East Atlanta Village is in uproar this weekend over a blatant scam in the lot behind Grant Central Pizza. The lot has long been used as parking for the businesses that are adjacent to it, but recently, that changed. A few weeks back, the posts around the lot were painted yellow and a chain was put up to prevent people accessing the lot. Then, last week the chains came down. On Friday evening, people who parked there were booted. They were forced to pay cash to remove the $75 boots from their cars. The same happened on Saturday morning. One story on Facebook told of a girl who couldn't pay the boot, and when she told the booters of this, they puta second boot on her car.
I went over to the lot this afternoon to check out what's going on. The lot did appear to have the signs in place required by the city ordinance, although some of the information required - for example, who runs the booting company - wasn't there. Also, unlike most lots that hire booting companies, this is not a lot where you can pay to park. It looked as though the chain keeping people out was taken down expressly to allow people to park so they could be booted.
I went to talk to Johnny Hollywood, owner of 13 Roses Tattoo Parlour across the street from the lot. I had heard that Hollywood was organizing legal action, and in fact he said that he has retained legal council to help sort the situation out. According to Hollywood, no one had ever seen the signage on the lots until around midnight on Friday, right before the booting started. He said people were speculating that the signs went up late Friday night and then the booting began.
Hollywood had been in contact with the lot's owner, Payman Deljou (yes, that's his real name), who claimed to know nothing about the booting. He said that he had recently leased the lot to someone (he wouldn't reveal who) for a short term lease. He said he didn't know what the lessee planned to do with the lot.
Under city zoning code, it is not allowable to charge for parking in East Atlanta Village (the lot on the corner of Glenwood and Flat Shoals was grandfathered in when this code was passed). With that in mind, it's hard to see why anyone would lease a lot if it weren't for their own patrons to use. Unless...the idea was to let people park and then boot them?
The ordinance governing vehicle immobilization states that complaints should be made to the Atlanta Police Department, which makes sense seeing as it's the APD Commissioner who licenses these companies. (Also, forcing someone to pay you cash because they've put machinery on your private property ought to be overseen by someone with a gun.) According to Hollywood, police were called when the booting took place, but the officer said it was a civil matter and not his problem.
I called the police in Zone 6 today and got two different answers. At first the nice woman on the phone informed me that the officer had told her it was a civil matter because it was on private property. When I said that I had the ordinance in hand and it said otherwise, she told me to call back. A few hours later I got an officer on the phone who said I should call 911 and an officer would come out to see if it was illegal. Which is allegedly what happened over the weekend, and when the officer arrived he said it was a civil matter.
Clearly, the APD are confused about whether this is their problem or not.
While I was interviewing Hollywood, he got a call on his cell phone from Deljou, who said the signs were coming down and the chains going back up. He still refused to say who he had leased the lot to. "What about all the people who had to pay $75 already?" Hollywood asked. Delijoo said that he would deal with that when he gets back into the country.
By the time we left 13 Roses, the signs about booting had come down. Were a minute before we saw this:
Now there is this:
It may be that this particular chapter in Atlanta's booting story is almost over, but it shines a light on a continuing problem. It isn't that hard for someone to lease a lot, pay some thugs and coerce money out of folks. If someone stood in the parking lot and held people up, demanding $75 each, the cops would know what to do. But when it comes to booting, the police obviously don't understand their responsibility.
It's easy to understand that this is wrong. What's Atlanta going to do about it?
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