By John Schaffner

Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza has ordered a moratorium on PARKatlanta issuing parking citations, booting autos or having cars towed on residential neighborhood streets until he has time to fully review the situation, according to Dist. 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean.

Mendoza, who became commissioner of the city’s Department of Public Works in August walked into a buzz-saw of complaints from commercial and retail property owners, restaurants and more recently neighborhood residents.

They claim the city’s parking enforcement hired guns, contractor PARKatlanta, have been unreasonably aggressive, including issuing citations to Buckhead residents parked on the street in front of their homes.

Before Mendoza came on board at Public Works, the city issued PARKatlanta a 30-day moratorium in May on writing parking citations. That moratorium was brought about by hundreds of complaints from restaurant owners and retailers across the city, claiming both their customers and employees were being left without parking opportunities.

The furor from businesses in Buckhead seems to have quieted, but now Atlanta councilmembers are receiving e-mails and phone calls from angry residents.

That moratorium ended midnight June 10, three days after City Council passed a resolution that implemented 14 recommendations to improve parking enforcement procedures.

The furor from businesses in Buckhead seems to have quieted down, according to Adrean, but now she is receiving lots of emails and phone calls from people in residential neighborhoods “who are very angry.”

Several of the residential complaints have involved citations for parking on the street facing the wrong direction, a practice that has been commonly accepted in the neighborhoods for years, according to Adrean and Barbara Kennedy, president of the Collier Hills neighborhood association, who also has been getting a lot of the angry phone calls.

But Adrean said she has “not had one e-mail from Buckhead retail and commercial owners recently.”

She said she talked to a couple of retail shop owners who told her the people simply are not parking where there are meters. “They said they don’t know where they are parking, but they are not parking in the metered spaces in front of their stores.”

Adrean said she has heard that people are using the metered spaces at night in the commercial and retail areas of Buckhead—principally along E. Andrews Drive in the West Village.

That could be because of some of the changes City Council implemented in June to the parking enforcement procedures.

Under the changes made by council, overnight enforcement of parking meters was scrapped—at least for the time being—leaving a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. enforcement period Monday to Friday. On Saturdays, parking fees and limits are enforced from noon until 10 p.m. There is no parking enforcement on Sundays.

Since the initial council recommendations, the legislative body has since instituted parking restrictions that vary slightly based on four types of zones in the city.

The business/government zone is where there is a high need for parking turnover. Enforcement will be Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a parking time limit of two hours.

The mixed-use zones include both residential and commercial that don’t have onsite parking. Enforcement will be Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a limit of three hours.

The school/university zone is where enforcement will be Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a parking time limit of three hours.

The entertainment/restaurant/hospital zones are areas where the majority of parking is by patrons of theaters, museums, restaurants, other entertainment venues and hospitals. The enforcement days will be Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a parking time limit of four hours.

But PARKatlanta, the Wisconsin-based firm hired by the city to handle parking enforcement, has been aggressively issuing parking citations in old Buckhead neighborhoods—where many homes either don’t have garages or on-property parking is very limited due to the age of the residences.

It is these neighborhoods, such as Collier Hills, North Collier Hills, etc. from where the complaints now are pouring into Adrean’s office. Many of those have been passed on to Adrean by Kennedy.

For instance, Robert Thornton, who lives at 2014 Walthall Drive emailed: “I was one of the Collier Hills neighbors that asked about the parking ticket dispute process. But I guess I overlooked the obvious question. What do I do now that I appealed online (the same day as the ticket) and have a record of it, but now have been notified by PARKatlanta that I did not appeal and must pay now? The threat for non-payment is to be booted, towed, turned over for collection or suffer some other diabolical penalty.” Thornton added, “Please pardon my sarcasm but I appealed a water bill over 5 years ago (but paid it) and have yet to hear a resolution.”

According to Angela Bowers-Ervin of the city’s Public Works department, “If you have received a parking ticket and feel you have received it in error, download the “Parking Dispute Form from the web address, complete it in its entirety and email it back to the same web address.” The dispute form also can be filed at 150 Garnett Street, Atlanta, GA, 30303.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.