Photos by Gary Leonard
DTLA - Winston Street in the Toy District is a dense thicket of stores and pedestrians. Businesses with open displays line the street and crowds of customers peruse the wares. The curbside parking at metered spaces near Wall Street is almost always taken. Frequently, the green meter light flicks into a red violation, and a $63 citation is slapped across a windshield.
That happened 426 times in 2015 alone, making Winston and Wall one of the most densely ticketed areas in all of Downtown Los Angeles. While it’s a big number, it’s not the only place where parking enforcement is likely to zap a driver who exceeds a time limit, forgets to pay the meter or parks in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The office of City Controller Ron Galperin created a map detailing where every parking ticket was issued during the 2014-2015 fiscal year (the most recent period for which such data is available). The map, at parking.controlpanel.la, shows that while you can get a ticket anywhere, there are numerous blocks in Downtown Los Angeles where more than 200 tickets were given out annually. At Main and Arcadia streets near Olvera Street, 406 were issued over the course of 2015. On Crocker Street just south of 10th Street, 673 citations were handed out.
According to a report from City Controller Ron Galperin’s office, nearly 2.5 million parking tickets were issued in Los Angeles in the 2015-2016 fiscal year (the most recent period for which data is available). Downtown contains many high-cluster zones.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, traffic enforcement officers with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation issued 2,489,390 parking tickets, according to Galperin. Downtown’s combination of limited spaces and busy workers and residents contributes to the Central City’s high number of tickets.
LADOT Sergeant Toni Bowie compared ticketing activity in Downtown to Hollywood, another business hub where people converge and have to deal with a limited number of parking spaces. In most cases, tickets are due to an “abundance” of expired meters and people parking in restricted zones, according to Bowie.
While a glance at Galperin’s map shows a blitz of blue (indicating a ticket) in the Central City, Bowie said there is no outsized effort to ticket Downtown drivers.
“DOT does not target. We just issue citations where there are violations with heavy turnover,” Bowie said. “Those are the commercial areas people and tourists go to.”
The number of parking tickets issued in Los Angeles is actually decreasing. The approximately 2.5 million citations dispensed in the 2015-2016 fiscal year is down steeply from the approximately 3.2 million given out in 2005-2006.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, revenue from parking tickets amounted to nearly $148 million. However, it wasn’t as much of a windfall for the city as one might expect: After costs and overhead, the city netted only about $42 million, or 28% of the money collected from drivers. Those funds are put toward street resurfacing and police and fire services, according to Galperin’s office.
Galperin indicated he’d rather see fewer people get ticketed, even if it means less revenue for the city. If a parking map warns people, all the better.
“Downtown is a busy commercial and residential hub with a multitude of parking restrictions, and our efforts are one way of making sense of all those parking tickets, while also advocating for smart technology to prevent Angelenos from getting ticketed in the first place,” Galperin said in a statement to Los Angeles Downtown News.
Beware the Music Center
Downtown has some neighborhoods where relatively few citations are issued. They include the industrial and warehouse areas around Alameda Street and Central Avenue.
Beyond the Toy and Fashion districts, another heavily ticketed location is near the Music Center, with the data map showing corridors north of First Street having a number of citations issued for exceeding time at a meter.
One reason these areas see so many tickets sounds obvious: There are a lot of meters there, Bowie said. Street parking is not evenly distributed throughout Downtown, so the neighborhoods that have those spaces tend to have more violations.
Street parking is also heavily enforced. Darren Bridges, a Fashion District resident, said he often sees parking inspectors on bikes waiting at corners, looking for expired meters. But he said he understands why the city is strictly enforcing parking rules — if everyone broke parking laws, it would make it harder for customers to reach Downtown businesses.
“I used to get them all the time, when I still drove,” said Bridges.
According to the City Controller’s data, the most tickets are issued during the morning rush hour and at mid-day. Downtown is slightly different, with the greatest concentration dispensed in the mornings and then from 4-7 p.m. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has seen signs that outlaw parking and instead open curbside lanes for afternoon rush hour.
Still, there are other culprits in Downtown, including parking in loading and red zones. Bowie of the LADOT said these tickets contribute heavily to the number of parking violations.
“People park thinking they can just run into this little shop, and think they can be good for two minutes,” Bowie said. “We have bike officers down there who see this.”
As every driver knows, part of the challenge can be finding an open parking spot. That has only been exacerbated as metered spaces have disappeared due to the increase in construction in Downtown.
Some people barely drive around hunting for a space anymore, and instead park in a lot. One of those is Viridiana Carillo, who was recently shopping on Winston Street.
“I’ve been doing that ever since they put in the new meters,” she said. “It’s just easier to pay the flat fee and not worry about it.”
Jeremiah Hansen, an Arts District resident, uses rideshare apps such as Uber to get around Downtown. He said it is a reliable way to avoid a ticket.
When it comes to parking tickets, not all parts of Downtown are created equal. Here are five areas that saw some of the most citations during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Toy District: The busy blocks spanning Los Angeles and Wall streets between Fourth and Fifth streets are one of Downtown’s biggest ticket clusters, according to City Controller Ron Galperin’s office. Winston Street, which runs through the middle of the district, saw more than more 400 citations issued near Wall Street in 2015.
Fashion District: Two intersections in particular are ticket hot zones. Santee Street and Olympic Boulevard, near the famously thronged Santee Alley, sees frequent violations for parking in loading zones or restricted areas. The intersection of Santee and 11th streets saw 420 citations in 2015.
Music Center: Crowds flock to the area around First Street and Grand Avenue for shows at the Music Center venues. Most street parking is north of First Street. The intersection of First and Hope streets records a large number of tickets, mostly for expired meters or parking in illegal zones, according to the City Controller’s data.
Chinatown: Beware when parking on the western side of Chinatown. This includes Bunker Hill Avenue, where drivers are regularly zapped for parking during street cleaning hours. Near College and Yale streets, citations often go for expired meters or parking beyond allowed hours.
Main and Alameda: The area near Union Station is also a high-ticket zone, with hundreds issued at the intersection. Nearby, the area around Spring and Ord streets saw 703 tickets handed out. The culprit, according to Galperin’s data, appears to be people looking for short-term parking as they drop off or pick up travelers.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2017