An Olympia attorney is filing a claim against the city over what he calls the unfair “private dealing” in premium downtown parking.
James Foley said he waited in line Dec. 8 at City Hall to buy his 2017 parking permit for a city-owned lot at State Avenue and Capitol Way. That’s when he learned 19 spaces at the lot — and 54 downtown spaces total — had been “pre-sold” to Olympia Federal Savings Bank, he said.
Based on information the city provided, Foley counts 275 pre-sold spaces to at least 13 clients, the largest the U.S. Post Office with 104 permits. A manager at Olympia Federal Savings said the business has been approached by the city about using fewer stalls, but otherwise has been paying monthly on the same spots every year.
Foley argues that these deals are illegal and unfair, especially for people who must stand in line every year for a permit. His claim seeks $50,000 in damages, including “lost time finding alternative parking” and “emotional distress.”
But Foley said he ultimately wants justice, not money.
“All of those parking spaces legally belong to the citizens of Olympia,” Foley said. “Everyone should have a fair chance at them. It should be equitable.”
The city has 2,268 metered parking spaces downtown and manages seven surface parking lots with 364 total spaces.
Parking permits are sold to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The city holds some lots and spaces for downtown businesses, as well as city employees who still pay for their parking, said city spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth.
She declined to comment on Foley’s legal claim and said the case is under review by the city. The city has until the end of March to respond before Foley files a lawsuit in federal court.
Last fall, the city hired Berk Consulting to develop a new downtown parking strategy that fits with an expected downtown population growth of 5,000 people in the next 20 years. Community input will be sought this spring, and an updated plan is expected in June, Braseth said.
Cost for the parking strategy project is estimated at $173,500. The consultant will examine options for building a public parking garage, parking enforcement and technology, meter fees, partnerships with private lot owners, and installing more parking signage.
In a 2015 survey, downtown business owners expressed a desire for more free street parking and a parking garage, and said limited parking discourages customers from shopping downtown.
On an unrelated note, Foley is a former judicial candidate who lost to John Skinder in the 2016 election for Thurston County Superior Court Judge Position 7. Foley made a rap video for his campaign that includes the hook “Holy moly, I hear Jim Foley is running for judge in the city of Oly.”