Disgruntled Driver Gives City a Run for Its Money

Nobody likes getting parking tickets, but most people pay up after a little grumbling. Not Jim Sturm.

Most people would be reluctant to send subpoenas to the city treasurer, the city attorney and the shopping mall manager or try to ferret out the legal relationship between the mall, the city and the police. Not Jim Sturm.

And most people would give up fighting a $14 ticket long before it consumed eight months of effort. But not Jim Sturm.

“When I get a bee in my bonnet, I pursue it,” said Sturm, 68, a former aerospace industry manager now selling real estate and living in Oceanside.


What a bee! What a bonnet!

It started at 12:50 p.m. April 23 when Sturm received a ticket for parking his car at the end of a row of cars in the Plaza Camino Real shopping mall in Carlsbad. A member of the Democratic Club of Oceanside, Sturm was inside the mall registering voters.

Sturm says he was unaware that the cross stripes on the pavement meant parking was forbidden. He says his 1983 Renault Alliance fit safely within the space and was not a hazard.

Sturm was startled to learn that, to fight a $14 ticket, he would have to write out a $30 check, refundable only if he wins. North County Judicial District rules, he was told. He protested, called the American Civil Liberties Union and then complied.


Next, he sought to discover how many parking tickets are written in all of Carlsbad and how many of those are written at Plaza Camino Real, just off California 78.

His theory: The city of Carlsbad is running a suburban equivalent of the old-time speed trap--in this case, a parking trap, nabbing drivers for offenses that really aren’t offensive, just profitable. So far, the city hasn’t been able to determine how many mall tickets are given.

“I don’t want cops out there wandering around like so many flower girls dropping tickets for no reason other than enhancing revenue and making a lot of people like me mad,” Sturm said.

Ronald Ball, assistant city attorney in Carlsbad, finds the parking trap defense specious.


“Whether we’ve had 1, 2, 50 or a thousand tickets at that location is irrelevant,” Ball said. “The traffic engineer says parking in a marked median could block traffic, particularly for large trucks.”

Ball concedes that the city long ago surpassed $14 in personnel time and aggravation trying to make Sturm pay up. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

Undeterred, Sturm has a court date for 10 a.m. Feb. 15 in Vista.

“My position is that they have all the machinery--the people, the copying machines--and I didn’t ask to be given a ticket,” Sturm said. “Now they’re going to have to work to get their money.”


Teacher’s Pet

Ad in the pet section of last week’s San Diego Reader:

“Tibetan Lama. Geshe Lobsang Tsephel. Classes and appointments. 480-6676.”

Yes, but is he housebroken?


Yes, We Have No Lease

After 61 years, the El Capitan market in Hillcrest is closing on New Year’s Day because a new owner declined to renew its lease. The south side of University Avenue between 5th and 6th avenues is going upscale, and now it’s El Capitan’s turn.

The Steak Escape, a fast-food restaurant, is replacing an antique store, and a Thai restaurant will supplant a stitchery shop.

A real estate agent hopes an ice cream store (maybe a Haagen-Dazs) will occupy the spot where Howard Porfiris and his late father, Augustine, sold fruit and vegetables and made their market into a landmark.


Howard Porfiris, 68, views his ouster with sadness but not anger. He has been selling fruit and vegetables at El Capitan since he was 8 years old, save for a three-year hitch in the Army during World War II.

“A man buys a building, he has a right to expect a return on his investment,” Porfiris said. “It’s like when I broke my leg. I didn’t ask for it to happen, but I learned to make the most of it.”