"Predatory" parking in Decatur gets city attention

12:04 AM, Mar 4, 2010   |    comments
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DECATUR, Ga. -- It's a busy little city, and parking is scarce in Decatur.  In some places, it takes six quarters to park for an hour at a meter.  You stay late at your peril.

"We do actually very actively enforce the two hour limit at our parking meters," said Peggy Merress, City Manager.

But Decatur's reputation as a tough place to park extends to its private parking lots as well.   

Caroline Herring is a musician who plays around the world, and a Decatur resident.  She tells a story of what she calls "predatory booting."  It began when her booking manager visited her from California.

"And he walked up the stairs at Eddie's Attic and I hugged him and I said, 'where'd you park?'"

Herring says the agent told her he'd parked in a nearby lot.

"And at that point I just ran as fast as I could down to that parking lot.  Because I knew that they booted cars.  And he was not even there two minutes.  And I yelled 'please don't boot him, he didn't know!'  And a voice out of nowhere says, 'I already booted him. And it was just like that."

Decatur officials say they've gotten too many such complaints.

"The police department was getting calls.  And even if it was one complaint and our ordinance wasn't clear, we needed to fix that," said Merriss.

This week the Decatur city commission decided to ease up on motorists a bit, requiring private lots to make warning signs on lots more visible and easier to understand.

And it's requiring private unstaffed lots to use machines that will actually gives customers receipts.

"I think it's a great step in the right direction," said Herring.

The new law may give a measure of comfort to motorists looking for parking space in Decatur -- though it'll do nothing to lower the price of parking. 

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