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Since March, the reduction or absence of ticketing cars in many California cities has halted tens of millions of dollars in city revenues, worsening many city budget projections.
Beginning in March, many cities stopped ticketing cars parked in no parking areas, without proper overnight designations, in streets on street sweeping days, and other situations where a ticket would have ordinarily been given. Cities, not wishing to burden residents with a flurry of bills or having residents unnecessarily go out during a pandemic, initially gave short term reprieves before moving on to longer term violations suspensions.
Some cities only recently brought back ticketing, with Oakland and San Francisco announcing only last month that ticketing would resume, with some LA suburbs only resuming ticketing this month. San Diego is currently scheduled to bring back ticketing on August 1st.
But, partially due to a return to a state lockdown, many cities are now finding themselves extending the moratorium on tickets, or in some cases, returning to it. Los Angeles, due to record daily highs of new COVID-19 cases, extended their ticket moratoriums, with surrounding cities such as Pasadena and San Gabriel also not issuing most kinds of tickets.
While residents have rejoiced at the lack of fines, cities are finding themselves in larger holes.
Los Angeles, which collects $148 million in parking fines a year, is expecting to see only around half of that in 2020.
Pasadena, which receives $7.2 million in “fines and forfeiture” a year, could see around $1 million knocked off. Many smaller or rural cities, which rely on parking fines for parts of their police, public safety, or general budgets, are also seeing proportional crunches.
‘We’re losing thousands a day here’
“We’re losing thousands a day here,” a police officer who wished to be anonymous told the California Globe. “The [Police Department in Los Angeles County] is bleeding from this. And we’re getting constant complaints. We used to get calls all the time about campers and other cars illegally parking on streets. And unless they do something else illegal, we can’t really go out. So the quality of life is going down too.”
“A lot of people are also not really on the side of cops due to recent events, so what’s happening is a general free-for-all on some streets.”
“Most areas, especially the more upper-scale areas, figured it out amongst themselves on street parking. But in busier areas with more people, we’ve had reports of cars being parked there for days or even weeks. We’ve gotten a lot of complaints of cars parked without proper city permits. But we’re not fining for that while COVID is on.”
Other cities that use private services to enforce street parking, such as Pasadena, are also now burdened with having private security bills and contracts thrown into the mix, as those services aren’t generating any revenue.
“We stopped it as a courtesy for those during the pandemic,” said a San Jose-area HOA neighborhood leader Kal Singth to the Globe. “But they had an ironclad contract. So not only are we paying for a service that just drives around all night since their only job was to ticket cars, but we’re not off-setting that from ticket revenue. We’ve been discussing raising the HOA fee temporarily to compensate for that, and let me tell you, other people who live here are not happy.”
The decline of private services has also led to many services being stopped, leaving many former security and parking enforcement officials out of a job at the worst possible times.
“Security jobs are hard to come by now since a lot less stores that would normally hire security are open,” noted Patrick Hess in an interview with the Globe. “It’s real rough out there right now. And we thought they’d keep us on because we’re a surefire moneymaker.”
“We never thought that the service bringing in money would end.”
Cities stand to lose ‘tens of millions’ this year
Many cities have remained silent on how much they might be losing due to the stoppage of parking fines and violations, although some experts place California cities losing a cumulative tens of millions throughout the state.
“LA alone, because it’s extended, could be seeing as much as $50 million in lost fines,” explained transportation consultant Linda Calley in a California Globe interview. “San Francisco, they ended early, but it will definitely be in the millions. San Diego is the same. Sacramento wasn’t as bad as they still give tickets, but with less auto traffic and visitors they’ll still see a reduction. In rural areas, even a few less cars illegally parking can add up.
“No one has really focused on this issue due to the coronavirus pandemic, but cities will definitely feel this burn when it comes time to clock in revenue. Some probably already have and have been scrambling to adjust.
“Parking tickets, we hate them. We should be happy about this. But many cities rely on this income for revenue and jobs, as well as to maintain vehicular order. There have been stories of people bragging about double parking overnight and getting away with it, so it’s a public safety concern too.
“And many cities are just now realizing how important these guys putting tickets on cars really are. These budget shortfalls we’re seeing are only getting worse because of this.”