Today’s LA Times story about Councilman Tom LaBonge’s recent motion to clarify the rules regarding parking at failed meters (i.e., you should not get a ticket for doing exactly that), reminds me of the time I parked outside Amandine at a failed meter. Luckily, or unluckily, enough, a cranky parking enforcement officer was giving a ticket to the car behind me. When he was done, I asked him to look at the meter and to note it for the city and, oh, yes, to have it on the record as broken in case I received a ticket from another officer. Or, as it turned out, from him. He told me that he could (“barely”) see the “FAIL” flashing, but “if it’s working when I come back, I’m going to have to ticket you.” When I pointed out the stupidity of such a policy – since he obviously saw that it was not functioning – he shrugged and told me that my tickets would include instructions on how to file an appeal. Yeah, put the “enforcement” in “enforcement,” that officer did.
The city is supposed to tell you that parking at a failed meter is perfectly legal, and that, in such instances, that little cement spot along the curb is yours gratis. However, the city seems to keep this meter policy hidden away like a dirty secret – I couldn’t find any municipal code or other authority that states as much. Perhaps the city’s Parking Violations Bureau should respond to this very Frequently Asked Question out on their website?
Even if you do know the rules, though, there are a number of parking enforcement officers like my Lovely Rita who either don’t know or don’t care, and will ticket you anyway. Perhaps more commonly, many (excluding my parking enforcement officer) are understandably unaware of the fact that though your meter was defunct when you parked, it somehow found a second life somewhere deep inside its cavernous metal just as they were driving by in their street edition Zambonis. Theoretically, the best way to beat this type of ticket is to first, park your car at the non-working meter, and then, second, to report the malfunctioning meter (call (877) 215-3958) and/or submit the meter information online via their circa-1998 web form. For me, that’s not quite enough. Since my awkward interaction with my Rita, I have tried to remember to take cell phone photographic evidence of the dead meter in case I do get ticketed, on the theory that I’m guilty until proven innocent. Oh, that is a FAIL on many, many levels.