About 30 Summit residents peppered City Parking Administrator Leo Perrotta with questions Tuesday night about the lifting of the overnight-parking ban, sometimes resorting to angry shouting.
He was at Summit Commons at the invitation of the Summit Neighborhood Association to explain the details of the city’s plan, but as SNA President Dean Weinberg said in his introduction of Perrotta, residents were more interested in the “why” rather than the “how.”
In a session that lasted almost two hours, Perrotta gave a brief survey of the details of obtaining the $100 permits that the city is requiring for overnight parking under a “pilot program” being implemented city wide, then opened the floor to questions. After several inquiries about the mechanics, such as which side of a street to park on if it was designated “parking one side only” (park on the side opposite the utility poles), some residents heatedly turned to the process by which the city decided to change the rules.
Perrotta was asked about how the City Council was “circumvented,” but denied that had been done. He said “we brought it into committee and the chair of the committee suggested that the administration do it.” He said they got a legal opinion and “under the rules,” they are allowed to expand the pilot project to 18 months and are doing so.
“We’re trying to promote overnight parking because we think it’s needed,” Perrotta said. Challenged to provide data to support that position, he responded, “I can’t give you specific data on the need,” but added, “we don’t need more backyards paved. We’re trying to help the environment.” An angry resident shouted, “You’re making this up. We’re paying you to work for us.”
Asked by another resident to identify who in the city was pushing for overnight parking besides “the landlords’ association,” Perrotta said only, “The program is being rolled out because we think it’s necessary.” He said the plan was announced in the mayor’s budget message, but was blocked in the City Council, so “we went ahead.” He said the administration estimates that the program will bring in about $600,000 in addition funds, but was reminded by a resident that represents less than one-tenth of one percent of city revenue.
City Councilman Kevin Jackson, in the audience, was asked about how the plan made its way through city government. He said that as a Council “we were not aware that we gave up our rights to traffic engineering,” but that “there were not enough votes on the council to pass it, so the administration got a ruling on the legality of going forward.” He said the Finance Committee “chose not to act on it,” but that the mayor “is going to lobby his supporters … and form coalitions to get stuff passed.” Parking is “an area they identified as a way to get revenue.”
Many additional questions to Perrotta concerned the “opt-out” provision in the plan. Under the rules, he said, if 66 percent of the residents of an entire street sign a petition, that street would be removed from the overnight-parking plan. Only residents are eligible to sign and the section of the street designated would be the portion in the police district, which is the area by which the program will be enforced. However, a resident complained, “You make it too difficult to opt out. You’re making it intentionally difficult.” Another resident said, to applause, “Most people wouldn’t be irate if opt-in were the norm.” Perrotta earlier had said, “If we made it so easy to opt out, we wouldn’t have parking.”
Since permit holders in each police district have the right to park anywhere in that district, one resident said, “There could be cars on my street that don’t live there?” Perrotta answered, “Absolutely.” Another resident said, “We don’t want cars in front of our house blocking our use,” to which Perrotta responded that it’s “not going to happen.”
Perrotta said that the pilot program would continue for 18 months once the plan goes into effect city wide in July. Then “I will develop some metrics to assess the program. Some sections of the city will work, some won’t,” he said.
However, some Summit residents, as they left the meeting, continued to complain that the plan is “going to ruin a nice neighborhood” and that it would be “much less safe” and “ugly.”