City to examine data on car ownership and parking issues

On April 19, 2017, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

A need is seen for the gathering of information regarding the capacity for parking spaces for Somerville residents in the face of continuing development throughout the city. — Photo by Bobbie Toner

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.”

Ward 5 Alderman Mark Niedergang emphasized the need to gather relevant data on parking issues going into future evaluations of proposed new developments.

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.


7 Responses to “City to examine data on car ownership and parking issues”

  1. M says:

    Street parking is not an unlimited resource despite our permitting behaviors. Every property only had so much frontage. Perhaps we should tie the number of permits to frontage of a building and work curb cuts into the math. Once you have the numbers per building sell them if someone isn’t using theirs credit them and sell it.

  2. LindaS says:

    Perhaps if more new construction projects were for municipal parking lots instead of apartment buildings there would be a decrease in this issue.

    The city could make money since metered parking would be used there, and it would free up streets while still encouraging more people to come into the city to do business.

    The problem also may be that since the Mayor is trying to encourage everyone to travel by foot, public transportation and bicycle, he’s less interested in creating more parking spaces, even though no matter what he does, there will always be people driving into and through Somerville.

    Just look at how many parking lots outside major stores are filled, even though they are also accessible by public transportation. This should show that there is still a need for public parking, regardless of how many people walk, bike and use public transportation.

    Also remember that a person can only carry so many purchases on foot or on the T, which is why people will still need to use cars to shop. You can’t carry a whole shopping load on a bike or a bus, or a large item that cannot be transported except by car.

    If you want to encourage more business patronage here, you need to make it available to all forms of transportation, and not enough seems to be getting done when it comes to car travel, even though it is a necessity for many people.

  3. Matt says:

    Linda, you make some good points. The bigger story here is not in front of retail shops and storefronts. In those locations it makes sense to build parking structures and underground lots. The problem is street parking… and the fact that space is limited. You can have a street lined with 3 family homes each with 6-9 cars and not expect there to be huge parking problems.

    The only fix to this is to limit the number of permits offered.

  4. Old Taxpayer says:

    You have to take into consideration visitors. Sometimes on out street we have out of town cars that happen to visit in the same week. Having a lot of elderly we constantly have caretakers and visiting nurses. The only option for some of us is just to hot top more of our yard to solve the problem. So it is more than just the people who rent or buy. The 3 family houses are more complicated as with the high prices there is more sharing of the apartment meaning more cars even. Forget public transportation on my street as the sidewalks are not senior friendly even if you are capable of walking that far. So there are so many factors it makes it impossible to come up with a plan except for many of us to move out to and give up our thought of our lifetime of living in Somerville. I have been here 70 years and watched it go from a walkable city to what is now just called one. Those that were then will know what I am talking about. Planning is missing the common sense factor here.

  5. Do says:

    I propose we limit resident stickers to 2 per unit or address. My neighbor has 6 permitted vehicles for 2 adults and a driveway that holds only 2-3 of them at any given time.

  6. LindaS says:

    Old Taxpayer, you are so right. I have lived here my whole life, and I feel that the city is totally different from what it used to be.

    The Mayor is more interested in bringing in younger professionals who have no intention of settling here permanently, than he is trying to keep those residents who have been here long-term.

    What does it say when there are more apartments and condos being built, but you never hear about one- or two-family homes being constructed here?

    There is so much available to younger residents, yet all you seem to find for older residents is Elder services and the bare minimum done by the City to say they are doing their part for older people.

    There is no money in maintaining older residents because they become eligible for tax breaks and free parking permits, and so the city isn’t interested because they are a tax burden.

    So, sadly, the Mayor doesn’t really care if older folks leave because those slots can simply be filled by younger people who can afford to pay.

    Funny how he’s so proud of calling us a “Sanctuary City” that welcomes immigrants, but he could care less about calling us a city that welcomes people of all age groups as well.

    Makes me wonder how he would be if those same immigrants could no longer afford to live here, or simply got old enough to no longer have to pay property taxes or parking permit fees.

  7. Max says:

    The city is creating a parking and traffic nightmare. A year or 2 ago they began encouraging/requiring developers to provide less parking than the zoning code calls for. The city has for a long time encouraged over-development by allowing more condos than is practical to be built in already-dense areas. Rather than concentrate on more business/industrial uses (costing the city less in the long run because they use less city services than homes), they are decimating the neighborhoods by over-crowding them. Now they cry that there is a parking problem. I have been to many city meetings where neighbors speak out about a development without enough parking for their tight neighborhood but their concerns are not acknowledged. It’s all about the almighty dollar for the city and the developers. It would be nice if just once when they talk about the evil drivers they would give a thought to the families, the elderly, the disabled, who cannot walk the city.

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