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Councilman mulls turning old parking meters into 'donation meters'

December 11, 2012 | 12:40 pm

A technician inspects a damaged L.A. parking meter. Soon the old meters will be replaced by new ones that accept credit cards. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

A Los Angeles City Council member has asked staff to look into whether the city could use old parking meters as donation boxes for homeless services, as Denver, Baltimore, Las Vegas and other cities have done.

L.A. is expected to finish replacing its roughly 40,000 coin parking meters with more advanced devices by year's end. Councilman Jose Huizar recently told constituents he'd asked staff to research turning some of the discarded meters into "homeless donation meters," whose quarters would go to homeless services.

Huizar said the idea came from the blog DTLA Rising, which is run by downtown advocate Brigham Yen. In October, Yen wrote he'd recently noticed red donation meters during a trip to Bethesda, Md.

He wondered if putting up donation meters here might cut down on panhandling downtown, where residents sometimes feel that they're "dodging through a gauntlet of endless hands and cups begging for change," he said.

"It is important to keep in mind the program is meant to educate the public that giving pocket change to panhandlers won't actually help the homeless … And if the homeless understand that the general public won't be easily swayed into handing out pocket change anymore, then it could help mitigate the panhandling issue," he wrote.

Denver, for one, launched such a program in 2007, with a few dozen red meters that would have otherwise been scrapped. With donations and sponsorships for individual meters, the project now drums up about $100,000 a year.

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--Ashley Powers

Photo: A technician inspects a damaged L.A. parking meter. Soon the old meters will be replaced by new ones that accept credit cards. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

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