The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to hike dozens of parking tickets by $5, shifting more of the cost of its budget crisis onto L.A. motorists.
As part of their yearly search for summer cash, the council unanimously increased the fines – the sixth set of increases in seven years. Those increases are expected to provide an extra $8.4 million annually for the city’s general fund budget, which pays for basic services such as police officers and firefighters.
In a second vote, the council increased zoo admission fees by $1. That increase is the fifth in five years and is expected to generate an additional $720,000 per year for city coffers.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had backed both sets of increases as part of the budget, which eliminated a $238 million shortfall and went into effect Sunday. Since he took office in 2005, the cost of zoo admission for children 12 and under has more than doubled, from $5 to $12. The price for seniors increased from $7 to $14 over the same period.
Under the parking proposal, anyone caught at an expired meter will pay $63; those illegally parking on street sweeping day will pay $73; and anyone caught parking in a red zone will pay $93.
The council made both decisions before going on a two-week break. Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor, defended the parking ticket increases, saying they would help the city "stay on track" financially. So did Councilwoman Jan Perry, another mayoral candidate.
"We need more revenue," she said.
The push for higher parking fines drew criticism from Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, which advocates on behalf of renters and low-income families. He said working-class families would struggle to pay off their parking fines, which are higher than in any neighboring city.
"This is all about generating more money for the city, rather than justly penalizing a person for the infraction they're committing," said Gross.
The pricier parking tickets also drew fire from Cary Brazeman, a candidate for city controller, who argued that they will make the city a less livable place.
"It’s ironic that the city is considering this step at the same time they are reducing parking requirements for many housing projects, which pushes more people to park on the street with no other options," he said.