When ABC7 News caught up with Tamara Nadarajah, she was frustrated. After finally finding a spot that allows her to park for four hours, the meter wouldn't let her pay for any more time than 48 minutes. "I'm going to a doctor's appointment and in the event it will take a more than say one and a half hours, this meter has stopped at 48 minutes, then I could get penalized," she said.
California law already allows drivers to park at broken meters, but local cities are passing their own ordinances giving the go-ahead to ticket. Citations vary widely, but they're definitely a cash cow.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles wants to take that local authority away and allow drivers to park at a broken meter for the maximum time posted. "If the cities want to get the revenue from parking meter, they should get it the correct way – which is making sure they're in good working repair and making sure that motorists can pay," he said.
Gatto says his own district, Los Angeles, issued more than 17,000 tickets at broken meters in one year. Opponents like the California Public Parking Association say local jurisdictions develop their own policies when it comes to broken meters and pay stations. They want those decisions to stay local.
Diana Seelye told ABC7 News, "If I find a broken meter, I figure it's fair game." We found her Friday standing by her parking spot with quarters because she knows how ticket-happy meter maids can be. Consumer groups have noted there's no incentive for cities to fix meters when a ticket enables them to get more money.
"Fix your meters and I'll happily pay, but if you're just going to let it sit there and get $52 instead of $1, that's wrong," she said.
Nadarajah decided to take a chance and go to her doctor's appointment knowing full well she could find a ticket when she gets back. "It's not fair to us, right?" she asked.
After winning a key committee vote this week, the full assembly is expected to take up the measure this month.