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About The Bay: SF Charity Work Earns Parking Ticket

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A parking control officer issues a ticket in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A parking control officer issues a ticket in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A parking ticket on the windshield is not a welcome sight for any driver. But when the driver is making her way across San Francisco performing charitable acts a parking ticket can really sting.

Perhaps the ultimate irony for Cynthia Butler is the fact that she can perform community service to avoid paying the nearly $300 fine for her recent infraction, which – of course – was committed as she performed community service.

She is a volunteer for Food Runners, a charity group that collects leftover or extra food from restaurants and takes that food to places where the needy and hungry go to be fed, such as senior centers.

She drives a Smart Car, making it slightly easier to navigate the congested streets of San Francisco. Still, parking can be tricky. She reasons that because her car is so small and she’s only curbside for a few minutes while she runs in and out of establishments, picking up or dropping off food, it’s OK to park in less than ideal spots.

“It literally takes five minutes to walk in there and pick up the seven or eight boxes of leftover food and leave it here,” she explained.

Sometimes, though, she parks in outright illegal spots.

“I was parked right here (in a bus zone),” she pointed to the curb where she was ticketed. “And the woman came by and she said I’m writing you a ticket and I said but I’m doing a charity event, could you please let me go this once and she wrote the ticket anyway.”

Now, she owes the City of San Francisco $267.

“I think that we want to live in a city where people who are doing charitable efforts can be assisted by the city or at least not compromised this way,” she said.

“We enforce the rules of the road to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible,” pointed out Paul Rose of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. “They might have great intentions on the inside but on the outside it’s creating a dangerous situation at times.”

Individual parking control officers can show leniency in the field, but there is no official policy on forgiving infractions. However, Butler does have one alternative to writing the $267 check.

“I can opt from Project 20, which would have me doing community service, for doing community service,” she explained.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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