During the Administration and Finance meeting on March 7, commissioners discussed the parking citation and addressed the concerns of the increase in parking fines.
Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas provided a background of the issue and said last November, the Public Safety Commission performed its annual review of parking citation fine schedule and identified violations for which they felt fines should be raised, based on input of the sheriff’s department in terms of issues in their communities.
Dueñas said some fines were as high as $150 due to the prevalence and the impact of public safety.
“After the meeting, when I was consulting with finance staff, there were some concerns about raising some of the fines too much, for a variety of reasons,” Dueñas said. “The finance staff tends to try to be consistent with the Las Virgenes parking authorities which is also consistent with the California vehicle code that says the issuing agencies should have the same fines within the same county and shall have standardized parking penalties.”
Dueñas said higher fines tend to increase the number of appeals which then results in requiring additional staff. Dueñas asked the commission to reconsider the proposed increases to these violations.
“At that time, they felt very strongly of their original recommendations to increase the fines and some to as much as $150,” Dueñas said. “At this point, staff recognizes the challenge in balancing public safety and the need to avoid appeals and comply with the state vehicle codes.”
According to the agenda report, in Fiscal Year 2020-2021, the city received approximately $1.367 million in revenue from parking citations. Staff is working with the city’s citation processing vendor to develop an updated projection as the parking citation revenue is anticipated to increase moderately as a result of this action.
On Nov. 3, 2021, the Public Safety Commission performed its annual review of the parking citation fine schedule. According to the report, the commission voted to recommend the city council to adopt the fines as stated or adjust them as appropriate. Six of the violations were called out for substantial increases to $150 due to their prevalence and public safety impact. For instance, the fine for parking in front of a fire hydrant was increased from $58 to $150.
Vice Chair of the Public Safety Commission Doug Stewart, provided some insight to what Dueñas presented.
Stewart said there was a period in time where no one looked at the fines and then became aware of them a few years ago.
“The objective in this review is not fee income. We want to ensure that there’s sufficient deterrence to promote compliance and recover the costs where applicable,” Stewart said. “We look at this from traffic safety and ordinance, field enforcements, and administrative and judicial enforcement and collection.”
Stewart said they continue to support the amount proposed to maintain public safety and parking enforcement.
“You’ll see that we’re trying to penalize people when they chose to ignore the safety of others for the benefit of parking at their convenience, and nowhere is this a greater offense than parking say in front of a fire hydrant, in the street, on the sidewalk or blocking residents in their own driveways, which are regular, occurrences in the city of Malibu,” Stewart said. “These are all choices that can cause considerable harm and we want to discourage people from doing it.”
Stewart compared the parking authorities with Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, and Calabasas, and emphasized that Malibu is a beach city with its influx of visitors.
“With 15 million annual visitors that’s a unique burden we have to address that these other cities and COGs don’t have to face,” Stewart said.
Councilmember Steve Uhring said the language used in the proposal should justify the reason why the citations have been increased compared to any other cities.
“We are a city that’s prone to fires; parking in front of a fire hydrant can cause significant injury and death [when] the department [can’t] get to [them],” Uhring said. “I think increasing the fines are reasonable based upon the looks of all the other cities. I’m just trying to find to give us a little bit more confidence that when we do this we’re not going to get our socks blown off from a judge.”
Councilmember Mikke Pierson agreed with Uhring but is concerned about the dramatic increase compared to other cities.
“Some of these fines do worry me that [we’re] putting ourselves in a dangerous position,” Pierson said. “But some of them just seem pretty dramatically higher and I don’t know if we’re going to pull that off.”
Uhring said emergency evacuations and public safety needs to be considered and justified.
“We are somewhat unique in terms of our roadways and the environment we live where these things happen,” Uhring said. “I think people who do that [park in front of a fire hydrant] should be penalized.”
Dueñas said they will collect data showing the prevalence, the locations, and how often it happens to provide reasonable public safety hazards.
Uhring and Pierson motioned to make sure the Sheriff’s Department is aware of the language of the proposal and the fine increase.
Dueñas moved on to the increase in citation fines for the oversized vehicles ordinance. The commission recommends increasing the fines from $100 on a first offense, to $200 for the second offense within one year and the third to $500 within one year.
“By the way, handicap parking is almost $400 for a fine for that, so we’re well within the range of what other fines might be,” Stewart said. “In order to induce compliance, we’re recommending this $100-$500 — which by the way is exactly what the county has for a camping ordinance fine schedule, so this is basically adopting something similar to what the county has.”
Uhring motioned to approve the proposal ordinance and Pierson seconded.
Pierson asked if the people receiving the ticket and the deputies citing the ticket will know what level they are in for citations they have received.
“It could be that not everyone will get caught up in this, that is the other thing that we need to iron out,” Dueñas said. “We do believe that we’ll figure out a way to have it implemented and regulated correctly.”