How L.A.'s New Valet Parking Law Punishes Low-Skill Workers

Why should you need to pay a fee before you're allowed to park a car? 

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This week L.A. Weekly's Dennis Romero declared that the Los Angeles City Council had "criminalized valet parking" when it passed a new law Tuesday night requiring valet parkers to apply for a $70 permit in order to work. The law makes parking cars without the permit a misdemeanor. Romero also bemoaned a provision requiring private lot owners to verify that they are allowing valet companies to use their parking spaces, and a few other strips of red tape created by the law. 

For instance, here's the list of what L.A. valet companies have to furnish when they apply for a permit: 

  • the seating capacity or other occupancy capacity of the businesses to be served
  • a signed statement from the owners or managers of the businesses to be served requesting the services of the applicant.
  • the routes to be used between the passenger loading/unloading zone or other vehicle pickup point and the parking or storage location;
  • a copy of a valid Automobile Parking Lot permit issued under Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 103.202 to any parking facility designated as the parking or storage location, if applicable;
  • the location of any proposed Valet Parking signs and any proposed attendant stands;
There's also a usage fee for valet companies that plan on using the public right-of-way to take possession of cars and return them to customers. You can read the whole law here
 
Pedantic, yes. But is it unusual? Not really. A valet company seeking a permit from the city of Miami must submit the following
  • Site plan (at an appropriate scale) showing the proposed Tandem parking arrangement, if any, the lay-out and dimensions of the existing public right-of-way and adjacent private property, proposed location, size of proposed mobile stands, tables, chairs, umbrellas, keybox, location of doorways, location of trees, parking meters, bus shelters, sidewalk benches, trash receptacles, driveways, and any other sidewalk obstruction either existing or proposed within the pedestrian areas. 
  • Photographs, drawings, or manufacturers' brochures fully describing the appearance of all proposed mobile stands, tables, chairs, umbrellas, keybox or other objects related to the valet parking service;
  • Copy of the agreement/contract for the provision of the off-street parking spaces that includes identification of the location of vehicle storage spaces 
Miami's valet parking law also requires that all "mobile stands, tables, chairs, umbrellas, keyboxes etc....be of quality design, materials, and workmanship," that the "design, materials, and colors" of said items "be sympathetic and harmonious with an urban environment," and that said items be "maintained with a clean and attractive appearance." There's even an anti-competition element to the Miami's rule: No two valet businesses can operate on the same side of a city block. 
 
While there are varying degrees of pedantry in the two cities' ordinances, valet companies in both L.A. and Miami are required to have similar insurance coverage, to not block traffic, to maintain hotlines for people who don't pick up their cars during operating hours, standard uniforms for valets, and signed agreements with their clients (restaurants, etc.) and parking businesses. These provisions are required in many other cities as well. 
 
What sets L.A.'s law apart is, as Romero noted, the unique $70 fee required of people who are going to be parking the cars (what's next, permits for coat-check staff?), and also the ban on felons: 
The Permittee shall not allow any employee who has been convicted within the previous seven (7) years of a felony or any offense involving violence, dishonesty, automobile theft, automobile vandalism, reckless driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to drive a patron's vehicle or handle a patron's vehicle keys.
The word "or" implies that any felony is enough to bar someone from parking cars, which is not exactly a high-skilled job. And that's troubling. Keeping certain types of convicted felons from certain markets is sensible: you don't want someone who violated banking law handling your finances, and you want a bad doctor handling your body. But barring anyone with a felony conviction less than seven years old from driving a car two blocks and then bringing it back? That's ridiculous. And it also creates a troubling precedent. If recently convicted felons can't work in low-wage, low-skilled jobs, where can they work?
 
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