Downtown shoppers still can park free on four holidays that city officials had asked to remove from the list of days meters are enforced.
But beware: Cars belonging to those who have several unpaid parking tickets could be immobilized or impounded if spotted by a parking enforcement officer.
The Spokane City Council on Monday approved in a 6-0 vote a vast update to the city’s parking code. Just prior to approving the rules, it voted 6-0 to continue to provide free parking at meters on Martin Luther King Jr., Presidents, Columbus and Veterans days.
Ivan Bush, co-founder of Spokane’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, thanked the council for cutting the plan to enforce meters on the four holidays. He argued that removing them would have been a strong signal that city leaders consider the holidays unimportant.
“I hope your action tonight sends a message to veterans that ‘you do matter,’ ” said Bush, the retired equal opportunity officer for Spokane Public Schools. “This is one way we can say, ‘Yes, you do matter,’ ”
The most significant change in the rules allows parking enforcement officers to place a boot – a device that immobilizes vehicles – on cars belonging to parkers who have four or more unpaid parking tickets. The car could be towed and impounded if the owner has eight or more unpaid tickets.
Spokane gave up booting cars about 25 years ago after a lengthy court battle that it won. But without the serious consequences of “the boot,” unpaid fines have grown. About 85,000 unpaid parking tickets are on the city’s books, worth about $4 million in fines.
City officials have said they’ll likely wait until the middle of next year before they begin immobilizing cars to give parkers a chance to settle debts.
The ordinance also greatly expands where the city is allowed to install parking meters. Council President Ben Stuckart said he supported the expansion because city staff members have promised to consult with nearby residents and businesses before installing more meters.
Among other changes in the parking law:
• Three-hour meters will become four-hour meters. One-hour and 90-minute meters will be changed either to half-hour or two-hour meters.
• Canadian coins will be accepted.
• The existing law barring parkers from returning to feed their meters will be granted one exception: Those who pay by phone would be allowed to pay for an additional 15 minutes so they can return to the space and move their vehicle.