Have you ever circled the block looking for that coveted parking spot on Friday evening out to meet friends or in a shopping district on the way to do an errand? When you finally see an open spot, you feel that sense of relief and triumph that you have found a spot and can move on with your day. But, what if that meter is broken. Can you park there without worrying about a ticket? The answer is: No. Thanks to an action taken by the City Council on December 5, 2012, those parking in failed meters will still be ticketed despite state legislation to the contrary.
Last month, I was the lone vote against maintaining the city's policy to ticket at failed meters. The policy to ticket motorists was upheld despite the passage of State Senate Bill 1388 (DeSaulnier), which took effect January 1, 2013, and allows parking at inoperable parking meters and pay stations up to the posted time limit unless an ordinance or resolution has been adopted by the local authority to restrict or prohibit it.
Before the city had upgraded from coin only to credit card/coin meters, failed meters were difficult to track and could be easily broken. To address this issue, make payment more convenient, and move our city forward, our Department of Transportation has now upgraded all the meters to the new credit card/coin models. This has made it easier for them to track failed meters and fix them in a matter of hours.
This policy flies in the face of common sense. It is the city's responsibility to do its best to maintain meters and develop systems and policies that make sense. It is unfair and impractical to force drivers to look for a new parking spot just because a meter is inoperable. The policy, as it stands now, inconveniences drivers who are often pressed for time and are making a good effort to park in safe and legal places.
This is not the end of the discussion. On December 14, I introduced a motion asking the City Council to reconsider its decision to continue to ticket cars parked at failed meters. The motion also asks the Controller to conduct an audit on the reliability of the city's new parking meter technology and the Department of Transportation's maintenance and repair program. The department's report on the parking meters noted that meter malfunctions are extremely rare as the result of new technology with an average of only five broken meters each month. Additionally, the department noted in their report that staff is instantly alerted if a meter is broken and the average repair time is three hours.
I continue my effort to correct what I see as a flawed policy. On January 9, I introduced a resolution to support AB 61 (Gatto). Gatto's bill would enable drivers to park for free at broken meters for the maximum time allowed. Assembly Bill 61 also would block local governments from enacting ordinances that ban on-street parking at broken meters or kiosks. The bill aims to close a loophole in SB 1388 (DeSaulnier) that took effect Jan. 1, allowing parking at broken meters.
At the end of the day, I believe that we need to revisit this policy, analyze its economic impact, and think about the city's core function. We want to be a place where people want to come to shop, eat, and visit. When we move forward with a policy like this, we are seen as business and consumer unfriendly.