Towing enforced on a Harbor East street, but with little warning

The problem

: Parking is prohibited on a Harbor East street, but with little warning.


The backstory

: Jon Spelman knows to be careful when parking on city streets. But that didn't prevent him from getting towed.


The Fells Point resident said he attended a conference at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel on a recent Sunday and decided to drive his wife's Toyota RAV4 there to escape the heat.

He parked behind another car on International Drive, a dead-end street off the traffic circle at the end of President Street that leads to the entrance of the new Legg Mason tower. There were no signs or kiosks that required drivers to pay for parking, but there weren't any signs barring it, either.

"I thought, 'Maybe it's a new street and they haven't put up "No Parking" signs yet,'" Spelman said. "I even walked partway down the street to make sure I wasn't missing anything."

But when Spelman returned about three hours later, the SUV wasn't where he thought he had left it.

He walked out to the circle to check other streets, and that was when he saw a sign barring parking on International Drive.

"The only way I could see it was standing right at the circle," he said. The sign is oriented in the opposite direction of the one-way traffic in the circle. A driver turning right onto International Drive probably would miss it.

Spelman said he had to ask people in the neighborhood, including a Legg Mason security guard, to find out which company might have towed his car.

Watchdog spoke with Tim O'Donald, the vice president of property management for Harbor East Management Group.


Parking is prohibited on International Drive to keep it clear for emergency vehicles, he said. But neither his company — nor Legg Mason — profits from towing, he said. No towing companies patrol that street. Instead, towing happens only when "intentionally we make the decision and call the tow truck to have somebody pulled," he said.

But security guards will go into neighboring businesses to try to locate the vehicle owner first, O'Donald said.

"Towing is always a last resort," he said. "We have to do it for the safety of the property."

He also said that only two vehicles have been towed off the street since enforcement began last summer.

"That kind of tells me the sign works," O'Donald said.

Still, he said that he would ask to have another sign installed on the opposite corner, both of which frame the gateway to the street.


However, given the low number of tows, he did not think it necessary to add more "no parking" signs along the length of International Drive itself. "We don't want to oversign an area," O'Donald said.

Who can fix this

: Tim O'Donald, vice president of property management, Harbor East Management Group. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

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