For all the stress and hardship that has come with COVID-19, Angelenos might remember one silver lining: for seven months, the city cut way back on parking tickets.
Well, that reverie ends today. The city is now back to ticketing cars parked on busy streets during rush hour (known as “anti-gridlock zones”) or during street-sweeping times, as well as for a variety of other violations.
The easing of restrictions, Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Wednesday evening, “were always meant to be temporary.”
Though Los Angeles is still struggling with COVID-19 infections, the city’s Department of Transportation argued that the time had come to resume ticketing. One reason it cited in a recent memorandum to the City Council: “After months without street sweeping, the debris and trash build up around unmoved vehicles creates a public health and safety concern with vermin and rodent infestations.”
There are other reasons why the city is eager to resume ticketing. The citations normally bring in about $11.25 million a month in parking fines. During the relaxed enforcement period, which began on March 16, collection has fallen to under $5 million a month, according to the Dept. of Transportation. That’s a sizable chunk of a citywide revenue shortfall that could rise as high as $400 million this year, according to City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn.
Garcetti has been considering furloughs and layoffs of city workers as he tries to close the gap on the $6.7 billion general fund budget, though recently he rolled back a plan for extensive furloughs that could have meant a 10% pay cut for thousands of city workers.
In February, the city issued nearly 188,000 parking tickets, according to publicly available data from the Dept. of Transportation.. In April, however, the number fell by 76%, to 44,000. Citations since then have begun to creep back up. In September, parking enforcers issued 95,000 tickets.
Parking citations monthly totals, Feb.-Sept.
For many residents, the parking holiday was a welcome respite from the usual fear and loathing of getting a ticket.
A heyday for car thieves
But relaxed parking enforcement has had an unintended consequence: Thieves have taken advantage of cars parked on the street for days at a time. The number of vehicle thefts shot up to its highest level in at least a decade.
The city is trying to balance its increasingly desperate need for cash with compassion for those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic. One tactic it will not be bringing back right away: booting or towing “scofflaws,” or those who have five or more unpaid tickets. That won’t resume until Jan. 1.
Additionally, people living in their vehicles because they are experiencing homelessness can do community service rather than pay parking fines. There is also an amnesty program for those who have lost their job or racked up excessive late payment fines.
Los Angeles has actually been ticketing less in recent years, but not because it is taking mercy on residents. Rather, the city has been unable to hire enough parking enforcement officers (possibly the least popular people in town). There are currently 607 parking enforcement and traffic control officers. Last year, the Dept. of Transportation said it had a 20% vacancy rate for the position.
For those who do get a ticket, Garcetti announced a new discount plan that will launch Nov. 2: If you pay within 48 hours of being cited, it will only cost you $20.
How we did it: We examined publicly available data from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation on parking citations.
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