Written by David Zahniser for the Los Angeles Times
A grass-roots group that has been railing against Los Angeles' parking ticket policies has agreed to team up with Mayor Eric Garcetti to look at changes to the enforcement system.
Steven Vincent, founder of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative, said Garcetti invited members of his organization to participate in an official city working group. The panel, Vincent said, will look at an array of possible changes, such as reducing certain fines, expanding parking hours in key locations, making no-parking signs less confusing and halting the practice of using ticket revenue as a tool to balance the city's budget.
The Parking Freedom organization announced last year it was seeking to put an overhaul of the city's parking enforcement policies on the March 2015 municipal ballot. If the new working group fails to accomplish the goals sought by activists, the L.A. Parking Freedom Initiative will launch a signature-gathering drive to put the changes directly to voters, said Vincent, a market analyst who lives in Studio City.
"What we want is real, systemic reform," he said.
Penalties for parking violations have grown steadily over the last decade as the city's elected officials used ticket revenue to balance the budget. Parking citation proceeds have grown from nearly $110 million in 2003 to about $161 million this year, according to the mayor's budget.
Parking at an expired meter is now a $63 violation, and the penalty for parking on street-sweeping day is $73. "That's pretty unreasonable, in my view," Vincent said.
Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said it was "premature" to say whether motorists pay too much for parking tickets. The mayor promised to create a working group two weeks ago, when he unveiled his first budget proposal, and "wants to start a discussion," he said.
"We know that parking tickets are frustrating for Angelenos, and it's our policy that enforcement should be about traffic management and safety," Millman said.
Aides to the mayor met with Vincent's group Wednesday. Vincent said his organization has agreed to find people to serve on the working group, which will also include city officials.
Garcetti's budget does not call for any increases in parking penalties this year. However, his recently released financial plan does seek the hiring of 50 part-time parking enforcement officers, a move expected to generate an additional $3 million in ticket revenue this year.
Millman said the additional part-time officers are needed, in part, to reduce overtime and clear streets that are slated to be repaved. The extra officers also will be used to free up other personnel assigned to special events and traffic control, he said.
Vincent's group denounced the budget proposal earlier this week, saying Garcetti had "chosen to continue along the beaten path of aggressive ticketing as a budgetary salve." On Thursday, Vincent said he was more focused on the larger changes that will be tackled by the working group.
The process for challenging incorrect tickets needs to be completely revamped, he said. In addition, city officials have been too willing to balance the budget by tapping a fund dedicated to the construction of new parking garages, Vincent added.