Salt Lake City Council moves to update parking laws
Lawsuit • Group suing over fines says the move is validation of their claims.
Published: July 16, 2014 08:51AM
Updated: July 16, 2014 09:10AM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune A parking meter pay station on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

Call it medicine for a $5.4 million parking headache.

That’s how much plaintiffs Timothy Bivens, Antonio Arias and S. Steven Maese are seeking in a lawsuit that alleges Salt Lake City’s parking ordinance is out of sync with the kiosk system implemented more than two years ago.

After a closed-door session with members of the city attorney’s staff Tuesday evening, the Salt Lake City Council without discussion voted to amend the parking ordinance. No public hearing was required, according to the council’s staff.

“They are two years and $5 million too late,” said Bruce Baird, who represents the men who are seeking a class action. “I think it’s pretty clear they are doing now what they should have done two years ago.”

In their lawsuit filed last month in 3rd District Court, the plaintiffs point to the city code that defines parking meters as “immediately contiguous” to the spaces being charged and “parking spaces” as being “adjacent to a parking meter.” It also describes meters as coin-activated.

Without updating the code, the city cannot legally fine motorists for parking violations reflected by the kiosk, the lawsuit argues.

“The city obtained the money ... without authority of law, and it is the city’s duty to refund the money,” the lawsuit states.

Further, the lawsuit claims the city deprives cited motorists of due process by making appeals onerous and threatening fees far in excess of the value of the ticket.

The new ordinance changes the language to reflect the kiosk system that is not contiguous to each parking space and is payable by coins as well as credit cards and cellphones.

“It’s an acknowledgment of the illegality of the current system,” Baird said. “There is clearly a systemic problem with the way the city has handled parking over the last several years.”

In an interview, Councilman Kyle LaMalfa said that as chairman of the council last year, he was unaware that the ordinance needed changing. He noted that the preceding chairman, Soren Simonsen, also was not informed that the ordinance should be updated.

The city purchased the kiosk computerized parking system for $4.5 million. Since its launch it has been fraught with problems, including not accepting credit cards — or, in some cases, any payment at all. Motorists also have complained of being cited when time was left on the meter, among other things. And last summer, the system melted down for a week during hot weather.

csmart@sltrib.com