Gov. Supplies Teeth, but No Eyes, to Cash Out Parking Requirement

Supporters of cash-out-parking, the state law that requires employers of more than fifty people that offer free parking to employees to provide an equal benefit to those that don’t commute via automobile, were closely watching two pieces of legislation this session. The legislation was to fill two major holes in the state mandate, and while both passed both houses of the legislature, the Governor only signed one of them into law.

2559723208_231dc14e64.jpgPhoto by Amber Rhea via Flickr.

The state law requiring cash out parking had several problems. Chief among them is that only the state could enforce the ban. Making matters worse, an October of 2008 report by the City of Los Angeles revealed that the City couldn’t tell you how many employees a company has and how spaces at a particular lot are valued.  At the time, the city decided to require employers to inform the city how many employees it had when applying for business licenses.  The City hoped they would have a full inventory of employers size by the end of 2011.

To address one of the other enforcement issues, the Governor signed legislation by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) that allows municipalities and air quality boards to enforce the cash-out mandate instead of just state agencies.   When she chaired the transportation committee, enforcing the cash-out requirement was a favorite issue of now-Comptroller Wendy Greuel. Armed with new enforcement powers as of January 1 of this year, it will be interesting to see if Chairman Rosendahl is as interested in making this a priority for the City as his predecessor.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed AB 1186, introduced by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-SFV) which would have required building owners to put a value on parking spaces when renewing a lease with a current renter or opening a new lease. That way, employers would know how much money should be awarded the car-free commuter. For example, a $100,000 lease under the old law would say $100,000 with $90,000 for office space and $10,000 for parking. Why did the Governor veto the legislation? Apparently, he was worried it was too much work.

With respect to this bill, although well-intended, I am concerned about placing an additional burden on commercial property owners at
this time. It is my hope that better enforcement will shed more light on the challenges and effectiveness of this program

With respect to Governor Schwarzenegger, as long as he continue to speak in platitudes about improving air quality, but isn’t willing to address the details that turn his good intentions into reality; many of his environmental goals are nothing more than rhetorical Greenhouse Gas. 

While it’s good news to give more agencies power to enforce a law that rewards and encourages a car-reduced lifestyle, in this case the Governor is passing the buck on enforcing a law that state agencies haven’t touched and not allowing them all the tools they need to enforce it right.  How does he expect employers to provide this benefit, and municipalities to make them do so, if nobody has an idea how much the "free" parking for car-dependent employees is?

  • So I guess the authors of AB1186 don’t have 2/3’s in both houses? The Legislature can override a veto by a two-thirds majority vote in both the Assembly and the Senate.

  • The veto of Blumenfield’s bill is unfortunate, but I think that Lowenthal’s new parking cash-out law, combined with activist work to make it real and effective, can make for better non-car commuting incentives in Los Angles. Looking forward to working on this in the year ahead!

  • At one of my jobs, the parking structure is owned by a parking management company, and my employer pays them a fee for me to park there. I assume I can cash out here (which I can’t do anyway because my shifts are random).

    At my other job, the parking structures are owned by the company I work for. They don’t exactly pay themselves for their employers to park there. Can I cash out here?

  • @Spokker – For random shifts (assuming that you can arrive by other than a car at least occasionally), it is possible for your employer to cash-out on a per-day (or per-diem) basis, which is actually the best way to do parking cash-out. Per diem benefits benefit the occasional non-car commuter, to the extent that she/he doesn’t drive/park. A few local companies administer employee transportation benefits like this, including some big employers like Fox – they provide a bike/bus/carpool/etc. benefit to employees based on the days that they actually ride, and not for days that they drive/park.

    You might try suggesting a deal for your employer: offer to not park in the structure and have your employer pay you half of what it would have cost them for you to park that day. Like other parking cash-out programs, it’s a win/win prospect for both you and your employer.

    My understanding is that current state parking cash-out law doesn’t apply to companies that own their own parking facilities. Parking cash-out would still be a financial benefit to companies which own their own parking – because there is a maintenance and an opportunity cost to providing “free” parking. If the employer artificially inflates the demand for parking (by paying parking overhead costs at no charge to the person parking – and not subsidizing other modes to the same extent), then the company ends up dedicating more space to parking than is actually needed. That space could otherwise be productive – earning revenue for the company, instead of costing them. In the long run, it’s not in employers’ economic interest to subsidize employee “free” parking more than they subsidize other travel modes.