Tuesday, March 28

Broken meters may provide free parking

City Council to vote on new bill allowing drivers to use malfunctioning meters without any charge

Number of parking meters in Los Angeles
Number of parking meters in Westwood Village
About 1/3
Fraction of parking meters in L.A. that accept cash and credit cards
SOURCE: Los Angeles Department of Transportation

L.A. Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced a bill last week that would allow L.A. drivers to park at broken parking meters for free, according to a statement from the assemblyman released last week .

In July, Gov. Jerry Brown approved a policy that allows drivers to park at broken parking meters for free for the maximum amount of time the meter allows. But in December, the L.A. City Council voted to opt out of that policy and continue to prohibit parking at broken parking meters in Los Angeles.

If passed, Gatto’s bill would require city or county governments to follow Brown’s policy on parking meters.

“It’s just wrong for cities to ticket people who want to park at a meter that the city has failed to fix,” Gatto said in the press release.

Officials at the L.A. Department of Transportation have said allowing drivers to park at broken meters encourages a high rate of vandalism of parking meters to avoid paying the fee, according to council documents.

The problem has become less significant in recent years as parking meters make the switch from being coin- to credit card-operated, said Mott Smith, a UCLA alumnus and cofounder of Civic Enterprise, an organization that does city planning and development in Los Angeles.

“People don’t always carry around coins with them,” Smith said. “But credit cards are easier to pay (with).”

The L.A. Department of Transportation is in the process of converting their 40,000 parking meters to accept cash and credit cards, of which about one-third have been converted so far, according to the department’s website.

There are no parking meters on the UCLA campus, but there are about 450 in Westwood Village, all of which accept either cash or credit cards, said Smith, who led a study by Civic Enterprise on parking in Westwood Village.

Westwood Village already has limited parking and the loss of any available spots because of broken meters could hamper businesses in the area, said Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council.

“Anything that makes it more difficult for people to find parking is bad for business,” Sann said.

He added that the current parking policy puts places like Westwood Village that do not have a private parking structure for visitors at a disadvantage.

John Huber, who lives in Beverly Hills and was visiting the Westwood Starbucks yesterday said he almost got a parking ticket for parking at a broken meter this week. He said he does not support the bill to ticket cars parked at broken meters.

“Parking is essential, and sometimes it’s a hassle and makes going out difficult,” he said. “You think ‘Oh I don’t want to go, there’s not going to be any parking.’”

Others said they could see why parking at broken meters could be problematic.

Nima Faramir, who works in Santa Monica and often parks in Westwood to visit friends, said he understands the state might not be able afford to keep fixing broken meters.

Some council members have expressed opinions on parking meters in alignment with Gatto’s bill, which will be voted on sometime this year.

Contributing reports from Estefani Herrera, Bruin contributor.

Email Donnelly at [email protected].

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