By City News Service
Four new laws authored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles dealing with parking inequities, hit and run drivers, dog parks and toxic waste cleanup will take effect statewide on Jan. 1.
One will allow motorists to park in spaces controlled by broken meters for the maximum amount of time on the meter, according to Gatto's office.
"Taxpayers already pay for street maintenance, meter installation and meter upkeep," Gatto said of AB 61. "Local governments should take responsibility and keep parking meters in good working order, not squeeze a double-penalty out of cash-strapped citizens."
The Los Angeles City Council voted earlier this year to allow motorists to park at broken meters, but reserved the right to reinstate the penalty at some future unspecified date. Gatto's law puts an end to double-dealing on parking penalties.
The issue of fairness in parking enforcement has become such a hot potato that it has sparked a genuine citizen's revolt in Los Angeles that may well shake up city government. It's a movement designed to reform and reorient a parking fine system critics claim is geared toward revenue generation at the expense of residents and business owners.
Steve Vincent, a financial analyst from Studio City and Jay Beeber, a Sherman Oaks activist, whose work contributed to the end of the city's Red Light camera program in 2011, are spearheading the parking fine revolt.
"We see the system now as an abuse of the Los Angeles driver, who is being used as a milk cow by the city to cover up its mismanagement of the budget," Vincent told the Daily News.
"You have to do more than complain," Beeber told the Daily News. "You have to offer some real solutions so they can see an alternative.
Their proposal, as outlined on their website, would limit the cost per hour at meters, lower the maximum fines, require all meters to allow at least three hours of parking, end parking restrictions at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. as some are now.
They would also ban meters in residential areas and require at least half the money collected from a meter to go back to that geographical area for improvements in that area.
Vincent, Beeber and their band of parking rebels also want to prohibit the city from selling off the municipal parking meter system to private investors at some future time or use it to securitize future revenues, and they want to eliminate the requirement that a vehicle be removed from a metered parking space once the meter has expired and allow additional payment for use of the space.
"We are working towards developing a ballot measure that will mandate that the city manage our parking resources to facilitate commerce, ease of transit and livability," according to a statement issued by the group on the website of the Los Angeles Parking Freedom Initiative. "Parking enforcement must be exercised as a necessary and vital service rendered in the public interest, not as a business opportunity to be exploited for profit."
Los Angeles collects $300 million in annual parking revenue, about $150 million of that from tickets, according to citywatchla.com.
Another new law, AB 184, addresses what has become a growing problem in the Southland: drivers leaving accident scenes.
The measure extends the current three-year statute of limitations to six for investigating hit-and-run crashes that result in death or serious injury.
"Thousands of hit-and-run victims suffer life-threatening injuries annually," Gatto said. "Allowing the perpetrators to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries."
Gatto's AB 265 will shield cities and counties operating dog parks from potential liability. The measure will help communities create more of the parks, which are popular with dog owners, according to Gatto.
"Dog parks help build safer and stronger communities by providing a public space for neighbors to interact while training and socializing their dogs," Gatto said. "We should not allow liability concerns to be a major barrier to creating these valuable spaces, especially in small- and medium- sized cities that cannot afford to self-insure."
Meanwhile, AB 440 will authorize county and local government entities to clean up toxic contamination while giving liability protections to individuals, organizations and businesses working to clean up contaminated properties.