Parking fines in Los Angeles are already way disproportionate to the crime, but in his desperation to balance his budget Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is planning to ask for the sixth increase in his time in office. Is it a policy move because parking violations are becoming some kind of civic nuisance? Uh, no. The number of tickets being written has been going down. It's strictly a revenue play: the city wants more money and thinks this a groovy way to get it.
According to David Zahniser in the LA Times, the fine for parking in a street-sweeping zone would increase to $78, the most of any nearby city, and 73% higher than than when Villaraigosa was elected in 2005. At 78 bucks, that's more than the daily take-home pay for many Los Angeles residents. Fines for more serious violations, such as parking at a red curb, would be higher. (Parking enforcement cars exempt, per the photo above.)
The mayor and City Council have turned time and again to parking infractions to help balance the city's budget, which this year faces a $238-million shortfall. Villaraigosa's office says a proposed $10 increase to an array of parking fines would make a small but important dent in the deficit.
But there is a growing push-back to the ever-increasing fines, particularly from those who argue they are really a regressive tax on those who live in densely populated areas.
Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, an organization that advocates on behalf of low-income renters, said parking tickets — especially those issued on street-sweeping day — disproportionately affect working-class families in Koreatown, Westlake and other neighborhoods packed with apartment buildings and too few parking spaces, he said.
"The burden is felt hardest by those who can least afford to pay," he said.
Villaraigosa spokesman Peter Sanders did not respond to that assertion, saying instead that parking fines make up only 3% of the city's revenue base. He said in a statement that the Department of Transportation, which issues the tickets, needs to reach its financial targets "so that vital city services can be preserved."
The Times story comes with some tables comparing ticket levels by city and type of violation. Remember, you can get fined even for parking after the street sweeper comes. That's if you live in a neighborhood where the city sweeps every week. In whole parts of Los Angeles, there is no weekly sweeping.
It's not mentioned in the story whether Villaraigosa will try again with an even more unpopular concept raised and dropped a few years ago: posting street-sweeping signs in neighborhoods where there are no restrictions now, and where the city has no intention of sending a sweeper each week, thus greatly expanding the potential parking-ticket pool.
LA Observed photo