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Towings rile Mt. Washington residents

| Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, 12:00 p.m.

A Mt. Washington man is furious over what he called "stealth" no-parking signs that appeared outside his home hours before his car was towed.

"I'm not even going to say I didn't see the signs," said Armand J. Panson, 81, a retired Westinghouse research chemist. "They simply weren't there."

Panson says police ticketed and towed his and 13 neighbors' cars shortly after 7 a.m. July 25 for violating signs that weren't there when they parked. In addition to a $94.50 citation they each received, it cost $110 each to get their vehicles from the city tow pound.

He and neighbor Dani Kanitz complained about the tickets Wednesday to City Council. They plan to fight the citations in court because, they said, not enough notice was given that Grandview Avenue would be closed to parking for the annual "Run for Roch," a 5K race/walk held by Donna M. DiRenna to honor her late son.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said DiRenna, the holder of the special-events permit, picked up her 'No Parking' signs on July 23 and was told to post them 24 hours before the morning of the event.

"The 'tag and tow' motorcycle unit assigned to the race began its shift at 7 a.m.," Richard said. "They tagged and towed those vehicles in violation of the signs with the assumption that the race organizers posted the signs 24 hours in advance, giving residents ample time to move their vehicles."

Police do not check to see if the signs are up 24 hours before, she said.

DiRenna admits she did not post the signs 24 hours in advance. She said she received a call from the city a few days after the event. She did not recall who called, but said the person told her to post her signs earlier next year.

"I hate that (cars were towed) but that's (the police department's) call. They do what they have to do," DiRenna said.

"The biggest problem is the city needs a standard way of notifying residents this is going to happen," said Sheila Shovlin, 37, who lives in Panson's building.

Shovlin said she doesn't remember seeing 'No Parking' signs when she parked her car the night before it was towed. She paid the $110 fee to retrieve her car but plans to fight the citation.

Kanitz, 27, who also lives in the building, questioned why residents weren't given more notice.

"They've known since last year they were going to have an event, and yet we are expected to comply within less than 12 hours• I don't think even 24 hours is even sufficient. I think it should be at least three days," Kanitz said.

Kanitz said he pleaded not guilty to the citation. He has not been notified of the date of his court appearance.

Gabe Mazefsky, a policy manager for the mayor's office, also had his car towed. When asked about the incident, he referred questions to mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven, who declined to comment.

Panson, who previously took his case to Councilwoman Theresa Smith's office and the mayor's office, feels like he's getting "stonewalled" because he hasn't gotten a clear answer.

The city's 311 Response Line Coordinator, Wendy Urbanic, told Panson he needed to hash it out in court, where a district judge could award a reimbursement to those who were towed.

"We're being harmed. I thought certainly the mayor could do something," Panson said. "I don't mind parking elsewhere if there are signs posted. But they better damn well give 24 hours notice."

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