Help Desk: Don't block the driveway -- even yours

THE PROBLEM: Kim Chhour got a ticket for parking his 1999 Honda Civic in front of a driveway in South Philadelphia.

His very own driveway.

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Chhour was out of town when it happened, so his brother paid the ticket for him, along with a late fee.

But Chhour was confused. He wasn't inconveniencing anyone by blocking the driveway. His parents, with whom he's living, told him to park there. And they had an extra set of keys to move the car when they needed to.

Chhour asked the city about getting a refund, but was told that there are no exceptions to the no-parking-in-front-of- driveways rule.

"Even the mayor himself couldn't park in front of his own driveway," Chhour said he was told by a woman at the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA), which handles parking-ticket appeals.

He still didn't get it: It's South Philadelphia. Surely preventing people from blocking their own driveways can only lead to worse problems.

"I tried to make sense of it but I couldn't," he said.

BUT IT'S MY DRIVEWAY! Unfortunately for Chhour, the city thinks the rules are pretty easy to understand: No parking means no parking. Period.

Chhour thinks he should have been allowed to block his parents' driveway since they gave him permission.

But from the city's perspective, the idea is not feasible. Parking-enforcement officers and cops can't tell the difference between a car that has permission to block a driveway and a car that doesn't.

BAA director Jerry Connors said his office hears complaints like Chhour's all the time, especially in more-crowded neighborhoods, where people fear that, if they don't block their own driveways, someone else might.

But that excuse "just doesn't cut it," Connors said.

People who break this law are treated the same way as drivers who block other people's driveways (or fire hydrants, for that matter): They're ticketed.

Since Connor's office doesn't write the law, just enforces it, we checked in with Andrew Stober, chief of staff at the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities, which helps develop traffic policy for the city.

Stober also understands why Chhour would believe he was unfairly or wrongfully ticketed, but doesn't think the driveway-parking law should be changed to add exceptions.

"There's no reasonable way to enforce it," he said.

Plus, if the law contains an exception, then "everyone's going to say, 'I had permission to park in front of a person's driveway,' whoever it was."

We wondered whether the city could just dismiss tickets when drivers can prove they either own the driveway in question or had permission to block it. That way, the Parking Authority and Police Department wouldn't have to sort out these issues. Instead, drivers could do it themselves at hearings.

Connors didn't want to speculate on how enforcing something like that would work, but said that if the longstanding law were changed, "we'll figure out how to deal with it."

Just for good measure, we checked in with one other body with the power to change parking laws - City Council.

But Chhour didn't get much support there, either.

Council spokesman Tony Radwanski echoed the argument Connor and Stober made in defending the code as it's written.

He did hold out hope, though, that a sympathetic hearing examiner might take pity on Chhour and cancel the fine - if he went to argue the case.

HOW NOT TO FIGHT A TICKET. Unfortunately for Chhour, he's not in the best position to fight this ticket.

The best way to fight a ticket is by not paying it. Once Chhour's brother paid the $41 fine - and $45 late fee - Chhour had technically admitted guilt in the matter, meaning he has no real grounds for appeal.

So Chhour is out of luck on practically every count.

The law is against him. The people who write and enforce the law are against him. And he gave up his chance to ask for mercy.

So let this be a lesson to anyone in a similar position: Beg for mercy first, pay later.

Next time, Chhour could always try to find a spot in the median on South Broad Street.

We're pretty sure no one will ticket him there, even if he is breaking parking laws.

Have you dealt with city services lately? How'd it go? Let us know at www.thecityhowl.com, e-mail howl@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5855.

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