If the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative gets its way, we'll soon see a grand shift in the way L.A. residents view the notorious city parking enforcers who issue a staggering 2.5 million tickets per year.
A vision pushed by advocates Jay Beeber and Stephen Vincent would transform parking enforcement work into a public service role rather than a public punishment role. The initiative has piqued the interest of Mayor Garcetti, who has established a "Working Group on Parking Reform."
Angelenos and enforcement officers as friends and not foes ... could it be true?
There's no denying that parking is the bane of our existence in L.A., but it looks like the city is finally taking the first crucial steps toward actual change.
In the first meeting last week of the "working group" that Garcetti agreed to create, the co-founders of the L.A. Parking Freedom Initiative say they were encouraged with his message that people need to think outside the box on this citywide issue.
"There seems to be a commitment to real substantive change," says Steven Vincent, co-founder of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative.
One such change that Vincent and Beeber have proposed is a $23 ticketing cap on parking violations that do not threaten public safety. Why $23, you may ask?
Vincent says they chose the figure because it's the median hourly wage of Angelenos, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As ticket prices stand now, "they are far higher than what is needed to incentivize compliance," says Vincent.
In other words, parking tickets in L.A. are just too high - a whopping $63 merely for overstaying at one of the city's thousands of often-confusing meters.
The average ticket for all forms of parking infractions is $68. It's a money-maker for the government, with about $12.50 going to the county and state and the remaining $45.50 going to the city's general fund, according to the L.A. Department of Transportation.
Although the roughly $160 million annual cost to L.A. drivers is a significant problem, "the issues at hand are far deeper and systemic," Vincent says, referring to where that money goes.
Los Angeles ticket revenue must be used for fixing streets and parking-related expenditures, he says, and not lost in the huge city general fund.
"Revenue-driven parking enforcement has to come to an end," he says. "We basically don't have a parking system in L.A.; we have a revenue-collection system."
Instead of spending the $160 million or so in revenue generated from parking tickets on whatever services and programs the City Council approves in its general fund, Vincent says, City Hall should spend it exclusively on such projects as fixing sidewalks, creating more parking spaces and modernizing parking signs.
"Either through better signage or technological means ... helping citizens not get tickets in the first place is a very strong interest for me," says Jay Beeber, co-founder of the initiative and the hero behind the death of the Los Angeles red light camera system.
Within the working group, Beeber's subcommittee will address the cost of L.A. tickets, the citation process and the widely hated Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau, which is both ticketer and adjudicator of ticketing disputes.
"How do we help remind people that their meter is running out?" he asks. "People have to take responsibility as well, the government can't do everything, but we can assist in certain ways."
Among the list of ideas to revamp the system, Beeber suggests applying effective business models such as having a discounted fine for those who pay the ticket within the first 48 hours, similar to retail stores that promote 24-hour sales.
"I don't really care how many officers are out on the street, I care how they conduct themselves when they are out there," he says, referring to Garcetti's widely ridiculed budget proposal in late April to hire an additional 50 meter maids.
Both Beeber and Vincent envision a Los Angeles whose denizens don't have to be at war with parking enforcement officials.
"They should be public-service oriented ... to help people find parking, give directions, to report any problems on the street," says Vincent. "This then becomes a public service liaison between the city and the people."
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Rather than having a quota that encourages parking enforcement officers to issue bogus tickets to meet the numbers, they should be focused on the public's good, according to Vincent.
"We have been really clear with the city that we are after systemic reform and not just cosmetic band-aids, and that we expect this to happen in a relatively short time frame," says Vincent.
Angelenos. fear not. The Parking Gods are on their way.