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Sunday, September 26, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

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Abandonment issues

By Charles E. Brown
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Q: Imagine Charlie Campbell's ire, arriving at his Greenwood-area duplex on a recent morning to find a car parked on the street in front — blocking his driveway.

Having no idea who the car belonged to, Campbell says he first called the Seattle police North Precinct's nonemergency number, and was told to call the department's parking-enforcement/abandoned-vehicle unit. At that number he got a recorded message with instructions to leave information about the vehicle, including the license number; the make, model and color; and the number of days it had been abandoned. The message, he says, said it would take two to three weeks for the vehicle to be removed.

So Campbell called a North Seattle towing company. But he was told the company couldn't move the vehicle because it hadn't been tagged by police.

Then he tried pushing the car himself to get it clear of the driveway. But he couldn't budge the vehicle, which had been left in "park."

He started to call 911 to report his dilemma, but then noticed that the car was not locked. Inside he found registration papers with enough information to track down the owner in the telephone directory. Turns out the car had been stolen, then abandoned. The owner came and claimed it several hours later.

Still, Campbell wonders if he should have done something differently. "Did I call the wrong police phone number to take care of the problem?"

A: The quickest solution to such a problem, says Seattle police spokesman Scott Moss, is to call the Police Department's main nonemergency number: 206-625-5011, or even 911. But a vehicle blocking a driveway is not necessarily an emergency. So, Moss admits a response may not be immediate.

Ordinarily, an officer can be dispatched, and if the vehicle is illegally parked, it can be tagged to be towed away.

To report a vehicle that is not illegally parked but appears abandoned, call the parking enforcement/abandoned vehicle unit at 206-684-8763.

For jurisdictions outside Seattle, the local police agency's nonemergency number is probably the best bet.
Q: For the past six months or so, North Seattle resident Stace Culver Dayment has been bothered by a streetlight flickering and sometimes going completely off near Palatine Avenue North and North 110th Street. Where does one go to report the problem?

A: Seattle City Light spokesman Dan Williams says there are three ways: Report the problem online at, or by e-mail to, or call 206-684-7056 during regular business hours.

When you report a problem, try to include the pole number, which, Williams says, is displayed vertically on every City Light utility pole and streetlight pole. That will enable a utility crew to pinpoint the problem streetlight.

With more than 100,000 streetlights to maintain, Williams says, City Light typically has a backlog of work orders, and so repair-turnaround time usually varies from about three days to three weeks. But he says a crew will try to locate that light right away.

Q: While driving recently in Seattle's Northgate area, Elaine Lindblad of Shoreline spotted a sign posted along a street that read: "Please reduce speed to 30 — baby sleeping."

"Is that something a homeowner is allowed to do?" she asked.

A: People throughout the city may have particular concerns about driver behavior, such as speeding, but only the city has the legal authority to install regulatory signs, says Katherine Casseday, director of traffic management for Seattle's Department of Transportation.

She says that authority permits the city to see to it that signs are properly installed and maintained, and meet accepted national and industry standards.

"While well-intentioned, nonconforming homemade signs could have the unintended consequence of putting people at risk," she said.

And besides, city code is very clear about limiting speeds to 30 mph on arterial streets unless otherwise posted.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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