Business owner in battle with Seattle over parking spots, incurs over $500K in fines

SEATTLE -- Growth is coming at a huge cost to a local business owner.

Jodi Opitz has been in a battle with the city of Seattle over parking at her business, and racked up a half-million dollars in fines in the process.

The sound of music from rock to jazz and everything in between has been the tune at Seattle Rehearsal for 28 years.

“You have enough struggles to try to own and operate a business, then to have your city try to put you out,” said Opitz, unable to finish her sentence from the emotion welling up.

She’s the owner of Seattle Rehearsal in SODO. It’s a 24/7 operation renting studios to musicians.

Crosscut.com first reported on Opitz's parking battle with the city.

Opitz has put “No Parking” signs on her loading dock door to make sure the space is free and she’s able get music equipment in and out. Towing signs also line the walls near the loading dock door.

The Seattle Department of Transportation says she can’t do that and wants her to put up signs allowing parking for 30 minutes or an hour at a time to the public.

“If you can visual one car parking for half hour or an hour, then the other car coming and parking for half hour or an hour, you could do that forever and never have access to your loading dock,” said Opitz.

She says she owns her building and lives there, too. A lot of time and money to customize this property has helped her business thrive.

For almost three decades on Occidental in Sodo, she says as Seattle has grown so has this industrial area.

“The problem has been that a lot of people have converted these buildings into offices and now it’s become an eight-hour parking lot.”

The parking dispute with the city started years ago.

The city has limited hour parking signs at neighboring businesses on Occidental, but Opitz says she won’t put up those because they don’t work for her 24/7 business model.

“I have 180 tenants in the building and then I have hourly rehearsals as well,” said Opitz.

She believes she has the right to reasonable access to her property and says the signs she put up warning drivers they’ll get towed have worked.

“If I can’t get into the building, I start losing customers and clients,” said Opitz.

Her choice to not comply with SDOT has come at a steep cost, a $500 daily fine. Today, she owes more than a half -million dollars.

“$545,000,” said Opitz, totaling the cost.

SDOT says it can’t comment specifically about Opitz’s situation because she’s in an active litigation with the city.

“I lose my business one way or another. If I can’t get in, I’m going to lose my business. If I have to pay half a million-dollar fine, I’m going to have to sell and get out of here.”

Opitz says this work is her life. She’s provided rehearsing space for big names like Heart, Macklemore, and Elvis Costello. She says she’ll keep fighting to make sure the music never stops.

The city says they’ve been looking into parking options in SODO.

Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office said “As a candidate and now as Mayor, Mayor Durkan has spent time meeting with and listening to businesses and residents of SODO. She understands both the importance of the jobs in SODO and the burdens growth has placed on the area. Mayor Durkan has directed SDOT and other City departments, including Office of Economic Development and the Seattle Police Department, to evaluate a number of actions the City can take to support the range of businesses in SODO, including changes to parking. She wants this parking issue and the litigation quickly resolved,” said Stephanie Formas, spokeswoman for Durkan.