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Release date: 1/5/10

*** Press Release ***

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors today approved penalty increases for disabled parking violations. The increase required changes to the California Vehicle Code, enacted in new law authored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco).

Signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on Oct. 11, Assembly Bill (AB) 144 (Ma) allows localities to increase penalties for the abuse of disabled parking placards as of Jan. 1. Disabled parking placards offer those who require them an efficient way to increase their mobility. When these placards are misused, the disabled community is harmed and the local jurisdiction is robbed of vital resources.

“Disabled parking spaces are here for those with disabilities and not for drivers simply seeking an end around to putting money in the meter” said Assemblywoman Ma. “I am grateful that the SFMTA has taken swift action to stop and deter the widespread abuse.  My hope is that people will now think twice before using an illegal placard or one that they bought off craigslist."

“Assemblywoman Ma’s crucial leadership on this issue has given San Francisco a powerful tool to combat disabled placard abuse and to improve parking accessibility,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“The abuse of disabled placards takes money out of our coffers and undermines the parking needs of people who legitimately use the placards,” said Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., SFMTA Executive Director/CEO. “Our goal is to deter the abuse of disabled placards in order to ensure that the limited parking resources in desirable locations are made available for those who truly need it.”

“A disabled parking placard is a crucial right that allows a person with a disability, often a hidden disability, to increase his or her mobility,” said Susan Mizner, Director of the Mayor’s Office on Disability. “Those with disabilities who use parking placards are not the targets of these increased penalties. It is important that local jurisdictions work with the state to deter fraudulent behavior.”

AB 144 amends sections of state law that limit a local jurisdiction’s enforcement options as they relate to disabled placard abuse. AB 144 increases the penalty for certain placard violations from $100 to a range of not less than $250 and not more than $1,000. The local jurisdiction can determine where the penalty will be set. Additionally, Assemblywoman Ma’s bill allows certain disabled placard parking violations to be subject to the issuance of a parking citation.

When cited as a parking violation, these citations will be subject to a civil rather than criminal penalty and will include the same citation protest process used for all parking violations. By providing this alternative procedure for disabled placard parking violations outside of the criminal court system, a local jurisdiction will be able to provide a faster, more convenient and less intimidating process for paying or protesting these citations.

For more than a decade the SFMTA Enforcement Division has maintained a special parking enforcement unit to seek out and cite instances of abuse of disabled parking privileges. Members of the unit are specially trained in issues associated with disabled parking enforcement, such as understanding that holders of disabled parking privileges may have hidden disabilities. In the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2010 (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010) more than 680 placards were confiscated, a 48 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

Since disabled placards are issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, enforcement is the only direct authority that local jurisdictions can deploy in their effort to curtail abuse of disabled parking privileges.

New Civil Penalty Amounts to Take Effect

Amendments to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) to address the problem of disabled parking placard abuse were effective Jan. 1.

The SFMTA Board of Directors approved a base civil penalty of $750 for the following CVC Section 22511.57 violations:

  • Use of lost, stolen or expired placard/plate
  • Misuse of placard/plate
  • Use of counterfeit, forged or altered placard/plate
  • Additional language specific to CVC Section 22511.57 includes use of a valid license plate or placard when it is displayed on a vehicle that is not being used to transport, and is not in the reasonable proximity of, the person to whom the special license plate or placard was issued.

The SFMTA Board of Directors also adopted an additional assessment of 10 percent for violations of CVC Sections 22507.8, 22511.57 and 22522. This 10 percent additional penalty assessment is mandated by CVC Section 40203.6.

Summary of Disabled Parking Penalties





(plus 10%)


Parking in blue zone without placard/plate




Blocking access to blue zone




Parking in the crosshatch area adjacent to a blue zone




Lost, stolen or expired placard/plate




Misuse of placard/plate




Counterfeit, Forged or Altered placard/plate




W/3 ft Wheelchair Ramp




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