City Council Allows Parking at Broken Meters, Media Celebrates

The public outcry about the city ticketing drivers parked at a broken meter was always a media-created tempest in a teapot.

Even the office of Mike Bonin, the City Council Member who wrote the legislation that repealed the city’s 2010 and 2012 ordinances banning parking at broken meters admitted that after the city completed changing over all of its 38,000 meters in January, the city has issued a grand total of zero tickets for parking at a broken parking meter.

So today’s action, a 13-0 vote, to allow parking at broken meters is all about the publicity. This is a new City Council…one that cares about being fair and the perception of being fair.

And it’s working, L.A. Weekly’s usually caustic Dennis Romero is already celebrating the new policy, even as his article admits that it won’t actually change the status quo at all. LAist is similarly thrilled. I’m sure the television news will breathlessly cover this non-event as well this evening.

The City Council vote pre-empted a motion that was moving briskly through the legislature in Sacramento to ban laws banning parking at broken meters by Asm. Mike Gatto. Gatto is probably heartbroken that Mike Bonin and not Mike Gatto will be the hero who freed parkers from this onerous burden to park at parking meters that weren’t broken which almost never happened anyway.

But here’s the thing. The policy of banning parking at broken meters was never about targeting car drivers or revenue enhancement, as the media often claimed. It was about discouraging vandalism of meters.

And by that standard, the policy was a tremendous success.

In 2013, only 7 meters have broken down for a total of 12.5 hours offline. Bonin and the City Council claim this is a result of better meters that can alert LADOT when a meter is down. That explains the 12.5 hours down. It doesn’t explain the 7 broken meters.

If nothing else, the City Council should re-visit this policy in six months, or a year, to see if today’s publicity party is actually bad policy. At this point, Bonin has earned the early benefit of the doubt that he was pushing this change for the right reasons. He can prove that by following up to make sure the new policy isn’t a bad one, instead of one that just appears to be a bad one to media elites as the old one was.

If this morning’s vote marks the end of the debate on this issue and more and more meters are vandalized, then today was a big step back for parking policy in Los Angeles…no matter what the nightly news, LAist or L.A. Weekly tells you.

(Update: Mike Bonin’s office confirms that there will be a six month review by LADOT as part of the proposal.)