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L.A. finds yet another way to take the joy out of parking

December 06, 2012|By Paul Whitefield
  • The kinder, gentler parking days. A Times photo published June 10, 1949, had this caption: "Mrs. Barbara Steele and daughter get a warning tag from Officer Harvey Bauler for overtime parking in a newly established parking meter area on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. Beginning Monday, citations will be given."
The kinder, gentler parking days. A Times photo published June 10, 1949,… (Los Angeles Times )

I admit it: I am a parking Scrooge. I hate to pay for parking. 

How cheap am I? Visiting the L.A. Auto Show this week, I parked farther away because my lot charged $7 while the lot one block closer charged $10.

Which may explain why I’m even more outraged than most folks here in La La Land -- ground central of valet parking -- at this decision by the overpaid, underworked, sometimes clueless people who run our city (otherwise known as the City Council):

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to uphold a policy that makes it illegal to park at spaces with broken meters.

That’s right. In a totally un-American and cynical vote, the council decided to take away our God-given right (heck, it’s probably in the Constitution too, though I admit I haven’t read the whole thing) to luck into a spot with a broken meter.

You think runaway film and TV production is a problem? This could be the straw that broke the golden goose's (geese?) back. I’m thinking of moving to Canada. Or Omaha. Or anyplace people still yearn to park free.

Why would the City Council do this, you ask? Oh, naive reader:

City transportation officials said violations issued at non-working meters generate about $5 million a year in revenue for the city.

[Update: Turns out, this $5 million figure is a hypothetical; city officials say they actually don't track how much money violations at non-working meters generate. Oh.] 

There’s a word for that, I think; let me spell that out for you: g-r-e-e-d-y.

Why, not even the state of California, no stranger to separating taxpayers from their wallets, stoops this low:

The action exercises an option for cities to override a new state law that greatly limits the practice of issuing tickets to drivers who park at malfunctioning meters. Under the state law, motorists may park for free at broken meters up to the maximum time allowed for the space.

That state law (and how often can you say this when it comes to Sacramento and your money?) seems totally fair. Lucking into a broken-meter spot is like finding a $1 bill on the sidewalk. It’s one of life’s little pleasures. 

And it shouldn’t be taken away.

Sure, Los Angeles officials say the city’s policy not only results in added revenue but has cut down on vandalism. Apparently, before the city switched to new, high-tech meters that warn drivers of a possible ticket if they park at a broken one, 10% of the city’s meters were not working at any one time.

OK, fine. But these new meters are so smart, they also alert workers when they’re broken; the city says they’re usually back up within three hours. So how much parking money would it really cost the city to let you park for free at a broken one?

Speaking of life’s little pleasures, at least one councilman apparently gets it -- while hinting at an even more draconian action his fellow lawmakers are considering:

Councilman Tom LaBonge praised the new meters, but cautioned his colleagues against utilizing technological advances that could erase time left on a meter when a car pulls away. That would be going too far, he said.

"I think there is a certain joy in life in the city of Los Angeles when you pull up to a parking meter [and] there is a little bit of time left on it," he said. "I think the city needs that joy."

Amen, Mr. LaBonge.

As this parking Scrooge has found, you can put a price on joy -- it’s usually about a buck an hour.

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