Irene Hernandez is permanently disabled. Her mother, for whom she cares full-time, is struggling with dementia.
Despite their health challenges, Hernandez says there’s one activity that helps both of them manage their ailments.
“I look for different places to go hiking. It’s our physical therapy,” said Hernandez. “It’s how I deal with my pain. It gives my mom the best joy to be out in nature.”
But Hernandez says she’s now afraid to visit some of Southern California’s most popular park areas. That’s because she received a ticket for running a stop sign at Franklin Canyon Park and didn’t even know it until it arrived weeks later in the mail.
“Apparently they recorded me blowing through a stop sign,” Hernandez said. “There was nobody there. It was really quiet. Kind of a lonely location.”
She wasn’t ticketed by a law enforcement officer or a park ranger. In fact, no one who works for the park saw her roll through the sign. But the alleged violation was captured in photos and on video by an automatic camera mounted on the hillside near the stop sign.
“I was shocked that they would ticket me $100 for that kind of thing and that they would even be recording it because I didn’t even think they were allowed to do that in California anymore,” explained Hernandez.
For most of California, stop sign ticket cameras are not allowed under the state’s vehicle code. But a little known agency called the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority or MRCA has its own set of rules. They use cameras to enforce some of the stop signs on their land; 73,000 acres of parks, trails and open space that includes portions of the Santa Monica Mountains.
“These are areas where we have high foot traffic,” Supervising Park Ranger Jewel Johnson.
Currently, the MRCA operates 7 stop sign ticket cameras. Three of the cameras are in Franklin Canyon Park, one is at the top of Reseda Boulevard near the entrance to Marvin Braude Mulholland Gateway Park, one is at the top of Topanga Canyon at a scenic overlook, and two are in Temescal Gateway Park.
“These are not city streets. You can’t walk in the middle of Ventura Boulevard, but you can walk in the middle of our access roads because they are part of the trail system,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the cameras are necessary because the MRCA’s park rangers have a lot of responsibilities outside of traffic enforcement including fire protection. And she says the cameras serve as her eyes when she can’t physically monitor the locations.
“This is a…