It’s one of the most reviled aspects of Los Angeles government: the $73 ticket placed on cars illegally parked during street-sweeping days.
Angelenos received a respite from those tickets for seven months last year, after the beginning of the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that followed. They could receive another break starting Monday, when the city is set to cut its street-sweeping schedule in half, holding the cleanings every other week instead of weekly.
That could mean a big reduction in parking citations in the coming months — but only if car owners know which weeks are the right ones to safely park.
To help residents make the transition, the Bureau of Street Services is directing them to streetsla.lacity.org/sweeping, where they can sign up for email notifications for days their streets will be cleaned. The city is also directing residents to an online map and to its 311 hotline.
“We’re going to be very sensitive to the community, to their needs, on how we make sure that no tickets are issued to people who are parked on the days that we are not sweeping,” said Adel Hagekhalil, the bureau’s director and general manager.
Hagekhalil said the city is looking at adding color-coded stickers or other information to more than 75,000 “No Parking” signs to indicate which streets will be cleaned on the first and third weeks of the month and which will be served on the second and fourth. But that won’t happen right away, he said.
One neighborhood leader questioned the decision to scale back trash removal, saying the move will have a major effect in low-income neighborhoods.
Aura Vasquez, who served for several years on Koreatown’s neighborhood council, said she also fears that some residents, particularly those who lack computer access, will have a tough time determining which weeks are the right ones to safely park.
“There’s going to be a lot of tickets, because it’s going to be confusing,” she said.
Los Angeles has nearly 2,400 miles of streets that typically receive weekly cleanings by the fleet of sweepers, which collect food wrappers, discarded surgical masks and other detritus, keeping them from washing into storm drains and, ultimately, the ocean.
Hagekhalil said the cuts were triggered in part by the city’s employee buyout program, which was approved by city leaders last year in an attempt to close a massive budget shortfall.
Mayor Eric Garcetti had originally proposed 26 furlough days as a way of cutting costs; union leaders persuaded him and City Council members to first offer buyouts of up to $80,000. Roughly 10% of the workers at the Bureau of Street Services took the city up on its offer, including a dozen street-sweeper operators. Those buyouts, along with the city’s ongoing hiring freeze, have left the agency with too few drivers to maintain the weekly cleaning schedule, Hagekhalil said.
Even if the city’s financial picture improves, the weekly cleaning schedule is not likely to return. City officials say they had already been looking to cut the schedule for street sweeping in half next year, as part of a long-promised effort to redistribute the overall number of miles that receive cleanings.
Only 40% to 45% of city streets are swept regularly under the current system, Hagekhalil said, so scaling back the number of cleanings will allow other routes to be added. However, with the city still facing a $750-million budget shortfall, that expansion plan is on hold, he said.
Though the buyout program helped the Bureau of Street Services to cut costs, the move to reduce street sweeping could take a big bite out the city’s revenue from parking tickets.
Last year, after city leaders decided to stop ticketing on street-sweeping days, proceeds from parking citations at the Department of Transportation plummeted. From July to October, the first four months of the fiscal year, the agency saw a 47% reduction in ticket revenue compared with the same period the previous year, according to a budget report issued in December.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, before the pandemic, the city collected nearly $130 million in parking fines, budget officials said. The following year, which included three and a half months of pandemic closures, the city took in nearly $115 million.
During the first eight months of this fiscal year, the city has received $57.4 million in revenue from parking citations, said Colin Sweeney, spokesman for the Department of Transportation.
Over the short term, the reductions in street sweeping could still allow for a modest expansion in cleanings.
During months that have five weeks instead of four, street sweepers will be sent to corridors that receive only occasional cleanings — those that have bicycle lanes and those identified as “Great Streets,” including stretches of Figueroa and others considered to be walkable retail areas, officials said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.