GALVESTON — If you drove down Seawall Boulevard on Wednesday, you probably couldn’t help but notice that parking spaces were already being claimed by trucks, trailers and recreational vehicles. (I think I saw one very large smoker sitting there in fog when I drove past around 6 p.m.)
Some readers definitely noticed, because they called The Daily News to complain that squatters were already claiming prime spots along the Seawall parade route, hours before the city officially waived it’s overnight parking rules on the street.
One caller wanted to know if the city was in fact enforcing its rules, or if lax police work was giving these early birds an unfair advantage.
It’s an interesting question, but I don’t think there’s a simple answer.
First, let’s review what are we really talking about when we talk about overnight parking on the Seawall.
The city’s so-called overnight Seawall parking rule is a little more limited than might first be thought. Section 34-114 of the city code says “No person shall park a vehicle … On the south side of the Seawall Boulevard from 6th Street to 25th Street, and from 27th Street to 59th Street, from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.”
The code says that vehicles parked in that area at those times can be towed at the owners expense. City officials also said that vehicles that violate the parking rule would be subject to ticketing.
Of course, there’s nothing in the code that prevents trucks with trailers, recreational vehicles or even semis from parking on the Seawall during other hours — especially not between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. when anyone parked there is supposed to be paying a parking fee. Remember, the city council made it explicitly clear last week that they want people parking and paying during Mardi Gras.
It’s possible, I suppose, that those vehicles that were parked legally on Seawall prior to 3 a.m. today cleared out for two hours and then reclaimed their spots before anyone else woke up.
The other factor to consider is that at 3 a.m., the police assigned to the Seawall Parking detail are not working. Those officers are only patrolling the area for tickets during the paid-parking hours. The city’s normal patrol officers would be the ones monitoring the Seawall, along with the rest of the island.
The city did not respond to my question if any vehicles were towed or ticketed on Seawall this morning. I checked with the municipal court clerk’s office, but they do not receive daily updates of fines that have been issued by city police officers.
So, did people on the Seawall violate the city code and park earlier than the city said was allowed? Probably. Did those people get tickets? They could have, but I don’t know for sure.
I think those people that did park on Seawall made a calculated choice: That they could park early and either eat the cost of a parking ticket or get away with it scot-free.
It still seems to me that people are violating the spirit of the weekend by squatting early. It wouldn’t surprise me if the city started considering new rules these cheaters start showing up even earlier next year.