How To Deal With Parking In LA Without Turning Into A Ball Of Rage

Published July 22, 2019

Your blood might already be boiling because you saw the words “parking” and “L.A.” in the same headline. We apologize.

But if you're not one of the fortunate ones who can get conveniently where you need to be via Metro, e-scooter, biking or walking, chances are you are rolling around in a cumbersome car and therefore must deal with the misery of parking in Los Angeles. So, while we're all in this stress-spiking, misanthrope-making, anxiety-filled purgatory together, perhaps we should try to make things marginally more bearable by equipping ourselves with some shared knowledge and principles.

That’s what the guide below is for.

When figuring out what to include, we decided you've probably at least glanced at the California DMV handbook — aka the thing you were required to read before getting your license — and already know not to park in the red, to stay within 18 inches from the curb, to turn your wheels on hills, all of that.

But there are some, well, how do we say this politely, less clearly communicated rules and procedures for parking in L.A. that we've accumulated through parking tickets, fist-shaking and hearing about all your personal gripes. We hope you can learn from our mistakes research efforts, and save yourself a little grief.

(And if you’re wondering why our parking situation is the way it is, we have an explainer for that, too.)

PARKING ETIQUETTE EXISTS

For better or worse, we all have direct control over our own behavior when it comes to parking in L.A. We won't immediately assume that you, dear reader, are committing any egregious faux pas in your vehicle. Instead, we'll just say that we encourage everyone, model parking citizens or not, to pass along these guidelines for our collective benefit:

1. Maximize parking space for everyone.

There's a reason those rogue parking signs in Angelino Heights were necessary. If you see an abundance of space on a street, park flush against the end of the curb. If other cars are already there, park two to three feet away from them so that they can get out but you don't unjustly take up space another car can use. (We’ll leave this here without further comment.)

Car Etiquette Rule No. 1: Maximize parking

Car etiquette rule No. 1: Maximize parking (Brianna Lee/LAist)

2. Park inside the lines.

Painted lines are there to create order in a world full of chaos. Respect them. If one car tramples over its designated boundary, it entices others to do the same. Don't let your parking lot fall victim to this tragic domino effect.

Car Etiquette Rule No. 2: Park inside the lines

Car etiquette rule No. 2: Park inside the lines (Brianna Lee/LAist)

3. Don't squeeze into a spot where you can't actually fit.

Sure, your SUV might technically fit in a compact spot. But deep down, you know it doesn't really belong there. You know.

Car Etiquette Rule No. 3: Don't squeeze into a spot where you can't actually fit

Car etiquette rule No. 3: Don't squeeze into a spot where you can't actually fit (Brianna Lee/LAist)

4. Be kind to cyclists.

Bicycles might annoy drivers, but the way cars behave is much more consequential — and potentially lethal — for the people riding the bikes. So a few refreshers: Don't park in bike lanes. It could force cyclists to veer into the street and in front of dangerous traffic. And watch for bikes, oncoming or from behind, anytime you're getting out of your car. Getting doored is no joke.

Car Etiquette Rule No. 4: Be kind to cyclists

Car etiquette rule No. 4: Be kind to cyclists (Brianna Lee/LAist)

5. Don't misuse the disabled person placards.

We wish we didn't have to remind people to be decent human beings, but those placards are meant for people who actually need a parking space for a disability, not as a personal free parking pass for the morally bankrupt. (That said, for those of you looking to confront someone you think is using one of these placards in a less-than-legit way, remember that not all disabilities are visible.)

6. Don't be an EV hog.

Have an electric car? What a great person you are. Hogging an EV charging space for more time than necessary? You might've just gotten docked a few points. Be kind and let others have their turn.

7. Tip your valet.

Yes, tipping is customary. How much is a bit of a fuzzier question — we recommend somewhere around 15-20%. Bonus move: Tip when you're dropping off the car, especially if you've got a really nice one.

CURB YOUR PARKING ANXIETY

OK, here’s the scenario: you have plans to go somewhere you've never driven before. Feel that shroud of dread suddenly encircling you? We can help. Here are a few productive coping mechanisms:

Buzzkill.

Buzzkill. (Christi Nielsen/Flickr Creative Commons)

COMPLAIN TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Sometimes you gotta get the authorities involved. Make sure they're the right ones.

Generally, each individual city handles parking tickets within those city limits, through its transportation department and/or local police department. (Pro tip: Always keep tabs on what city you're parked in.)

The L.A. Department of Transportation at large handles parking restrictions and street parking rules within the city of L.A.

The Parking Violations Bureau, which is part of LADOT, handles tickets and disputes.

LAPD sometimes handles citations and towing as well, but only in certain situations (e.g., if it's a moving violation, or if there is a crime involved).

L.A. County's Parking Violations Bureau can also issue parking citations in unincorporated areas of the county. The county's Department of Beaches and Harbors also manages 19 parking lots along the county coastline, and another 15 in Marina del Rey.

Metro handles parking issues at Metro stations.

If you're within L.A. city, here's a cheat sheet on whom to call if you run into any of these very common parking issues. And, when in doubt, your easiest bet is to dial 311:

THE LESSER KNOWN RULES OF PARKING IN LA

So I'm good, right?

So I'm good, right? (Jorge Gonzalez/Flickr Creative Commons)

Even the most battle-hardened Angeleno might be blissfully unaware of some L.A. parking laws until a ticket gets slapped on the windshield — or until someone lets a personal pro tip slip. We’ll save you the time and expletives and just tell you a few common ones:

Send us your parking nightmare stories and pro tips.