It’s the end of a long day at work, you’ve made it across the ship canal bridge, down the morass of 45th Street backups, maneuvered through the obstacle course of traffic circles and finally arrive on your own street. But as you creep past your house, you’re frustrated to see there are no available parking spaces close to home. As you gaze longingly at the spot in front of your house, your spot, you note with a bit of bile that that same car has been parked there for over week!
Now, you happen to know that Seattle’s parking code (Municipal Code 11.72.440, to be exact) stipulates that a “No person shall park a vehicle on any street or other municipal property for a period of time longer than seventy-two (72) hours” so what do you do?
For many people, the answer is obvious: drop a dime on the car, and within a day or two, you should see a big orange sticker stuck to the car’s window letting the driver know if they don’t move their vehicle off the block soon, it will be “SUBJECT TO CITATION, IMPOUNDMENT AND STORAGE AT THE OWNER’S EXPENSE” (sic all caps).
I would like to plead with you not to do that. Yes, it’s the law. Yes, you have a right to do it, but I would like to make the case that it isn’t very neighborly.
First, hopefully we can agree on the purpose of the law: it is not, I don’t think, meant to ensure that you have access to a parking spot in front of your house. Rather, it’s intended to provide a means of clearing out abandoned cars. If there’s another purpose, I can’t think of what it would be. (Notably, the current law, passed in 2000, replaced a previous ordinance that limited parking to 24-hours!)
With that in mind, I want to say out the outset that if you genuinely believe the vehicle is abandoned, or that it is stolen, then yes, by all means report it. I would hope, though, that before you called the police, you might first take the less drastic step of leaving a note on the car’s windshield asking if it is owned. Give them a few days to answer, what’s the harm?
So what’s the harm in calling it in?
First, there’s the obvious: moving one’s car from one block to the next just to avoid a ticket is a pain, and removing that big orange sticker isn’t easy (you’ll be scraping with putty knife and liberally dousing in rubbing alcohol for a while).
And that’s assuming you see the sticker and deal with it in time. In a conversation on this topic on the Wallingford / Fremont Community Page on Facebook, one person described the horror show that unfolded when she was house-sitting for a Wallingford neighbor and left her car for a week. She didn’t notice the tag in time, and the car was towed. She didn’t have enough money in her bank account to get it out of impound, and as the days passed, the cost increased. By the time she had enough money to get it out, the city had auctioned it off.
That’s a stiff penalty for leaving a car in one parking spot for a week.
And there are a many reasons someone may leave a car in one place: as Seattle traffic has become increasingly difficult, and the environment increasingly imperiled, a growing number of people are making the effort bike, walk or use public transportation to get to and from work. These people may go a week or more without using their car. Someone may go on vacation for a couple of weeks. Certainly they could have someone move their car from one spot to another every three days while they’re gone, but really, what good does that do anybody?
The city generally will not orange-tag a car for staying one spot longer than 72-hours in our neighborhood unless a neighbor makes a report. Please, be a sport, don’t narc on your neighbors just because you want their parking space.