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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley looks to curb street parking with new ordinance

Spokane Valley City Council is working on new regulations to curb problematic street parking.   (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Spokane Valley City Council is working on new regulations to curb problematic street parking.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW) Buy this photo

Mailbox blockers and junk vehicle owners beware: If you’re parking in the street, Spokane Valley City Hall may be coming for you.

Spokane Valley City Council is working on a new ordinance that would define the city’s street parking policies. The regulations will likely make up an entire subchapter of city code.

The draft ordinance outlines the city’s authority to create no-parking zones and parking prohibitions. For instance, it would clarify the city’s ability to ban people from parking within 15 feet of a mailbox and parking unregistered or junk vehicles in the public right-of-way. It also outlines enforcement and penalty policies.

Parking problems in the Valley aren’t new, but they’ve gotten worse as the city’s population has grown. City Council members said the city would ideally have written parking regulations into law years ago.

The city’s trying to fix a handful of issues.

For example, Spokane Valley police Chief Dave Ellis said his department often gets calls from homeowners when someone living out of a car parks in front of their house. City Councilman Arne Woodard noted that long-term parking on public streets can interfere with plowing and emergency vehicle access.

The proposed ordinance outlines the city’s broad authority to tow vehicles for a host of reasons. Simply leaving a car on the street for more than 24 hours gives the city the right to impound it. But the ordinance also includes references to the most specific, and prevalent, parking violations.

City Councilwoman Brandi Peetz said she’s most concerned about parking in front of mailboxes, which can prevent the Postal Service from delivering mail.

Junkers generate lots of citizen complaints, too. Some junk vehicle owners leave their cars out on the street for months on end. By Spokane Valley’s definition, a junker is a vehicle more than three years old that is extensively damaged, seemingly inoperable and worth no more than the scrap metal it contains.

“We’re not trying to stop people from utilizing their parking lane if there is one in front of your house,” Woodard said. “But it can’t be permanent.”

The City Council needs to answer at least two questions before finalizing the draft ordinance.

First, council members will have to decide on a timeframe for enforcement. Do they want to tow cars that have sat on the street for a mere 24 hours, as state law allows?

Second, the city needs to settle on a fine amount for the newly described parking violations. Staff have noted that $30 per day or infraction is a common figure in other cities.

The city will also have to consider its own enforcement capabilities.

Volunteers handle parking infractions in Spokane Valley. The entire parking infraction team includes three or so people who donate their time through the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort. Beefing up enforcement will likely require either more volunteers or more investment.

Regardless of what the new ordinance looks like, the Spokane Valley Police Department won’t be prowling the streets for parking offenders any time soon.

“They don’t have somebody driving around patrolling looking for that,” City Councilman Tim Hattenburg said. “They’re already stretched to the limit.

The city will focus on problem cases. People who go on vacation and leave their car parked on the street for a week probably won’t return home to find their car’s been towed.

The new ordinance will simply give the city “teeth” so it can better enforce complaints, Peetz said. Unless someone’s parking behavior angers neighbors or hurts public safety, they probably won’t get a ticket.

“It’s usually complaint driven,” Hattenburg said, “and it probably should be.”

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