Sunday, February 22, 2009

Memo to Permit Parking Advocates: Too Bad!

Ah, the parking issue. Nothing, other than height, of course, gets Uptowners up in arms more than a debate about the parking problems.

CARAG resident and parking permit advocate Phillip Qualy wrote an opinion piece in January 2008's Uptown Neighborhood News in response to those who would prefer to see the ill-conceived permit-only parking done away with once and for all. "Other neighborhoods and other neighborhood groups want to weigh into our front yards and take away what we enjoy," he wrote. His advice to his frustrated neighbors? They should just get permit parking, too!

For evidence that Qualy and his fellow advocates just don't get it, check out this next sentence: "we pay taxes and we have the right to enjoy our curb space and the privacy of our residential yards." Yes, he does then acknowledge that the streets are public domain, but then brushes that inconvenience off with the assertion that his right to a parking spot somehow needs to be balanced with the rights of others to park on city streets.

I feel sympathy for those who can't find a parking spot. Really, I do. I know how frustrating it can be to circle block after block, looking for something, somewhere, that won't require carrying my bags five blocks home through the rain or snow (I should note that those experiences happened elsewhere; I doubt most Uptowners have ever had to park that far away). But Qualy's desire for a convenient parking spot is not my problem. It's not the city's problem. Most of the residents in the permitted areas have garages; why not park there? And if they don't, or if they have more cars than will fit, or they just prefer to park on the street, well, they have equal right to a parking spot on their block as does anyone else.

Uptown has always been a busy place. It was, if anything, actually busier in years past. These people knew when they bought their homes or signed the lease that the streets could get crowded at times. They could have chosen to live elsewhere. Parking difficulties are something to factor in when deciding where to live; if it's something that is of great importance to you then you need to either live somewhere with a garage, perhaps rent a garage from a neighbor, or find somewhere else to live.

In many cities parking is not seen as a fundamental right of home ownership. A spot out in front is a perk, and homes with garages come with higher price tags. Apartments don't guarantee parking spots; they're available if you want one, but you have to pay for the privilege. I'd be open to the possibilty of limited parking without permits - perhaps a time limit for parking without a permit or some other gesture of goodwill - but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the streets are city property, and as such do not belong in private hands.

The permit parking pushers have somehow managed to pressure the city into giving them unwarranted special considerations. Permit parking - at least not as it is set up now - is not the answer. I hope that the next Ward 10 Council Member will have the willingness and the political might to stand up to this small but vocal group of residents and to give the streets back to the people - all of the people - to whom they really belong.

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