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‘Don’t harass your neighbors’: Boise City Council changes parking rules

Boise will tighten parking enforcement despite opposition from some residents. 

Boise City Council voted 5-1 at its regular meeting Tuesday evening to approve an ordinance clamping down on how long cars and other vehicles can park on the street without moving a significant distance. The change addresses a loophole in the law making it difficult to enforce the city’s current three-day limit on vehicles parked in spaces without parking meters or other signs remaining in the same spot.

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As BoiseDev first reported last month, the ordinance requires cars or other vehicles to move off of the same block every 72 hours, instead of moving a few inches or leaving the spot and returning minutes later to avoid a ticket. The Boise Police Department and parking enforcement will enforce the law on a case-by-case basis.

Council debates feedback

Ordinance sponsor Patrick Bageant and the majority of council members who voted with him, say this change will help crackdown on bad actors who bother their neighbors with cars, RVs, and boat trailers parked on the street for months or block access to businesses. But, some Boiseans expressed strong opposition to the proposal. 

They argued with messages to council members’ inboxes, on social media and in phone calls to BoiseDev. Residents said the change would cause issues for people who live downtown or in historic districts who park on the street and bike commuters who leave cars parked for months at a time during warm parts of the year. Others said it would disproportionately impact those displaced by the housing crisis and living in their cars. 

Bageant said the goal of the ordinance is to address people taking advantage of the way the code is written to cause problems for the community, not address people living their lives without complaints as they had before.

“The general rules we’ve always applied is if your car is not bothering anyone, it probably won’t be our number one priority to crack down on the 72-hour rule,” he said. “For people who are concerned about leaving their vehicles in front of their house and receiving complaints, the first thing to understand is if you’re not having problems with that now you’re not likely to have a problem under this change.”

Changes could return

City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez was the lone dissenter. She said people using laws on the books to harass their neighbors was a common complaint in her time as a civil rights investigator with the Idaho Human Rights Commission. Plus, she said this comes at a time when people are more likely to be displaced from their housing as rents increase and COVID-19 is still creating uncertainty.

Sanchez agreed the city should make parking changes, but after her experience of struggling to get by during the Great Recession she said it is too soon to make this change now with so many people unable to make rent.

“There were times where I ran out of money and I ran out of car and I needed grace,” she said. “I needed somebody to give me a break, but you are depending on a person to do that. For that reason, I can’t support this ordinance.”

Other council members voted in support, but said they would be watching to see if it had unintended consequences.

“I am willing to give this new ordinance a try and if other issues arise as a result we’ll look at it and see if adjustments need to be made,” City Council President Elaine Clegg said. “And to the citizens of Boise: Don’t harass your neighbors. Be kind, be nice. That’s what Boise is all about.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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