Los Angeles is famous for many things: sunshine all year long, celebrity sightings at fancy restaurants, and, unfortunately, tons of traffic.
As one of the largest cities in the world, Los Angeles is a hugely popular destination for transplants, and frankly, there are a lot of people here. Not surprisingly, most of these people drive cars (although shout out to slowly improving our public transit system!). And while sitting on the 405 or the 110 during rush hour is painful, it eventually gets you where you need to go.
But what happens once you get to your lovely destination? You have to find parking.
As any Angeleno will tell you, parking is a huge part of the battle.
I’ve had many conversations with friends end with the decision to not go to a restaurant because the building has terrible parking. Or there is the ongoing debate of whether it is better to Uber/Lyft somewhere instead of having to search for street parking.
Never fear! As a transplant myself, I have spent several years battling the parking gods of Los Angeles and I am here to share some basic wisdom about how to read those parking signs and, avoid the dreaded ticket on your windshield.
Los Angeles is notorious for having multiple signs all bolted to the same post (Google image search “crazy parking signs in Los Angeles” if you don’t believe me). All the signs contribute to rules for parking on that street, but they should be read separately.
The cardinal rule of reading parking signs in Los Angeles is to pay attention to the colors. They are generally written in bold reds and greens, and they function just like traffic lights: red is stop, or hey don’t park here during this time, whereas green is go, or come over and stay awhile. Red signs override the green signs, so if it seems like they are both saying stop and go, you should probably not park there.
If there are multiple signs, I usually check all the red signs first. If any of them indicate a no parking zone during the time you are trying to park, then you cannot park there. Only once you have determined that you are okay by the red signs should you even bother to check green signs, which usually limit you on the length of time you can leave your car on the street.
An example of this would be a green sign saying you can park on that street for two hours between 10 am and 6 pm paired with a red sign saying no parking on Wednesdays from noon to 2 pm. Yes, those times overlap. The red sign takes precedence (and is probably for street sweeping, when they will definitely ticket you), so don’t park there during that Wednesday afternoon window.
The other essential piece of advice is to remember that each separate sign is separate for a reason. Permit parking exceptions usually show up at the bottom of parking signs, so if you have a permit for that area (which is pretty common in certain parts of LA county, such as Santa Monica and West Hollywood), you might be exempt from that particular rule on that particular sign. However, it won’t exempt you from all rules on that street. If there is no permit parking exemption at the bottom of a street sweeping sign lower down the post, you cannot park there during that window.
My last piece of advice is to pay attention to arrows. An arrow pointing in only one direction is indicating the beginning of a rule – it does not apply to any space on the street in the opposite direction of that arrow. If a sign has a double-headed arrow that means any parking space in that general vicinity is subject to that parking restriction. Once again, the arrows only count for the specific sign on which they are posted – never assume that the arrow on one sign also applies to all the other signs on that street.
If all else fails, send a photo of the parking sign to one of your friends in Los Angeles and maybe they can help you decipher it in real time 😉 Sending a prayer to the Los Angeles parking gods may also help. Good luck out there!