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Parking tickets are piling up again in L.A. Here’s how to avoid them

Illustration shows a parking meter surrounded by falling citations and dollar bills.
Parking tickets in L.A. have nearly returned to pre-pandemic prevalence after a pause in 2020.
(Photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Along with the return of events and reopenings across the city, Los Angeles has stepped up parking enforcement and tickets have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.

A Times analysis of parking ticket data released by the city’s Department of Transportation found that there was a 15% increase in citations through the end of October this year from the same time frame last year.

Parking citations dropped significantly in early 2020 as the city shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, there was a drop in tickets that year, down to 1.4 million compared with the 1.9 million issued in 2019.

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The largest contributor to the drop last year was the city’s pause on street sweeping citations in March, when a stay-at-home order was issued. Street sweeping ticketing resumed that October and overall citations jumped by more than 95,000 that first month.

This year, the city has recorded 1.3 million citations through the end of October. Of those, more than 397,000 were street sweeping tickets, which come with a $73 fine.

The second most common ticket is for expired meters. More than 200,000 of the $63 citations have been logged this year, according to the department’s data portal.

While the public database contains issued tickets, it also includes voided or canceled citations, meaning they were nullified before or after being issued. It’s not possible to identify which citations were nullified. However, according to Colin Sweeney, public information director at the Department of Transportation’s communications office, voided and canceled citations account for less than 3% of all tickets each year.

Which areas are ticketed the most?

The most ticketed block in Los Angeles is 1600 Irving Tabor Court in Venice, where nearly 2,300 citations were logged. About 86% of the citations on that street, which is near the business area on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, were for expired meters. This block was also the most ticketed in 2019 and was the second-most last year, according to the database.

The department’s Hollywood division is once again responsible for the most tickets in the city — 22.5% of all citations this year. The agency, which covers Hollywood, Park La Brea and Miracle Mile among other surrounding areas, logged many of its citations along Mulholland Drive in the Hollywood Hills, a stretch that includes the Runyon Canyon north entrance. The infractions recorded there were mostly for stop and stand violations, which means stopping one’s car when there is a sign giving notice that it isn’t allowed and may or may not specify hours or days when enforced.

The second most ticketed location in the region was along Orange Drive North in Hollywood, adjacent to the Hollywood High School field, mostly for vehicles parking in a preferential parking district without a permit. In residential streets like this, signs may be posted with time restrictions to which only residents of that zone with a permit are exempted.

“The Hollywood area is a popular destination for visitors and patrons of businesses with dense residential areas in close proximity to the commercial district,” Sweeney said in a statement. “As a result, there are preferential parking zones posted to minimize the intrusion of non-residential parking and to aid with the parking turnover that businesses require. The combination of a high volume of visitors along with the posting of restrictions within preferential parking districts is what drives the pattern we see.”

Parking in Los Angeles is about luck and skill. So save time and money by learning these hacks with yellow curbs, green curbs, holiday rules, valet and more.

What you can do to avoid a citation

The city offers some tips for preventing getting a ticket, which include making sure to read posted signs and abiding by rules that apply to painted curbs, and more.

When it comes to citations for street sweeping and expired meters, here are some tips:

Street sweeping: Earlier this year, the city of Los Angeles cut its street sweeping in half, changing its weekly scheduled cleanings to twice a month.

Residents looking for their new schedule can find it on the Bureau of Street Services site, where an online map is available. In addition, people can sign up for email notifications, which are sent 24 and 48 hours before the scheduled sweeping, at streetsla.lacity.org/sweeping.

Expired meters: The Department of Transportation manages more than 35,000 parking meters in Los Angeles. Drivers can find available metered parking spaces, hours and prices with the LA Express Park online service offered by the city.

In addition to accepting coins and credit card payment, some meters throughout the city can be paid through the ParkMobile and Park Smarter smartphone applications. These allow drivers to extend their time from their phones, if any posted time limits allow, and offer reminders when the meter is expiring.

Only when a meter is broken — accepting neither change nor credit cards — can the driver “park for free up to the posted time limit,” according to the department’s website. Broken meters can be reported online or to a hotline: (877) 215-3958.

The city’s parking problems go back over 100 years. And by 2015, a study found, 14%, of L.A. County’s incorporated land was devoted to parking.

How to pay or contest a ticket

If you’ve been ticketed, you can pay in person, online, by phone or by mail. Proof of vaccination is currently required for in-person visits. The department also provides payment assistance and installment plans for those who qualify. More information is available on its site.

Contesting a citation may involve a three-step process that includes an administrative review, a hearing and a court visit. The process is outlined on the department’s website.

Your vehicle has been towed — now what? Follow these steps to recover your vehicle and maybe even some of your money.

About this story

The parking ticket data analyzed for this story is available on the Los Angeles Open Data site. Entries in the database include codes from the California Vehicle Code and the Los Angeles Municipal Code.

The database includes issued, voided and canceled citations. According to the Department of Transportation, roughly 2,000 to 2,500 citations are voided each month. These are citations nullified before being issued. Canceled citations make up a few hundred per month. These are nullified after being issued. Together, voided and canceled citations make up less than 3% of tickets in a year.

Citations in the database that did not have an issue date or a violation code were considered voided tickets and were excluded from this analysis. A total of 1,010, or .02%, additional entries could not be matched to the state’s vehicle code or the city’s code.

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