.  I work for the State of California, but I don't treat people like crap; I treat them nicely as best as I can, and make sure if they contacted me by accident, I put them back on the right path to the right people who can answer their questions.

On Saturday (today), I went out in the morning and on the ride back on the 6-Parnassus, I noticed a white van parked in the middle of the block on 9th Avenue.  I decided to hop-off the bus and take a look around.  Other than the van in the middle accessing the sewer opening, I saw one of their employees sitting on someone's property and having a smoke break.

Now I'm wondering if any cars got towed or not.  Since it's after 5PM and the signs are now expired, parking is now restored.  But if they try to pull another fast one and throw some more tow signs without advance notice, I'll be hounding DPW again.

As for DPW, I'll be calling them again on Monday for an update.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In-Depth Research: The Illegal Tow-Away Construction Zone Signs in the Inner Sunset

Since I had to quickly write the blog entry about the illegally posted tow-away signs in front of my house, I decided to spend this evening doing some further research about this matter.

My late grandmother taught me to raise hell and advocate for what I believe in.  She sure did that by demanding redress for all Japanese Americans forced into the Japanese internment camps during World War II, and after many years of working hard and being a leader, all survivors received a $20,000 check and an apology from the President of the United States.  Now it's my time to raise hell against Champion Cleaning, the people who thinks it's totally okay to put tow-away signs and blatantly violate several laws in the process.

Here's what I did after filing a complaint with the city:

I gave a call to SF 311 for an update about my complaint and was told the message was passed-on to the Department of Public Works' street use department, but didn't receive a response back.  The next time I can get in contact would be as early as 8AM on Friday.

I decided to call the SFPD Taraval Station and spoke with a desk sergeant.  I explained the situation and he told me to get in touch with DPT (SFMTA Parking) about the matter.  I asked if I had the right to file a police report for a company violating traffic code 33.1, and he said I can't.  I also asked him if the station had a copy of any paperwork regarding any temporary tow away zones in their jurisdiction and he said they don't have materials about that; unlike what the officer at the SFPD Richmond station told me.

Seeing no purpose of trying to call in circles, it was time to look around the city law books online.

First stop: San Francisco 311's FAQ section about construction zones

Quoted directly from the website:
How far in advance should I apply for a tow-away zone permit? 
Tow-Away No Stopping signs must first be registered at least 72 hours in advance of the effective date and time. Once registered, the signs shall be posted at least 72 hours in advance of the effective date and time in order to give the public sufficient notice.
Since the construction workers placed the signs LESS THAN 72 HOURS, it's illegal.  If you recall, the construction workers placed the sign on Thursday, July 25th at 8AM; the posted sign said: 7AM-5PM and is effective from 7/23/13 to 7/27/13.  The construction contractors should have placed the sign no later than 7AM on July 20, 2013; therefore it's a violation of numerous city laws.

But there's more from the 311 site:
What do I need to know about posting tow-away zone signs?
Tow-away signs for construction zones shall be posted in accordance with the provisions set forth in Section 33.1 of the San Francisco Traffic Code and in accordance with the following criteria:

1. Signs shall be posted only within the limits of construction.
2. Signs shall be posted every 20 linear feet of occupied space with at least one sign at each end of the occupied space.
3. Place signs on wood or aluminum backing or approved equal.
4. Mount the signs securely to existing poles, posts, on Type II barricades per Caltrans specifications, or on construction fences.
5. The Contractor shall maintain the signs on a continuous basis and shall replace damaged or missing signs daily.
6. Contractor shall remove the signs and mounting materials immediately after construction has been completed.
Okay, let's do a little in depth about this one.  They followed #1, #2, and #5 correctly.

And the rest?  #3 #4 is in violation because while they did post the signs on A-frames, they broke the law by posting some of them on traffic cones.  #6 can't be determined until the project is done.


Second stop: San Francisco's codes and laws posted online
As per San Francisco Transportation Code, Article 1, Division 3, Section 3.4, Subsection (b) it states:
"Building Construction, Maintenance or Repair. Any temporary Parking restriction or prohibition related to building construction, maintenance, or repair in the public right-of-way shall be posted in compliance with Article 15, Section 724.3 of the Public Works Code."
This basically means the construction signage under the Transportation Code must comply with the Public Works Code or it is a violation of Section 3.4(b) of the Transportation Code.

Let's go to Article 15, Section 724.3 of the Public Works Code.
Subsection (a) basically states 72 hours advance notice must be provided when placing the construction signs.  It also mentions:
"The placard shall contain the following information: name of the permittee, a telephone number where the permittee can be reached during the hours of the permit, the duration of the permit including start and stop dates and hours of use, a geographic description of the street space occupied under the permit, the permit number, and the Department's street space hotline telephone number. The Department shall provide a placard to each permittee."
Subsection (b) basically states the proper posting of signage, such as on a-frames and poles.

Let's do a little analysis about the posted laws I'm referring to on the "second stop." Champion Cleaning who posted the signs have broken numerous codes under the Transportation and Public Works Codes:
  1. They DID NOT provide 72 hours notice.
  2. DID NOT provide further information on the placards (items failed to mention: geographic description of street space occupied, permit number, and street space hotline number).
  3. POSTED SIGNAGE on non-approved items (traffic cones).

Last stop: SFMTA's "Blue Book."
Since so many of these construction zone parking laws cross between Public Works, Transportation Codes, and many others, the SFMTA published a "Blue Book" as an easier way for people to understand all laws and regulations.  It basically sums up everything I've mentioned above.  If you would like to read it, click here and review section 4.


My last words:
I've done my research, which means I have the ammo (the laws) to unleash hell.  If the city officials don't want to do their job to enforce and place a $1,000 fine against Champion Cleaning (a subcontractor of PG&E), I'll start making the round of phone calls, starting with the supervisor of my district.

If ANY CAR in my neighborhood gets either a ticket or towed in the next few days, I will fight back hard because you bastards NEVER gave minimum 72 hour notice.

Construction Tow-Away Signs Posted Without 72 Hours Notice in Inner Sunset District

UPDATE: I've referenced all applicable laws about this matter.  Click here to read.

Just this morning just before 8AM (on July 25, 2013), I left my home in the Inner Sunset District and noticed a white van in my neighborhood blocking my neighbor's driveway.

What I saw was shocking.  These two guys wearing bright yellow vests started putting up these tow-away signs on portions of my block (see photo).

When I read the signs in detail, it said construction zone is effective from July 23rd to July 27th, and during the hours of 7AM to 5PM.  The company is Champion Cleaning and their plates are definitely out-of-state.

A few things seemed very wrong about this:
(1) It's 8AM, and I know my neighbors park their car on the street and take the bus to work.  Therefore, there is the possibility their car may be towed.
(2) Today is July 25th, and the signs says the construction zone is effective two days prior.

Being overly concerned, and my morals and ethics kicking into high gear, I started making phone calls.  Here's how inefficient and stupid the process went:

(1) Called SFPD Taraval station.  The officer on the phone really didn't give a damn and told me to call SFMTA Enforcement (formerly known as Department of Parking and Traffic).
(2) Called SFMTA/DPT Enforcement, said I was referred by SFPD Taraval, and person also didn't want to be helpful and referred me to the Department of Public Works.
(3) Called Department of Public Works three times and all I got was a generic voicemail line.
(4) Called San Francisco 311, explained the circle of phone calls I've made, and the lady took down my information, the full story of the situation, and forwarded it immediately to DPW for follow-up.

While I'm currently waiting for DPW to investigate and call me about this problem.  I decided to contact a different SFPD station for more information.

Calling the SFPD Richmond station, the officer on the phone told me the following details about the laws regarding construction zone signage and enforcement:
(1) The signs must be posted at least 72 hours prior to the start of the construction zone.  In this case, it should have been posted on my street no later than July 20th.
(2) It can only be towed if the construction company requests for it.
(3) No private towing company can tow the car.  Only an authorized SFMTA tow company can do it.
(4) Permits must be on file with various agencies, including the local neighborhood police station.

So while it seems that only the construction company can request to have a vehicle towed; if they decide to go the very ugly route of calling to tow cars, there would be some very angry neighbors because there was NO ADVANCE NOTICE of 72 HOURS as per city law.  It was important for me to notify the city of the blatant violation of the law so that if a tow happens, it's on public records that I registered an official complaint against the company in question.

If you see these signs in your neighborhood and 72 hours notice was not given, please dial 311 and file a report.  If you notice cars being towed or the construction workers threatening drivers about possibility of being towed, please call SFPD dispatch at: (415) 553-0123.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

BREAKING: BART Strike is OVER, Service Resumes Friday 3PM

Great news: The BART strike is OVER!

BART workers are back on the job, but trains won't be able to operate until 3PM on Friday as it takes about 18 hours to get everything back in operation.

I can't embed the video clip from the state mediator, so you can review it here: http://instagram.com/p/bX4Y5rP7wI/#

and here: http://instagram.com/p/bX52IFP7x9/#

I'm happy, but I know that people may swear BART off and take alternative ways for the rest of their life.

I also just forgot to mention, while watching KTVU, it mentioned BART management spent $400,000 on a labor negotiator.  Where did they get this kind of cash to do this?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

UPDATE: Clipper Refunding Passengers Who Experienced Failed Pass Load

If you are a victim of a failed automatic loading of your monthly pass to your Clipper card and you were forced to pay e-cash for your Caltrain ride, the folks at Clipper just released this announcement:

Thank you for the good gesture Clipper.

If you want to prevent this type of mess from happening again, learn about other great options to load your passes here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BART Strike Day Three - Ferry Fare Discounts & Tips for Stress Relief

While I am typing this blog entry, day three of the BART strike is highly likely.

Assuming if both sides can hash out a deal very soon, BART won't be able to run at full force for at least a full 24 hours, which means whatever day they restart service, only some trains are going to run.

So while most of you have been hassling through alternatives like AC Transit, ferry boats, and casual carpool, I feel the need to provide just a few tips to get you some relief:

Discounts for Oakland, Alameda, and Harbor Bay Ferries
If you are paying cash for the ferry boats listed above, you are paying more than you should.  Instead, pay with a Clipper card and pay discount prices.  Here's what you will pay:

Oakland/Alameda: $4.75 paid with Clipper.  You'll pay $6.25 with cash.
Harbor Bay: $5 paid with Clipper.  You'll pay $6.50 with cash.

Also, if by using your Clipper card, you'll also get a 50 cent discount to take Muni.  Simply use the same Clipper card and you'll pay $1.50 for the Muni ride.  When you take your return trip on Muni back to the Ferry Building, you'll also save 50 cents.

Discount for Larkspur Ferry
Similar to the discount with the above ferry services, if you take the Larkspur ferry, you'll also get a discount.  You'll pay $6.25 on Clipper, versus paying $9.50 in cash.

You also receive a 50 cent discount for Muni as well.  Take Muni away from the Ferry Building with the same Clipper card and pay $1.50.  When you return on Muni, you pay full fare ($2), but you'll get a 50 cent fare discount (on top of the $6.25 discount fare) upon entry to the Golden Gate Ferry system.

Stress Relief from Commute Hell
I got some positive Twitter reactions from these suggestions.  Why not try them out?

Talk like a pirate, dress like a pirate, and be a pirate on the ferries!

Sing some simple classic songs to ease that anger!  Hopefully others can sing along too!

Monday, July 1, 2013

[UPDATED] Clipper Card Failed to Load WageWorks Benefits

New Update: Clipper to refund passengers.  Read story here.

A BART strike is plenty frustrating for a lot of commuters and that means people will need to depend on alternate public transportation to get themselves around.

This isn't a great notice from the folks at the Clipper card program:
Due to a processing error, some Clipper cards will not load WageWork benefits until tomorrow, July 2nd. Please be sure to tag on/off today and tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.
This is a huge problem.

People who uses their Clipper card didn't get their new monthly transit pass loaded or their loading of e-cash, which could have meant people either had denied rides, or had to pay e-cash instead of getting their new pass.

Akit's Opinions
Clipper should be reimbursing any passenger who had to pay out-of-pocket or e-cash if their pass did not arrive in a timely manner.  This would include people who use Caltrain's monthly passes.

I've warned people all the time about this.  If you can skip automatic loading of your transit passes, tickets, and e-cash, do it.  There are many alternatives that gives you the control, such as a commuter debit card or paper voucher.  For more information about this, click here.

Bravo Clipper.  Bravo. [Slow clap]

UPDATE: Clipper is considering refunds for those victims of this snafu.

Dear BART Management and its Unions...

This is the front page from four years ago.

Dear BART Management and its Unions:

You all suck.  That's right, you all suck.  How do you screw up this badly and now there's a transit strike?

Every four years, we the public go though this BART union contract emotional drama.

I'm going to say it right now: I'm tired of this crap.  Get your ass back to that bargaining table and I'll personally chain and padlock the damn doors until it's finished.

A few hundred strikers and some management folks versus 400,000+ daily BART passengers.  Guess who is going to kick your ass.

As one twitter user suggested: Let's mail our gas receipts to the SEIU, ATU, and BART Management and demand reimbursement for their poor judgment.

Akit and a hell of a lot of angry transit passengers