Parking in Los Angeles has become increasingly hard to come by, and hairier and hairier as far as potential tickets and tows go. It helps to know LA parking tricks and tips and to obtain some expert parking advice from locals, particularly if you're new in town.
Having been around the block a few times (pun intended), I have picked up some info on the ins and outs of parking in my hometown of LA. So, I'd like to share my experiences with you in hopes that they help you avoid getting parking tickets and violations.
Disclaimer: this list is comprised largely of personal advice and anecdotal evidence. When in serious doubt, always contact LA Parking Enforcement directly with questions and concerns.
Newer Parking Technologies
This may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Just because you don't see a meter, doesn't mean you don't have to pay...thanks to new electronic parking enforcement technologies.
Make sure to look around for a central pay station, and to note your space number (located on the curb adjacent to your car). You'll be able to use your credit card at the machine (as well as coins) and it will prompt you for your space number.
Just don't make the mistake I did and pay for a whole two hours (or however much it is) when you only need one. Initially unbeknownst to me, when you use your credit card, the machine starts the count at the maximum and you have to navigate the arrow down to reduce the amount of time you're buying on the meter.
The Truth About Broken Meters
You pull up to space, get out and see 'Fail' flashing on the meter. Some people rejoice at this sight (yours truly included) while others are confused. 'Will I get a ticket?' 'Should I move?' The jury is somewhat out on this one.
I have never gotten a ticket for parking at a broken meter. I always carry a pre-written piece of paper in my car that says 'Meter is broken' and place it on my windshield or around the meter as an added failsafe.
I asked a call taker at the city's parking violations bureau about this. She said to watch out to adhere to the time limit on a broken meter. For instance, if it says '2-hour parking' and the meter is broken, do not remain in the space for longer than two hours or you will be ticketed, for sure.
Parking on a Hill: A Slippery Slope
The next time you park in a hilly area--particularly around the notoriously strict Sunset Strip---do not forget to curb your tires. I did once--for five minutes while I ran into the bank-- and I got a ticket by a merciless parking enforcement officer.
When you are parked facing downhill, turn your wheels towards the curb, let the car slide down and lightly bump against the curb and you'll know you've gotten it right. For uphill parking, the opposite holds true. Turn your wheels away from the curb and let the car slide back until it lightly bumps against the curb.
Yellow Loading/White Loading
This is another point of contentious debate. I park in yellow loading during an evening off hours and have never gotten a ticket. Some would disagree with me on this, I'm sure.
If you park in a white zone, you will be towed or ticketed. That is the difference between white and yellow.
However, make sure you are out of the hours of enforcement when you park in a yellow zone. Historically, the violation was always enforced until 6 p.m. However, these days, with new hours of enforcement (often going until 8), I wouldn't try this before 8 p.m.
Hugging the Curb Vs. Distance Parking
The rule is that you can park within 18 inches from the curb. Once you start jutting out beyond that, you are a candidate for a big fat ticket.
Knowing this rule, I tended to go extreme in the other direction, hugging the curb tightly. I would now strongly advise against this. It's not so much that you'll get a ticket. But one evening when my car was 'curb hugging,' I returned to discover that a new car had parked in front of mine (even closer to my vehicle) and I could no longer navigate out of my space.
The Buddy System
Motorcycle drivers often get a bad rap for taking up otherwise car-friendly (and large) parking spaces. However, by way of my personal experience, I'd like to set the record straight. I have, on a couple of occasions encountered extremely polite and community-minded motorcycle riders who 'share' spaces with compact cars. Not only do they squeeze in but once, when I arrived at the same time as one, she even offered to share the cost of the meter.
She wasn't ticketed for sharing the space though I'm sure on a bad day (as much depends on the whims of parking enforcers) that could have been the case.
Beware the Hidden Driveway
Make sure to look carefully for hidden driveways (especially at night and in residential areas). Often because of strange layout issues and space, people's driveways may look like something else--a parking space.
I've even encountered this in commercial areas when parking behind lots. The curb seems to disappear making it look like space when in fact it's the exit of a parking lot.
In my neighborhood, we're generally respectful enough to put 'no parking' signs above ambiguous spaces. However, this isn't the case everywhere. So, beware, lest you return to the horrific sight of no car.
The Dreaded Tow
Personally, I wouldn't risk parking in a tow-away space for any amount of money. Most people wouldn't either but you'd be surprised at how many unthinking or desperate drivers there are in LA. It can cost hundreds of dollars to get your vehicle out of impound--definitely not worth it.
Be aware that, it's not just space with clearly marked tow-away signs that you should be on alert for. I once saw my neighbor have a car towed that was partially blocking her garage. In addition, if your car is parked on the street for over 72 hours, you can technically be towed though this would only happen if someone reported your car or your friend's (like a disgruntled neighbor).
To find out if you've been towed (versus robbed), call your local Los Angeles police station and have your license plate ready.