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Culver City Chronology - Part 1

Sept. 26, 2002 to Nov. 7, 2002

Part 2

Part 3

City of Culver City, California -  Intersection Details

See the General Notes about Culver City, below.

Washington Boulevard at Beethoven

Posted Speed Limit: 35
Minimum yellow per table: 3.6
Programmed yellow (as of 9-12-02): 3.5
(Yellow subsequently was adjusted - see note below.)
This camera, Culver City's top ticket producer, is located on a narrow strip of Culver City land that extends into the City of LA. It is only 100' from the boundary with LA, on two sides. See map at:
Culver City Documents.)
Editor's estimate[1] of this camera's number of tickets per annum: 3800
Estimated cost to public of those tickets: $1,140,000
Estimated revenue (gross) to city from those tickets: $302,000
City's projection[1] of revenue, all cameras citywide, Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2002: $1,500,000
City's projection[1] of expenditure for cameras, citywide, same FY: $804,332
City's projected net profit, citywide, same FY: $695,668
Actual rev., exp., same FY (preliminary): Culver City Documents
City's budget surplus (actual)[1] in last audited fiscal year: $7,125,000
Date this camera first listed here: 9-23-02
Westbound Washington / Beethoven tickets are a discussed at length Defect # 2 in the Expanded version of the Home Page.
Until 3-6-03 the warning signs at Washington / Beethoven were only 36" tall, less than the 42" minimum. There is more info in the Chronology below, at Dec. 3, Jan 14 , Jan. 30, Mar. 6, and Mar. 11.

City of Culver City - Intersection Details

Sepulveda Boulevard at Green Valley

Posted Speed Limit: 35
Minimum yellow per table: 3.6
Programmed yellow (per Sgt. Wolford at court on 9-26-02): 3.5
(Yellow subsequently was adjusted - see note below.)
This camera, Culver City's next-to-top revenue producer, is located at the main southern entry to Culver City, only 100' from the boundary with the City of LA, and adjacent to a regional shopping mall. See map at:
Culver City Documents.)
Editor's estimate[1] of this camera's number of tickets per annum: approx. 2/3 of that of Washington / Beethoven, above
Date this camera first listed here: 9-26-02
Until March 2003, the warning signs at Sepulveda / Green Valley were only 36" tall, less than the 42" minimum. There is more info in the Chronology below, beginning at Dec. 3 and continuing at Jan. 14 and 30.

City of Culver City - Intersection Details

La Cienega at Washington (a.k.a. Washington / La Cienega)

Posted Speed Limit: 35
Minimum yellow per table: 3.6
This intersection is an unusual case. The City actually reduced the yellow here.
When the City announced (see Sept. 27, 2002 entry, below) that they had changed the yellow at four intersections, I assumed they had increased Washington / La Cienega's yellow time, just as they had with the three other intersections. But in the months since then, a noticeable upswing in the number of Washington / La Cienega tickets coming to court, plus some of Sgt. Corrales' trial testimony about those tickets, pointed toward the possibility that they might have reduced the timing. In Jan. 2003, the City responded to my Sept. 2002 public records request and provided written confirmation that indeed it was reduced, from 4.0 to 3.6. (More information about the signal timing at Washington / La Cienega is at Sept. 27, Jan. 9, Jan. 17 and July 17 in this chronology.)
The shortening of the yellow at this intersection raises the serious question:
How is the City's primary responsibility, public safety, served by making this change that actually increases the incidence of red light running at Washington / La Cienega?

I believe that this camera is the City's #3 revenue producer (of seven cameras presently in operation). It is located at the extreme northeast tip of Culver City, where La Cienega Boulevard passes through Culver City for 1/4 of a mile. The boundary with the City of LA is only 150' north of this camera. See the map at: Culver City Documents.
Until March 2003, the warning signs at Washington / La Cienega were only 36" tall, less than the 42" minimum.

City of Culver City - Intersection Details

Sepulveda at Machado
On July 23, 2004 I noticed that the required 4th warning sign was not posted on the alley entering this intersection from the west.  There's no indication that a sign was ever posted there.   The alley could be a private street - it serves only a large apartment complex - but it has its own red signal lamp and left arrow, so clearly was considered to be a bona fide street when the signal was designed.  No Sepulveda / Machado defendant has raised the issue of the missing sign in court, yet.  The sign requirement (see Defect # 4 on the Home page) seems to be absolute, so the missing sign should invalidate a ticket issued to a driver moving in any direction at the intersection, not just from the alley.

There is another defect at Sepulveda / Machado.  If you have a northbound ticket at this intersection and are interested in fighting it, please contact me for details.


City of Culver City - The Chronology

General Notes

Culver City tickets are arraigned (defendants plead guilty or not guilty) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and Friday afternoons, with the defendants who have pled not guilty going to trial on Thursday afternoons at 1:30. If you are coming out to the courthouse anyway (to ask for an extension, pay your bail, etc.), I suggest that you plan your visit for Thursday afternoon at about 1:45, so you can watch a few of the trials and get a preview of what yours will be like. Or, if you would like the opportunity to compare your ticket to those of other defendants, plan to arrive by 1:05, at which time there will be many defendants waiting in the hallway for the doors to open.

Culver City has eleven cameras.  The locations are depicted on a map, at Culver City DocumentsCulver City is using two kinds of cameras, 35mm "still" and digital video, both provided by RedFlex.  For more description of the two types, see the box entitled "How to Read Your Late Time" in Defect # 7 on the Home page.

 Quashing a rumor:  On June 12, 2004 an LA Times story about the Costa Mesa refunds (see Costa Mesa section, below) erroneously stated that there had been 2000 refunds in Culver City.  The city where the big refund (actually almost 3000 tickets) happened was not Culver City, it was East LA (see the East LA section, above).   The Times supplied their story to AP, so the incorrect story will be in hundreds of papers, worldwide, and will be a persistent rumor.

You can read the transcript of a typical Culver City red light camera trial, at: Culver City Documents.

Less important info below is in lighter type.  A portion of the Culver City Chronology has been moved to a separate page (see box, below).

Culver City (cont'd), Sept. 26, 2002: "Truth In Evidence" Means "Anything Goes"
I came back a week after my trial and attended the Thursday trial session simply to observe. While waiting for the courtroom doors to open, I provided materials to a number of the Washington / Beethoven defendants there. Several of them used those materials in their defense. After hearing those defenses, Commissioner Randall F. Pacheco agreed that the yellows were too short and the signals were illegal, but said that the tickets must stand because of a California law (passed by initiative) that says that evidence in criminal cases should not be thrown out because of "an inadvertent mistake" by the police. Comm. Pacheco went on to say that the evidence (the camera photos) would not be excluded by our Federal Constitution protections either, as the behavior of the police "doesn't shock the conscience or seem to be facially unjust." (Those tests comes from Rochin v. California, a U.S. Supreme Court case. See Truth in Evidence, attached. ) (Was the Culver City Police Department's "mistake" an "inadvertent" one? See Culver City Documents.)

Culver City (cont'd), Sept. 27, 2002: Four Cameras Adjusted - Three Up, One Down!
At the council meeting of Sept. 30 the Police Department announced that on Sept. 27 they had adjusted the yellow time on a number of their red light cameras. At Washington / Beethoven, Jefferson / Cota and Sepulveda / Green Valley they increased the yellow to 3.6 seconds from the previous 3.5.
They also changed the yellow at Washington / La Cienega, but initially it was unclear whether they had increased it as they had the other three, or reduced it from 4.0 to 3.6. (Note added Jan. 2003:  Now, at last, the City has responded to my Sept. 2002 public records request and confirmed that it was reduced (!), from 4.0 to 3.6. See more discussion about this, at Jan. 9, Jan. 17 and July 17, 2003 in this Chronology.)
The timing increases at the three intersections raised the question: What would be done with the tickets still "in the pipeline?" Would the City accept guilty pleas (and payments) from defendants who got cited a month or two before the timing was changed - or would it dismiss those tickets without the defendants having to plead not guilty and go to trial?

Culver City (cont'd), Oct. 3, 2002:  City Kicks Judge, Trials Moved "Out of Town"
The Oct. 3 weekly (every Thursday afternoon) trial session at the Culver City courthouse answered the question immediately above, but raised some others. At 1:40, after the red light camera defendants were seated in his courtroom, Commissioner Pacheco revealed that two days previously City Prosecutor Lisa A. Vidra had filed a Peremptory Challenge of Comm. Pacheco's trying of the cases (despite the fact that he had been trying all the cases for a year), and that as a result the supervising judge had ordered the day's cases moved to downtown Los Angeles - about 10 miles away. All defendants were ordered to report downtown "forthwith" - meaning that same afternoon!
The defendants who reported downtown were tried by Commissioner Michael I. Levanas, who either hadn't heard of VC 21455.7, or didn't understand it - he stated that the required yellow time was "1/10th of the [35 mph] Posted Speed Limit" - the pre-21455.7 "Rule of Thumb." Prosecutor Vidra and Sgt. Paul Wolford, who both knew the truth of the matter (the CalTrans table requiring 3.6 seconds had been entered into evidence in a number of their trials during the previous two weeks), didn't bother to set the new judge straight. The first defendant tried to raise the issue of the illegality of the cameras (Defect # 2 on Home page), but Comm. Levanas didn't catch on, and convicted him as well as most of the defendants who followed. The only defendants who escaped were two who argued that the person shown in the photo wasn't them. Prosecutor Vidra was asked, but would not state why the City had kicked Comm. Pacheco off the cases.

Culver City (cont'd), Oct. 10, 2002: City Continues Venue Shopping - Trials Moved to Beverly Hills

The Oct. 10 trial session was much like the one of the 3rd, except that the assembled defendants were told to report to the Beverly Hills courthouse (instead of downtown LA). The drive to Beverly Hills wasn't to be the last - at least one of the defendants, after having been found guilty by the Beverly Hills judge (Commissioner Hugh Bobys), was told that in order to complete the paperwork she would have to go to the court clerk back in Culver City.

Culver City (cont'd), Oct. 17, 2002Trials Again Move to Beverly Hills
The Oct. 17 trial session was much like the one of the 10th - the defendants who assembled in Culver City at 1:30 were again told to report immediately to Comm. Bobys' court in Beverly Hills. One defendant demonstrated to Bobys that the yellow was too short; however, Comm. Bobys still found him guilty, stating: "I'm not going to hold it against Culver City that they didn't find (the document listing the minimum yellow times)."

Culver City (cont'd), Oct. 24, 2002:  Trials Come Back to Comm. Pacheco, Temporarily
Comm. Bobys' Beverly Hills courtroom is also the regular venue for the City of West Hollywood's red light camera tickets. Those trials are held on Thursday mornings. On the morning of Oct. 24 one West Hollywood defendant demonstrated to Comm. Bobys that the yellow was too short, and Comm. Bobys let him go - not guilty! (Also see West Hollywood section, above.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, that afternoon Culver City's trials were not moved up to Bobys' court. They were heard by Comm. Pacheco in Culver City. Everyone was found guilty.
And Comm. Pacheco announced that he would be moving to another courthouse (Compton) on Nov. 1.

Culver City (cont'd),
Oct. 31, 2002: City Provides Documents
On Oct. 31, in response to my Public Records Act request for documents regarding [1] the reasons (accident rates, etc.) for installation of the cameras at the intersections chosen, and (2) the intersection-by-intersection breakdown of revenue, citations issued and not issued, the City provided only 12 pages. Those documents point to possible legal defects in the City's camera system. Click the following link to view the documents:
Culver City Documents.

Culver City (cont'd), Nov. 7, 2002: New Judge

Comm. Ralph Amado

The Nov. 7 trial session was in Culver City, but in front of a new Commissioner, Ralph Amado. Comm. Amado announced that he (unlike Comm. Pacheco) would not grant traffic school after trial and conviction - unless it was an "unusual case."
The session started out with seven defendants, but four cases were dismissed immediately, with no explanation given as to why. One of the three remaining defendants brought up the issue of too little yellow time, but Comm. Amado found him guilty anyway, stating (1),"the duration of the yellow has no effect on how the camera operates," and (2) (as Comm. Pacheco had said a number of times), that a California proposition mandates that evidence in a criminal trial (in this case, the photos taken by the camera) is not to be thrown out unless it violates
Truth in Evidence.
Comm. Amado did allow another of the three defendants to go to traffic school. It was unclear how hers was an "unusual case."
None of the three defendants raised the VC 210 requirement for a clear photo - despite driver's photos that ranged from poor to terrible. It was also interesting to note that when Sgt. Omar Corrales displayed those photos for Comm. Amado, he did not zoom in on the faces (the largest the faces were displayed was at about 1/8 of the screen width), and Comm. Amado, who was about 15 feet away from the TV, did not ask him the show the faces in greater detail.


End of Part 1

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