Valet parking along the 1900 block of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. “It… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
It's a familiar scene in car-centric Los Angeles: Motorist drives up in expensive car to sidewalk lectern with "valet parking" sign. Motorist tosses keys to total stranger wearing black pants and white shirt.
Convenience to some, menace to others, L.A.'s myriad parking valets could soon, for the first time, be subject to regulation.
Critics complain that fly-by-night valets have turned trusting souls into cynics by failing to cover damage to vehicles or by lifting valuables from glove compartments. Meanwhile, rogue operators have enraged residents by parking across driveways, moving garbage bins to free up spaces, monopolizing metered spots and speeding in reverse down busy streets to snag spaces.
City officials have proposed new valet parking regulations that the City Council could consider as early as next month. The council's Public Safety Committee voted Friday to send the ordinance to the council and recommended that the council pass the measure as quickly as possible.
The new ordinance would require a valet operator in Los Angeles to obtain a master permit, check employees' backgrounds and carry liability insurance. It would also prohibit valet operators from using public street parking without permission.
"It has been the wild, wild West at our curbs," said Yusef Robb, a spokesman for Councilman Eric Garcetti. "This ordinance is the equivalent of bringing the marshals to town to get a handle on it."
Garcetti and other council members in 2009 asked the city attorney's office to craft an ordinance in response to complaints. Several city agencies and valet company operators and businesses worked together to devise the proposed rules.
Elements of the ordinance were modeled on valet parking rules already in effect in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Pasadena and West Hollywood, said Maria Souza-Rountree, of L.A.'s chief legislative analyst's office.
After a grace period, the new rules would go into effect in Hollywood and then be phased in throughout the rest of the city.
Linda Lucks, president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, said at the committee meeting Friday she had learned of the proposed ordinance only recently and sought more time for residents to help shape it. "I don't get the need to fast track it," she said in an interview. "I guarantee the Westside will want to speak up."
The Police Commission would be responsible for issuing licenses. Valet operators would probably pay a few hundred dollars annually for the company permit and an additional $100 per worker, Robb said.
Joseph Gharib, president of CarPark Inc. in Hollywood, said the ordinance was a step in the right direction because it would help "reduce unlicensed operators and shady companies."