City's Mistake Is Red Light Runners' Relief

South San Francisco red light cameras not officially approved

By Traci Grant
|  Tuesday, Mar 16, 2010  |  Updated 7:48 AM PDT
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Several Bay Area cities have cameras mounted to catch drivers breaking the law.

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How do you get out of a $446 traffic ticket, despite the fact that a photograph documented you running a red light? Ask the city of South San Francisco.

The city made a mistake that has put it on the hook to refund drivers more than $3,000,000, even though they were busted by red light cameras. The cameras are located at the intersections of Hickey Boulevard and El Camino Real and Westborough boulevards and El Camino Real.

Darryl Remigio has received two $446 tickets for running red lights in the last few months, each with a snapshot of him behind the wheel attached. Remigio's parents, who paid for the fines, took his car keys away from him.

"They just got a letter saying they were getting their money back so that's kind of a relief." Remigio said.

The refunds apply to tickets issued between August 15, 2009 and January 27. The city is also filing paperwork to extend the refunds and dismiss all tickets issued up until last week on March 10.

More than 6,000 people received tickets at the intersections but it turns out that these cameras never got the official okay to start taking pictures. The city council never actually ratified the contract for the red light camera program.

"I would think they would have everything in play before they put these up," Jerry Morrisette, who lives a few feet away from one of the cameras. "But that's government."

South San Francisco's mistake is putting money back in drivers' pockets but it is also taking away whatever faith some residents had in city government.

How did this happen? Did the vote just fall through the cracks? Is this a black eye for the city? City Attorney Steve Mattas not only wouldn't explain the details, but appeared to be sticking to a script.

"The city understood there was a situation that has to be addressed and we addressed it," Mattas said. "It was an error."

Myrna Dwan drives through the Hickey Boulevard intersection every day. She thinks the city is downplaying the situation.

"Big mistake on the city's part," Dwan said. "Huge mistake. Somebody needs to be held accountable and they can answer for it."

She also says that in addition to repaying fees for drivers who chose to attend hours of traffic school, they should pay them for their time.

The city council has scheduled a meeting for April 14 to talk about this situation and whether they should just get rid of the cameras altogether.

From now until the meeting, drivers caught running red lights at those two intersections will receive warnings in the mail, not tickets.
 

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