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Park at a broken meter in L.A., get a ticket, city says

December 6, 2012 |  7:26 am

If you thought a broken meter was a gift from the parking gods, think twice.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to uphold a policy that makes it illegal to park at spaces with broken meters. City transportation officials said violations issued at non-working meters generate about $5 million a year in revenue for the city.

Los Angeles motorists have been officially warned that they better find another spot.

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.

Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry was the lone opponent.

"Meter vandalism has become extremely rare," said Transportation Department official Dan Mitchell. Since the city began switching to meters that take credit cards and coins — and banned parking at broken meters — only about five meters each month have required repairs, he said.

Before 2010 — when Los Angeles allowed free parking at broken meters — roughly 10% of the city's parking meters were broken at any time, Mitchell said.

The state law requires cities to post notices on meters if they ticket when the devices are broken. Sponsors of the legislation said their primary objective was to force cities to alert drivers when they risk getting a ticket.

"It's really fair to the driving public. If the parking meter is broken and if you can't physically pay, then you shouldn't be ticketed," said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), who sponsored the state law.

Cities had adopted inconsistent policies that created confusion and frustration, DeSaulnier said. In some cities, an inoperable meter meant a few hours of free parking, he said. In others, it meant an expensive parking ticket.

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--Wesley Lowery

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