Proposed Bill Would Let Drivers Park For Free at Broken Meters

Los Angeles currently opts out of a state law that says drivers cannot be cited for parking at a malfunctioning meter.

On the first day of the legislative session, Assemblyman Mike Gatto moved to close a loophole that just might open up a lot of free parking for Los Angeles drivers.

The move is a result of an NBC4 investigation from May 2010.

Gatto’s bill, AB 61, would prohibit local governments from legally declining to follow a state law saying drivers could not be ticketed for parking at a broken meter. The legislature passed a bill allowing drivers to park at broken meters last year, but language in the bill allowed cities to pass their own local ordinances that essentially negated the state law.

The new law would remove that power from local governments and make parking spaces with broken meters essentially a free parking place for the maximum amount of time allowed on the meter.

"It’s just wrong for cities to ticket people who want to park at a meter than the city has failed to fix," Gatto said in a press release. "It is the responsibility of local governments to maintain their meters and keep them in good working order. The people should not have to pay for the government’s mistakes or inefficiencies."

The proposal squarely takes aim at the City of Los Angeles, which quickly moved to circumvent the state law by enacting an ordinance allowing the ticketing.

When the LA City Council voted in December to uphold the policy, the LA Department of Transportation defended its position by stating that allowing parking at inoperable meters would "likely result in a significant increase in parking meter vandalism and the loss of millions of dollars annually in parking meter revenue and meter-related citation revenue."

An NBC4 investigation discovered that Parking Enforcement officers in the City of LA wrote 17,423 tickets in 2010 to drivers parked at malfunctioning meters. That year, more than $31 million worth of parking citations was issued.

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