Private downtown Pensacola parking lot owners may soon have to comply with new city regulations on how they enforce their parking rules when it comes to “booting” cars, including a cap on the fee to remove a boot.
Pensacola City Councilman Casey Jones is proposing a new booting ordinance that would set rules for parking lot owners to be able to place an immobilization device on cars commonly known as a boot.
Currently, the city has no rules in place for private lot owners when it comes to booting cars.
Jones said he put forward the proposal in response to complaints from residents who had their cars booted.
“I received just a lot of complaints of people that have been at an event, say at the Saenger Theatre, and come out 10 minutes after their parking time (expired) and their car is booted,” Jones said. “Then they’re waiting an hour and a half for someone to come and remove the boot with a $125 charge, and they weren’t aware their car could get booted.”
Jones’ proposal limits the fee for unlocking a booted car to $75 and requires a boot to be removed within 30 minutes of the car’s owner contacting the parking enforcement company.
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The proposed rules also require clear signage at every parking lot entrance that warns people their car can be booted if they fail to pay for parking.
The rules also require parking enforcement companies to hold business licenses in the city.
Parking lot owners who don’t comply with the new regulations can be subject to code enforcement complaints that can result in fines for the property owner.
“It makes sure that people know that (their car getting booted) is a possibility,” Jones said. “The signage is large enough that people can see it. They don’t think they’re just parking in a free lot or a lot that is owned by the city where they may just get a ticket instead of booted.”
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said Monday evening during an agenda conference that he supported Jones’ proposed rules but cautioned that the rules shouldn’t make towing the preferred alternative for parking enforcement for private lots.
“I don’t think that becomes any better for people,” Robinson said. “I wish there was a way that we could enforce without booting or towing. That’s how we do it for the city-owned spaces, and it works out a lot better. But again we have the ability to attach it to your license. That is not available (for private lot owners). I’ve looked into that and we looked at that option.”
Jones said he didn’t believe banning booting was a viable solution.
“If it’s a private lot and you’re having to pay for it, there has to be some type of consequence for leaving your car there,” Jones said. “It has to be posted that there’s a consequence whether that be booting or towing.”
Robinson said he always likes to remind people that the city offers lots of free parking in the downtown area.
“We’d love for you to just park on the street,” Robinson said. “We’re still trying to figure out ways we can create more free spaces, but they do mean you’ve got to walk a little bit farther.”
The first of two required votes to pass the new ordinance is set for the City Council’s regular meeting Thursday.
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.