Steven Vincent's drive to overhaul the city's meter-parking rules started with a personal gripe.
"There was this yoga studio that I no longer go to because the class was an hour and a half and the parking meter only allowed one hour of parking," said Vincent, a financial market analyst from Studio City. "And as I looked around, I realized it was a problem everywhere.
"In the No Ho Arts District where there are all these struggling theaters, the parking regulations made it impossible for people. If you go to a restaurant, no matter how diligent you are, if you come back five minutes late, you run the risk of being ticketed."
Vincent is working with Sherman Oaks activist Jay Beeber -- whose work contributed to the end of the city's red light camera program in 2011 -- to propose revisions to city parking-meter policies including lower rates and longer allowable parking times.
They say they would turn their Parking Meter Freedom Initiative into a ballot measure before voters if city officials don't agree with their proposals.
"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 said. "What has been interesting is this is a situation where both the general public and the business community agree."
In 2011, Beeber led a citizen effort that prompted the city to rethink its red-light camera policy, including producing a study that recommended alternatives such as longer yellow lights. He said he learned an important lesson at that time.
"You have to do more than complain," Beeber said. "You have to offer some real solutions so they can see an alternative."
Their proposals include limiting the cost per hour at meters, lowering the maximum fines, requiring all meters to allow three hours of parking and ending parking restrictions at 6 p.m. and on Sundays.
They also would ban meters in residential areas and require that at least half the money collected from a meter go back for improvements in that area.
Beeber and Vincent have launched a Facebook page (facebook.com/losangelesparking) and website (www.parkinglosangeles.org) and have begun a speaking tour of the city, talking to neighborhood and business groups.
Among some San Fernando Valley drivers and customers, their ideas are welcomed.
Joe DiPadova, who was eating lunch with a friend in the bustling NoHo Arts District on Friday, said he's gotten three parking tickets for expired meters, costing him $420.
"I think it's extortion," said DiPadova, 34, of Hollywood, who supports radical parking meter reform. "It's an unjust tax. It's one that, because people don't get involved in local politics, local lawmakers see it as an additional revenue stream.
"It's a travesty," he added. "In a city where you're forced to drive, there's no reason you should be punished for small mistakes."
The area near Lankershim Boulevard and Chandler Street is occupied with people looking for parking, drawn by the nearby Red Line stop, and a slew of curbside movie houses, nonequity theaters, tony bars, restaurants and fitness centers. The streetside parking was made worse Friday by a movie shoot.
Joella Hopkins, who managed to snag a spot in front of her gym, said she favored free parking after 6 p.m. to boost the North Hollywood night life. "Honestly, it's always such a pleasure to go to Burbank, because there are no meters," she said.
Willie Fedail, who opened his popular Vicious Dogs restaurant six years ago, agrees that Burbank parking is much better.
Just the other day, he said he stopped by a local school to unload some franks, and got whacked by a $73 ticket -- despite having put change in the meter. He learned that he wasn't supposed to park there between 10 a.m. and noon.
"So why did the machine take my money?" he asked.
But not everyone has a complaint. Some just see the meters as necessary inconveniences.
"I don't really have a problem," said Rick Shirey, 38, of Venice, who works at a nearby TV production company but had whipped into a free space to grab a bite along with DiPadova. "I tend to be responsible -- pay the meter, get back in time before it's done. It's OK."
Independent of the effort by Vincent and Beeber, the city had already taken steps to adopt two elements in their plan -- ending ticketing at broken meters and not issuing tickets where street cleaning signs are posted but no cleaning is done.
Parking in Los Angeles is big business.
There are 164 different violations for which traffic officers can cite a driver with separate regulations adopted by the state, the city, Recreation and Parks, Airport and Harbor.
The lowest fine is $25 for some state motor vehicle violations, while most city tickets run between $58 and $63 and grow for repeat violations.
City figures show that parking fines bring in more than $156 million, making them a significant revenue source.
Department of Transportation officials said they have yet to be asked to comment on the proposal and would have to study it to determine its impact.
Councilman Mike Bonin, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said he wants to see the details when they are developed to determine if the council can enact any of the proposal.
Vincent said he is hoping someone on the City Council will embrace their proposal once it is worked out to look at how much tickets cost.
"We understand the problems of 2008 when the economy was in trouble and the city needed revenue," Vincent said. "But the economy is coming back now and we think it's time to look at this so it is more consumer and business friendly."
Staff Writer Dana Bartholomew contributed to this report.