Here in Los Angeles, city officials will do everything within their power to indirectly tax us for driving (even though driving is often the only way to traverse the sprawl, and dreams for a full L.A. subway system probably won't be realized for another half-century). This month, City Hall bumped up all parking tickets by $5, so that parking along a red curb is now a $98 crime. And, most frustratingly, when the L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) installed credit-card-friendly meters a couple years back, they were equipped with evil fine print saying we could be ticketed for parking at a broken meter.
Thankfully, Governor Jerry Brown took a more merciful stance by signing SB 1388 yesterday:
It will prohibit all cities within California from ticketing at broken parking meters. So, come January 2013, you can legally park at a busted meter, as long as you comply with the time limit for the parking space.
But before you embark upon your celebratory broken-meter treasure hunt!
Know that the bill, introduced by NorCal Senator Mark DeSaulnier earlier this year, only authorizes parking at an inoperable meter "if no [local] ordinance or resolution has been adopted to prohibit it."
In other words, individual cities will be allowed to pass legislation that contradicts the new law.
So if L.A. decides to carry on its tradition of parking-meter police state, we could be right back where we started. Although we don't currently have any official ordinance that prohibits broken-meter parking, we do have a policy that does so. (See "Pay to Park" sticker, above right.)
LADOT spokesman Bruce Gillman says he "would expect the mayor to codify the policy" in response to SB 1388.
Gillman says that although he cannot speak for city leaders, he fully expects them to opt out of the state law. And given Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's track record on all things traffic-headache, we're inclined to agree.
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He goes on to argue that the policy is really for our own protection. The city's older meters -- the ones that only take coins -- sometimes look broken, says Gillman, then reset while you are away from your car, prompting a parking-enforcement officer to give you a ticket.
According to Gillman, these older models make up only 10 percent of the meters in Los Angeles. And as for the other 90 percent: "We don't have a problem right now with the new meters being broken," he says.
But if they do break, and L.A. City Hall decides to turn its no-broken-meter policy into ordinance before January 1 rolls around, be forewarned: The law is not on your side.