Boise council asks neighbors not to harass each other with new parking law

11th Street cars trucks parked widescreen crop (2).jpg
Posted at 5:16 PM, Apr 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-18 19:16:20-04

This article was originally written by Hayley Harding for the Idaho Statesman.

Boise has updated its street parking ordinance, but officials are asking people not to use the law to “harass your neighbors.”

The updated ordinance still requires that people parking on streets move their cars every 72 hours. The update, though, could have a huge impact: People must now move their cars a “significant distance.”

Before, people would regularly move their cars only a few inches or “completely from the site for a few minutes but then return to the same location, preventing others from utilizing the parking space,” Jennifer Pitino, an attorney for the city, wrote in a memorandum to the mayor and council.

The new ordinance doesn’t allow that. Drivers instead must move their cars at least 600 feet away and for at least 24 hours. Those who don’t could be ticketed, effective Tuesday.

“Do we take that to be the highest priority of the Boise Police Department? Of course not,” Patrick Bageant, the council member who sponsored the ordinance, said Tuesday during the council’s regular meeting. “The general rules we’ve always followed apply and will continue to apply. If your car or your vehicle is not bothering anyone, it’s probably not going to be our No. 1 priority.”

Instead, Bageant said, the ticketing will be complaint-based. He said people leaving their cars in front of their houses in the summer as they opt to bicycle instead probably wouldn’t have problems.

Ordinances like this one already exist in bigger cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, where they are typically used to keep abandoned cars off the street. Pitino’s memo also noted boats, trailers and moving containers would be affected, as they often end up “virtually unmoved from the same on-street parking spaces indefinitely.”

Council Member Lisa Sánchez said she worried about people using the new ordinance to harass others.

“When I was a civil rights investigator, you’d be surprised how many complaints had to do with folks using laws to harass their neighbors,” she said.

She later shared that when she was a homeowner, she had experience with people parking an RV in front of her house for extended periods of time, so she relates to those who are concerned about people parking for long times.

“But we’re still dealing with the effects of COVID, which we know are cascading,” Sánchez said. “It’s not just about the illness that people have, it’s also about the displacement that people are experiencing because of issues of housing.”

She said she would support the ordinance in the future but couldn’t right now.

Council President Elaine Clegg said that under the current ordinance, people who were determined to harass their neighbors could already do so. She said if the problem got worse, she would be willing to reconsider the parking ordinance at that time.

“I would say don’t harass your neighbors,” Clegg said. “There’s no reason for it. Be nice, be kind — that’s what Boise is all about.”

Other council members agreed that if this created new problems, they could change the ordinance again.

The council passed the new language 5-1, with Sánchez dissenting.