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Los Angeles Times

Tuesday May 08, 2012

L.A. Renters' Group Fights Villaraigosa's Bid To Hike Parking Fines

By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times - L.A. NOW

Troubled by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to hike parking fines for the sixth time in seven years, an advocacy group for L.A. renters launched a campaign Tuesday to persuade City Hall to drop the proposal.

The Coalition for Economic Survival fired off an email blast urging members to "take action" by calling and writing the 15 City Council members who will decide whether to approve the new round of parking ticket increases, part of the plan to eliminate the city’s latest budget shortfall.

"Tell the mayor and Los Angeles City Council members NO to this attempt to balance the city budget on the back of renters, the poor and workers with this extraordinary parking ticket increase proposal," wrote Larry Gross, the coalition’s executive director.

If the plan is approved, the penalty for roughly a dozen violations would go up by $10, making L.A. more expensive than neighboring cities for certain tickets. The fine issued on street sweeping day would reach $78 -– up 73% from 2005, the year Villaraigosa took office. A fine for parking in the red zone would reach $98 –- up nearly 51% since 2005. A fine for parking in a fire lane would reach $73, up nearly 83% over the same period.

Although council members said they are beginning to hear from Angelenos on the topic, few were willing to stake out a position. One exception was councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry, who said she is prepared to approve the plan. "We have to do something to bring in some revenue," said Perry, who represents parts of downtown and South Los Angeles. "That’s a pretty straightforward way to do it."

Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the powerful Budget and Finance Committee, declined to comment on the proposal, even though his panel has been holding hearings on the budget for two weeks. Councilmen Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti and Richard Alarcon said they are studying the issue. "We’re going to be looking at a lot of things that are painful this year," said Alarcon, who frequently embraces the issues raised by renters’ advocacy groups.

Garcetti, another mayoral hopeful, declined to state a position on the proposal. But he said he doesn’t think city officials "should necessarily be bankrupting our residents just to balance our budget." City Controller Wendy Greuel, who is also running for mayor, did not immediately respond.

Greuel subsequently came out against the $10 ticket increases, saying the Department of Transportation should instead focus on collecting fines from those who have five or more unpaid tickets. Money from such repeat offenders could generate $10 million, Greuel said in a statement from her office.

"Rather than balancing the budget and on the backs of all Angelenos and raising fees, Greuel has been adamant about having the [department] do a better job collecting the outstanding parking tickets that are owed to the city of Los Angeles," the statement said.

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