Getting home from celebrating New Year’s Eve in downtown Tacoma wasn’t easy — or cheap — for a handful of people at Monday’s First Night celebration.
The city had their cars towed — nine or 10 of them, according to police.
No-parking signs for the event went up Sunday; they were placed at every three to five parking spaces in prohibited areas, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.
“Anywhere where we were going to impound a car from, they were set right there by the curb line, and it said, ‘No parking after 5 p.m.’” she said. “When you arrive to work an event like First Night and there are so many cars parked inside the (event) footprint, it’s like, ‘Oh, no.’ They obviously didn’t see the no-parking signs.”
Officers spent an hour trying to track down the drivers of the illegally parked cars, Cool said. They made announcements in shops and restaurants, turned on sirens and used a loudspeaker, she added.
Tully’s at South Ninth Street and Broadway turned down its music so officers could get customers’ attention in the packed coffee shop, she said.
“We tried everything, which we normally don’t do, because this time there was an excessive number of cars that were parked within the event area,” Cool said. “You don’t want to impound that many cars at a city event. People are there to have a good time.”
Banjo player Kendl Winter didn’t hear the announcements while performing in Sanford & Son Antiques in the 700 block of Broadway.
“There was a drum circle downstairs,” Winter said. “We couldn’t hear anything.”
She saw the signs but said she didn’t see any outside the building, where she’d parked.
Off-limits streets included Broadway from Seventh to Ninth.
“There weren’t any signs where we were, but there was one on the corner between the other block and where we were,” Winter said. “We saw a bunch of cars and no one said anything, so we figured we were OK.”
Luckily, Winter got a ride to the impound lot and was able to make it back to her home in Olympia. Getting the vehicle back cost her $250, though.
“It was a weird way to spend New Year’s, but no one was hurt,” she said.
The illegally parked cars were a safety hazard, Cool said, adding that the First Night parade was delayed because they were blocking part of the route.
“If cars are parked inside the footprint (of the event) and we didn’t impound the cars, when they go to leave, they’re going to be driving through all the pedestrian traffic,” Cool said.
Many people responded, she said, and rushed to move their cars before the tow trucks came.
A few lucky drivers on the edge of the event zone had their cars surrounded by cones rather than towed, and they were able to be guided out by officers, Cool said.
One person whose car was towed was fortunate in another matter, she said. A woman wound up shoving a tow truck driver and then a police officer, and could have been arrested, Cool said.
The city got two complaints from frustrated drivers about cars being towed, she said.
“We try to give plenty of warning,” Cool added.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268