Drivers Can Park at Broken Meters in California After Jan. 1; Except in L.A.

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

One of the 1,000 new laws introduced in the 2012 session of the California State Legislature gives California drivers something to smile about—unless you are in the City of Los Angeles

The good news is that a new state law (SB 1388) provides clarity regarding parking in spaces with broken parking meters and allows drivers to do so without being issued a ticket. Effective January 1, 2013, motorists may park for free at broken meters up to the maximum time allowed for the space. (Read details below and be sure to check a broken parking meter to determine if restrictions are posted.)

The not-so-good news for Angelenos is that the Los Angeles City Council voted  12-1 on December 5 (Councilwoman Perry opposing) NOT to adopt the state law and to uphold the current policy that makes it illegal to park at spaces with broken meters. This is because the City claims they are making so much revenue from the new Smart parking meters, and they fix any broken meters within a few hours.

City transportation officials warned that allowing the state law to take effect would cost Los Angeles up to $5 million a year and would encourage parking meter vandalism, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

"Meter vandalism has become extremely rare," said Dan Mitchell of the city’s Transportation Department. “Since the city began switching to meters that take credit cards and coins -- and banned parking at broken meters -- only about five meters each month have required repairs. Prior to 2010, roughly 10% of the city's parking meters were broken at any time,” he explained.

However, to comply with state law, the City must post warnings on meters that tickets will be issued when devices are broken.


Senate Bill 1388, authored by Senator Mark De Saulnier (D-Concord) prohibits law enforcement agencies from issuing parking tickets to vehicles parked in a space with a broken meter, as long as the time the car is parked doesn't exceed the maximum limit, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

"It’s not really fair to the driving public. If the parking meter is broken and if you can’t physically pay, then you shouldn't be ticketed," said State Sen. DeSaulnier, “but if a city needs the ticket revenue, he said, they're obligated to inform their drivers of their citation policy.”

“We’re pleased that the new law will help resolve an issue that can be especially frustrating to drivers in urban areas with limited parking spaces,” said Steve Finnegan, the Auto Club’s government affairs manager. “Drivers will now know the rules and will be able to park at broken meters without fear of being ticketed as long as they comply with posted regulations and parking time limits.”

Local governments that pass ordinances restricting parking at broken meters must post signs giving motorists adequate notice of the restriction in parking lots, at single-space meters and at multispace meters or parking payment centers.

Additionally, the new law requires cities and other local authorities to pass an ordinance to establish parking meter zones or set fees.

SB 1388 also addresses the popularity of Smartphones. Though local authorities may accept payments via a mobile device, it cannot require people pay that way, according to the new CA law.