Residents Left in Dark Over Parking Permits
The System Went All Digital Without Warning
City Hall just bungled our residential parking permit system and boy is it a mess.
The City of Fullerton, through the vendor Turbo Data Systems, Inc (TDS), issues parking permits in various forms and for various reasons. Two of these reasons are for Downtown businesses (so employees can park in designated areas) and resident only permits (so residents can park in permit only areas near their homes, especially around the colleges).
For years and years and years these permits have just been normal permits. Decals or hangtags you put on your rearview mirror.
That, at some unknown point, changed this year with a move to online and App based permits with the use of QR codes. According to the vendor’s localized website (fullerton.getapermit.net) all permits are now virtual.
“All permits are now virtual. The license plate number is the permit number.”
This raises some serious questions about data retention and privacy. I can find nothing saying if the City has access to this data, how long it’s retained, what they do with it or whom it might be shared with by the City. The Vendor can only share the information with the City’s approval - but what can the City do with it? No clue.
That’s concerning considering that every single license plate has to be digitally recorded in order for somebody to visit you, or you visit them, in certain parts of the city without getting a ticket. This is similar to the privacy concerns over the automated license plate readers used by our Police Department. In an era where more and more data is collected and weaponized it’s always nice to know what’s being stored when, where, why and for how long.
But privacy isn’t the only concern here because, like most things government, the rollout of the new system was completely mismanaged.
A single renewal letter was sent to residents to renew their yearly permits. It was dated 07 December 2022 and residents are claiming it arrived as late as last week.
If you read the letter you’ll notice that there is ZERO information indicating that the permits would be changing to an online only system. In fact the letter specifically lays out the standard costs for physical permits (emphasis added);
The total number of permits/placards issued to a single property is limited to five (5) permits per household. Lost or stolen permits will not be replaced.
The $10.00 annual issuance fee assessed per household participating in the permit program remains unchanged; the cost of each permit/placard is $2.00 (limit 5). The maximum assessed to any participating property is $20.00.
We can find those costs in the contract agreement (Exhibit A) between the City and TDS as signed both both parties on 01 July 2022;
Digital Permits are $0.50. Physical Permits are $2.00.
That agreement with TDS was approved by City Council in a unanimous 5-0 vote at the 21 June 2022 council meeting. No discussion was done on this topic as it was a Consent Calendar item. There is no evidence that Council knew this system was changing and if they did know they opted to avoid the discussion during the Public meeting.
This is important because what Council voted upon was a change in vendors - not a change in the program. Nowhere in the Consent Calendar item or supplemental materials is a change to an all-online system mentioned.
In fact, as of two days ago TDS was charging for physical permits;
5 Permits x $2.00 + 10% processing fee ($0.50) = $10.50.
So while they claim that Permits are online only (I have no idea if/when that text was added to their page), they’re still charging for permits they don’t actually issue.
Then we have the problem of a lack of information or documentation. While TDS technically has an FAQ page over at the getapermit site, this is what it looks like;
There is nothing there.
And the City website is no better. If you navigate from the “Residents” tab at CityofFullerton.com to the “Resident Only Parking Permit” page you’re likewise met with… nothing:
This isn’t a difficult thing to fix. Basic information in the GetAPermit FAQ (that should be part of our contract) and a simple website redirect would suffice to solve this problem as opposed to a having broken link that takes you to and tells you nothing.
The permit page could, and should, just automatically take you to the new permit system.
I know the City is capable of such a thing because when people used to type in CityofFullerton.com/outbox it automatically took you to their Dropbox account. So obviously the webmaster knows how website redirections work.
And yet here residents find themselves, being kept in the dark for… reasons.
I reached out to a few people in various Departments at City Hall and it seems that the frustrations that many residents are feeling are being felt there as well because multiple departments are tied into the parking issue and yet nobody is really in charge.
As if the multiple problems I've outlined aren’t bad enough, the new system went into effect 01 January 2023, precisely as City Hall was closed for the Christmas break between 24 December 2022 and 02 January 2023. Way to drop a new system on people when there would be nobody around to help them.
I’m not convinced the change to online only permits was justified, at the very least City Council never authorized it, and it was poorly planned, terribly managed and by the looks of it never communicated to the very people it impacts.
I’m sure “staffing issues” will be cited as the raison d'être for this failure but posting a proper link is literally the job of our one and only webmaster and yet somehow even that trivial action was too much.
If he can’t do it because the City no longer trusts him to do site redirects, wonder why that might be, we have a vendor that we pay millions of dollars (Glassbox Digital) to sort out our cyber issues.
On top of all of that the City Manager put pen to paper to authorize the agreement with TDS and as head bureaucrat at City Hall the buck stops with him.
Hopefully this whole issue will get sorted out in a few days. Word on the street is that staff is in talks with FPD to enact a possible 30-day grace period for parking tickets in the impacted areas but don’t rely on that unless and until it’s made official.
Until the system gets fixed and communicated properly feel free to call the City Manager, Eric Levitt, with any questions or concerns at (714) 738-6310.
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