City Council Inches Closer Toward an Ordinance Allowing Parking Lot Booting

The issue of private parking lot operators slapping boots on cars has been an issue the city council's been wrestling with for much of the year, following news that Deep Ellum patrons were getting the clampdown even after paying. The council's hoping to get something done before it takes its summer break, which is why Tuesday's meeting of the Transportation and Environment Committee will feature what's sure to be a lengthy discussion on the matter -- the PowerPoint presentation alone runs 50 pages, including several pages' worth of testimony from an April 20 public hearing during which parking lot operators squared off against Deep Ellum business and property owners and plain ol' patrons who claimed "this booting is hurting us bad," in the words of Angry Dog owner John Little.

"Customers are mad because they paid $100 to park, and they are blaming me," Little told the panel. "They are trashing our restaurant. ... We're getting killed." Jonathan Hetzel of Madison Partners insisted, "I have seen with my own eyes homeless people go up and fish in the pay boxes and pull out money." Twisted Root's Jason Bosso said, "Customers are saying they will never come back after paying $100 to eat a $10 hamburger. These guys are biting the hands that feed them." To which a Star Parking rep insisted, "We use discretion, much like a first-grade teacher. After being in the business, you can tell is someone is guilty or not guilty."

Yes, but how? That's the issue with which the council is wrestling, as most parking lots don't provide drivers with proof they paid up -- like, say, a paper receipt. And parking lot operators don't want to fork over the money for electronic pay stations that would kick out a proper receipt; they claim it's not financially feasible, especially on the smaller lots.

Which is why the city is leaning toward allowing booting after all, with some restrictions on parking lot operators and their boot-providing buddies: Pages 22 through 26 of the briefing documents outline a proposed ordinance that would add the new Chapter 48C to the Dallas City Code: "Vehicle Immobilization (Booting) Service Ordinance." The ordinance would allow the option to boot or tow, regulate who can boot (any company whose employees pass a criminal background check, more or less, and any individual who forks over an annual $10 permit fee), how much it'll cost patrons ($100 max), and offers further guidelines worth a peek before you park. We'll have more later this week as the committee takes up the ordinance before it goes to the council, perhaps as soon as June 10.

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