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Rule aimed at vehicles in yards

Virginia Swanson was sure her eyes were deceiving her during a recent drive home from church. But the proof continued to unfold before her, block after block. A brigade of vehicles, some American, others foreign, motor homes and even boats, had invaded the front yards of a number of homes from 16th Street N to Haines Road.

She counted 142.

"Nothing will trash a neighborhood quicker than RVs (recreational vehicles), boats and cars parked on the front lawn," said Swanson, president of the Council of Neighborhood Association (CONA).

A city ordinance soon may help clean up residential areas where motor vehicles are parked in yards rather than on the street. Starting July 1, owners of illegally parked vehicles will be issued $30 citations. For repeat offenders, the fine could climb as high as $500. Vehicles not removed after three citations will be impounded by the city.

Police will place warning notices on vehicles throughout the month.

City officials say the ordinance grew out of reports from angry homeowners who were seeing more vehicles parked in front yards citywide.

Ralph Stone, city planning director, said most calls were fielded by the code enforcement office, although the mayor's office also got some calls, Stone said. Most of the callers reported people rolling over curbs with their cars and yards that had become permanent parking lots, he added.

Sand often replaces grass in yards that are converted into makeshift parking lots. When it rains, sand and sediment mix and "go into our sewer system and eventually down on into the bay," Stone said.

The ordinance, which actually is an amended version of a similar ordinance, took about a year to get approved, said Amy Brink, code enforcement director for the North Shore Neighborhood Association and CONA. "We needed one with some teeth. This time they're going to enforce in areas where they never have before," she said.

Parking in yards creates a liability for the city, Stone said.

Brink agrees but sees it this way: "It just gives our city such a trashy look."