The Los Angeles City Attorney on Tuesday filed criminal charges against the owners of two prestigious auto repair shops, accusing them of illegally parking Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati customers in street locations intended for residents.
The case had been with the city attorney since early 2019, but got stuck in bureaucratic paperwork, until the NBC4 I-Team released a report Monday night.
“If you hadn’t contacted me, I wouldn’t have been personally aware of this issue, and I’m glad you did,” City Attorney Mike Feuer told Joel Grover of the I-Team. The charges were filed by Feuer’s office, less than 24 hours after the I-Team report, which revealed that residents of Silverlake had been complaining to city officials about the parking problem for more than 20 years and had no got no help.
“I emailed and called everyone in city government. Nothing ever changes, nothing ever happens,” says Brian Behrend, a Silverlake resident who says the streets around his home are often jammed with Porsches and Ferraris, leaving nowhere to park.
“I sometimes have to park three or four blocks from my house to find parking because of all these expensive cars,” Behrend told NBC4 I-Team.
Behrend began complaining to city authorities in 2002 that Hi Tech Automotive was illegally hogging street spots with its customers’ luxury cars.
So last month Behrend decided to email I-Team investigative reporter Joel Grover saying “Please help our neighborhood. The city can’t or won’t not help us.”
After receiving Behrend’s email, the I-Team decided to survey his Silver Lake neighborhood, beginning before dawn. Under the cover of darkness, we spotted workers at Hi Tech Automotive – a shop that mostly repairs high-end cars – starting to park customers’ luxury vehicles in street locations intended for residents, and hogging all of them. the counters on some blocks, denying the customers of other businesses parking spaces.
For example, the I-Team noticed that the entire 4000 Fountain Avenue block was occupied by Ferraris, and the 4100 block was crowded with Porsches, owned by Hi Tech customers. Nearby residential streets were filled with Range Rovers, vintage Mercedes and Maseratis from the Hi Tech lot.
It’s illegal under LA Municipal Code 12.26 which says “no vehicle…shall be parked…outside the approved precinct” on which an automobile repair lot is located. Simply put, this means auto repair garages cannot park customer cars on the streets.
I-Team undercover cameras were also monitoring during street cleaning and noticed that parking enforcement officers were giving a ticket to every car parked in a street cleaning area, at except for luxury cars parked by Hi Tech Automotive. Officers drove past the Ferraris and Porsches without issuing tickets.
“It seems very suspicious that Hi Tech cars don’t get tickets while cleaning, but resident cars do,” says Brian Behrend.
The I-Team obtained the city’s own records, which show that the Department of Construction and Safety (LADBS) ordered Hi Tech Automotive to “stop parking vehicles outside the parking lot”, otherwise he would face fines of several thousand dollars. LADBS issued these official “Orders to Comply” to Hi Tech in 2002, 2006, 2007, 2014 and 2017, always threatening fines.
But LADBS was unable to provide the I-Team with any evidence of the fines issued to Hi Tech, and the auto repair shop continued to park its cars in areas intended for residents.
“I know it’s illegal,” Hi Tech owner Koko Bakchajian told I-Team. “I apologized to them [the residents] a million times and we’re working on it,” Bakchajian said.
The owner of Hi Tech says he is looking for a nearby storage lot to put his customers’ cars while they wait to work on them. But Bakchajian said the same to the city attorney’s office in 2019.
The city attorney’s office investigated, held a hearing on Hi Tech in 2019, but never took action against the repair package.
“It feels like a classic town hall passing the buck. They’re all saying, ‘It’s not our problem, it’s another department’s problem,'” Behrend said.
When the I-Team asked City Attorney Mike Feuer why his office hadn’t taken action against Hi Tech Automotive, Feuer replied, “In that case, it took way too long.”
So on Tuesday, less than a day after the I-Team released its report, Feuer filed a 13-count criminal misdemeanor complaint against the owners of Hi Tech and the Sublime Silverlake condominium, which serves the Porsche for “illegally parking and storing their vehicles” on city streets, and for “failing to comply with City orders to cease the illegal parking and storage of vehicles”.
[[see full criminal complaint here]]. (ATTACHED)
“We will ensure that this matter is successfully resolved,” Feuer said.
When the I-Team contacted Hi Tech Automotive for comment on the criminal charges, we received a voicemail recording indicating that they were closed.
As for the LA Parking Enforcement not issuing tickets for Hi Tech cars on street cleaning days, the LA Department of Transportation told NBC4 that was wrong.
“We appreciate you bringing this to my attention,” LA DOT spokesman Colin Sweeney told I-Team.
After an investigation sparked by the I-Team report, LADOT’s Sweeney said the agency discovered “an error in the map” it uses to determine where street cleaning is taking place…. and the department has already launched the application based on this finding.”
According to City Attorney Mike Feuer, who has promised a citywide crackdown on the problem in the coming months, the problem of auto repair shops hogging residents’ on-street parking is happening in neighborhoods of the Los Angeles area.
“I think all of us in city government need to do better on this particular issue,” Feuer told NBC4.