California Law Now Says You Can Park for Free at Broken Meters

Categories: Transportation
Thumbnail image for Monopoly Free-parking.jpg
Unfortunately, no luxury tax money will be found underneath free parking spaces in San Francisco.
To those city drivers dragged into teeth-grinding anguish by this morning's KQED report that SFMTA is hiring 14 new meter maids to take your money, there's some soothing news coming out of Sacramento: Free parking at broken meters is now state law.

Sponsored by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), endorsed by AAA, and now signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 1388 says meter maids can no longer slap you with a ticket if you are parked at a broken meter.

This isn't a life-changing law for us, of course. Unlike those Matt-Kemp-jersey-wearing brutes in Los Angeles, San Franciscans already enjoy free parking at broken meters, per SFMTA policy.

But given the transportation agency's $17 million deficit, and the city's newfound energy to help close that shortfall through increased parking citation revenue, there were no promises San Francisco would remain a free-parking-at-broken-meters kind of town.

S.B. 1388, which takes effect next year, doesn't make that promise either. However, a policy change must pass through the Board of Supervisors, which would have to approve an ordinance or resolution to limit or ban parking at broken meters.

In addition to L.A., several other big cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Denver, and Houston don't allow parking at broken meters. The idea is to create disincentives for vandals who might break meters so they can park for free.

Our city's current policy, which California law now mirrors, says that you can park at a broken meter for free for as long as the posted time limit allows. The SFMTA website is pretty clear about this: "If a meter is broken you are allowed to park at that meter for the posted time limit. To report broken meters, call 415.920.4090." By contrast, Oakland appears conspicuously vague about broken meter policy. From the city website's FAQ section: "Q: What do I do if a parking meter is broken? A: Make a note of the meter number and call (510) 238-3099 to report the broken meter."

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How are we going to make sure this change doesn't cause people to simply break the meter instead of paying it?  Have they set up a database to track the results of this change?

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