L.A. Parking for Lease?

LOS ANGELES -- In a bid to raise millions of dollars for ailing city coffers, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is exploring whether to allow a private party to lease the city's parking structures and possibly its meters, it was reported Wednesday.

The mayor in recent weeks has quietly begun building a team of financial experts and attorneys who could advise him in structuring a deal, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In December, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley -- whose city is also grappling with a budget crisis -- leased about 36,000 parking meters and several parking structures to the financial services firm Morgan Stanley for 75 years in exchange for $1.15 billion in upfront cash.

The city of Los Angeles is facing a shortfall of $430 million in its 2009-10 budget, and revenue worries have already threatened key Villaraigosa initiatives, including the hiring of more police.

"The mayor intends to move forward with a parking structure deal that makes the most sense for the long-term fiscal health of the city," Matt Szabo, a Villaraigosa press secretary, told The Times. "We are also aggressively exploring the possibility of a private partnership for the operation of the city's parking meters."

The city of Los Angeles recently doubled its meter rates in most places. The city last year brought in $21 million annually from its 43,000 meters, about $1 million less than it did five years ago, The Times reported.

The Chicago parking meter lease -- which officials say was the first of its kind nationally -- was approved by the council there on a 40 to 5 vote. Some of the criticism focused on whether the city extracted enough money from Morgan Stanley.

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