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Friday, July 2, 2010

A Portland parking Catch 22

Parking enforcement in Portland has come to reflect City Hall -- a bit vicious at times. A reader with property in the Pearl District writes about the experience of buying reserved on-street parking for construction:

We had recently had a professional roofer come and re-roof one of our commercial buildings. This roofer arranged for the parking meters to be "hooded" (now they put up little signs with the permit pasted to them) next to the building. The roofer arrived with multiple trucks and did the job in about three days.

While the roofer was busy working, the local parking Nazi ticketed all the trucks for being over six feet tall and parking on the corner for which the permits were issued.

In checking the regulations on line, it is in fact an infraction to block the visibility on corners with ANY vehicle over six feet tall (or even to have obscured views through car windows on corners). So don't go blocking those car windows with your dry cleaning, or parking your van within 50 feet of any corner in the CoP.

Now since these construction use permits are issued and not to be used by any passenger vehicle or SUVs, what else but a truck would use this permit; and why would the city allow the permits to be issued for what are obviously corner locations?
I guess this just shows how desperate for money the city really is.

We have two more buildings to roof, so I guess we will be paying more parking tickets to get the job done. I guess construction crews are supposed to "go by streetcar," too. UG!!

Comments (25)

PDX is a city run by a**holes.

Nothing wrong with the parking rule as such. It makes sense to protect visibility at corners for safety. And a commercial permit should never override safety. So the problem lies with the person requesting the permit for the wrong spot.

I have to agree. I was in a wheelchair a while back for a few months and when you are at a corner with a large vehicle parked, you cannot see if there is traffic coming.

The Pearl District, by the way, is a nightmare for people in wheelchairs. The sidewalks are a mess and in many places the space from the sidewalk to the street pavement isn't smooth. Horribly painful.

All full size pickups exceed 72" in height.
Was this the intent?

Ummm, maybe the problem was with the person GRANTING the permit for the wrong spot ... are citizens not entitled to rely on the parking bureau to not issue a permit to park in a place where it's a violation to do so?

CoP 3 most important guiding principles: never admit you're wrong, never take responsibility for a poor decision, never say you're sorry.

Ummm, maybe the problem was with the person GRANTING the permit for the wrong spot ..

Maybe so. Buy why would anyone assume that a permit makes it ok to park where a law like this prohibits it, based on the height of the vehicle involved? Isn't that about the same as parking there without such a permit? People seem to be suggesting we don't need to know these laws, and that the city is supposed to guess somehow how tall the contractor's vehicles are going to be. I think that's just ludicrous. I'm all for bashing the city government on general principles, but I think there's no justification for it here.

I see no exemption in the rule for buses, yet they often park for several minutes at a time at intersections. So do UPS and FedEx trucks.

I don't know, Allan. In the absence of other evidence, I think the burden and fault here lie more with the bureaucrat that approved the permit. He or she is paid to understand the arcana of the parking regulations and ensure that a permit is not issued for activities that violate those regulations. Did YOU know about this visibility rule? I didn't (although I actually think it's a good one). The Oregon driver's manual -- where most of us learn about the rules of the road -- does not cover every single urban parking rule.

Now, if the bureaucrat explained the visibility rule to the applicant (doubtful), or if this requirement was written down somewhere on the actual permit that was issued (possible), then I'd be more inclined to see this as the property owner's fault.

Eric, you may have a point. Maybe the permit issuer made a mistake. I do know about the law, and I see it often violated (like most laws having to do with traffic), and seldom enforced. I'm sure this other (just above) Jack's right, too, that many vehicles disregard or violate this. At the same time, I have some experience in my neighborhood with temporary parking permits. Often, the permit itself is unspecific about exactly where on the block face it may be used, and it's up to the user to decide where, and just how much of the block face will be claimed. So the permit granter may not know that a corner is involved, let alone whether it's the corner for approaching or departing traffic (which is critical to the application of the law). Common to all these uncertainties is the responsibility of the driver to park lawfully. I don't know why anyone would expect the issuance of a permit to supersede laws that protect public safety.

Allan L, thanks for sticking up for the little guy-public employees. And especially those who are handing out the special parking permits, while collecting the money, shouldn't have to know any of the regs on parking. They are only public employees. Thanks you for being a faithful public employee protecting your comrades.

So the permit granter may not know that a corner is involved, let alone whether it's the corner for approaching or departing traffic (which is critical to the application of the law).

I would hope the granter would take a minute to look up the applicant's address real quick on Portland Maps (or whatever system the City uses internally) to see if a corner is nearby and then note on the permit that in claiming space the grantee should keep objects and vehicles out of the height-restricted area. Maybe that's expecting too much, but it would be a nice customer-service gesture.

I'm not saying that the driver shouldn't have been told to move the vehicle -- but giving citations here is absurd. It's not like COP doesn't have access to detailed satellite photos. They could quite easily have showed the company exactly where they could park their various vehicles based on height -- but, oh wait, that would presume that they thought of themselves as providing a helpful service rather than setting a trap for the unwary.

However wrong, it's reasonable for a person who has to get a special permit to park somewhere to think that, yes, the special permit waives the existing set of rules and that any rules that still apply will be explained to me when I buy the permit. If the city wants to hold some meters off sale, or only sell them to sports cars, fine -- use a different color permit for midblock and end block meters when you allow someone to reserve them. But this was just a setup.

You are all assuming that safety issues are secondary to revenue. I can assure you that, in my neighborhood, for my purposes, they're not. Maybe the city should brief all applicants on all possibly applicable safety considerations in getting vehicles to the job and parking them there; I wouldn't object to that, but I don't expect it. I don't think it is too much to expect drivers to know and obey the law. To me, there are plenty of legitimate points of objection to the way the city is run. This just doesn't make the list.

Allan sounds like a perfect candidate for a senior level position in the parking bureau. Always look at it from the point of view of public safety first, and the bureaucrat second. The well-meaning, attempting to abide-by-the-rules, paying for the permits, investing in the city, taxpayer is relegated to the bottom of the totem pole.

The well-meaning, attempting to abide-by-the-rules, paying for the permits, investing in the city, taxpayer is relegated to the bottom of the totem pole.

For years, I've been copying and pasting selected comments to make a response, and I just discovered that I can drag selected text into the comment box. For that, Bill Holmer, I thank you. On the question of the language quoted above, I think attempted compliance is a great concept. Surely anyone willing to work in the private sector in our city should not have to actually achieve compliance. Great idea. Take it to court, and let us know how it goes!

I don't imagine most contractors know about the 6" exclusion until they've been ticketed.

They ought to be given a warning first, and provided with a sufficient period of time (sans daily ticketing) to request a compliant parking space.

To state the obvious, if the contractor followed all of the rules explained to him in applying for the permits, how the hell is it anything but the City's fault in issuing permits for a location for which does not qualify?

The City has responsibilities here, which include that, in my opinion, they should have required the roofing contractor to close the sidewalks and, since it was adjacent to a corner intersection, the crosswalk(s) as well, since there is an obvious overhead safety issue related to roofing jobs. This would have negated the 'visibility' issue and promoted the greatest safety.

But that's a bit too sensible for the city I used to call my home town, and that doesn't leave a loophole for parking tickets, now does it?

"They are only public employees"

Yes they are, and have absolutely no responsibility to inform the public as to the MOUNTAIN of regulations written by/for the City.

That's 'sarcasm', for those of you in Portland too dense to know the difference...

I wonder if that drunk driving child molester you people call a Mayor has some sort of selective enforcement of this law going on for his personal vehicle. Or does Mr. Automobile Hater make sure to park that full size white pick up truck of his 50 feet away from the corners ?

You remember that truck, right ? The one he caused a multiple car collision with up on Jantzen Beach, and was observed by multiple witnesses stumbling out of, reeking of alcohol, with his pants undone. The full size white pick up truck he was then was told to drive home in without taking a field sobriety test.

I did a 10 month remodel in 2001 and had 2 of the old style meter hoods in place for the duration. When I picked up the hoods, I received a one page (2 sided) permit/information document which included the following:

This Permit is not valid for parking of any vehicle or equipment over 6ft in height within 50ft of a non-signalized intersection.


Hoods are to be used for commercial and/or construction vehicles only; passenger and sport utility vehicles are not allowed.

Maybe they don't hand this out any longer.

The only sub who got nailed (once) was the wood flooring guy who drove an older, pretty beaten up mid level jeep. I had asked him to park in the driveway and leave the metered space for other subs driving conforming vehicles, but he liked doing things his own way.

Well, then.

I have asked several contractor friends about this and no one I spoke to had ever heard of this rule. Since Portland blocks are only 100 feet long this limits parking for commercial vehicles in a pretty significant way.
I also know quite a few folks who drive full size pick up trucks and vans and they have never gotten tickets. It may be this rule is not uniformly enforced. It may also be that the persons issuing the commercial permits are themselves not informed or they simply do not care.
The city gets money when the permits are issued and when the parking fines are levied. Either way revenue is generated.
If in fact safety is the primary issue as Allen L. would suggest then the city workers should be responsible for making sure the over height vehicles are correctly parked. Issuing a parking ticket is hardly a substitute for pedestrian safety, if that is indeed the goal.
BTW, Allen L. do you work for the parking enforcement at the CoP? You seem to be ultra sensitive on this issue.


I think it's pretty strange that the parking police seem to be over the top in ticketing for anything and everything possible. Yet wherever I see sidework work, the barriers in place are substandard and the signage is inadequate when compared to the requirements and standards of the City - all of which are clearly posted online and provided to the person who takes out the permit to do the work. I've never seen any of these projects cited, signed or ticketed and they are supposed to be inspected before the work can commence.

The broken down, peeling mini-barriers scattered about on their spindly legs while a SE concrete company took two weeks to repair the sidewalk in front of our apartments could have been used by midget hurdlers but were in no way tall enough. Disgruntled tenants and passers-by ended up kicking most of them out of the way (and this was before the supposed City inspection) and *it made absolutely no difference* even though it created a new level of hazard.

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