Can you legally park at a broken parking meter or not?
That's one of the eternal mysteries that plague Southern California drivers.
Well, starting next year, there should be a more straightforward answer to that question, thanks to new state legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The law creates a general statewide rule letting drivers park at broken meters until the posted time limit expires -- without receiving a ticket.
In areas where local authorities want to be able to ticket cars parked at broken meters, those rules must be visibly posted on the street.
In 2010, an NBC4 I-Team investigation from Joel Grover found that more than 17,000 parking tickets were written that year at meters that had been reported to the city of Los Angeles as failed. That was in conflict with the city's 2001 policy dictating that parking officers not issue tickets at broken meters.
The new law's goal is in part to end confusion among drivers about whether they can park at broken meters. Rules currently differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and sometimes change within a given jurisdiction.
Senate Bill 1388 was authored by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, a Democrat who represents most of Contra Costa County in the Bay Area. The law, which received not a single "no" vote in the Senate or Assembly, was signed into law on Monday and goes into effect Jan. 1.
The bill also allows local governments to create mobile phone-powered payment systems for parking meters.
The bill was sponsored by regional branches of AAA, including the Automobile Club of Southern California, which sent out a press release Tuesday touting the signing of the bill.
The Auto Club said it has received an increasing number of complaints about parking tickets as a result of broken meters.
"We're pleased that the new law will help resolve an issue that can be especially frustrating to drivers in urban areas with limited parking spaces," said Steve Finnegan, the Auto Club’s government affairs manager, in the press release.
"Drivers will now know the rules and will be able to park at broken meters without fear of being ticketed as long as they comply with posted regulations and parking time limits."
The bill's signing comes a week after the Los Angeles City Council approved an uptick in its parking fines. The city's policy allowing parking at broken meters changed in 2010 when newer meters were installed, the Department of Transportation told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year.