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San Jose considers parking ticket amnesty program

San Jose is looking into an amnesty program that could give parking scofflaws a reason to pay up.

Drivers know the universal dread of seeing that little slip of paper tucked under the windshield. A $60 pesky parking ticket can quickly double, if not paid on time, leaving residents with yet another economic burden during the pandemic.

The city could kick start a program Tuesday to temporarily forgive fees that accumulated on citations issued on or before March 19. The program would expire Jan. 21.

John Ristow, the city’s director of transportation, said in a memo:

“While late and collection fees serve a much-needed purpose — to motivate the timely payment of parking citations — for those with multiple outstanding citations, the cumulative unpaid amount can become overwhelming over time.”

All parking tickets must be paid or contested in 21 days. Left unpaid, a $60 ticket could turn into a $95 charge and eventually a $135 charge, according to the memo.

Mark Buckawicki San Jose is considering a parking ticket amnesty program that would reduce fees to make citation payment a little less painful in during the pandemic-related economic recession.

On March 19, the city stopped ticketing due to shelter-in-place mandates, allowing residents to park for free. While this provided short-term relief, paid parking and enforcement of parking violations resumed Aug. 17.

San Jose residents owe a collective $25 million in parking fees, according to Ristow, despite the city’s efforts to collect and provide payment programs for low-income individuals.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, as many as 235,000 citations were issued each year in San Jose. The city is able to collect on 80 percent of those tickets. Most drivers who have outstanding tickets have two to five unpaid citations.

Ristow wrote:

“The Amnesty Program is intended to make it easier for those with outstanding citations to pay off their balances during this challenging time while at the same time preserving the city’s right to continue to pursue the collection of the full amount owed.”

The city of Riverside in Southern California adopted a similar program and was able to collect 12.7 percent of owed fees. If this same model is applied to San Jose, the program will return around $1.65 million to the city.

If the program is approved, Turbo Data, the city’s parking citation processing and collections vendor, will send a letter to people with outstanding tickets to the address the state Department of Motor Vehicles has on file for them. The letter will explain the program, timelines for repayment and how much is owed.

Additional information on the program will be posted on the Department of Transportation website.

The City Council takes up the matter at its Tuesday meeting that begins at 1:30 p.m. To watch, people can visit the San Jose YouTube page.

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight.

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