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City won’t greenlight red light camera abolition Gary Walker | Thu, Aug 04 2011 02:57 PM

       An appellate case targeting the legality of red light cameras could have a profound effect on Culver City and its traffic control program, says a leading expert in red light photo tickets.

       Sherman Ellison, an attorney representing the plaintiff in People vs. Stephen Gray, believes the court’s decision could have consequences that reverberate throughout the region and especially in Culver City. “If statutes were violated, there could be a huge class action suit against Culver City,” he said. “It could force them to make appropriate intersection changes.”

       Ellison’s client Stephen Gray was photographed by a red light camera at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Helms Avenue in Culver City on Nov. 21, 2008. Section 21455.5 (b) of the state Vehicle Code states that cities are required to give a 30-day notice of where all red light cameras will be installed, along with its location, prior to issuing any citation.

       “But Culver City only noticed one, at Washington and La Cienega [Boulevard],” Ellison said. “It never issued any warning of the other intersections, including at Washington and Helms, which was installed in 2006.”

       Gray was found guilty of the infraction in Santa Monica Municipal Court and appealed the verdict to a state appellate court. A ruling was expected last month, but the court has taken more time than usual, Ellison said. “This is very atypical. Obviously, [the court] is struggling with the language of the appeal,” the attorney surmised. “We understand that there are huge financial and political implications in this case.”

       The attorney said other cities that have red light cameras – West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills – have followed the vehicle code statute.

       The Culver City Red Light Photo Enforcement program was put in place in March 1999 and became fully operational February 2000. There are 17 intersections that use the photo cameras and the fines that are collected from the traffic cameras go into two city-controlled funds.

       “The citation fee is approximately $100, but the courts always add on additional fees,” Lt. Milton McKinnon of the Culver City Police Department explained in an interview last year. “The fees are set by the state Legislature, so police departments don’t get to choose how much money [cities] get from the citations.”

       The Los Angeles City Council announced late last month that its red light photo initiative would be terminated as of July 31. Motorists who were cited with infractions in Los Angeles typically paid fines of $476.

       Culver City Police Lt. Ronald Iizuka, the department’s community relations officer, issued a statement explaining the differences between Culver City’s red light initiative and what Los Angeles had in place.

       “The city of Culver City utilizes a different system than the system used by the city of Los Angeles. Each incident is carefully reviewed and scrutinized by a sworn police officer to ensure that a violation has occurred and that all requirements of the California Vehicle Code have been met,” the statement read.

       “It is the [Culver City] Police Department’s intent to reduce incidents of red light violations and maximize traffic flow by maintaining the community’s red light camera program and traffic safety operations in general.”

       Ellison, who has won reversals of traffic cases in appellate and federal court, said minor adjustments could make a big difference in reducing tickets and accidents at red light camera intersections. “If the time between the changes between the red and yellow lights were adjusted by one second, that would solve a lot of problems,” he said. “If Culver City wanted to increase safety of the motoring public, they simply need to lengthen the delay between cross traffic.”

       Vice Mayor Scott Malsin does not anticipate any changes to the city’s photo traffic enforcement. “There are studies that show that they have reduced the number of injuries at the intersections where they are located and public safety is my biggest concern,” said Malsin, who lives within blocks of a red light camera on Washington and Beethoven Street.

       “If public safety was the primary concern, they could extend the delay in the yellow light intervals by one second,” Ellison countered.

       Robert Zirgulis, a substitute teacher at Culver City High School, has been the city’s most outspoken opponent of red light cameras and he made outlawing them the central theme of his campaign for city council last year.

       He believes Culver City’s lawmakers should follow their Los Angeles counterparts in disbanding the program. “I have been vindicated for all my efforts against the red light camera mess,” asserted Zirgulis, who is seeking a seat on the Culver City Unified School District’s Board of Education. “I got the Culver City Democratic Club to pass a resolution calling for an end to red light cameras, but it appears the city council members have chosen to ignore the will of the voters.”

       Ellison is asking that an amnesty program be instituted in Los Angeles for those who have not paid their fines. In Culver City, that is not recommended.

       “Drivers should be aware that there are consequences for ignoring a red light camera citation issued by the Culver City Police Department,” Iizuka warned.

       Malsin said he did believe that the fines were somewhat excessive, but noted as McKinnon pointed out that the city has no control over the amount of the infractions. “If it were in my power to lower the fines, I would,” the councilman said.

       Ellison said that if his client triumphs in the appeals process, he would petition to have the opinion published. “If we win, this could revolutionize the photo camera environment,” he predicted.

       Caroline Castillo, a Century City lawyer representing Culver City in the People vs. Gray, declined to comment on the case.

Rate This Article 2 vote(s)
Average Vote 5/5

Peter Says:

Tue, Apr 16 2013 10:58 PM

This has nothing to do with public safety.Has something to do with generating more city revenues.Politicians always care more about money than their citizens. That's why I don't vote anymore.


Just wondering Says:

Sat, Mar 17 2012 05:46 PM

Are these even still valid since Los Angeles has come out and said "You will not face any repercussions if you do not pay them?" Or is Culver City its own city and not under Los Angeles?


Alisa Says:

Wed, Feb 29 2012 07:37 PM

these cameras don't do any good.You have to chose between being rear-ended and risk of getting huge 500$ ticket.By the way, on east Coast similar camera tickets are 75-95$ -almost 7 times less...Agree with previous comments - tickets are robbery, cameras cause(not prevent) accidents and resentments


Brooke Says:

Sun, Sep 04 2011 12:50 AM

I wouldn't mind a red-light or speeding camera at every signaled intersection in Culver City. If you are worried about being caught breaking traffic laws, it's time to re-evaluate your suitability to operate a motor vehicle, but you'd have to put that cell phone down that you are illegally holding up to your ear or texting on while driving to perform said assessment.


Z Says:

Wed, Aug 17 2011 06:16 PM

The article states they ahve reduced the number of injuries...does this mismatch other studies that have shown red light cameras actually cause more injuries. That's where a lot of the debate comes from...


Claudia Smith Says:

Tue, Aug 09 2011 02:52 PM

I believe red light cameras are expensive, do not solve the traffic accident problems and are unconstitutional!


Claudia Smith Says:

Tue, Aug 09 2011 02:39 PM

I believe red light cameras are expensive, do not solve the traffic accident problems and are unconstitutional!


Robert Says:

Mon, Aug 08 2011 08:26 PM

Another horrible move toward fascist mechanization of our culture where people's privacy and rights come second. The recent studies have shown these cameras do not create safer conditions. They only create resentment and a feeling dehumanization amongst the citizens. Just another way for companies to get contracts from crooked politicians. If public safety was the primary concern, they could extend the delay in the yellow light intervals by one second. Get rid of all red light cameras!


Lenore Says:

Mon, Aug 08 2011 05:47 PM

None of my friends want to go out in Culver City anymore because of the cameras! You would think the city would want to keep people happy so they will spend money at the city's business establishments. Apparently not? Doesn't Culver City care about its businesses and residents?


Steve Says:

Mon, Aug 08 2011 05:45 PM

These cameras are the worst idea ever. I have narrowly avoided so many accidents because of them. They are more trouble than they are worth.


Sandy Says:

Mon, Aug 08 2011 05:44 PM

These cameras are such as hazard. I hate them and so does everyone else I know. Culver City - please abolish these cameras!


Erin Says:

Mon, Aug 08 2011 05:43 PM

Get rid of the red light cameras! People do not want to come to Culver City because of the cameras, which will cause the city to lose revenue. Also, many people have been stopping at green lights to avoid the possibility of the light changing and camera going off. These cameras cause accidents by people trying to avoid them. Also, it has been shown that the red light cameras cost the city more money than they yield in additional revenue. Culver City residents hate the red light cameras and it would be nice for the city to actually listen to its residents and remove the cameras.


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