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L.A. City Council upholds ban on parking at broken meters

New Los Angeles parking meters being readied for installation. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to uphold a policy that makes it illegal to park at spaces with broken meters.

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 where meters are malfunctioning. Under the state law, motorists may park for free at broken meters up to the maximum time allowed for the space.

The council reaffirmed the city's 2-year-old policy of ticketing cars at broken meters on a 12-1 vote, with Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry the lone opponent.

City transportation officials warned that allowing the state law to take effect would cost Los Angeles up to $5 million a year and would encourage parking meter vandalism. 

"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. 

Prior to 2010, roughly 10% of the city's parking meters were broken at any time, Mitchell said.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the installation of the updated meters has cut down on parking complaints  in his district. "The technology we now have employed is rather fantastic," he said.

"Since the complaint level is so minuscule and you repair [broken meters] in three to four hours, we obviously have to support this policy."

To comply with state law, city officials must post warnings on meters that tickets will be issued when devices are broken. 

Sponsors of the law say their primary objective was to force cities to inform drivers of whether or not they may park at an out-of-service meter.

"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, who sponsored the state law. 

But if a city needs the ticket revenue, he said, they're obligated to inform their drivers of their citation  policy. 

Councilman Tom LaBonge also praised the city's new meters, which automatically alert transportation officials of operational problems. Still, he cautioned against further technological advances that could erase time left on a meter when a car pulls away. That would be going too far, he said.

"I think there is a certain joy in life in the City of Los Angeles when you pull up to a parking meter; there is a little bit of time left on it," he said. "I think the city needs that joy."

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-- Wesley Lowery

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

Photo: New Los Angeles parking meters being readied for installation. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

 
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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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