Heads Up – DDOT “under no obligation to post signs giving advance notice of zoning changes”


“Dear PoPville,

Does anyone know if the city is required to provide advance warning to residents if it intends to turn an unzoned street into a newly zoned parking area requiring the appropriate permit? I’m asking because I came home from work one day in August to find that the unzoned street I was parked on in north Petworth (Gallatin Street) had suddenly become a Zone 4D, permit-only area. The city provided NO advance notice that this change would happen and — even better — immediately ticketed all of the cars that were parked there without the proper permit! I had three tickets for $90 waiting for me the same day the change went into effect.

I challenged my tickets. I lost. I also reached out to DDOT, which just got back to me (months later) and claims it is not responsible for putting up signs that warn people that the parking rules are about to change. Feels very much like a kangaroo court to me…

PS — If anyone feels that I am in the wrong for parking on an unzoned street, it’s because I LIVE on an unzoned street and do not qualify for an RPP. In other words, I had no choice.

PPS — Also, as it happens, DDOT got back to me after I e-mailed you and confirmed that they are under no obligation to post signs giving advance notice of zoning changes. The DDOT person actually told me that it would be a great thing to take up with my elected officials and she agreed my tickets were unfair. (Still had to pay them, though!)

32 Comment

  • I’m confused. If the sign said “Limit in Zone 4D” when you parked your car, then that’s the basis for the tickets. If you’re saying the sign was not there when you parked, then you’d have a case, otherwise I don’t see the reason for your complaints.

    • It sounds like the sign wasn’t there when he parked, was then put up, and he returned to find tickets.
      My question is, what is everyone doing between the erecting of the sign and the time it takes to now get an RPP? I just don’t understand not allowing people on unzoned blocks to not get RPPs, it’s not like you can always park on your block. I feel for you, it sounds like they could have alerted folks or forgiven tickets for a time after putting up the signs.

      • Yep. A similar thing happened on my block last year. My building is on a street that didn’t have zoned parking when I moved in so I didn’t have an RPP. Luckily parking for me wasn’t so bad because many of the neighboring streets weren’t zoned either (but I totally agree with jeslett that not having a RPP is a huge pain). I actually drove to work the day they changed my street and the neighboring streets to zoned parking in the middle of the day. No warning… when I came back from work everything was zoned. I was lucky to find streets that still weren’t zoned a few blocks away, because I didn’t want to risk getting a ticket. I later called 311 and they said there would be a grace period while people waited to get their RPPs. I got mine in the next day or two and put my temporary on the dashboard. I was lucky that I never got ticketed, but what about people who can’t afford to pay for the permit because they weren’t expecting that expense until later in the year? The district should be notifying people in advance. It can’t be that hard to do. I already receive emails from the DMV when it’s time to renew my registration. It’s total nonsense that the OP got ticketed AND the district wouldn’t drop the charges.

      • If the sign was not there when s/he parked, then that should be the defense. The problem is obviously coming up with the evidence, but here’s a tip: never go to traffic court without a picture. And no, it doesn’t really matter that the picture is not where your car is exactly parked, and I know from experience. Go to a street that’s not zoned, snap a photo of the sign and use the defense, “this is the sign in front of which my car was parked before ticketed” and snap a photo of the new sign showing what was changed when you returned to the car.

        • These days, even having photo evidence doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll win your appeal. As I noted elsewhere, in my case I parked next to a signpost that had several parking-related signs but did NOT have a sign indicating that there was nighttime street cleaning. I sent in a photo, but the adjudicator said that I should have driven around the block looking for additional signs.
          Also, lying 1) is not a good idea and 2) could backfire on the OP. Depending on how recently the new signs were put up, Google StreetView may well show the block it its original un-signed state.

        • Also, there aren’t any parking signs to photograph on unzoned streets. It’s just the Wild West. There’s nothing that says “this is an unzoned street” so it’s impossible to show what it looked like BEFORE the new zone 4D sign went up.

  • “Feels very much like a kangaroo court to me…” Yep. DC has got to get its money, and this is (partly) how they do it. Thanks for contributing to our city’s reserves. As WTOP and others have long documented, the way the city handles parking tickets involves state-sanctioned and blatant extortion with an utter disregard for its victims.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    That’s like saying I shouldn’t get a ticket for running a red light because the last time I was at the intersection the light was green. Signs change all the time. You have to check them every time you park your car. Nearly everyone learns that the hard way.

    • Not the same thing at all. A similar thing happened in my neighborhood. Signs were put up overnight and then the city TOWED all the cars that were suddenly parked illegaly. He ended up having to pay tickets/towing fees/transportation to go get the car. It seems like they should at least give a 24 hour notice or have some type of grace period before going hog on people.

    • Uhhh…no it is not. You would have to be mid-intersection and the light would have to suddenly appear to be the same circumstance. If that sign was posted after the car was parked, the resident should NOT be responsible for the fine.

    • As Jeslett put it: ‘It sounds like the sign wasn’t there when he parked, was then put up, and he returned to find tickets.”
      OP, I’d recommend seeing if you can get your ANC rep (and possibly your Councilmember) to advocate for you on this.
      I suspect the DMV has been given some kind of artificial limit whereby it’s no longer allowed to grant more than X percentage of appeals. I appealed one or two unjust tickets circa 2002-2003 successfully, and the last time I tried to appeal one (2013), it was rejected. (I parked next to a signpost that had several signs, but did NOT have one indicating that there was nighttime street cleaning. I sent in a photo, but the adjudicator said that I should have driven around the block (!) looking for additional signs.)

      • Ha! Like the Mayor-Elect is going to actually start doing anything for the Ward now!

      • I had an appeal rejected for a similar reason–said I should have looked at signs further down the block (all signs from the corner to one past my car said I was good). It really peeved me and still does.

    • Uh, actually, it’s not like that at all, since the sign WASN’T THERE when the car was parked.

  • Technically unconstitutional, no?
    Article I

    Section 9. (Federal prohibition)
    …No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed…..

    Section 10. (State prohibition)

    No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

    • What a ridiculous argument! Being parked is an ongoing thing–it’s not just about when you started doing it. The OP was illegally parked at the time that the parking fine was issued. Whether he had parked his car two minutes or two weeks before the sign was erected, the car was still there when the sign went up. An ex post facto fine would be one for having been parked at some point before the sign was posted.

      All that said, this is clearly an unfair and ridiculous ticket. Hope the OP finds a way to get out of it.

  • A very similar thing happened to me once. I parked at what seemed like a reasonable distance down the street from the entrance to an alley (3 feet or so), and sometime afterward the city came and put up a “no standing anytime” sign pointing towards the alley entrance. The sign was placed even with my front wheels, so the hood of my car was now in the “no standing” area. I had three tickets a few days later, when I went to get my (formerly) legally parked car. I appealed the tickets to no avail.

    • To be fair (and for future reference) the default distance you are required to park in the absence of sign authorizing parking is *much* greater than three feet.

      • From an alley, it’s 5ft…not much more than 3 ft. Stop signs are 15ft maybe you were thinking of those.

  • This is really unfair and ridiculous! Geez – they give a 30 day grace period when they announce new speed/red light cameras, and presumably those go in because people are already violating an existing law. In the case of the parking, they are actually CHANGING the law, and giving folks no grace period?? Doesn’t make sense.

    • +1.
      When you get those temporary “Emergency – No Parking” signs, you’re supposed to post them at least 72 hours in advance in residential areas and 24 hours in advance in commercial (metered?) areas. DDOT ought to do the same thing when it’s planning to add zone signage to previous unzoned blocks.

    • Not quite the same – in order for a block to be zoned for parking, a petition must be signed by more than 50 percent of the residents living on that block. Presumably everyone on the block would know that the change is likely if not definitely happening since they probably would have been asked to sign.

      Basically, there is a process here that needs to started by citizens who live on that block. DDOT (or any city agency) cannot change the parking status or a block outside of that process – something they can explicitly do with traffic cameras.

      • But what if I park on the next block and they change that one? The fact is that it’s simply absurd to expect someone to just know parking restrictions on a particular street are about to change. A grace period only makes sense.

        • If they change that one then take it up with the neighbors over there.

          The residential parking is run as a benefit for the residents on any one block – not for the citizens of DC or the neighborhood as a whole. I’d be down for a day or two of citations (and not tickets), but I think any grace period longer than that is too much. If it was my block that just changed to zoned parking, I would want the new regulations enforced as well.

          I’ve been on the other side of this too – I didn’t have a RPP got two tickets in three days due to zoning changes. You can bet that after that happened, I checked on my car everyday after that point, even if I wasn’t using it.

  • Yet another example of the DC Government working against its resident rather than for them.

  • Reason 1,273 why off street parking is worth its weight in diamonds in this town.

  • Same thing happened to me with Street Cleaning signs back in May. I parked my car on a Wednesday morning and there was no Street Cleaning sign. They put the signs up on Wednesday afternoon then ticketed everyone on the whole block on Thursday.

    I appealed. Included pictures, etc… They apparently rejected my appeal and added a late fee on top of it. But they didn’t even have the courtesy of notifying me of the appeal rejection. I had to find out in October when I went to sell my car. Ridiculous.

  • As a matter of protest, everyone should challenge every single parking ticket, traffic camera ticket, and traffic ticket issued by police officers. Even if you are guilty, everyone has this Constitutional right to challenge it. Flood the office with millions challenges and place the burden on the government to prove that they are in the right for any infraction they believe was committed.

    • Or, try living so you’re not car-dependent. That way, people who have actual needs and disabilities can get around our walkable, livable city without the congestion you create. With the time and money you save, everyone in your family can take taxis, and/or maintain a bit of fitness. Thanks!

      • You do know that postings like this make even the most PC tofu eating composting vegan baby toting in an organic cotton sling people absolutely want to stab you in the neck with a sustainable forest wood chopstick?

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