Stop-Sign Cameras in Temescal Bring $100 Tickets, Anger and Controversy
January 31, 2008
Sue Pascoe , Staff Writer
Since video enforcement at two stop signs in Temescal Gateway Park began five months ago, drivers have received 2,283 citations at $100 each, representing $228,000 in gross revenue. Eighty percent of the money collected goes to the Mountains Conservatory Recreation Area (MCRA) and 20 percent goes to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., an Australian-based company that owns and operates the cameras.
After receiving four $100 tickets for allegedly failing to stop at the stop sign just below the YMCA pool in November, businessman Gary Solomon was puzzled. He was sure he had stopped. He always does on the way to dropping his child off at a preschool in the canyon, and he hasn't had a moving violation since he was 18.
After talking to other preschool parents at the Palisades Jewish Early Childhood Center and Little Dolphins, he realized that he wasn't alone.
'How could so many good people be scofflaws?' Solomon wondered during an interview. 'They're just taking their children to preschool or the YMCA pool.'
The problem began in late September, when the camera was installed at the stop sign along the canyon road about a quarter of a mile above Sunset. At that location a motorist either goes straight or turns right and goes uphill to the pool.
The posted speed limit is 15 mph, but with two speed humps before the stop sign, it's hard to accelerate much above the posted speed. In addition, turning left at the stop sign takes the driver immediately over yet a third. unmarked speed hump.
Two weeks ago, Solomon took a friend, who is also an engineer, to the stop sign to observe and possibly figure out how he got his four tickets. The two watched cars for about an hour and then noticed something of interest. If a car stops two feet before the white line, the wheels do not hit the sensor in the road. The markings of where the sensor is located is easily seen.
This means a car can come to a complete stop without starting the sensor. When the car starts again, rolling over the sensor, the camera begins rolling as if the car had never stopped.
'It seems to me that this is a total scam,' Solomon said.
MCRA Chief Ranger Walt Young disagrees with his assessment. Although the magnetic sensors in the road start the sequence, 'The camera records on a loop, so the entire sequence should be on the video,' he said. 'It should show them stopping and then there should be no citation given.' Young pointed out that a ranger observes all of the video and that it is the ranger that issues the citations, not the camera.
'The Conservancy doesn't follow the DMV regulations,' Palisadian and retired Beverly Hills city attorney Jack Allen told the Post on Tuesday. 'The stop limit line isn't where it should be.' Allen also noted that the state vehicle code does not authorize using automated traffic enforcement at stop signs.
Solomon paid his $400 in fines, but is contesting all four tickets. He has asked for a hearing, he still has not been assigned a date.
The Conservancy's Diana Hartman told the Post that once the mail-in coupon requesting a hearing and the payment has been received, a hearing is scheduled within 60 days. Residents, who have received a photo enforcement citation are directed to a Web site, where they can watch the tape of the infraction.
The Post was able to obtain a citation and watched the video of a car going through the stop sign. There was a certain amount of jerkiness, but Young explained that this was a function of the Internet download speed. The camera records in real time and is television quality, he said.
In a July 12 Los Angeles Times story, after the first camera had been installed at the exit to the parking lot in Temescal in June, Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said: 'I'm more worried about a law suit from somebody whose child is killed. We'd be sued for millions for not controlling the interface between visitors and cars.'
Allen took the MCRA to task for failing to have a traffic engineering analysis done to see if there were safety issues and if, in fact, there been serious traffic accidents in Temescal park.
A study was not done before either camera was installed.
Allen is recommending that the Pacific Palisades Community Council ask Senator Sheila Kuehl or Assembly member Julia Brownley to ask the attorney general for an opinion as to the legality of the stop-sign camera and the procedures the Conservancy is using to enforce it.