Alderman’s push to expand private lot booting gets the boot
An effort to expand the rights of private booting companies to operate freely in all 50 wards was shot down at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30) introduced an ordinance Wednesday that would have granted towing companies permission to expand their private booting practice to lots across the city. Currently the practice is only allowed in 34 wards. It was co-sponsored by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15).
“Small businesses need help,” Reboyras told The Daily Line when asked why he had introduced the proposal. He did not elaborate on how booting would help businesses.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1), an outspoken critic of the practice who previously banned private companies from booting cars in his ward, blocked the measure by sending it to the rules committee.
Innovative Parking Solutions, formally known as Global Parking Management, is the sole private booting company in Chicago. It has existed in some form in the city since 2002, WTTW reported.
Business and property owners hire Innovative Parking Solutions to ensure drivers who park in private lots are patronizing those businesses.
After the meeting, Reboyras told Block Club he wasn’t surprised the measure stalled. He said he introduced it after speaking to former 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore, a lobbyist who works for Innovative Parking Solutions.
“He’s the one who asked me to introduce this and I did it,” Reboyras said.
Reboyras said Moore shared a survey showing businesses supported the city-wide boot expansion, but could not provide the survey to Block Club or answer additional questions about it.
“I don’t have it. This is what I was told. That they made calls to businesses and three out of four businesses, 75 percent I guess, wanted the booting expanded because it would help their private business,” Reboyras said.
Moore would not answer questions about his work for the company, but connected Block Club to Innovative Parking Solutions President Michael Denigrs, who said the “survey” presented to Reboyras was of 100 companies that have used his service for the past 25 years. He defended the company’s practices and said booting was preferable to towing — which is allowed in private lots citywide.
“Though no one is pleased to have their car booted, it is infinitely more convenient and less expensive than having their car towed to an undisclosed location,” Denigrs said, adding that his customers “find our booting service far preferable to towing companies.”
Moore’s lobbying comes at a tough time for Denigrs’ business: as ward maps are redrawn, he said some longtime clients will no longer be able to work with Innovative Parking Solutions due to boot company restrictions.
La Spata, however, finds both practices predatory. He decried the “lack of a formal appeals process” for people who believe they were booted unfairly, creating an “unsavory arrangement” in which residents can only get fines waived by calling their local alderman.
“A $170 is a lot to ask for a five-minute mistake,” La Spata said. “When somebody isn’t willing to do any kind of reform, that doesn’t make sense to me.”
La Spata implemented the ward-level prohibition after “more than a year of contemplation and research” following complaints from his constituents who said their cars were booted without warning, he said in a committee hearing last year.
Out of the city’s 50 wards only 34, including Reboyras and Lopez’s, currently allow the practice, according to city rules.
Innovative Parking Solutions donated $1,000 to Reboyras in 2020, according to campaign records. The towing company also donated $500 to Lopez in 2021.
Private towing companies are currently granted permission to boot cars parked in private lots on a ward by ward basis.
Denigrs said his company, known as part of the “immobilization industry,” has operated successfully under strict city regulations for 22 years in Chicago. He believes his business should be able to operate wherever tow truck companies operate.
“The documented stories of a ‘Wild West’ of rogue tow truck drivers, which prompted the City Council recently to license tow truck drivers, underscores why business owners are reluctant to engage tow truck companies to patrol their lots,” he wrote.
But La Spata has been unconvinced.
“If their business model is trying to catch people in a trap, that’s a bad business model,” he previously said.
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