10 Great Ways to Park Free in Downtown LA


It isn’t easy to find parking in Downtown Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean there is no where to park. In fact, with a bit of street savvy, knowledge and timing, one can even find free parking in DTLA. Here’s a list of 10 Great Ways to park free in Downtown LA.


1 – Early Bird Catches the Free Parking Meter

When it comes to operating hours, most street meters turn off completely from 8pm – 8am Monday through Saturday. 

When looking to park in DTLA after the meters turn off, notice the meter’s blinking led-lights are clear and the timing screen is completely gray.

This system works well when parking in the early mornings as meter maids will not begin their hunt until the timers start recording again, around 8am.

When parking over night, be sure to return early to your vehicle in the morning to avoid a violation.

2 – If It’s Not Broke – Then Don’t Fix It!

Parking at a broken meter is free, but posted time limits still apply.

How to know if the meter is officially broken and officially free as well? The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) defines a broken meter as “one that doesn’t accept coins or credit cards”. It will be considered as a working parking meter if it allows time in return for payment during operation hours. This means if the screen is blacked-out, card reader won’t swipe, there is a City “Out of Order” notice, or if the meter is missing from its stand alone pole completely, drivers are not expected to pay.

If these conditions apply, then it’s pure luck! Parking violations bring in roughly $600million a year, so cherish each moment. Broken parking meters don’t stay broken for long.


3 – And on the Seventh Day, He Rested

Finding free parking meters is like picking fish from a barrel every Sunday, as the City gives its workers and its drivers a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy work week. Sunday is perhaps the most serene time to visit DTLA and the most convenient day when it comes to finding parking; as most offices, and storefronts are closed.

Hot tip: Avoid hectic street parking situations at busy destinations by parking a few extra blocks away on less busy streets. Enjoy a short walk under the power line and lamp post for an added dose of peace and tranquility.

4 – Free Parking Makes a Perfect Gift!

Too bad the City hasn’t come up with Parking Gift Cards yet. Until they do, drivers will just have to settle for free parking on the holidays as a great gift.

According to LADOT, “Certain city parking regulations are NOT enforced on national holidays.”

Here are these holidays: 

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday
  • President’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Indigenous Peoples Day
  • Veterans’ Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Some extra notes: When one of these holidays falls on a Saturday it will be observed by the city on a Friday. If it falls on a Sunday then it will be observed by the city on a Monday.

When parking in DTLA, you will find red, blue, white, green and yellow “color curb zones”, usually marked with corresponding colors of curbside paint.

These zones help provide access to facilitate the loading of people and goods ONLY. Using these zones outside of their allotted times and purpose is risky business.

5 – Walk With a Limp!

Blue curbs are strictly for the disabled, and without a legally registered “disabled place card” a swift citation is imminent.

With a California disabled parking placard, however, the disabled are entitled to park free in any space marked in blue.

Disabled persons may park free in white, yellow, and green spaces for longer periods of time. Disabled persons may also park at metered spaces for free.

Yet, only a medical doctor can provide the information needed by the state when applying for a disabled place card. Drivers must have a valid disability while at the doctor’s office… BUT, the list is long and includes heart disease, arthritis, respiratory disease and chronic inflammatory diseases.


Other problems include… hearing problems; (what? speak louder Doc!), acute sunlight sensitivity (just squint) and of course any condition that requires the use of a wheelchair, crutches, cane or prosthetic limb (walk with a limp).

A disabled placard does not entitle a person to park in the red or in privately reserved spaces.

6 – They Call It “Mellow Yellow”

“Color curb” zones provide access to the curb to help facilitate activities like the loading of people or goods. Most accessible parking zones (white, green, blue, red, and driveway red zones) are active 24 hours a day, but not yellow zones.

Yellow zones in the city are only used for loading and unloading between 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. After 6 p.m. on most streets and on Sundays parking in any yellow zone is free.

But beware, never mistake the white loading zone for a yellow zone during ticketing hours. White zones rules stay in effect 24 hours and while white zones allow for a short time for private and commercial vehicles to unload passengers and goods, yellow zones are meant for commercial vehicles only.

7 – Parking at Green Curbs

Using green curbs as designated free parking spots works best when planning to park for short periods of time. 

Restrictions regarding green curbs are enforced from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. After 6 p.m., you can park there but only for 15 or 30 minutes depending on the area. 

8 – Staying With Us???

Staycations in DTLA have become all the rage. When searching for a hotel to stay in, pick one that offers free parking for guests. Almost every hotel offers free or validated parking. Some even offer affordable parking for non-hotel guests when enjoying a meal, presentation or poolside cocktail.

9 – Get It Validated!!!

Just like hotels, DTLA shopping malls offer free or discounted parking with proof of purchase. With most parking garages, there will be a ticket machine offering vehicles a place to park free from the outside world. Each parking lot varies; some may offer free parking up to a certain amount of time while others may take dollars off once your validated ticket is scanned by the machine.

While its true hotels and shopping malls would rather you to shop and stay at their facilities during an extended stay, often times, leaving a vehicle in such a safe place is okay when venturing out into the city. If its not, there is sure to be a posted warning saying so.

10 – Working for the City!

Ever wonder how DT Weekly knows the streets of Downtown Los Angeles so well?

Be it One Way Streets or alley shortcuts, its because our publisher used to work as a City Laison way back in 1990.

The job – dropping off paychecks for inner city youth during summer work programs upon which the City sent its couriers from City Hall to almost every district in the area.

The days were long, the sun was hot, the traffic was horrendous, but we too became apart of that anxious flow of traffic returning home each day via Main Street to the 101.

It was in those days, we learned, city employees park for free. Using a parking permit provided to them, they are allowed to park for free in all zones.

Today, decades later as working media, those days of free parking have returned and once again as our parking rights have come full circle.

DISCLAIMER: ALWAYS read the nearby signs when parking in Downtown LA. Towing is active.

Author: Keri Freeman

Military mom and proud parent, artist, writer, musician and film maker. Cocktail connoisseur. Publisher of DTLA Weekly.

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