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Lakewood rejects bill to avoid label as ‘place with the $500 parking ticket’

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(The Center Square) – The Lakewood City Council has rejected a proposed ordinance from its city attorney that would have raised the price of parking tickets up to $500 in a bid to dissuade people from illegally parking in the city.

Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Ann Wachter’s proposal would raise parking fines to a maximum of $500 for a fourth offense, with a minimum fine of $50 for the first offense.

The ordinance failed by a 3-3 vote, but could be brought back to the council in another form in the future.

“The city’s effort to enforce parking regulations has thus far not been successful in controlling illegal parking such as parking in the right of way and on city sidewalks,” Wachter said in a letter to the city council. “Fines among the more common parking offenses vary, but are typically low and thus ineffective in modifying parking habits.”

Parking fines in Lakewood currently range from $20 to $250.

Wachter further argued that illegal parking creates hazards to pedestrians who must navigate around a vehicle, blocking what is intended to be a safe path for pedestrians. She also noted that illegal parking detracts from the appearance of a neighborhood and can create traffic issues.

An earlier draft of the ordinance would have also allowed for potential vehicle impoundment as part of deterring illegal parking. That was removed in the final version of the legislation presented to the city council.

“We don’t want to be known as the ‘parking ticket city’ where you get a parking ticket and it’s five times more than a speeding ticket,” Lakewood City Councilmember Ryan Pearson said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Some members of the council asked about how neighboring cities handle parking infractions.

The Center Square reached out to nearby Tacoma and found that typical parking infractions range from $25 to $42 in fines, without escalating fees for each subsequent infraction. Most parking fines are set at $35.

Under the Tacoma Municipal Code’s traffic infraction section, the highest fine one could receive in relation to parking is $250 for the illegal use, tampering, and obstruction of a payment device. That is half of the proposed maximum fine of $500 in the proposed ordinance.

“We haven’t even passed this and we’re already known regionally as the place with the $500 parking ticket,” Lakewood City Councilmember Paul Bocchi said.