Renters Alliance to City: Keep Multifamily Parking on South Canon

Recently we received a notice in the mail that the city’s Traffic & Parking Commission would consider modifying preferential parking on the 200 and 300 blocks of Canon Drive to allow only homeowners who live there to park at the curb. But these are public streets and their property stops at the sidewalk. They don’t own the curb!

Today the 200 and 300 blocks of South Canon are in the designated ‘Q’ preferential parking zone, which is a zone that includes multifamily areas on Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm. Anybody who has purchased a Q-zone permit can park anywhere in the zone without regard to posted hourly limits.

The Traffic & Parking Commission heard a resident petition to change the parking regulation to ‘no parking anytime,’ and also change the streets’ zone designation to something other than Q: a new zone that would include only residents living on those two blocks.

The proposed change would keep anyone from outside the immediate area from parking on those Canon blocks; and by design it would exclude multifamily residents even if they have a Q-zone parking pass. If it passes, the city would agree that only single-family homeowners who live on those bocks could own the curb. Street parking would be off-limits to everyone else, even disabled drivers.

That should not stand. Renters Alliance distributed flyers door-to-door and showed up to lend our thoughts, along with another multifamily neighbor. We pulled in about a dozen emails late in the game to oppose the change. Renters Alliance founder Mark Elliot spoke at to the commissioners on the topic.

Why Parking is Such a Thorny Issue

Multifamily properties provide less off-street parking than they should. Many of our buildings are older and were permitted under very old rules, back when automobiles weren’t as prevalent. Back then you could build apartments of fewer than 400 square feet each and offer maybe half a spot per unit, on average.

Not anymore! But those older structures are not called ‘under-parked,’ in the planning lingo, because they cannot provide parking to meet today’s demand.

There are even a couple of buildings on Reeves that include no off-street parking at all. Today an apartment building would never be permitted without parking or even with too little off-street parking. It is one of the most difficult (and expensive) requirements to meet in our zoning code.

The general principle is that land uses generate parking and the property owner has to provide it. That’s the case offices and restaurants too. Formulas dictate how much parking has to be provided. However South Beverly Drive businesses operate with too little parking too. And restaurants there are allowed to expand their outdoor dining — adding seats — without finding new parking.

That parking demand from the commercial uses has to be satisfied somewhere and often it is on blocks like Reeves and Canon and, yes, even single-family blocks too.

Restricting Parking is Unfair to Multifamily Residents

Street parking for residents on a multifamily block like Reeves is already in short supply. Then spillover demand from South Beverly adds considerable additional demand. It’s tough to find parking on many hours and it’s enough of a hassle that people move in and move out.

Our neighbors on the single-family blocks to the east help to shoulder that demand. And of course our friends and service people, and even our multifamily neighbors who have declined to buy a Q-zone permit, can find at least an hour of parking refuge on Canon when needed.

Changing the policy to ‘no parking’ and yanking the Q-zone access would be a double-blow to multifamily block residents. This is street parking whack-a-mole, after all, so when our Canon neighbors push off demand from these two blocks, it only adds to demand on the next block. Our block.

Procedural Mess Offered an Opening

Preferential parking permit changes is generally initiated by a resident petition: gin up a plan, collect some signatures, clear some threshold, and bring it to the commission. From there it goes to City Council for approval. The path is sometimes very rocky because everyone knows it’s whack-a-mole.

Our Canon neighbors themselves gummed up the process by circulating a petition to eliminate parking for non-Q drivers (while allowing it for multifamily permit-holders) but then later amended it to ban all parking except for residents on those blocks.

But notices had already gone out for the original petition. Meanwhile the city staff report indicated the commission would hear the revised, more restrictive petition. Some multifamily residents had just purchased their annual Q-zone permit, too, which for them added injury to insult.

In the end, the Traffic and Parking Commission cited the emails from our neighbors in opposition to turn back the effort. (The current parking policy is unchanged.) Indeed this petition should not have even been heard by the commissioners.

Lessons to Take Away

Homeowners on single-family blocks that abut multifamily areas are increasingly reaching for the ‘no parking any time’ prohibition. Homeowners in the Southwest secured it for streets south of Charleville and west of Beverly Drive, and the poor decision that allowed it comes up again and again in these parking disputes: “The southwest folks are not doing their share so it all comes to my street!”

If you receive notice that homeowners are petitioning to change the local parking regulation on their block(s), look carefully at the notice and assess the objective of the petitioners. Are they looking to exclude multifamily residents? If so, organize your neighbors to oppose the petition. Petitioners count on high enthusiasm among their ranks and low interest on the part of the neighbors so a few emails in opposition catch our commissioners’ attention.

Then get in touch with Renters Alliance and we’ll see if we can help. Remember that nobody has a proprietary claim to a public street!

Update: Resident petitioners came back (as expected) with a revised petition for the 200 and 300 blocks of South Canon: the Q-permit zone would remaine unchanged but the 1-hour allowance was changed to ‘no parking any time.’ The result: we multifamily residents (and friends) can still park on Canon without a time restriction, but only if we have the Q-zone permit. All others will be pushed to Reeves and the 100 blocks. Commissioners heard that concern but on a split vote they sent it to City Council. To our surprise Council adopted it. So we expect the parking designation will be changed sometime prior to the 2019-2020 permits going out. Thanks to our neighbors who stepped up with an email to explain why it’s important to acknowledge multifamily areas’ concerns and to take our needs into account.