Conspiracy

The Damndest Bit of Parking Meter Sneakiness I Ever Did See

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The city of Santa Monica, California, has sprinkled amongst its 9-hour parking meters, the extremely unusual 9 minute parking meter. It's signs are the same color and font as the 9-hour meter's, and is in every respect the same sign except for the hour/minute distinction. Oh, it's also found nowhere else in the known universe except among the 9-hour meters. And the 9-minute meters accept money for amounts of time far more than 9 minutes.

Gee, could they be trying to trick people?

Full scoop from LAObserved.

UPDATE: Alas, blunting this whole post of its comic value, apparently the city has already changed them back to 9 hours and insists it was a mistake all along. Thanks to commenter Dave S. for finding the update, which I'd missed. As my good friend Emily Litella would say, "never mind…."

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  1. I think I speak for everyone here when I say…

    huh?

  2. Brian broke the internets, Brian broke the internets!

    You owe us a series of tubes, young man.

  3. Yes, guys, this one was hairy, but I think I’ve glued all the tubes back up safe and sound, with the help of Reason Hit and run’s crack backstage crew…..

  4. Brian broke the internets, Brian broke the internets!

    You owe us a series of tubes, young man.

    LOL.

  5. Can you say “class action”?

  6. Gee, could they be trying to trick people?

    No way, man. Dan T. has assured us at H&R that parking meters are not about revenue collection. There just must be a large number of 0-9 minute parkers. Or something…

  7. You know, this could fall under the form of “Buyer Beware” or “failure to read the contract” but I can’t help but feel outraged by this for some reason. Maybe because this is a contract that is designed to force you into default on it? I mean, I can’t think of a single thing you can do nine minutes or less, in a downtown area, that requires you to park the car. Hookers and drug dealers come to you and McDonalds has a drive-thru.

  8. But, “9 minute parking” failed to return a single document from either Google, or Yahoo. Nothing.

    What a liar. I just did this search on Google and got 10 hits!

  9. LA is insane when it comes to parking to begin with. I managed to wrack up $300 in violations and get my car towed off the Sunset strip in a single afternoon. That’s just ludicrous.

    I would have had to have had parking violations every day for three months straight in my hometown to match that.

  10. Yes, it’s really difficult to print some decals in the same Pantone color and typeface as “Hour”, change the word to “Minute” and apply them randomly to confuse the public. What a scoop! I smell Pulitzer!

  11. Just on the other side of the hill, in Silverlake, I’ve been ticketed twice while parked in a semi-residential neighborhood late at night. There are no signs saying no parking ANYWHERE and the ticket just said “parked on street,” which I was, along with about 50 other cars who didn’t get tickets. After the second incident I finally found on the city’s website that you’e not allowed to park in residential areas after 11pm without a city parking sticker. $45 each. At least in Santa Monica they put up some sort of sign, even if it’s deceptive.

  12. Outrageous! This is a government that’s dropping all pretense. They’re just outright con artists!

  13. What a liar. I just did this search on Google and got 10 hits!

    I got 23,000. Did I do something wrong?

  14. mikep, i suspect my irony detector is just broken and you know this, but just in case, all the links you got were references to the article itself. they wouldn’t have been there when it was first written.

    ed has to be right. it’s a prank, and the observer didn’t check into it.

    chalupa, use quotes and the number will go down.

    -cab

  15. What a liar. I just did this search on Google and got 10 hits!

    I got 23,000. Did I do something wrong?

    Did you keep the quotes around “9 minute parking” ??

    I did it on google and other than the top two posts which point to the laobserved site, I got 3 hits — and those all were talking about the laobserved post.

  16. The concept of 9 hour parking from 9-6 makes no sense. That is 9 hours. In other words, there are no parking restrictions described in the sign on the left.

    Something about this is wrong. It’s a hoax.

  17. Time limited spaces is just rationing by waiting in line. Santa Monica needs to call in Donald Shoup.

  18. They’ve been installing new, high-tech parking meters in Seattle, too. I think they’re solar powered or something. But the same suspicions apply about how they’re using these to ‘maximize revenue’. On these meters you have to purchase a minimum amount of a buck– you can’t just shove in a dime or a quarter for a few minutes to run in and out of someplace. You don’t have individual meters; you have one centrally located unit on a block, and it spits out a sticker that you’re supposed to stick on your window. So you have to purchase a minimum amount of time set by the authorities, and it’s individually owned — you no longer have the lucky situation of driving around and finding a free spot with a meter that has time left on it. (Some people realize this, however, and if they still have unexpired time they’ll leave the sticker on the unit as a freebie for someone else.)

    Ah yes, maximizing the revenue.

  19. You know, I suppose the prank thing is a possibility. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

    But “9-hour parking” informes the parker that, unlike a more typical 2-hour meter, if they are willing to plug in enough money to fill the meter for 9 hours, they can stay there. I know of such meters from personal experience, though the 9 minute ones I only know from the LA Observed site. (After 6 pm and before 9 am, you can park at the meter without actually putting money in the meter.)

  20. I’ve lived in Santa Monica. I still have ties to Santa Monica. Let me explain.

    People with guns need money. The people with guns see people with money. The people with guns get ideas. One of those ideas is to charge extra for public spaces that the State and Federal govt give money on the assumption of universal access. My lovely wife got a ticket last year forthe offence of being at 7:58 in an 8:00 parking zone. No matter. The City of Santa Monica has lost many times as much in commerce due to their stupidity. We didn’y go to the SM Mall or any of the other normal shopping spots we’ve used in the past. The medical offices where the ticket was issued is moving as well.

    It takes time but these things work out. Why do you think near every large employer west of the 405 has been relocating? They are afraid of the nice people with guns looking for money.

  21. “No way, man. Dan T. has assured us at H&R that parking meters are not about revenue collection.”

    As a resident of the People’s Replubik of Santa Monica, let me assure you that they don’t bother with any pretense. Meters are for revenue collection.

    “The concept of 9 hour parking from 9-6 makes no sense. In other words, there are no parking restrictions described in the sign on the left.”

    You’re just confused because you didn’t see the other 20 confusing and conflicting signs on the same block (the ones around the corner and in the next block are completely different too). Remember it’s about maximizing revenue.

  22. I think I can make some sense of this.

    You see, Santa Monica has a lot of homeless people. …and I’m not saying it’s just because of rent control, but I think that’s probably a big part of it.

    Anyway, there’s no way the city council is gonna get rid of rent control, and that’s ’cause the army of homeless people they’re trying to raise isn’t big enough yet to conquer the Marina, liberate its sailboats and invade Catalina, making it a permanent part of the People’s Republic.

    …I mean, look at the horrific results of their asinine rent control–what other explanation could there be?

    Anyway, in the meantime, the city needs a place for all those homeless people to sleep, otherwise they’re just gonna end up peeing all over the beach! So they must have come up with the idea to let ’em sleep in city parking lots.

    Now that may seem kind of cruel, at first, but when you think about it, if you’ve got a lot of people who all want to live in the same place, you have to find some way to ration that space.

    …and at $0.10 every 9 minites, that rent’s actually pretty cheap.

  23. Their government sucks but Santa Monica does have some nice English and Irish pubs, and the chess park on the beach is cool.

  24. This says it was a mistake, FWIW.

  25. 10 cents for 9 minutes works out to only one dollar for an hour and a half. That’s cheap for L.A. What’s the fuss?

    For a trip to Trader Joe’s, 18 minutes is about enough, so two 9 minute sessions is fine. I like the idea. if the rest of you idiots are just too inattentive to read carefully, don’t blame the City of Santa Monica. They have enough mortal sins to harp on to worry about this venial one. I grant them absolution.

  26. I think it’s a max of 9 minutes, and you get ticketed for staying longer.

  27. You see, Santa Monica has a lot of homeless people. …and I’m not saying it’s just because of rent control, but I think that’s probably a big part of it.

    I’m no fan of rent control and it has a great deal to do with higher rents in Santa Monica, but it has nothing to do with the homeless problem. If that were the case, they could easily move into any of the surrounding communities that don’t have rent control.

    Rent control doesn’t com into it. I know lots of people that can’t afford Santa Monica and, surprise surprise, they live elsewhere, in an apartment.

    Santa Monica has a lot of homeless people because of its great weather, low crime and homeless friendly policies. Would you rather be homeless inland or near the beach? In the hood or in a gentrified area?

  28. I know people who’re still paying the same rent they did in the early 80s. …I also know people who’ve looked for apartments over there–it’s freakin’ crazy lookin’ for an apartment over there. …and still, in spite of the low vacancies, there’s little if any apartments under construction for rent.

    They’re passin’ ordinances downtown to protect the slums–’cause, miracle of miracles, developers actually want to convert old, run down buildings into lofts in downtown Los Angeles!

    …so who’s developing in Santa Monica? …and what are they building? And if we’re gonna blame gentrification, what kind of effect does rent control have on that? …if I’m building in a rent controlled district, am I building for sale or for lease?

    From a strictly business perspective, given the state of the residential market in Santa Monica, if I knew ahead of time that I could get city council approval, I’d buy every rental unit in Santa Monica and convert them all to condos.

    Have you heard that kind of thing about any other market before? I won’t say that just because Manhattan, San Francisco and Santa Monica all have two things in common that that demonstrates causality definitively, but they do have two things in common–rent control and an absurd rate of homelessness.

    There are places where the rent is low in the South Bay. There are clusters of old, weekly motels in places like Torrance. …and there are plenty of decrepit rental buildings in Santa Monica that could serve that purpose. Vacancies went up in rental units throughout Los Angeles when interest rates went down–just about everybody that wanted a mortgage got one. Why didn’t vacancies go up in Santa Monica the same way they did elsewhere?

    A good part of the answer has to do with the inflexibility that rent control brings. …and the Santa Monica City Council should be ashamed of itself.

  29. Ken:

    Ever since WWII ended, plenty of rental housing in NYC has been converted into co-ops and condos.

    Kevin

  30. Santa Monica resident here. The sign debacle was most likely was just a mistake.

    Re: homeless/rent control, Mo nailed it. Santa Monica is the Home of the Homeless largely because of it’s great weather, low crime and homeless friendly policies. Interestingly, it’s reputation makes things worse, because well meaning church groups from out of the area set up impromptu homeless kitchens/services in the city’s public places, because “that’s where the homeless are”. As a result, the homeless are attracted to the area, because “that’s where the food’s being handed out”.

    I have a hard time believing rent control has anything to do with it. The homeless here seem to be in these categories.
    1)Drunks/addicts.
    2)Mentally disturbed.
    3)Folks who like living homeless.
    4)Mixture of the above characteristics.

    Assuming that low rent housing could be had even in the absence of rent control, none of those folks are going off the street. Housing in Santa Monica, a largely uppity beach city, will never be so cheap as to deter the homeless folks above.

    That doesn’t mean the city isn’t a pain in the ass. And the big reason it’s a pain in the ass is because the folks here mostly like it that way. I view Santa Monica government at bit like a really large homeowner’s association, small enough where one neighbor on the block can make enough noise at those mind numbing city council meetings to easily become a petty tyrant. Somewhat to my dismay, government here actually gets things done.

  31. Oh admit it, shecky!

    …You don’t mind all the homeless ’cause the rent’s so cheap.

  32. I did it on google and other than the top two posts which point to the laobserved site, I got 3 hits — and those all were talking about the laobserved post.

    You never step in the same internet twice…

    Those 2 plus 3 are the “most relevant” 5 of “about 10”. If you click through, you find there are actually…

    9 results!

    Spooky.

  33. The nine-minute meters are for lovers’ lane application.


  34. …You don’t mind all the homeless ’cause the rent’s so cheap.

    Heh… I don’t rent. not sure I could, as the rents here are insane.

    And I don’t mind the homeless because they rarely actually bother anyone.

  35. The concept of 9 hour parking from 9-6 makes no sense.

    You’re using the term “makes no sense” in a sentence about government policy. I think that’s a given.

  36. Ken,
    there’s several reasons very few new residential buildings are built in Santa Monica most of them having to do with absurd and costly regulations designed (ironically) to increase the stock of low income housing.

    1) Builders have to set aside a certain number of units for “low income” residents. Until recently, they could pay a mitigation fee in lieu of building the units on site (the city supposedly uses this fee to build “low or no income” housing in the Pico neighborhood). Once the mitigation fee was rescinded and all “low income” housing had to be built on site, all construction ground to a halt in the nicer neighborhoods (Montana)due to….

    2) Density regulations. In the Montana neighborhood you can build 6 units on a plot. On the same sized plot in the Pico neighborhood you can build 40. While prices are higher in Montana than Pico, it’s not worth your while to build 4 market rate units and 2 below market rate units especially when you have to jump through the hoops of…

    3) Public input. ANY construction project in the city has to be approved by EVERYONE. Before you can tear down your shack to build something new, you must post a sign for months during the public comment period. If ANYONE has any objection to what you’re planning do to with YOUR property, you’ll be subject to months if not years of delays while the city council or any of 20 regulatory boards hashes out the details. Needless to say, folks in the nice neighborhoods are known to fight the influx of “low income” residents and will find any reason to do so.

    4)Stupid bullshit such as a new development fee to pay for child care and the arts. Yes, a Nov 30 story in the Santa Monica Daily Press (www.smdp.com) lauds the fact that developers will finally pay their share for community childcare and local art (they can erect city approved art on their property or pay a mitigation fee for the city to do it for them).

    5) Rent control. Nothing has done more to reduce available stock of housing and to prevent further construction than preventing property owners from profiting from their investments. You know people who are paying the same rent since the 80’s? I know folks who are paying the same rent since the 60’s. The city is really socking it to those evil landlords who barely break even after taxes and maintenence…

  37. “Heh… I don’t rent. not sure I could, as the rents here are insane.”

    For the few units exempt from rent control, I’m sure that’s true. …that’s kinda the point.

    “And I don’t mind the homeless because they rarely actually bother anyone.”

    What about business owners? Are you gonna tell me that business owners don’t find the homeless bothersome? You think they like having people living in their doorways? Ah, yes, that lovely urine smell on the way to the Laemmle’s on 2nd street. …that’s not bothersome–that’s ambiance!

    And me personally, I don’t mind gettin’ hassled for some change by a deranged homeless person every now and then–but then I used to work in a full lock-down psychiatric facility. …oh, the memories that brings back!

    …but then I don’t live in Santa Monica. I do know people in Santa Monica. …and quite frankly they don’t seem too keen on feeling like they’re in a refugee camp in some third world country every time they go to the park. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that a lot of people in Santa Monica think of the homeless as quite bothersome.

    And, please, let’s not forget the homeless themselves. In spite of assurances to the contrary, I don’t think I’m goin’ out on a limb when I speculate that there must be some among the homeless, some who might like a crack at havin’ a home, that probably do, in fact, find the whole homeless thing entirely bothersome!

  38. Although there are myriad examples of government duplicity, if this was indeed just more government bungling, I apologize to the Santa Monica government and retract what I wrote up thread:

    “Outrageous! This is a government that’s dropping all pretense. They’re just outright con artists!”

    I’m sorry

  39. Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

  40. Dan T. has assured us at H&R that parking meters are not about revenue collection.

    Do people here actually believe that privately-run streets in a dense area would not also be making money off parking meters? I mean, I know state==bad and many times I agree, but come on.

  41. developers actually want to convert old, run down buildings into lofts in downtown Los Angeles!

    Why on earth would anybody want to live in downtown Los Angeles? Aside from a few office buildings there’s nothing there. And except on very, very, very clear days there’s nothing to see. (I spent 4 years at USC. I know what the skyline is like. You don’t see any mountains most days.)

    And $0.10 for 9 minutes works out to about $480/month for a small outdoor space with no utilities. Which, as others have said, is pretty decent rent by Santa Monica standards.

    If there’s a vacancy in one of those parking spaces let me know. I’m willing to pay as much as $510/month for it if there’s a wifi network in the area.

  42. Penny:

    Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    A very apt maxim except when speaking of government, despite the vast stupidity therein.

  43. Rhywun:

    What does every suburban shopping mall brag on? “Plenty of free parking!”

    As someone who spent almost 20 years working retail in one or another urban business district where the shopper had a choice among various pay-lots or using a metered on-street spot, there is actually a good reason to have short-term meters. Merchants want to have the spaces in front of their shops “turn”, so a new customer can find a place to park every 15, 30 or even 60 minutes. They don’t want those spaces taken up by, for example, employees of the various stores and offices on the street, who, not able to find a cheap enough or free spot in a nearby lot, run out to plug the meter on the hour. In some municipalities, plugging the meter after a posted limit has expired will even net you a ticket, just as if you’d parked in a free spot and gone overtime.

    Would those 9-hour meters in SM be for the benefit of employees of the firms in the neighborhood, especially if there’s little off-street parking available?

    Kevin

  44. Why on earth would anybody want to live in downtown Los Angeles? Aside from a few office buildings there’s nothing there.

    The rebirth of downtown Los Angeles is amazing. …like I said, they actually put a moratorium on converting any more of those skid row hotels into lofts–I never thought I’d live to see them be anything else. …of course, the powers that be did that just as interest rates went back up and the loft market wasn’t as hot as it was. Can you imagine Detroit passing a moratorium on tearing down tenements to put up some nice housing? I remember thinkin’ that downtown LA had about as much of a chance of makin’ a comeback as Detroit.

    And you should see the hole in the ground next to Staples Center. They’re building a hotel / residential / entertainment / shopping center that if not the biggest private project in the country is certainly among them.

    …and we’re not talking about Disneyfication here like in Times Square. And the cultural landscape isn’t as empty as it used to be. There are art galleries and theater and good restaurants and everything else you’d find in a vibrant city.

    If someone did an honest history of development in the city, I bet they’d attribute the turn around to immigration, legal and otherwise. …they created what little energy there was downtown, pretty much from scratch. Once the oil companies left…

    Detroit should consider marketing itself as a safe haven for immigrants.

  45. Wait, downtown LA is actually nice now?

    All I can say is that they better not gentrify away the grease-pit that is the Original Pantry, because if you’re going to eat greasy diner food it’s impossible to beat the Original Pantry.

    I’m all in favor of gentrification as long as it doesn’t chase away the few half-decent places that existed before gentrification. The Original Pantry is one of those places.

  46. I wouldn’t say it’s “nice” nice, but it ain’t like it used to be.

    This is the company doin’ the big development I was talkin’ about, and as big as it is, they’re just adding on to what’s already there.

    http://www.aegworldwide.com/04_future/losangeles.html

    This kind of thing won’t hurt the residential market in the area. …I was gonna add, “Now if they’d only connect the metro line to the airport!”, but my inner libertarian wouldn’t let me.

  47. Oh, that’s easy enough to fix, Ken:

    “If only they’d sell the Metro to a private firm that would connect it to the airport…”

  48. I love LA (to visit).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l-b9RkGjmc&mode=related&search=

    And ya know what foreigners say about LA. They say that it’s like no other city in America, yet it could be nowhere else but America.

  49. I would give anything to teach at a college or university in LA. In addition to responding to ads, I’m actually doing a bit of cold-calling to a few places in LA. It’s unusual in the academic job market, but I am determined to get back to LA by any means necessary.

  50. thoreau,

    I have a friend who’s a pretty generous contributor to Cal Tech. I have no idea if he could exert any effective pull on your behalf, or if you’d even be interested in teaching there. (As you’re no-doubt aware; it’s in Pasadena-I consider it to be in the LA area.) But if you want, email me your email address and I’ll broach it with him. He reads H&R from time to time and I’ve pointed out to him that you have a PhD in physics.

    Either way, good luck on your California dreaming becoming a reality. (As the song goes)

  51. What does every suburban shopping mall brag on? “Plenty of free parking!”

    They better have it as there’s usually no other way to get there. Yet I said “dense area” – suburban shopping malls are not a “dense area”. A privately-run downtown street would charge to park on the street, for a profit, just like privately-run garages charge to park in a garage.

    I’m all in favor of gentrification as long as it doesn’t chase away the few half-decent places that existed before gentrification.

    Ask them to double or triple their prices before the bank branch or cell phone shop moves in.

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