Parking Trolls

Jesse Cornett

One time a few years ago my car was "hooked up" by a tow truck. I'd parked in a lot across the street from an ATM and before I could get my card in the machine, a truck had backed up and locked my car in. In talking to him and going back across the street to get cash to pay him off, my car was there several times longer than if he'd not been there. In the process, I was lectured about how "people like me" make it hard for business owners because we take up space in their lots, keeping business from their shops, and also making it harder for them to stay in business. I was parked in a wine shop lot and it was after 11 p.m. I paid him $80 to unhook my car. It was only $75 but he didn't have change (of course).

I got off cheap that night. When I went to testify on a measure to rein in tactics by tow truck drivers, I learned my story was tame compared to most. I think it's great that City Commissioner Randy Leonard took the lead on this matter.

Now, reading yesterday's Oregonian, there's an article about Total Parking Solutions, a company new to town that is doing a worse business than the tow companies. They're booting cars, charging $195 to get the boot off, and giving a large portion of the money to the business owner (something not allowed with tow companies).

These brand of business was just outlawed California and is on the verge of being so in Washington, which is why they are here now. I guess they are doing a public service in the sense they are being so greedy that they are getting the attention of people that matter and laws are being changed to make sure others can't follow their shallow footsteps.

Again it sounds like Randy Leonard it on it. We're glad you're there Randy. If you need any help ramming this ordinance through and getting sending these trolls out of Portland, I've got your back.

  • jim karlock (unverified)

    Jesse Cornett: They're booting cars, charging $195 to get the boot off, and giving a large portion of the money to the business owner (something not allowed with tow companies).

    JK: Is it time to start carrying a cutting tourch in the trunk?

    Thanks JK

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    You were rightly pissed off at this illogical and unfair blackmail, given the circumstances. I read the same article though and I'm wondering if it'd be OK with you and Randy if I parked my car in your dining room for a few minutes while you and your family are eating dinner. I mean, I'll be right back.......

    The larger issue for me is that your case is not the one that property owners see as typical of their experience. With public parking at a premium in downtown Portland, why shouldn't a business owner have the right to penalize (i.e. "boot") some jerk that parks on their private property during business hours?

    These are the same people that cut line on you at the rock concert, at DMV, Race up the right side of rush hour traffic to get two cars ahead when merging, and so on. They are pretty sure that whatever they are doing is more important than anything the rest of the world up to, even trying to make a living. I hate these selfish bastards and would love to put a boot on their egos.

    Maybe Randy could modify his proposal to include the interests of the people that have taken the risk of investing in downtown businesses. Just a thought.

    Pat Ryan (who plays by the rules and actively blocks and harrasses those who don't)

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    My dining room is not a parking lot, Pat. Which doesn't mean that people who are not patronizing a business should be able to park there without consequences. There are, and the same business interests that is booting the cars are also handing out "fines" that are mailed to the owners of the vehicles. While regulating that activity, the city is not prohibiting that enforcement tool.

    However, the punishment must fit the crime. For an example, tow truck companies were engaging in widespread "predatory towing" until we set up some common sense rules a couple of years back.

    Booting a car and charging $195 is not a penalty commensurate to the offence of parking in an otherwise public parking lot.

    The city council, rightly so, establishes fair rules of play for the community. When either side takes advantage of the absence of those rules, I believe we are responsible to set some minimum standards of fair play.

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    However, the punishment must fit the crime. For an example, tow truck companies were engaging in widespread "predatory towing" until we set up some common sense rules a couple of years back.

    Agreed and thank you for your reasoned efforts to curb potentially out-of-control greed on the part of the towing companies.

    Booting a car and charging $195 is not a penalty commensurate to the offence of parking in an otherwise public parking lot.

    Are we discussing a "public" parking lot or private property which has been designated by the owner for the exclusive use of the owner's customers?

    Maybe I'm missing something either in the article or in your proposed solution.

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    Let's talk about an analogous situation. Many shopping malls don't like people passing petitions, selling candy bars, or proselytizing for their faith. But... they aren't allowed to either a) hand that person a "fine", or b) kidnap that person againt their will. In that situation, their options are limited to asking that person to leave. If the person doesn't, they can call law enforcement. If it's a repeated problem, they can trespass them off - and ask law enforcement to enforce that order.

    Why are cars different? If someone has an open lot available to the public - and I park there, why are they allowed to seize my vehicle? Why isn't that considered a theft?

    I understand it's private property and all, and we shouldn't encourage people to park cars long-term, but there's a certain amount of reasonableness that should be involved here - especially for free lots.

    Here's what annoys me - if I park in a store's lot, purchase something at the store, then head across the street to do five minutes of banking, the store can tow my car because I'm "no longer shopping at their store". That's stupid. Wouldn't a half-hour 'grace' period be reasonable if they're going to refuse to secure the lot and administer a parking fee? Our public policy should encourage trip-chaining and it should encourage walking across the street when possible - not getting back in the car and moving it 50 feet.

    This ain't California where that kind of behaviour comes naturally.

  • dispossessed (unverified)

    Speaking of theft, my car was stolen in Portland. I had it insured for liability but not theft. The police told me they would "try to" contact me first in the event it was found.

    They did not. They found it by chasing the thief into crashing it. He then escaped. I had to pay several hundred dollars for the towing and disposal to the city-contracted bandits who run this public disservice.

    To add tiny insult to large injury, a copy of the police report, if I wanted one, was an additional $10.

    Why don't you fix that, Commissioner Leonard. I'll tell you, it was the last straw for me in Portland.

  • Randy Leonard (unverified)

    Disposessed- Call me @ 503-823-4682. Have the police report number, the date, your name and any other revlevant information.

    I will look into it and get back to you.

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    Geez Kari, I don't know if I can buy the analogy. Seems to me that

    a) The mall/political/religious dispute is about the migration of the "public square" from a literal downtown area into privately owned consumer enclaves, and the rights of citizen activists relating to that change.

    b) Impounding a vehicle or someone's hat or other private property seems like it should be illegal alright, but neither rises to the level of kidnapping a human being.

    c) Does the concept of trespass apply? If someone enters my home uninvited, I believe that I might have the right to detain them pending the arrival of authorities if that led to an arrest and conviction, a trespasser might find the state levying some sort of penalty against him on my behalf.

    Doesn't this also apply to square footage that I've set aside specifically to attract and retain customers with the benefit of free parking?


    On another note, I've found that most merchants, upon completion of a business transaction are happy to give me permission when I ask them if I can leave my car on their lot for a few additional minutes. I do ask though.

  • dispossessed (unverified)

    You are too kind, Commissioner Leonard. And I've said only good words about you always. :=) I've moved on. I do think if someone had a spare moment, it would be also kind to make a gratis copy of a police report available to any crime victim. And there may not be a lot of people who end up paying for towing, storage and disposal of their stolen car, but I do question the practices or licenses of these tow/storage operators up by North Lombard mostly. I worked auto insurance claims for a number of years. Tow drivers are a rough lot generally, but the crew I met up there was creepy.

    Thanks for your ear.

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    You're one of the few people whose "car" would fit in my dining room. Personally, I've always been fond of the Excelsior-Henderson, and while I'd rather look at it in my driveway or take it for my own little ride, so long as you didn't ride it directly in from the rain, that'd be okay by me.



    P.S. Let m know when and we'll set a place for you.

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    Does the concept of trespass apply? If someone enters my home uninvited,

    Sure, Pat, the analogy isn't a perfect one... but your counter-example is even less so. Your home is definitely private space. If I park my car in your garage, tow it.

    But we're talking here about public parking lots, albeit privately owned ones. It's not as simple as public vs. private. There are lots of exceptions and exemptions and special rules for privately-owned public space.

    For example, if I'm standing in your living room uninvited, I'm clearly trespassing. But, if I'm standing inside Lloyd Center Mall, then they have to explicitly ask me to leave before I'm committing a crime. A public, privately-owned parking lot is the same. Especially if there are no gates, no guards, and no parking fee.

    Again, what Jesse (and I) are talking about is NOT the unfettered access to park as long as we want in whatever lot we want. Rather, when it comes to open lots, there should be a grace period, a warning, and then reasonable restrictions on the cost to get your car back. (After all, unless there is a restriction in law, the tow company could charge whatever they wanted. Most anyone would pay even $1000 if that's what it took to get back your $15,000 vehicle which is your sole means of transport to your occupation.)

    Regulation here is critical. Think of it as a micro-monopoly. They, and only they, have your car - your only car.

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    OK guys,

    From here it gets circular, so----bottom line----if I own a plumbing shop or a restaurant or an insurance agency, and you want to park there without shopping in my establishment during business hours please ask my permission.

    I shouldn't have to spend my work time trying to figure out which cars in my lot are just parked there for a half hour (which I gather shouldn't be seen as a problem) and the ones that are parked there all day (which I understand that I have your blessing to be concerned about), and the ones whos owners are actually in my store doing business.


    Just to be clear, my position here isn't some tortured logic to justify a libertarian POV regarding private property (though that might be a valid argument).

    There is an escalation in the lack of civility and empathy toward fellow citizens and as I posted earlier in the thread, we all encounter people who disrespect us in traffic, parking, and in other "public" spaces. This disrespect is corrosive to the social contract.

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    Of course, Pat, the store owner is already spending his/her work hours trying to figure out which ones are doing business and which ones are not. Adding to the requirement that they simply wait one half hour before calling the tow company doesn't seem an unreasonable burden. In fact, it might reduce workload - because some of those cars will go away in the interim. (In fact, I'd hope that they all do.)

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