By Jim Clark
An order for the Executive Director of the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development to provide the Board of Aldermen with data on car ownership and parking issues at developments permitted in the past five years was put forward and passed at their latest regular meeting last week.
The Board is specifically inquiring as to the number of cars registered per unit and bedroom, and indicating the location of the developments and whether or not they are in transit-oriented-districts.
The order sponsor, Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang, told those in attendance at the meeting, “What I’m really looking for here is data that would inform the discussions I think all of us ward aldermen have about development projects – and those Aldermen At-Large who are also involved – around parking issues in proposed new developments.”
Niedergang asserted that a key issue in a new development has to do with parking, that it is almost always an issue in any new development.
“We spend huge amounts of time discussing this,” Niedergang said. “And one of the difficulties is that I’m not aware of data that’s available to indicate when a development was permitted in the past, how many cars ended up being connected to that development. There’s always arguments about how many cars does a two-bedroom apartment generate, how many cars does a three-bedroom apartment generate.”
The Ward 5 Alderman felt that it would be great to have some data that could inform these discussions and debates.
Of particular interest to Niedergang was an amendment attached to the order in question stated as follows: permitted in the past five years, specifically the number of cars registered per unit and bedroom, and indicating the location of the developments and whether they are in transit-oriented districts or not.
“So, the location of a development is relevant as well,” according to Niedergang. “I just want to make sure that all this information gets communicated to the Planning Department so that they understand exactly the information that would be useful in these often contentious community discussions about whether it makes sense to permit a certain development or not, based on the parking.”
Alderman At-Large Mary Jo Rossetti pointed out that in fiscal year 2015 residential parking stickers numbered 33,210, and in fiscal year 2016 the total had risen to 4440, 165. “As you can tell, that is quite a percentage of increase in the amount of vehicles and parking permits that were asked for,” Rossetti said. “I know we’ve talked about this with Zoning and in multiple meetings with residential developments.”
Ward 2 Alderman Maryann M. Heuston added, “I know that all along Beacon St. it’s like a public parking lot because it’s not the residents that are taking up a lot of those spots. It’s the business permits.”
Heuston stated that she thinks it is a good thing that the city is beginning to think about and look at the issue. “It is the number one topic when a development is proposed and it’s the number one issue in a lot of the neighborhoods. Traffic and parking is the number one issue. I know we grapple with other issues around this horseshoe, but when we get down into the nitty-gritty of the neighborhood this is the first thing of the tips of people’s tongues. And I think it’s an important thing for us to look at the data to see what’s going on here, and to become more innovative in terms of our parking regulations.”
Heuston warned that unless this was done the city would be stuck in a quagmire by not being able to respond to the resident issues regarding parking.
Board President William A. White Jr. echoed Heuston’s concerns by pointing out that the upcoming new zoning regulations should take this matter into consideration as well.
The order was subsequently approved and submitted to the Traffic and Parking Committee.