On July 13, the City Council will consider outlawing these boots in an ordinance developed by Commissioner Randy Leonard. His office received five complaints earlier this month about Seattle-based Total Parking Solutions shortly after it began immobilizing cars in Portland.
While booting has essentially been outlawed in Washington and California, no local ordinance even mentions parking boots.
Leonard's ordinance would ban the use of boots completely on private property and limit the cost of a private-property parking ticket to $40.
Most of the complaints came from students or visitors to Portland State University, like 20-year-old James Keeling, who parked his mother's car at the 6th Avenue Deli and Marketplace.
When Keeling returned, the 2003 Buick Regal had been paralyzed by Total Parking Solutions co-owner Josh Moultray, who told Keeling to pay $195 or he would tow the car. Keeling couldn't pay and tried to drive away, damaging the boot. Moultray then demanded $500 for the damage on top of the $195 unlocking fee, and towed the car.
"We were literally looking for something to hawk to get the car back," says Sheila Keeling, James' mom.
Moultray says the flat $195 boot-removal fine helps to cover costs. He claims he makes hardly any profit, after giving the property owner a 25 percent cut of the unlocking fee and paying his own employees.
Leonard in 2003 led a crackdown on so-called predatory towing, in which tow trucks lie in wait. Among the steps taken then: maximum towing rates and clear posting of no-parking signs. Stacy Chamberlain, Leonard's senior policy adviser, says the recent rise of booting causes similar consumer concerns.
"We've outlawed predatory towing in the city of Portland," Chamberlain says. "And we're having a hard time seeing a difference between that and what they [boot companies] do."