Why is Seattle giving parking tickets to homeless man who won’t pay them?

Sep 4, 2019, 4:58 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2019, 11:19 am
Gene Minette, homeless cars, parking tickets...
Gene Minette in front of one of his many cars. (Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio)
(Carolyn Ossorio, KIRO Radio)

In lieu of permanent housing, 74-year-old Vietnam veteran Gene Minetti has been utilizing parking spots in Seattle for decades, across over 200 separate vehicles.

Effort to help homeless runs afoul of regulations

Recently, The Seattle Times featured a story about Minetti with the headline, “He owes over $17,000 in parking fines. But is he really a vehicle kingpin?”

A comment on social media asked an important question:

“If I were going to live in a car, I feel like I’d want to have one nice one instead of 20 [expletive] ones. Do I just not get it?”

So, why would someone do this?

Over Labor Day weekend, Minetti was found in Ballard, sleeping on a sliver of sidewalk between one of his vans and a row of metal racks stacked on top of each other near a tire store.

He made it clear that over the past 20 years, he’s owned over 200 vehicles, but not all at the same time.

“It’s more like seven or eight,” Minetti explained, often using the extra vehicles for storage. “I am a hoarder in the certain sense that I can’t predict what I’m going to get tomorrow. I try to plan weeks ahead and have a little cushion of at least three to four pairs of pants that I can wear in different cars, so if they seize a car I won’t have to go around with stinking pants.”

When asked about his parking troubles with the city of Seattle, Minetti responded, “It’s not about the parking. It’s about Donald Trump. It’s about keeping the fascist domination by Xi Xingpin and China. China is everything to them and they’ll sacrifice American interests.”

Minetti’s been called out as someone manipulating the system as an alleged car rancher. But his response begs the question: Could it be that he’s a homeless vet being let down by the system?

Throughout an interview with KIRO Radio, Minetti brought up the work he needs to do to defeat Trump and the Nazis. But, he was also very clear that he believes the City of Seattle is targeting his vehicles, because over the years, he’s challenged hundred of tickets in Seattle Municipal Court.

He says it’s no coincidence that many people who live out of their cars or RV’s aren’t given tickets with the same gusto as he is.

“It should frighten any citizen to see what can happen to a person in the court system,” Minetti said. “They are making an example of me as what can happen if you cross the line and get on their bad side.”

Georgetown man: Why can’t residents park on street during RV sweeps?

Spokesperson for the Seattle City Attorney’s Office Dan Nolte concedes Minetti’s case is unique. According to Nolte, in 2008, the Seattle Municipal Court referred Minetti’s case to the prosecutor’s office when unpaid parking tickets ratcheted up to over $20,000.

Nolte says the city impounded some of Mintetti’s vehicles to auction off in an effort to help pay for the fines.

“We learned that Mr. Minetti might have called some of his associates to purchase those vehicles at auction, which ultimately resulted in the vehicles ending up back on the streets,” he described.

Since auctioning off his vehicles proved to be a waste of tax dollars, they haven’t auctioned off any of Minetti’s vehicles since.

“After all that time and effort with the situation returning to the status quo, we can’t find a circumstance where we’ve tried that endeavor again,” Nolte explained, noting that parking laws today are the same as they were in 2008 for those who live in cars and RVs.

But that could soon change.

“Mayor Durkan recently introduced legislation that would allow the city to go about confiscating and then destroying vehicles that are rented out and are unfit for human habitation,” said Nolte. “That legislation is over at the city council.”

Minetti says he’s not going to let the city stop him from buying vehicles. Despite having four, all of which are filled with his belongings, he plans to buy another van to sleep in for the cold winter months.

But what if the city offered him permanent housing today? Would he stop buying cars and parking them illegally?

His answer was unequivocally, “Yes.”

When asked why Minetti was a target for parking tickets when he clearly can’t afford to pay them, Nolte said he couldn’t comment, because the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office doesn’t give out tickets. He referred KIRO Radio to the Seattle Municipal Court. When asked, the court referred KIRO Radio to the Seattle Police Department. We are waiting to hear back.

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Why is Seattle giving parking tickets to homeless man who won’t pay them?