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VIDEO: LA's great parking meter debate; will it spark Armageddon?

Too many parking tickets, and they'll even tow a homeless person's home.
Too many parking tickets, and they'll even tow a homeless person's home.
Noelle Conti

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Few things in life are as annoying/infuriating as finding a parking ticket on your car. The only thing worse is seeing the parking cop with their hand-held computer standing behind your car, writing the ticket.

They have no mercy. And should they? After all, you’re an adult. You know how it works. You parked at a meter and let it expire. So, you get a ticket in LA, and just like that, $63 is gone. $63 someone like James Adegoke, who lives downtown, could put to better use. He says the parking meters "...a nightmare. Literally, I’ve watched these guys literally stand there and wait for the meter to expire. People get really upset. I mean, I’m talking, you can’t blink. I mean there’s not even like a 5 second grace period. That thing is red BOOM there’s a ticket on it. These people are actually oppressing the residents here."

Those parking agents do feel like vultures circling in for the kill. But “nightmare" and “oppressing?” #FirstWorldProblems.

James should be glad he doesn’t live where Steve Hoffman parks. He told us, "In Santa Monica, they’ve installed these wonderful meters that know when you’ve pulled away. So if I pay for 2 hours at a parking meter and leave after the first hour, there should be 1 hour left on that meter. However, once the car pulls away the smart meters know you’ve pulled away and they clear away that time. Also if you’ve parked for more than 2 hours, you can’t put in more money."

It’s like a treasure hunt. We all want a free space … even LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who says, "One of the joys in life in Los Angeles is when you find a parking meter and the space is open and the money’s still left on the clock. I want LA to be a fine city not a fine city."

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto lives in LA, and he was so bothered by a proposal to allow the city to ticket people at broken meters, he introduced a bill to stop it. "To me," he said, "it's just completely unfair to tell motorists that even though we pay all these taxes to maintain the roads and the meters that when a meter breaks down because government has not fixed it, that the motorist is going to get ticketed."

Councilwoman’s Jan Perry voted against it - the sole no vote. "I just felt that we should invest our energy in fixing the meters—that’s how you generate revenue." But the city has already done that, and the debate may be moot.

Dan Mitchell, a senior engineer with LA’s Department of Transportation, says before the city bought almost 40,000 new meters, one out of every ten meters was broken at any given time.  "Meter vandalism was rampant in this city," he said. "And unfortunately with the old policy that allowed free parking at broken meters, it created an incentive for many folks to disable the meter in order to park for free."

Now, Mitchell says, on average there are only 5 broken meters at any given time in the city. And when they break, he says, they’re fixed in hours, now, not days. In other words, you’re not going to find a broken meter in LA. And Mitchell says that's meant a lot more money. "The annual meter revenue has increased from $34-million to $49-million a year." 

For most of us, paying for a meter - or even writing the check three bucks isn’t a lot of money for most of us, and we can even absorb the occasional parking ticket. It’s annoying, but it’s not the end of the world. For most of us. But I did witness one scene where it was a really big deal. The city of LA towed the RV John Rumpf and Maria Delarosa live in because they had a bunch of unpaid parking tickets.

Rumpf said, "A motor home. Come on man. She’s been living in that thing for 4 years now. Everything she owns is in that thing. What they did was totally inhumane."