San Francisco DPT – How To Protest Your Ticket

DPT CarI’ve been a loyal taxpaying San Francisco citizen for almost 4 years now but will always despise the way the city handles and abuses the parking and ticketing system. DPT which stands for “Department of Parking and Traffic” goes around the city and terrorizes the neighborhoods daily by writing tickets for expired parking meters, double parking, parking in driveways, etc. I understand the city needs to generate revenue and parking meter maids need to do their job by enforcing expired meters but I feel they severely abuse the system and take advantage of people especially the residents.

If you ever park in neighborhoods such as Cow Hollow for example, you’ll notice every street has street cleaning signs for specific times and days during the week in which you cannot park your car. Not only that but each side of the street has different hours and days. The city obviously makes it as difficult as possible for you to remember the day and time the street you actually parked on is going to be cleaned. It’s very similar to how Las Vegas casinos make it difficult to find the exit in hopes you stay longer and gamble more.

Now who really needs the streets cleaned that frequently anyhow? I’d be happy with street cleaning once a month if that will prevent me from additional tickets and save taxpayers money by not having to pay the street cleaners as often as they are paid. Of course the city will never change this because the more frequently the streets are “cleaned” the more revenue they make from writing tickets to the unfortunate hard-working residents who happened to oversleep that morning.

dpt ticketOn top of that, the way the DPT meter maids attach the ticket to your car is ridiculous. You would think they would take the time and make the effort to get out of their little golf cart and position the ticket under your windshield so it’s visible and will not blow away. But no, they can’t even get off their butts and instead shove the ticket into your door jam crack which has a high chance of blowing away in this windy city. You have no idea how many tickets I’ve seen sitting on the ground or sidewalk and sympathize for the person this ticket belongs to because they don’t even know they received it.

Think that’s not on purpose? First of all it means chances of the car owner actually receiving this ticket are slim to none and won’t even know a citation has been written until a delinquent letter has been mailed. This means 21 days have passed and you’re no longer allowed to protest the ticket. That is great news for the ticketing officer since chances of this ticket getting protested and reversed are drastically reduced. Now the ticketing officer will be more likely to make his or her quota for the month.

So what can you do to deal with your DPT ticket? I see three options all of which I’ve tried and to be honest with you I’m still not satisfied since the city of San Francisco continues to take advantage and abuse their powers. Regardless, here are the options I’d recommend:

  1. As much as you hate to do so, just pay your ticket and be done with it. I’ve spent more time getting angry and upset trying to deal with the morons that work at DPT that my energy and time is better spent doing something else. I don’t like them to win especially when I know they’re wrong but again it’s not worth trying to battle them over a $50 ticket.
  2. Fight your ticket directly by mailing in a protest letter (free DPT protest template) to the citation review center. I’ve done this several times myself and have gotten tickets dismissed because of it. On the flip side however I have lost my fair share as well and had to pay the full amount.
  3. Pay a company such as who guarantees your ticket will be dismissed or reduced otherwise you get your money back. I’ve used them before and can tell you it works but it’s still a long and tedious process since you need to follow their steps exactly and mail in several protest letters to DPT. I’ve also had one ticket not be dismissed and am still fighting for my refund.

In all honesty if the world was a fair place the San Francisco city government would properly train their DPT staff, reduce the frequency and sporadic schedules of street cleaning, and allow an easier way to fight and protest your tickets.

All in all if you end up getting a ticket is probably just easiest to pay it off instead of having to worry about spending your valuable time and energy trying to fight it. I wish I had a better solution for you but it least you have some options if you do decide to fight and protest your ticket.

I’ve provided a template you can use if you decide to protest your ticket directly. Just make sure you make a photocopy of the ticket and the letter e-mailed in as well as certifying the letter which will cost you a little over two dollars. This is just to make sure you have proof that DPT actually signed for and received your protest letter. If you don’t, they can easily say they never received it and then it’s your word against theirs.

Please feel free to tell me about your ticket stories below. I especially love hearing when people beat the DPT system!

18 thoughts on “San Francisco DPT – How To Protest Your Ticket”

  1. This article hits the mark on so many levels. I live in San Francisco in the outter Misson Streets of the Exelsior District. Parking in my neighborhood is really bad. Finding street parking after 10 pm would be extremely lucky. One night, I came home around 2 am on a weekend and spent almost 45 mins driving around my neighborhood for a space. I was tired and sleepy but kept on driving around. I noticed that around the area so many cars were parked on top of the side walk and so I decided to do the same (I’ve never done that before) and since I would have to be up a few hours for work and parked in front of my house. Come morning on my way to work at 8:30 am I had a ticket for parking on the side walk but noticed that no other car had a ticked but mine!! I drove around and saw that I had received it and no one else did. I protested it but of course was denied. I decided to not go further and just pay the $100 fine but this article is on the money and hope things change on how the city writes out their citations.

  2. I just want to suggest that for every ticket you pay you notify your local representitive that you are deducting that amount from any campaign contributions you intended to submit.

    By my current protest Mayor Gavin has now earned a $120 deduction to his campaign.

    Also let your local businesses and restaurants know that you will not be partonizing them this month because of a lack of disposable income due to paying parking tickets.

    This is especially to those of us that drive a motorcycle to: reduce traffic and parking congestion, and reduce gas consumption as well as pollution.

  3. DPT Department of Parking and Traffic in San Francisco may have to defend themselves in court.

    Several city taxpayers have alleged that the San Francisco city towed legally parked cars, charged exorbitant fees, and engaged in predatory ticketing practices. Several San Francisco taxpayers are looking to initiate a CLASS ACTION law suit against the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA, Muni, DPT).

    If you have suffered damages, you may qualify for compensation or remedies.

    Register your Complaint at

  4. I got one ticket for mistakenly parked at a Truck Loading Zone… I’m a visitor to the US and I’m not familiar with the symbollic labels on the parking meter. I was at the downtown area for a quick lunch when I got this ticket.

    Question, is the ‘truck loading zone’ label universally recognized in the US, aka something everyone should know?

  5. I got another parking ticket within 3 weeks, and very pissed right now. They claim I didn’t move my car over a block and pass the 2 hour limit, but I did.

    Along Townsend street between 7th street and 4th, several cars, trucks and vans are parked there FOREVER. I walked by there everyday, and those cars are all at the same spots, never moved. This section of street does not have time limit on the parking, but the city has some kind of ordinance saying that you cannot park your car on street for more than 7 days. Again, these cars are parked there FOREVER. I even doubt some of those cars even still functional, but they all have CA license plates.

    Ironically, DPT vehicle parking lot is right at the middle of this section of Townsend street. They pass by these parked cars everyday. I have never seen any of these cars getting any tickets. There are even several cars parked in front of the DPT vehicle parking lot entrance. The DPT staffs also park their own cars next to these dead cars. I really don’t see any fairness here.

  6. If you are a tourist visiting San Francisco and you get a parking citation make an appointment for a citation review or tow hearing. It’s very likely you get the citation canceled and… very unlikely you get the tow fees reimbursed… It’s worth a try.

  7. In the past year, I have seen the number of fire hydrants, private loading zones and red zone margins around private driveways grow exponentially. I know it’s the city reducing the number of parking spaces in our neighborhood. Fewer spaces, more illegal parking and more tickets issued. Someone should look into this and protect citizens, many of whom are renters and do not have garages.

  8. I am in no way an apologist for the DPT, but if you get a ticket for parking illegally, trying to argue on the basis of unfairness because other cars did not get a ticket is not a valid defense (unless you can prove discrimation or harassment or something along those lines). You break the law and get caught, you suffer the consequences.

    Street cleaning has been reduced to twice monthly in many SF neighborhoods, which is probably a good thing (every week is excessive in nicer neighborhoods). I do think that it is necessary, since there are many inconsiderate slobs among us who: empty their ashtrays where ever they feel like it, don’t pick up after their dog, and litter freely.

    As for the reduction of parking spaces in SF, this will continue to happen. If you live in a neighborhood where parking is a challenge, then cough up the extra money to rent or buy a space. Either that or do without a car and learn to use public transit. Zip cars are nice for this type of lifestyle. Or, you can move somewhere else, where parking is easy, like the suburbs.

  9. I received a letter from the DPT for a parking ticket that I honestly did not incur. The dated offense date and time I was at work and my vehicle was parked 12 miles away at my home. The car keys were attached to my keyring and in my personal possession while they vehicle itself was secured behind an eletronic gate that requires a proximity card to pass.

    In all honesty I think my citation was a transcription error. The vehicle make was the same (dodge) but my vehicle is silver, the note on the only citation I’ve seen (the one mailed to me) states the vehicle color is white.

    I know people complain about varying conditions surrounding their ticket but in my case I am actually 100% innocent — it is not even my vehicle. How do I fight this?

  10. DPT/SFMTA is totally out of control. Now charging a $3 processing fee to walk in the door to pay your fine- purchase a parking permit- fight a ticket & even buy a parking card is ludicrous. My mom was going to buy me a blazer for my birthday. Instead of going downtown- we drove to Corte Madera because of the traffic- parking issues. San Francisco’s economic engine is tourism. However- we are giving bad memories to these visitors- when the get ticketed- towed and having their car broken into. Instead of gouging shoppers and visitors to our great city- SFMTA should be paying people to park to encourage business. Instead we are shooting people in the foot. Funny thing is- bean counters and their “projected parking revenues” never took into account that when you up fines- people are going to be more careful about getting tickets. I know a lot of ppeople that haven’t received a ticket in over a year by making this a game. Before, people didn’t really care about a 25.00 ticket. Now motorists are much more careful- or just get a handicapped parking placard that gives you free parking everywhere! Enough is Enough! Citizen’s revolt! Set up the guillotine in front of City Hall and start with Gavin!

  11. Hello, thank you for the helpful information! I was wondering what I should do in my situation? I was visiting San Francisco from out of the state in the beginning of May, and I never received a ticket on my windshield or anything. Yesterday, I checked my mail and there was a letter from DPT saying that I had incurred a parking ticket in San Francisco in May and because I had failed to pay it within 21 days I now have to pay a $30 late fee on top of the $50 ticket. A ticket that I had never even known about. If I wait 15 days after that then it is $100, and 15 days after that it is $135! Also, the car I was driving was a rental car, and the rental car company has no record of the ticket either. I called DPT and explained everything and they said there is nothing they can do about it and to just pay the ticket. Is there anything I can do to dispute this or something? Please help!!!

  12. DPT Watch, just launched today. We’re trying to get results on who is handing out the most fraudulent tickets. If you got a fraudulent ticket, please post it here We’ll be keeping statistics on all of the badge numbers, and allowing people in your situation, to fight a ticket issued by the same officer.

    Thanks so much! Let’s fight this together!

  13. Hey, DPT watch is an awesome resource. I myself was in the situation couple of times when I had to dispute a parking ticket. One of those are still in the process of the hearings by mail. I may have reported that one to DPT Watch as well.

    Anyways, one more useful resource there is on the net is That website has an android ap that I use a lot to avoid getting tickets for street cleaning.

  14. I was not aware that the parking meters were enforced on holidays, almost all holidays except on Christmas, Thanksgiving and the New Year’s Day. So, I parked my car on Monday, Memorial Day Weekend in front of the building i live for a few hours in the afternoon. I got two parking violation tickets within 3 hours at the amount of $130 altogether. I wrote a letter (thank you to your template letter) protesting the lack of information about holidays. It remains to be seen if the letter would yield any results.

  15. I was in Chinatown and some homeowner called about being too close to the driveway. They gave me a ticket. When homeowners complain about parking in these little dipshit partials of curb, you know you’re living in the wrong city.

  16. I don’t object to the ticket fees. I freely acknowledge that I screwed up (actually, I misread the inanely labeled signs and couldn’t comprehend the ridiculousness of what was and wasn’t allowed), but the ticket I can deal with – it’s $75 bucks. What I object to are the towing fees. Nearly $400 to tow my car less than 3 miles, plus an additional $50 charge to “store” my car for more than 4 hours. Since I was in San Francisco caring for a friend who was mugged and almost killed, and I am currently unemployed, I was not pleased with the extortionate rates, as well as what appears to be very limited recourse. I am going to try writing a letter or something of the like, but I do not have high hopes. In light of what happened to my friend, I can not wish violence on others, but I do hope the city planners and governors catch a bad cold.

  17. I was born and raised here,doesn’t mean I’m better than however I have seen this city go through a bunch of stupit examples of how we get to where we are now. where are we? we are being taxed so much and ripped off by every oficial while thay tell you what you need while they take your money! Parking is just one of them,you want to help the poor illegals you get over crouding services streached beond limits you will get more people recieving than paying out they have to make it up somewhere cigeretts, liquior,parking,bridge,gas,tires,fees,DMV,and there are many more I have forgot. To make this short I am handycapped and have a pallicard and don’t go downtown unless I have to,and recieved a ticket today because last night the only place close to my house was on the wrong side of Silver Ave. (it’s every week here) of course I don’t want to leave the house somtimes because I’ll never get the spot back in front of the house again! somtimes people park there for days and It’s real inconvient for me. Usualy this happens when I have goon to the store if I leave for ten seconds some low life takes it! my palicard does’t help me I stil pay the same ticket! sometimes I have to park so far away I have to take a bus WHATS FAIR ABOUT THAT!!

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