Los Angeles has got infamously tall parking signs everywhere, telling you when and for how long cars are allowed to sit there. Don't follow the rules, find a ticket on the dash. But one LA parking rule—a rule that can be one of the most expensive to break—is a frigging secret that is not explained on any sign anywhere: the 72-hour parking limit. Officials admit on record that there's no posted signage about the citywide restriction which, if violated, can result in a ticket and the car being towed to impound, but their defense is basically a trumped-up version of "If you don't use it, you lose it." The city's now being sued by a couple whose car was towed away while they were on vacation, the LA Times reports.
The Sackmans live in Sawtelle. They have a parking permit for their minivan so they can park on the street outside of their house. They didn't know about the 72-hour rule, probably because despite having every single other restriction clearly explicated in curbside sign form, LA doesn't have a sign for this one. They went on vacation to San Francisco and, on that same day, a neighbor "flagged down a parking enforcement officer and lodged an anonymous complaint about the couple's car." An officer put a ticket on the car after three days and it was towed after five, but, while the Sackmans had returned, they didn't know their car was gone because they don't drive every day. Less than a week after the initial anonymous complaint, Mr. Sackman went to drive to work and discovered the car had been towed. Lesson learned: if you hate your neighbors because they get the street parking you want, just wait until they go on vacation.
The city says they need this law to keep the streets from getting cluttered with abandoned cars; last year, LA impounded 4,539 cars, so maybe there are some cars clogging up viable spaces, right? But then what do they have to lose by just putting up a sign that tells people about this law, like they do for every other parking rule? The Sackmans even cite a section of the California Vehicle Code stating that "a vehicle shall not be removed unless signs are posted giving notice of removal"; it seems like this is something that should be explicit. They're suing to stop enforcement of the law, to have it declared illegal, and for damages plus a refund of the $274.20 impound fee and the $68 fine. (Coincidentally, Mr. Sackman happens to be a lawyer, but many who face similar impound situations resulting from this rule probably are not.)
The City Attorney wouldn't comment on the ongoing suit, but in papers filed by Deputy City Attorney Gerald Sato, the office argues that "City Council's adoption of the parking restriction was adequate notice" of the restriction (because every Angeleno is super familiar with what is decided and has been decided in council chambers) and adds that since the car was left unused for a whole three days—an eternity!—there was clearly no harm done because the Sackmans don't use their car enough to miss it. If they really cared about this car, they'd be driving it on the daily and spending all their free time moving it around to different spots in the neighborhood.
Sato concluded the filing by saying, "Perhaps it is too broad a generalization to state, as everyone learned in grammar school, that ignorance of the law is no defense." So why even have parking signs at all, then? Why not just assume that people know when and where they can and cannot park and give them tickets when they don't? LA would save $9.5 million a year in temporary parking signs alone, and the coffers would be so full from all that parking ticket revenue.
· L.A. is carried away on impounding vehicles, suit says [LAT]
· LA Spends $9.5 Million on Temporary Parking Signs Every Year [Curbed LA]
· See the Most Ridiculous Parking Restriction Sign Ever [Curbed LA]