SAN ANTONIO - A judge Wednesday "gave the boot" to companies that put boots on cars. He refused to block a new ordinance that lowers the price they can charge you.
It means when you park at a privately owned lot, booting companies cannot put a boot on your car until one full hour after your time expires. They can't boot you on the first offense. And the most they can charge you to remove a boot is $35.
City Council passed the booting ordinance in May, after complaints from drivers who had been booted at downtown parking lots and Fiesta events, and charged close to $120.
Like Fiesta musician, David Spencer, who claims, “In the five minutes it took me to go down and find my wife, get $10 (from her) and come back, I had two boots and stickers on my car.”
Local officials also accuse parking lots and booting companies of using predatory tactics. Such as signs downtown that show a low price, without revealing that it’s only good for one hour. Some drivers have been booted just minutes after their time expired, or for parking in reserved spaces that weren't properly marked.
“This is pure and simple a hijack operation that these people are running”, said Cliff Herberg, of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.
Before the city could start enforcing the ordinance, a Georgia company which does most of the booting in San Antonio, challenged it in court. Premiere Parking Enforcement, also known as Boot Man Inc., wanted a judge to block the ordinance until a trial could be held in a few months.
Boot Man's president, Luke Pope, flew in from Atlanta for the hearing and testified that a $35 maximum charge would put him out of business.
“The city is booting for $65, so I'm not sure why they expect private entities to be able to do it for cheaper than they can”, said Pope.
In the hearing, the city countered that argument by pointing out the city only boots cars if the owner has a number of unpaid parking tickets, whereas booting companies have been booting people on a first offense.
At the end of the two day hearing, the judge sided with the city attorney's office, and lifted a restraining order, thereby allowing police to begin enforcing the new ordinance.
City Attorney Michael Bernard told News 4 WOAI, “You can probably get valet parking in the most exclusive resorts in this country at $35 a day. So if they can only charge $35 to remove a boot, that's certainly a reasonable amount.”
Next up for the city: towing companies. A city ordinance prevents them from charging more than $85. However, there's a restraining order keeping police from enforcing that one as well, and it may be several weeks before a hearing can be held on that.