LAZ Parking`s United Center lot comes under fire again - KMSP-TV

LAZ Parking`s United Center lot comes under fire again

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The most controversial parking company in the city of Chicago is once again under fire.

LAZ Parking, which operates the city's parking meters, apparently jumped the gun when it opened a new lot near the United Center recently.

Not only did LAZ Parking not have a permit on hand when it opened for business in early September, but FOX 32 also found the lot doesn't have any handicapped parking, as required by city code.

Officials for the United Center are also wondering whether LAZ is getting favors from city hall.

Records obtained by FOX 32 News show LAZ applied for a business license in late August and opened the lot for business on September 9th, just in time for Blackhawks preseason and an Eagles concert.

Problem is, LAZ didn't yet have a license to operate.

"We were bad in not following the rules. We jumped the gun and went to work right away," Thom Serafin, representative for LAZ Parking, said.

Thom Serafin represents LAZ Parking, which was hit with three violations on September 20th after a city inspector found LAZ workers parking cars in the lot and also found the company using the wrong type of ticket.

When asked if there was a reason they opened before the license was obtained, Serafin said, "Well, they probably wanted to go to work. A lot of people aren't working today. They had an opportunity to go to work."

LAZ is one of Chicago's biggest parking companies and certainly its most controversial.

That's because LAZ won the contract to operate the city's parking boxes after former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley sold the rights to Chicago's on-street parking meters for $1.1 billion, a deal that is now considered a costly mistake.

But we found another mistake when we visited the LAZ lot outside the United Center before a Bulls game last month, a lack of handicapped parking spaces.

Under city code, with 68 parking spots in the lot, LAZ is required to set aside three spaces near the entrance for disability parking.

As of today, there are none.

"It's a company policy. We need to do that. You're correct about it. We should have done that and we are doing it," Serafin said in response.

But some believe there appears to be a double standard by the city.

Terry Savarise runs the United Center for the Bulls and the Blackhawks.

He says they're frustrated that many of the privately owned lots around the stadium don't have to comply with the tough city codes enforced on the United Center lots and says they had to jump through hoops to get parking approved for the new Bulls practice facility being built next door.

"That parking lot was required to have landscaping, to have islands in the middle of the parking lot for trees. It was required to be fully paved, striped, full drainage, security fence and lighting. And here we have another parking lot that is not required to meet any of those requirements and instead just opened up as is and immediately can start parking cars," Savarise said.

Serafin said that it doesn't really make sense that the United Center would be going after the smaller lot, "It's kind of odd for Goliath to be going after David when David is just trying to make a living."

Serafin says LAZ has made improvements to its United Center lot, including new asphalt and a wrought iron fence.

In response to the double standard, LAZ says it is exempted from the new city codes because it was zoned for parking years ago.

"The United Center received millions of dollars in tax breaks in their planned development, and they said we would do this, we'll put planters up, we'll put trees up, we'll do all these kinds of things that you want us to do. Give us our breaks. They got their breaks," Serafin said.

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