Of all of the angles in the City of Angels, none is more aggravating, prevalent and reliable than the parking ticket scheme.
Administered by a dedicated corps of governmentally hired hench-people called the parking enforcement bureau, or the “vulture squad” as some recently-fined citizens refer to them, these over-priced, overly-distributed tickets are a civic curse and inescapable insult to LA’s residents and visitors alike.
While Los Angeles has yet to deal with rampant homelessness, deteriorating sidewalks and 3:00 AM helicopter traffic, it has no problem propping up the city’s coffers with a dubious ticket system that is by many accounts the most outrageous in the country.
No one can argue if they park their vehicle in a non-parking zone for the day and get penalized for it. If someone dares to take a handicapped-space so that they can run in a 7-11 to buy their smokes, damn right they should pay a fine. Don’t pay a meter because you forgot? Okay that sucks, but you still accept the ticket.
But there are tickets and there are tickets.
As this photo shows, a prominently placed parking permit sticker that would be visible to anyone with the gift of sight, it’s ironic that a dedicated member of the vulture squad apparently didn’t see it and wrote a $68 ticket to a resident in front of her own Miracle Mile house.
This is seemingly a ticket for a non-offense. The parking permit in the photo was already paid for so that the city resident could legally park on the street in front of her own house. This obvious fact didn’t matter to the parking enforcement employee who still wrote the ticket and then no doubt drove off into the glaring sunlight to find another victim.
Another common culprit in the L.A. ticket horror is the broken parking meter. Dare to stop at one of the many in our city and even if the unit is non-functioning you’ll be issued a ticket. There’s no point in visiting a Parking Violations Bureau office to complain. They’ll only stare at you glassy-eyed and wait for you to hand over your credit card, while dozens of people just as mad as you are wait for their turn in line to do the same.
So, is there no recourse but to pay? Sure, you can take a day off of work and not get paid only to visit City Hall to plead your case, but they’ll still make you pay the ticket. You’ll often pay even if you win, but more on that later.
It’s an urban farce and the Mayor, when he’s actually in town, seems to be more focused on opening another bike lane so that he can pedal to the office by a new route. It looks like he’s just not interested in tax payers and tourists alike being gang-ticketed across the city.
I’m guessing he will be interested in fixing the potholes and broken sidewalks, though, if we get the 2024 Olympics, which makes total governmental sense: spend several billion dollars for a two-week event but don’t spend a million to buy some tar for the roads and walkways when we need it – now.
So, should you fight a ticket? I say don’t bother.
Some years ago I received a traffic ticket near LAX and went to court to prove that it was unjustified. When the judge agreed that a no-parking sign hung thirty feet above the street and therefore not visible to all but NBA players was absurd, and that I’d done the right thing to bring it to the city’s attention, he promised to have the signage changed, and then he made me pay the ticket anyway!
Watch the parking enforcement team at work and you have to believe they’re motivated by bonuses for piling up the tickets. On one Mid-City block where a parking violation starts at 12:01 PM on Mondays and Tuesdays the vultures in their little white vulture-mobiles are literally lined up at 12:00 waiting for the clock to tick over one minute so that they can start the pain.
On Wilshire Blvd. in Koreatown at 3:45 PM they’ll sit quietly behind a parked car of someone just getting out of their vehicle and entering an office building because they know at 4:00 they’ll be able to write a Boffo ticket, and then one of their cronies in a tow truck will quickly sweep in and make the vehicle disappear to an impound lot. In a less greedy, less corrupt environment, perhaps a parking enforcement agent might even be allowed to alert the driver getting out of his/her car that in 15-minutes they’ll get a ticket and a tow, but that wouldn’t provide the city any additional revenue or in the many cases where ticketees claim fraud, ill-gotten gains.
And here’s where the technicality part comes in. That woman who risked a fine by daring to park in front of her house with a paid-for permit found herself with a fresh ticket because of one.
After several phone calls and, surprisingly, an actual return call from a parking enforcement Sgt., it was discovered that the permit was just an inch too low to be fully visible. The ticket writer could clearly see it was a valid permit for the right neighborhood but he said he couldn’t see the license plate number on the bottom of said permit to confirm that it in fact belonged to the same car. That’s a technicality and that equals a ticket. Now it seems to me that the LADOT computer system could easily match the permit # with a car or house address and save residents millions in tickets, but that too wouldn’t do much for the city fund.
So how do you fight City Hall in a city that all too often doesn’t listen to its tax-paying populace?
Look at some people that are attempting to do just that:
Stop Los Angeles Parking Enforcement Corruption – The man who runs this site is fired up and on the job. Read his website and you’ll blow a gasket from stories of unfair and even fraudulent activities.
Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative – Thes guys were kicking butt and going after LA Parking Enforcement, especially in regard to getting those outrageous ticket prices brought down to earthly levels, but their website is now offline. You can still find them on Facebook, but their last post there was over a year ago.
The Los Angeles Times – Reporter Laura J. Nelson wrote a good article about the situation and noted that “Los Angeles has become too dependent on parking fines to balance its $5.4-billion operating budget. Fine revenue has grown 50% to $165 million annually since 2003 and is projected to reach $180 million by 2018, according to the mayor’s current budget.” Read the full article at the link above.
And be sure to visit the City of Los Angeles’ Parking Violations Bureau page on Yelp where you can read over 300 reviews.