PROBLEMS ON FIRST STREET
Written by Rick Archer
NOTE: As of May
2007, there are two stories from women who were ticketed and
towed! Click Here
This is the way it used to be
This is the way it is as of February 2007
On Wednesday night, January 31, 2007, the car of an SSQQ
student named Maggi Dodds was towed from First Street by
order of the Bellaire Police.
Adding insult to injury, Ms. Dodds was also ticketed for
parking in a NO PARKING ANYTIME zone.
I did not witness Ms. Dodd's car being
towed. Nor did I find out about this event until the next
day. I believe Ms. Dodds car was gone before we even
knew what was going on.
However at 9:15 that evening I did intervene in the towing
of a second vehicle. In addition I engaged a Bellaire
policeman in a lengthy conversation.
We saved the second vehicle from being towed, but the
incident shook up everyone who witnessed the event.
When the other people heard about it from me or the other
witnesses, they too were shaken up.
Naturally this incident provoked a great deal of anger.
The towing incident seemed so unnecessary that people
questioned the judgment of the Bellaire Police Department
and the City Government.
Before I tell my side, let's read this article.
New "No Parking"
Signs on First Street Cause Woe for Customers of Local
article is reprinted from Southwest News, the
local Bellaire Newspaper
Story written by Natalie Torentino
February 6, 2007
Patrons of a local business believe they were wrongly
ticketed and towed after additional "No Parking Anytime"
sings were posed two weeks ago along First Street between
Bissonnet and Bellaire.
Rick Archer, owner of SSQQ Dance Studio at 4803 Bissonnet,
said one student's car was towed and another car was nearly
towed around 9:15 pm Wednesday, January 31, from the west
side of First Street.
Police said they arrived when a private homeowner whose
driveway empties onto First Street called to complain.
"They changed the signs but didn't alert anybody," Archer
said. "My students didn't know the signs had changed."
Assistant Police Chief Byron Holloway said the City
suspended enforcement of the parking signs because he could
not find a city ordinance or written report of these changes
with the municipal clerk.
Holloway said owners of any towed cars have a right to a
City Manager Bernie Satterwhite said the signs' legitimacy
was derived through a traffic study conducted month's ago,
determining "safe sight" distances on either side of First
Street Surgical Center's driveways.
The Public Works director has the authority to erect them,
then he submits a report to the clerk and city police,"
Satterwhite said. "We will do the paperwork today (Feb. 2).
But we try to give leeway when the signs are first erected."
Public Works Director Joe Keene said the signs were changed
due to "safety and visibility factors" including prohibiting
parking in front of dumpsters, fire hydrants, driveways, or
close to an intersection.
Satterwhite said the City considered multiple factors in
erecting the signs: AT&T, located on the east side of First
Street, prefers that employees park in their garage; SSQQ
wants more street parking for their customers; and local
residents do not want cars parked near their homes.
"We took an objective approach," Satterwhite explained,
"creating spaces but still maintaining safety."
While Satterwhite said he believes the City created more
spaces by posting the signs, Archer said valuable spaces
needed for his studio were taken away.
"We have lost 14 parking spots on the west side of First
Street," Archer says, "and gained seven on the east side. We
have also scared the wits out of my students.
"My business averages 1,300 people a week," Archer said. "On
some nights we have 200 people looking for parking."
"What sense is there in having 'No Parking' signs on a
40-foot-wide four lane street abandoned at night?"
Mayor Cindy Siegel said the City will "balance the concerns
of the residents with the commercial area."
One Woman’s Story
This article is
reprinted from Southwest News, the local
Story written by Natalie Torentino
February 6, 2007
Margaret Dodds, a Maplewood resident who has taken dance
lessons at SSQQ Dance Studio for seven months, was shocked
to leave class Wednesday night and find her Honda CRV gone.
The car was towed due to "No Parking Anytime" signs
recently posted on First Street.
Dodds said she will go to court and fight the ticket
and towing charges totaling $247.39.
"It's ridiculous the way you get ripped off like that,"
Dodds said. "I didn't realize I had parked illegally, and
they didn't give me a warning ticket or anything.
"This is money that luckily I could pull out of savings but
it is a large amount with my limited financial resources as
a single woman. I work very hard for what I have and I would
never have parked there if I had known the signs had been
Dodds said she had been parking in the same space on First
Street for weeks.
"I parked on the west side by the new medical building, and
made sure it was the proper distance from the curb," Dodds
said. "It was the exact same place I parked Sunday night
3 days earlier. It was dark and I
couldn't see the sign had changed."
MY SIDE OF THE STORY
- RICK ARCHER
I am going to start my story with an
email I sent to a friend the night of the towing.
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 10:14 PM
Subject: towing incident at studio Wednesday night
I am shaking with anger as I write.
About half an hour ago, someone ran into the studio and
hollered the police were towing cars.
I walked out to the First Street area and was stunned to
see a car already in harness ready to be towed. There
was a police car nearby. I explained to the officer that
these people did not know they were breaking the law and
asked him for leniency.
The policeman looked at the tow truck and said it was
out his hands. Then he got out of his car and asked the
man (Roger Garrison) for his drivers license so he could
write him ticket!
I implored the officer to show leniency. I explained to
him the signs had just been changed and in the dark no
one would ever notice. The officer shrugged and said
that was too bad, it was his job to enforce the law.
Seeing that line of reasoning didn't work, I questioned
the officer why he was writing a ticket when the man was
already being towed? I mean, one or the other, but
don't punish the man twice.
The officer shrugged and would not answer.
Meanwhile, Mr. Garrison and several other people from
the studio stood there in the rain begging the tow truck
driver to put the car down. Why I didn't take a picture
is beyond me, but I was so rattled my brain stopped
working. I needed to get that car down pronto and
I wasn't any help from the cop. The tow truck
driver told Mr. Garrison to hand him $135. Mr. Garrison
did not have that kind of cash.
So between the bunch of us we each chipped in and came
up with $70. Surrounded by ten people who didn't
look very happy, the tow truck driver finally relented
and set the car down.
Meanwhile I asked the policeman again why he could not
let Mr. Garrison off with a warning. I pointed out that
there were a dozen cars parked illegally… couldn't he
see these people were parking there out of ignorance,
not to defy the law?
I said these signs had just been changed. My Hall
Monitor had put a warning sign on the door, but
obviously that hadn't been sufficient. It was dark
out when they parked. They couldn't see the
writing on the signs in the dark. They were
literally 'in the dark' about these changes.
Surely Bellaire did not need to be so aggressive.
The policeman replied he wished he didn't even have to
be there, that he had much better uses for his time. He
said he wouldn't even be here if the department didn't
keep getting one complaint after another.
That is when I did a double-take. Complaints?
The officer replied the Police Department had gotten
several complaints about illegally parked vehicles each
day for the past three days. If they hadn't gotten a
report tonight, he wouldn't give this problem a second
Now I hesitated to think over what he had just said. I
did not realize someone was complaining. That was new
information. All this time I had assumed some patrol car
was passing by and decided to do something. But that was
not the case… someone was actively complaining!
I looked around. I was standing just a few yards from
the corner of First Street and Bissonnet. There was not
one house within 400 yards. Who on earth would care
enough to complain?
Then I looked over at the new hospital. The security
guard was standing in the doorway watching everything
that was going on.
Of course. That's when I figured it out.
I replied, "You know what? I bet the hospital got the
signs changed in the first place. And I bet someone at
the hospital has been calling the police to make a
And the policeman replied, "And I bet you would be
I have two witnesses to corroborate that is exactly what
the policeman said.
That is when the hospital and my landlord became the
Recently my landlord has been repaving the parking lot.
First they tear up half the parking lot, my students
have nowhere to park, then the security guard gets
orders to call the police when our students have nowhere
else to park and don't even know they are falling into a
Sounds cold-blooded, doesn't it?
And you know what else? Someone has the influence
to make the city vaporize parking on a street that
should be open to parking in two directions.
Recently Jack Benard who is my assistant asked the
Public Works Department to help alleviate the parking
crunch on First Street. This is the reply he got:
From: Jack Benard
Sent: Friday, July 14, 2006 9:28 AM
To: Rick Archer
Subject: No Parking along First Street
As per our conversation last night here is the
information about First Street.
Before I went to visit DR at Public Works I called
JK, the head honcho over all of Public Works.
He was not there so I left a message asking what the
procedure is to get the 'No Parking' signs removed
from First Street between Bissonnet and Bellaire. JK
called back but I was not there to answer the phone
so he left a message on my voicemail. I transcribed
the message, it is:
"Hi Jack, this
is JK with the City of Bellaire. I am not interested
in the removement of the No Parking Signs on First
Street. The residents that backs up to that street
wants no parking all the time. I'm sorry your client
has trouble with parking, but I'm really not
interested in removing the No Parking Signs."
As a matter of fact I look for more residents to ask
for more No Parking Signs to be installed."
After what happened tonight, you don't suppose someone
is trying to run me off? That's how I feel.
By coincidence, that very day of the towing, I had already
written a letter to Ms. Cindy Siegel, the Mayor of Bellaire.
I had just learned that on Tuesday Night - Salsa Night - 20
SSQQ students had received tickets for parking in the "NO
PARKING ANYTIME" Zone. In other words, even before Ms.
Dodds' car was towed, I was already deeply worried about the
Mayor, City of Bellaire
7008 S. Rice Ave
Bellaire, TX, 77401
My name is Rick Archer. I operate SSQQ Dance Studio
located at 4803 Bissonnet. I have been at this
location since 1980.
I am writing for several reasons.
Last night, about 20 of my students received a
parking ticket for parking in a "NO Tow Zone" on
First Street next to the new hospital.
As you may or may not know, last week these signs
were changed. Previously the signs read "No Parking,
8 am - 4 pm." Now they simply say "No Parking."
These people were
completely blind-sided. How would they know the
signs had been changed?
They parked there in the dark and could only see the
sign had changed if they had a reason to walk up
close to the sign and look.
The only lettering
visible at night is "NO PARKING". Those are
the same words of the signs that used to be in the
same spot. My students had no chance.
I have different students every night. If my
business had been extended the simple courtesy of a
week to warn people, the violations would have
largely eliminated. What sense of fairness
dictates people involved in a victimless situation
like this be penalized so severely.
There was a Bellaire Policewoman
on Monday who had the courtesy to warn our business. We
removed the offending cars immediately. But apparently
Tuesday night's officer was not in the mood to extend a
No one had a clue - including my Staff - until they
found out the hard way. I would have warned them
myself, but it was my day off and my assistant did not
get the phone message till it was too late.
So the first reason I am writing is to ask if you would
consider extending leniency to the people ticketed last
The second reason I
am writing is to ask you to help me. That's right, I
am asking for your help to alleviate the "No Parking
situation" on First Street.
The current 'No Parking' situation makes absolutely
no sense. After 5 pm, First Street between Bellaire
and Bissonnet is the most deserted street in your
city except for my dance students parking on it.
There is no traffic to speak of.
First Street is an extremely wide street that does
not have even one private house facing it.
Yes, there are several residential garages on the
west Side that use First Street, but the actual
entrances to these homes face Locust, Spruce, and
Cedar. On the east Side of First Street are
businesses that close after 5 pm.
Unfortunately my dance studio business depends a
great deal on First Street for overflow parking
Both sides of
First Street were available to my customers from
1980 to around 1997. Then one day in 1997 (give
or take a year) the East Side of First Street
became a No Parking area. No one would explain
the reason at the time although recently we
understand this side was blocked off as a
courtesy to AT&T.
It was an huge inconvenience to my customers to
lose this parking area, but they adapted by
parking further down on the west Side of First
Street. For several years, was
When Lenox Hill Holdings acquired my lease in
2004, 33% of my parking spaces were removed
during the construction of the new hospital. Now
parking on First Street became vital.
Once the hospital was completed in October 2006,
the parking situation improved for a few months.
However this week 14 valuable First Street
parking spaces along the hospital and the
adjacent First Street Surgical Center have been
I have heard a rumor these parking
spots were removed due to construction of the new
hospital, but quite frankly I have been at this location
for 27 years and I have never seen an accident in this
entire time that would serve as a justification to
remove these 14 valuable spots.
students are now parking further away than they ever
I am receiving constant complaints from people who
are forced to walk over half a mile to my studio
when there 14 perfectly good parking spots going to
waste just 200 feet from my studio!
These people include single women and senior
Every one of these people stares at the "No Parking"
signs as they pass by in confusion.
They ask me who on earth benefits by these signs.
Many of these people are
unescorted women forced to walk a deserted street late
at night at 10 pm. What sense does this make when
there are 14 perfectly good WELL-LIT parking spots just
200 feet from the studio?
Ms. Siegel, these people must park somewhere. If
nothing is done to improve the situation, eventually the
only logical overflow places left are in front of homes
on Locust, Spruce, and Cedar. Surely these homeowners
will protest people parking in front of their homes.
Wouldn't it make more sense to allow parking at night on
both sides of First Street where not one business is
open and not one home owner would be affected?
WOMEN ON FIRST STREET
Before you misunderstand, the
picture where a woman is walking alone was
deliberately staged by me to help illustrate the
danger of First Street late at night.
I promise you I was not stalking the woman you will
On Wednesday, February 7, I left the studio at 10
pm. I was parked way down on First Street.
As I turned the corner in the picture at right, I
noticed there was a single woman walking 100 feet
ahead of me.
She was completely alone on a totally black street.
There was not one light within 50 yards of this
It was so dark I could barely
As I watched the woman head to
her car, I realized that if I took a picture of this
situation, people would see what I meant when I told
the Mayor how dangerous this street is.
So on the spur of the moment, I called out to the
woman. I said in a fairly loud voice, "Miss,
excuse me, could I ask a favor?"
The woman gave no sign that
she heard me. But I noticed she started to walk
faster. I did not give chase; if anything I
felt a little ashamed of myself for possibly scaring
To my surprise, after the woman got in her car, she
turned around and drove to me. The car stopped
and the woman rolled down her window to speak to me.
The woman said, "What do you need, Rick?"
As I had guessed, it was my
Wednesday night dance assistant Sheryl Marques.
Sheryl smiled and said that
she thought that was my voice, but it was too dark
to take any chances. She decided to get in her
car first, then go check it out.
Now it was my turn to smile. I
told her I didn't think she had heard me, but I was
also worried that I had scared her.
Sheryl smiled back. She said, "Actually, you
did scare me. I was walking alongside some
bushes and a fence and was watching carefully to
make sure no one was hiding there waiting for me.
When you called, I nearly jumped out of my socks
because I was already a little frightened."
I replied, "Considering how dark it is out here, I
can certainly see your point. Sheryl, the
reason I called to you was to ask if I could take
your picture to illustrate how dark and how scary
this street is late at night."
Sheryl nodded her consent and got out of her car.
That's when I took the picture on the right.
From seven pm to ten o'clock
pm, there is not one car in sight on this road other
than SSQQ students coming and going from the studio.
First Street has little natural traffic at night.
All businesses are closed. It is true there are
about six residential driveways, but these six homes
don't generate much traffic, believe me.
In addition, First Street has been walled off from
Locust, Cedar, and Spruce, so there is no access to
any residential side streets.
In other words, at night this street has no purpose.
Nevertheless while women like Sheryl walk half a
mile down a deserted street, 14 excellent parking
spots go to complete waste for no obvious reason.
You have to wonder what the
Public Works Department is thinking. They talk
about safe sight lines... okay, maybe during the day
safety is a concern.
But at night you have no traffic and therefore no
need for these 50 foot "safe sight lines".
If there actually is a car light, it can be seen a
On Thursday, February 8, I had a meeting with Mr.
Satterwhite, the City Manager. He mentioned
that he might relax the parking restrictions
somewhat to help us out.
We will see.
GREAT WESTERN NOVEL
You know, ever since John Wayne passed
away, we don't get many Western movies any more. Kevin
Costner had "Open Range" a couple years ago and before that
came "Unforgiven" and "Silverado", but that's all I can
Occasionally TNT lets Tom Selleck do a made-for-TV movie
like "Monte Walsh", but for the most part the Western genre
What I liked about Westerns wasn't necessarily the
gunfights, but the stories. The good Westerns told a
story about what people do under pressure. For
example, in "High Noon" how does a sheriff find the guts to
stand up to the bad guys against overwhelming odds?
Here is a story that sticks in my mind. Cattle Baron I
and Cattle Baron II fight for control of a stream that
separates their properties. The winner of this
struggle will control the valley.
After several skirmishes, there are deep, bitter feelings.
One day the son of Cattle Baron I is found murdered.
By coincidence a gunslinger in the employ of Cattle Baron II
had been seen riding through Cattle Baron I's property in
the distance without permission.
Feelings run high. The desire for revenge is strong. A
range war is about to break out. Except for one thing
- the gunslinger didn't do it.
MY SIDE OF THE STORY - RICK ARCHER
From: Dodds, Margaret
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 8:08 AM
Subject: Wednesday Night Towing
Rick, this is Maggi Dodds, I have been taking
classes at your studio since June, 2006, at least 1
or 2 every month.
Wednesday night my car was towed from 1st Street
where I thought it was parked legally. I did not
know the signs had been changed, I had just parked
there on Sunday evening with no problem. There was a
small sign on the door, but with all the other signs
on the door, I did not notice it.
When a change like that occurs, would you consider
having the instructors announce in class about the
change so we could move our cars. Last night cost me
$65.00 for the parking ticket and $182.39 for the
tow and impound fee.
This is money that luckily I could pull out of
savings but it is a large amount with my limited
financial resources as a single woman. I work very
hard for what I have and would never have parked
there if I had known the signs had been changed.
Rick, is there anything you can do about this
situation? I would appreciate any help that you can
Thanks, Maggi Dodds
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 8:59 AM
To: Dodds, Margaret R
Subject: RE: Wednesday Night Towing
I heard about your
incident via email at 11 pm last night and it made
me sick in my stomach with anger and disgust.
I completely believe you when you say you had no
idea you were parked illegally, Maggi.
What is even worse, my guess is that someone at the
hospital is deliberately targeting our business.
What you may not know is the hospital is owned by my
landlord, the hospital probably got the signs
changed, and the hospital likely called the police
about your car.
Obviously the landlord wants to get rid of me and is
willing to attack customers like you. Who else could
have phoned in that complaint?
I made an announcement via the loudspeaker at 9:15
last night right before I went out to do battle with
the Bellaire Police... whose performance
incidentally was less than stellar. After I got the
tow truck driver to put the car down, I assumed that
was the last battle of the night.
Where exactly was your car parked by the way? I
didn't see any more cars at risk.
On Wednesday afternoon I wrote a letter of protest
to the Mayor of Bellaire. Then
Last night after I heard about your car being
towed, I wrote a letter to the Assistant Bellaire
Police Chief and the owner of the Bellaire
Newspaper. In addition I sent out a memo to all my
The only reason I didn't tell you PERSONALLY is
because I thought the threat was contained last
night. After all, thirty people ran out of the
studio to inspect the situation. I myself spend
fifteen talking the tow truck driver into putting
down the car while the cop just sat in his car
Nor did I know the depths of the evil I was dealing
with until last night.
Whoever made that call, what
they did was horrible. We
are dealing with some truly mean-spirited
We have to fight
I realize it is a small gesture compared to what you
went through last night, but I would like for you to
take a dance class on the house next month if you
don't hate us completely now. When you come to
register, just tell Marla, my wife, who you are and
she will take care of it.
I would also like you to help me fight these
monsters. For starters, If you would, write a story
about how you were treated. I will forward that
letter to every person I can think of with
influence. Second, look at the ticket and give me
the name of the officer. I bet it is the same guy
who I wrestled with before your problem.
I will now forward you the letter I wrote last night
so you know I am doing the best I can to.
Sent: Thursday, February 01, 2007 9:23 AM
To: 'Rick Archer
Subject: Commentary on towing and parking
I was just as disgusted to hear about all the trouble
people have experienced with the Bellaire police and the
I knew it had to be something with the landlord. We
should have realized it was a set-up.
It makes no sense. First they tear up the parking lot,
with half of it roped off. Where did they expect people
to park? And then they conveniently change the signs to
I realize that SSQQ customers take up a lot of the
parking lot, but I'm sure the BBQ place and other
businesses aren't complaining about the business that
the studio brings in.
Besides most of the businesses are closed by the time
classes start. Why should they care?
I don't really have a suggestion to offer, but sometimes
the "squeaky wheel gets the grease", right? Would it
help if we wrote letters to the mayor of Bellaire or the
police chief or the newspaper? SSQQ brings in a lot of
business to the Bellaire area, besides just the ones
located on the same strip.
Is that something that they want to see disappear?
Anyway, that's my two cents worth. Thanks for
There were plenty of emails that came in after people heard
about the towing. I have listed the tip of the
One very interesting email came from an engineer who offered
is a 4-lane road designed for heavy traffic.
Bissonnet has a width of 44 feet (not including
the center median).
is a 4-lane road large enough to permit a Metro
bus to travel on it. South Rice has a width of
36 feet (measured at Fournace).
has a width of 40 feet. When compared to these
two other Bellaire streets, First Street should
be considered a 4-lane road as well.
Most cities, including Bellaire, do not even
bother putting any sort of parking signs on
lightly traveled side streets like the First
seems like the City of Bellaire has spent way
too much time and money in this study and
installing new signs on First Street. What was
the reason for the study? If the City has not
done this the same way all over the city, then
this indicates there is some sort of personal
my professional opinion, the portion of First
Street between Bissonnet and Bellaire is
designed for parking on both sides.
First Street has miniscule amount of traffic
especially in the evenings. The signage that is
currently applied is based on the assumption of
a very heavily trafficked street. The traffic
study cited and the implementation is a definite
City is too generous on these safe sight
distances from driveways and intersections
compared to other areas in different locations
seems like someone has already rationalized
their decision, so it is going to be difficult
to get cooperation out of them. It is easy to
cite “Safety Concerns” as a reason to forbid
the purpose was to create more parking, then the
remaining east side of the street that has no
parking signs should have been turned into
after-hours “parking permitted”. This way the
City could still satisfy AT&T and still provide
maximum parking in the evenings.
people have nowhere to park legally, then
residential side streets like Cedar and Locust
become the outlet. That said, there is ample room
to allow parking on both sides of
First Street and still have it function as a
This makes further
sense considering how little traffic there is on
this road at night when the dance studio is in
Based on the letter from the engineer, I was about to
ask my students to begin a writing campaign when I
received two important pieces of information.
Satterwhite, the City Manager, invited me to meet with
him personally to take a closer look at First Street. He
said he would like to give me an insight into the
decision making. It seemed to make more sense to
work through channels than to begin a Shock and Awe
letter campaign. So I held off on turning loose
the email barrage.
Second, I got an email from a source familiar with the
I just drove by the
entire length of First St. again. Since I don't know
exactly where the signs were before, I can't make
any educated guess about parking spaces, but it
seems very, very restrictive for no real reason.
I would like to see that traffic study, and I would
like to know who wrote it.
I am told by another source, who is in a position to
know, that the night the towing took place it was
not the hospital who made the complaint. I am told
it was a Bellaire citizen who lives on one of the
side streets that used to connect to First Street.
The source tells me his driveway opens onto First
I think he has been one of the chief complainers
about your studio over a period of years. In
particular he doesn't want anyone parking near his
I LEARN A LESSON
Words cannot begin to
describe how shocked I was to learned my
landlord had nothing to do with my parking
problems. I felt very foolish, by the way.
The circumstantial evidence pointed right to the
hospital and the landlord.
The hospital was ten feet from the scene of
the crime. It was the only business open.
The hospital security guard knew about the
cars getting towed but did nothing to warn
The Bellaire policeman seemed to acknowledge
that the hospital was responsible for the
contentious relations with the landlord
indicated there was no love lost.
There were no other suspects.
would have guessed the sniper was some homeowner
down First Street?
In the meantime, I could not believe I was
prepared to accuse the wrong person. Shame on
Thank goodness I was
able to learn the true identity of my
nemesis. In fact, I now know his
name, who he works for, and where he
lives. Nevertheless I don't see what
good it would do to publish his name at
this time. Maybe later.
Why this man has a grudge against my
business is something I do not know.
But the man deliberately called the
Bellaire Police three nights in a row to
complain about cars parked illegally 200
yards away from his house. Why he
would do something so cold-blooded is
beyond my understanding.
I have been told he resents cars parking
close to his driveway. In fact,
Mr. Satterwhite made a point to ask me
to inform our students to give all
driveways six feet of space. I
suggest we respect his wishes.
In the meantime,
there is an old saying - don't let the
tail wag the dog. If
backs up to First Street, unless someone
blocks his garage, what’s his problem?
This guy is making so much fuss that the
legitimate rights of many other people
are being ignored. Women walk
alone at night because legitimate SAFE
parking spots have been eliminated.
This guy does not see the big picture.
If our cars have nowhere to park... and
the Bellaire administration sticks to
their guns on closing the parking spaces
close to the hospital and the Doctor's
office, then someday our complainant may
have even worse things to complain
about - cars legally parked in front of
CONCLUSION (FOR THE TIME BEING)
This story is probably far from over.
As for now, once people become educated
that the common sense parking spots are
off-limits, they will discover there are
actually a few more parking spots that
have opened up on First Street south
near the intersection of First and
Cedar. However these new spots
fail to compensate us for the loss of
the parking on First Street north of
The City of Bellaire actually thinks it
has done us a favor, but the truth is
things are no better than they were
I hope they will try to open up more
spots on First Street.
to be continued....
MORE STORIES - May 2007
Two women who were victimized by
the Bellaire Police decided to
fight back. Here are the
by Peggy Solovyov
March 21, 2007
It was a typical cold, damp,
windy winter night in Houston. I
arrived at SSQQ for dance class
at 6:45 p.m. and thought I would
get a choice parking spot in
front of the dance studio.
However, since the parking lot
was under repair, there was no
parking available. So, I drove
under the hospital overpass to
go to First Street, where I have
parked legally since 1993.
People were parking their cars
on both sides of the street, and
I thought how strange that was
since I knew parking was not
allowed on the east side of
First Street. But for years,
parking was allowed after 4 p.m.
on the west side of First
Street. So, I thought I was in a
good, legal spot where there was
no sign at all.
I attended dance class and
stayed for practice, when after
about 2 songs, Rick announced to
us dancers that all the cars
were being towed on First Street
and if we’re parked there, we
should go rescue our cars! I
wasn’t worried or in a hurry
because I had though I was
parked legally--BIG MISTAKE.
After dancing a couple more
time, I decided to go home.
Dread filled me as I approached
my Xterra. The police were
hovering near my truck and just
getting ready to have it towed
away. The police greeted me
with, “Here’s another one,” in
an almost laughing voice. Then
the officer started writing me a
ticket. I couldn’t figure out
why, but was afraid to ask
questions. Finally I said, “Why
are you writing me a ticket?”
and he said, “You’re parked in a
No Parking Anytime/Tow Away
zone. But you’re very lucky that
you didn’t have your car
towed.” Feelings of shock,
fright, and anger all flooded
over me in waves, but I remained
silent at first. When I regained
my composure, in the most
“innocent” voice I could manage,
I asked the officer, “You mean
you would leave a woman alone,
on a dark cold night, in a
deserted place, without a ride?”
He just repeated that I was
really lucky as he continued
writing the ticket.
My Xterra was not towed from
First Street on January 31, but
I wanted to have the parking
ticket dismissed, so I asked
Rick for some evidence of the
parking lot situation and a few
other things. In his reply, Rick
sent me some useful legal
information. But I began to
realize maybe it wasn’t such a
good idea for me to go to court
over a parking ticket. I had
discussed the matter with a
lawyer through Prepaid Legal.
She said there usually is no
defense for illegal parking:
'Ignorance is no defense for a
parking ticket, ' I thought.
However, I was pretty miffed for
getting the ticket and thought
it was not right and that
somehow this was a mistake. I
explained to the lawyer that the
first No Parking sign I could
have possibly seen was obscured
by an SUV parked in front of it
and tree branches. And, I had
parked my Xterra way past the
first sign, but not quite near
the next new No Parking sign.
The signs were very spaced out
on the West side of the Road.
The lawyer said I could give
court a try, and it would not be
necessary to hire a lawyer. When
I pleaded “not guilty” at the
arraignment, the judge at my
arraignment had cautioned the
group of “criminals” that we
should hire a lawyer to defend
ourselves in court. If we didn’t
hire a lawyer, we must at least
act like lawyers. He had me
pretty scared. And I thought,
‘was he getting a kick-back from
The lawyer told me that small
towns often put up No Parking
signs temporarily then take them
down later. “It's a ploy to make
some money for the city,” she
said. Also I thought, 'the
police probably need some
practice harassing people who
are just out having good,
safe fun dancing...not
committing any real crimes.' It
was a policeman's holiday: “like
shooting fish in a barrel.” They
never had it so easy. I think
they were actually having fun.
The Latin-American officer
writing my ticket asked me if I
was Hispanic. I should have told
him about the fantastic Latin
dance classes taught at SSQQ.
You know, just as a return favor
for him being so neighborly and
As my court date approached, I
had second thoughts about going
to court: Would it be worth the
trouble to fight a $65 parking
ticket? Could I win an
indefensible offense like
illegal parking? I could just
pay the fine and make a
"donation" to the City of
Bellaire. After all, they DIDN’T
tow my car and the policeman
told me I WAS very LUCKY...as he
was writing out the parking
Yep, looking back on the ordeal,
I believe Bellaire's finest were
pretty darn nice to me! Even
when I asked the officer if he
would have left a woman alone
without a ride, late at night,
on a cold, damp, dark January
night, He gingerly reminded me
of how lucky I was that my car
was not towed. He didn't even
threaten to arrest me for
With encouragement from reading
Rick’s SSQQ newsletter article
about the parking incidents and
support from my husband, I
decided to fight the parking
ticket in court on March 21,
2007. However, feelings of
dread, fear, and anxiety
engulfed me while I waited for
my day in court. With the
warnings of the arraignment
judge ringing in my ear, I
gathered evidence, took photos
of the parking area of First
Street and compiled them into a
7-page PowerPoint side
presentation. I printed out the
slides and even made an extra
copy for the Judge to follow my
defense statements. My thinking
was, ‘what kind of judge would
NOT be impressed enough to
dismiss the parking ticket?’
Today in court, the public
prosecutor called my name in
role call, then seemed to be
comparing my ticket to someone
else’s ticket and smiled to
himself. Ahah! At last, I felt a
glimmer of hope. In time, the
prosecutor called another woman
and me to the bench and smiled
to the judge as he explained:
“These women were ticketed on
First Street, when the parking
signs had been installed
incorrectly.” The judge (a
kind-looking woman this time)
looked at us and said, “Ladies,
your tickets are dismissed,
you’re free to go.” As I thanked
the judge, a feeling of relief
replaced the feeling of dread I
had experienced for weeks.
That’s when I realized that
perhaps I have a tendency to
become overly anxious about
everyday occurrences. So, I got
my ticket dismissed, and learned
a good lesson about myself
The ticket ordeal is finally
over, but I’m not completely
“over” the situation yet.
Because someone made a “mistake”
when installing parking signs, I
had an agonizing time over
almost being stranded, going to
arraignment court, receiving
advice not to fight the ticket,
and then going to court.
I’m wondering, 'Is it was real
or a nightmare?' Then in my
minds eye I imagine the young
police officer avoiding my gaze
as he tells me, “You’re very
Car Towing Story
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Wednesday, January 31st,
I drove to the SSQQ studio. The
parking lot was totally torn up,
so I parked on First Street
where I had been parking for
several weeks. In fact, I had
parked there on the previous
Sunday. When I first started
parking there, I carefully read
the signs which said “No Parking
between 8AM and 4 PM. Since it
was almost 7 PM, cold, rainy and
dark, I did not stop to read the
sign again. In
sign was tilted over. I
had made sure that I was parked
the appropriate distance from
the curb and that I was not
blocking the driveway at all. I
then went to my Advanced Western
Swing class and to practice
About 9:30 PM, I went outside to
drive home and my car was gone.
My first thought was that it had
been stolen, but when I saw all
the tow trucks around, I
realized it had been towed. I
went back into the Dance Studio
which had just become aware that
they were towing cars. I called
the Bellaire Police Department
to report that my car had been
towed and to ask where it was.
The officer on duty said he
didn’t know where my car was and
wouldn’t for an additional 30
minutes. I figured I was going
to need some cash to get my car
so one of the men in my class
was kind enough to drive me to
the ATM and then to the Bellaire
Police Department. The officer
on duty wanted my driver’s
license which I provided. It
seems they had already pulled up
my license plates and knew about
the car’s insurance, owner,
The officer then said I had to
pay $65, I asked what for, he
said because I was illegally
parked. He insisted that they
would only take cash, so I gave
him the $65. I told him that I
had been parking in that same
location for several weeks in
fact just as recently as the
previous Sunday. He didn’t
really care what I said. He
eventually gave me a form which
said where my car was. The form
indicated that it had scratches
and dents on it. I asked him
what this meant, he said the
police office had filled out the
form and this is what he saw on
the car. I told him that there
had better not be any scratches
or dents on my car, that it was
in perfect condition and had in
fact spent the entire day at the
Honda dealership being
I asked him what the tow charge
was and he said he didn’t know.
I called the impound yard and
got quite a shock when I was
told the fee would be $182.39.
Well, I had to then go back to
the ATM to get additional cash
since the impound yard only
takes cash. Again, the
gentleman from the dance class
was very kind and drove me to
the impound yard. We finally
found the impound yard in the
dark and rain in a very bad part
of Houston, near Bissonnet and
59. You walk up to the window
which is sitting many feet above
the ground, shove your paperwork
and driver’s license through the
small slit in the window. I
then pushed the $185.00 that
they were requesting. They gave
me a form to sign and then told
me to go find my car by myself
through that gate with barbed
wire rolled on top of it. I
asked them about the scratches
and dents listed on the
paperwork and they said the
police did that all the time so
if there is a problem, they are
covered. They acted surprised
when I asked for my change back,
but eventually did give it to
me. They would not let the man
escort me into the impound
yard. I asked him to wait until
I was able to get out of that
yard. I finally found my car,
checked it over and got out of
there as quick as I could.
Needless to say, I was very
day I received a very supportive
e-mail from Rick Archer, owner
of the Dance Studio who was very
upset about what had happened.
He had contacted the Assistant
Police Chief of the Bellaire PD
who was not aware of what had
happened. He looked in to the
matter and found out that the
signs had been changed but
technically were not in effect
at the time of my towing. He
was kind enough to write a
letter to that effect.
I then investigated the
process for filing for a tow
hearing. It is quite a lengthy
process, lots of paperwork,
filing fee of $20 and a trip to
the Courthouse downtown to file
for the hearing. When I showed
my paperwork to the man at the
Courthouse, he was surprised
that I had not been given my
money back when he looked over
the paperwork. He didn’t think
I would have a problem
recovering that money. About 6
weeks later, I finally had a tow
hearing, it was at 1 PM on a
Wednesday afternoon. I had to
leave work, ride the Metro train
downtown and wait in the
courtroom. There were about 20
people there fighting tow
charges. I was practically the
last one, the Bellaire policeman
that had ticketed my car was
there. When I went up to the
judge, I showed him the letter,
he had a copy of it already, but
I had the original with me, he
asked the officer if he had seen
the letter and all he said was
“I’m aware of it” The judge did
grant in favor of me for the tow
hearing charges but told me it
was only because of a
technicality. He also said that
he had taken classes at the
dance studio previously and
asked what I was taking. He
wanted me to show him so I
invited him to come down and
dance with me. He didn’t but it
did lighten up the mood a little
bit. At that point I really
didn’t care how I got the
charges reversed, I just was
glad that they were. Bellaire
had 10 days to file an appeal
and then an additional 30 days
before they had to refund my tow
charges plus the $20.00 court
cost. I didn’t expect to ever
see my money but in about 2
weeks, I received a check from
Bellaire for the entire amount
of the tow charge and the court
cost. So, that was the first
During this time, I had been to
court twice, the first one just
to say, yes, I had been given a
ticket and was assigned a time
to return for a hearing. At the
hearing, I was allowed to plead
guilty, non guilty or nolo
I of course
chose to plead not
guilty. I was then assigned a
date for a trial by the judge.
Originally it was on the 1st
Wednesday in April, but then it
was changed to the first
Wednesday in May, by the
Bellaire Court System. So, last
Wednesday, May 2nd, I
went to court finally. I had my
paperwork together and was ready
to plead my case. After about
20 minute, it was finally my
turn, I gathered up my folder
and walked up to the table in
front of the judge. The
District Attorney handed the
judge my paperwork, the judge
looked at it and made a comment
such as “Oh, another one of
those”. He signed the form,
passed it to the city clerk and
I was done. I never had to open
my mouth. The clerk verified my
home address and I should
receive my $65 check in a few
This was a very frustrating
experience. It should never
have happened. There was a sign
on the door to SSQQ but I did
not see it. I didn’t hear the
announcement when they said they
were towing cars. I had really
enjoyed class that night and was
having fun at the practice. I
have since learned to get to
class early to have a space on
the now completed parking lot.
Rick Archer was very supportive
throughout this whole ordeal and
I really appreciate his help. I
appreciate that the Assistant
Police Chief of Bellaire did
what was right even though it
was not very popular among the
administration of the City. I
wrote the Mayor, Cindy Siegel
and the City Manger to let them
know what happened. I never
heard a word from them. It was
a very frightening experience
being there in the dark in the
There was an article in the
Southwest News regarding the
incident and the parking
problems faced by the studio
there. I appreciated their
publicity and will be sending
them a follow-up also. I was
impressed that the City of
Bellaire and the Bellaire Police
Department did follow through
with the reimbursements.
I would really like to thank
Derek, the gentleman in my class
who was kind enough to help me
Archer's Note - I want to make
something clear. These two
women were not the only SSQQ
students who were ticketed that
week. The Bellaire Police
ticketed many SSQQ students...
illegally as it turned out!
These two women went through an
ORDEAL to get justice.
Look at all the hours they
spent! They did
nothing to deserve having their
time wasted like this.
There is a right way to handle
things and a wrong way.
The City of Bellaire handled
things very poorly. With
the exception of the Assistant
Police Chief, Peggy and Maggi
and all the other people who
were ticketed were treated