Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1955 No. 167 - December 02, 1955
AGO Opinion Header Image
Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MOTOR VEHICLE ‑- PROHIBITED PARKING PLACES ‑- PARKING STRIP

(1) Parking strip is defined as a strip of land lying either in the middle of the street or in the space between the building line and the sidewalk, or between the sidewalk and the curb or curb line intended to be used as a park-like space; that is, not built upon but beautified with turf, trees, flower beds, etc.

(2) A parking strip exists even though no curb and gutter has been installed, where it is outside that portion of the street set aside for a street purpose, and within the area set aside for sidewalk, or when otherwise specifically denoted as a parking strip.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                December 2, 1955

Honorable Donald H. Webster
Director
Bureau of Governmental Research and Services
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 167


Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

            "In order to determine to what extent parking is prohibited under subsection (1) of RCW 46.48.270:

            "(1) What is the definition of a 'parking strip' under RCW 46.48.270?

            "(a) Does a 'parking strip' exist within the meaning of the above statute only when the curb and gutter have been installed?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(b) Does a 'parking strip' exist within the meaning of the above statute with respect to that portion of a block in which the curb has been removed when the curb and gutter were originally installed for the entire block and thereafter a portion of the curb (but not the gutter) for a certain number of lineal feet other than for driveway purposes has been removed?"

            We answer your questions as follows:

            (1) "Parking strip" is defined as a strip of land lying either in the middle of the street or in the space between the building line and the sidewalk, or between the sidewalk and the curb or curb line, intended to be used as a park-like space; that is, not built upon but beautified with turf, trees, flower beds, etc.

            (2) Your subquestions are answered as follows: (a) No; (b) Yes.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) RCW 46.48.270, in so far as pertinent to your inquiry, provides

            "No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle * * *

            "(1) On a sidewalk or parking strip;"

            Your first inquiry asks for a definition of "parking strip" as used in the above statute.  The term is not defined therein.  Although this section is considered in a number of cases, we have found only one in which the term "parking strip" is mentioned in a manner helpful to your question,Shaw v. Yakima, 183 Wash. 200.  In that case, the plaintiff brought an action against the city for damages for cutting down a tree which she had planted in the parking strip.  Although the ultimate decision was based on the failure to properly file the claim, the court discussed the rights of the abutting owner to the use of the parking strip as a basis for the claim.  At page 202, the court said:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Of course, the ultimate title to that portion of the street upon which the tree in question stood rested in respondent, subject to the city's rights under the dedication of the land for street purposes.  There rested also in respondent a qualified and restricted right to make reasonable use of that portion of her half of the street abutting on her property set aside as a parking strip, which respondent had the right to care for and beautify by planting grass, shrubs or trees thereon, subject always to the paramount right of the city to maintain its streets in a safe condition for traffic and to maintain the paved portion of the street and the sidewalk clear from obstructions and available for the use of the public.

            "The city having so improved the street as to leave the vacant strip of land, respondent was clearly within her rights in planting the tree and maintaining the same in the position in which it grew, subject to the right of the city to abate the tree as a nuisance, if for any reason it should come within such a classification, or if it should interfere with the improvement of the street area.  It does not appear from the evidence that the tree was in any way a nuisance or that it interfered with any improvement which the city desired to effect, and we are satisfied that, in destroying the same, the city acted arbitrarily and without either right or reason."

            The power of the state and of municipalities to regulate the parking of cars on streets or highways can not be doubted.  Kimmel v. Spokane, 7 Wn. (2d) 372.  RCW 46.48.270 specifically imposes some fourteen restrictions on parking of cars.  Furthermore, our statute providing that no person shall "stop, stand or park" a vehicle is more definite and comprehensive than those statutes which merely provide "park or leave standing."  Sandona v. Cle Elum, 37 Wn. (2d) 831.  It is generally held that such regulations as to place of parking or stopping are to be reasonably construed.  O'Neill v. Gruhn, 197 Wash. 557, 565.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            For the purposes of this statute, the distinction between the parking strip and sidewalk are of no importance since to stop, stand, or park on either is prohibited.  However, since the statute does provide that "parking or standing shall be permitted in the manner provided by law at all other places," a distinction, or line of demarcation, between the parking strip or sidewalk (where it is prohibited) and the street (where it may be prohibited or restricted) may become important, and, in so far as your questions are concerned, is the point for determination, for from the definition of "parking strip" the answers to your subquestions are reached.

            In this state, a street is generally understood to be the traveled way between sidewalks.  Town of Elma v. Carney, 9 Wash. 466.  Black's Law Dictionary (4th ed.) defines parking, when used in municipal law and administration, as

            "A strip of land, lying either in the middle of the street or in the space between the building line and the sidewalk, or between the sidewalk and the driveway, intended to be kept as a park-like space, that is, not built upon, but beautified with turf, trees, flower beds, etc.  SeeDowning v. Des Moines, 124 Iowa 289, 99 N. W. 1066 * * *"

            Consequently, where a city has improved its street in such a manner as to leave a vacant strip either in the center, or within the sidewalk area, intended to be used as a park-like space, such strips constitute a parking strip within the meaning of RCW 46.48.270 on which no person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle.  "It is the purpose for which it was laid out and the use made of it that determines its character."  Elliott on Roads and Streets, 4th ed., § 19.

            (2) Applying the foregoing analysis to your subquestion:

            (a) A parking strip exists within the meaning of RCW 46.48.270 even though no curb and gutter have been installed, where it is outside that portion of the street set aside for a street purpose, and within the area set aside for sidewalks, or when otherwise specifically denoted as a parking strip.  The grading of a street and the installation of a sidewalk and parking area in such  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] a manner as to clearly show the curb line, even though no curb is installed, would denote the existence of the parking strip.

            (b) Necessarily, from the foregoing, the parking strip exists even though a curb has been removed.  The existence, or nonexistence, of the curb is not the sole indication of the line of demarcation between the street and the parking strip as hereinbefore indicated.  Naturally, a curb is a clear indication of such line of demarcation.  But the absence of a curb does not eliminate the existence of a parking strip where the street area has been designated and the line of demarcation between the parking strip or the sidewalk area has been indicated.

            Of course, if no such demarcation is evidenced, and no action has been taken separating the dedicated area, as might be the case in unimproved areas or in alleys, no parking strip, or for that matter, no sidewalk area might be indicated.  McAbee v. French, 150 Wash. 646.  Ostant v. Pacific Grocery Co., 117 Wash. 103, indicates that a municipality may vary the purpose and use of the dedicated area to such street or sidewalk purpose as might be indicated in a proper manner at the time the improvement is made.

            We trust that the foregoing analysis answers your specific inquiry.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo