City leaders unanimously voted Monday night to give veterans of certain military distinction free parking in metered spaces, city beach lots and city parking structures, making Huntington Beach the first in the county to offer veterans this parking perk.
The cars must have license plates identifying the owner as a Pearl Harbor survivor, Legion of Valor recipient, former American Prisoner of War, Medal of Honor recipient or Purple Heart recipient.
"I was so proud of that," said Vietnam veteran Lenard Guillen, 57, who lobbied the council for the parking change and received a Purple Heart in 1971 when he was wounded by a bomb. "It just makes me feel we are getting a thank you back. It does make us think that people care."
Guillen of Huntington Beach is part of the American Legion Post 291 out of Newport Beach and an American Legion motorcycle group that raises money for veterans and military families.
The City Council vote was met with applause from the audience. The parking change starts immediately, city spokeswoman Laurie Payne said.
"I think this is one of the best things that you could do for the veterans that have given so much," said Bill Catron, senior commander for a local Order of the Purple Hearts. "We are thankful that we have people here in Huntington Beach that remember what the veterans did."
This new state vehicle code became effective Jan. 1 and allows free parking for cars with the military license plates, but each governing body has to adopt the rule.
Carson, Culver City and Los Angeles County parking lots and metered spaces have also adopted the rule. The Department of Motor Vehicles, California Department of Veteran Affairs, legislators and Huntington Beach police officials were not aware of any other Orange County city that had adopted the code.
Devin Dwyer, who proposed the parking change, said he specifically waited to introduce the license plate rule until a council meeting close to Memorial Day on May 25.
A staff report about the parking perk said there would be no impact on city funds if certain military were except from the fees. Dwyer said it would only be a few hundred dollars to institute the change.
Veteran license plates are available by visiting a DMV office.
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