Town-wide Overnight and Permit Parking Pilot Forum - Jun 23rd, 2022

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Meeting held via remote participation. Materials were available from

As background: Arlington, MA doesn't allow on-street parking overnight. This policy was enacted by the select board in the 1920s and continues to this day. The Select Board has a working group to consider some kind of overnight/permit parking program, and this is a meeting for people to ask questions and provide commentary.

(Len Diggins, Select Board Chair) Mr. Diggins says he's here with fellow Select Board member Steve Decourcey; Police Chief Julie Flaherty, and officer Corey Ratteau are also here to answer questions. He opens with a short history. Every year, the Select Board gets a number of requests for on-street parking permits, and their precedent is to grant these only in cases of extreme hardship.

In 2021, there was a warrant article that asked town meeting to consider establishing an overnight parking program in precinct four. The Select Board voted no action, as parking policy is solely the domain of the Board, and not town meeting. However, Mr. Diggins and Mr. Decourcey agreed to work with the petitioner, and we're in the early stages of thinking through a town-wide pilot.

(Steve Decourcey, Select Board) Mr. Decourcey says this issues goes back several years. The board gets numerous overnight parking requests from all over town. Silvia Dominguez submitted two parking related warrant articles in 2021, which were geared to precinct four. The Board voted no action, since parking is the purview of the Select Board. Mr. Decourcey says there was a forum earlier in the year and the topic was discussed at several Select Board meetings. Mr. Diggins and Mr. Decourcey are a subcommittee and they'll eventually make a formal proposal to the board. They're considering a permit-based program, town-wide. That's as far as they've gotten so far.

(Mary Kowalczuk) Ms. Kowalczuk asks if Board members can talk more about the details. She lives in East Arlington and her property doesn't have a driveway, so she has to purchase passes from the town every year. She says it's usually $75/year but some years it was as much as $200.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says they haven't thought through the details yet, and they're looking for input right now. He can't imagine the permit not having some kind of fee, but we'd need to figure out the fee structure.

(Mary Kowalczuk) Ms. Kowalczuk asks if we can look at Cambridge, or other cities that have permit programs. She asks if the goal would be to start with overnight parking, or having permits to park during the day too.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says that's to be determined, though he's not inclined to have residential-only parking zones.

(Mark Kowalczuk) Ms. Kowalczuk says she lives is East Arlington and it's hard to drive down the street during the day, because of all the parked cars. She thinks that East Arlington in particular has parking issues.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey says that to the extent we'd have a fee, it will differ from parking waivers. He says that Somerville charges $40/year per vehicle and $40/year for guest passes. There's a feeling that allowing overnight parking might address some issues.

(Silvia Dominguez) Ms. Dominguez says there were two main reasons for the warrant articles she filed in 2021. The first is the density in her precinct. There are two or three apartments in each house, each with two or three adults. There isn't enough room for everyone to park. She says that people can't rent apartments to tenants without cars. The second reason involves commuters parking on the streets. She says someone sideswiped her car when it was parked on the street, and took out the mirror. It's difficult when people park on both sides of he street.

(Bob Kuhn) Mr. Kuhn thinks this pilot is no way to measure success or failure. Instead, he thinks it's just a way to deflect criticism. He says it's disingenuous. He says the town is pushing to allow developments with fewer parking spaces, claiming that people can use other modes of transportation. This is a total contradiction, and there's something wrong with the overall approach. He thinks this is ad-hoc and the town should look at a coherent policy. The idea that we should allow overnight parking when the streets are crowded seems like an issue. He expects to see people from the heights park in front of his house, then take the T to the airport and go away on vacation. He says the board should think seriously about how the overnight parking ban was sustained by voters.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy says it's unclear what the pilot will entail, and that seems problematic. Parking seems really difficult in East Arlington due to commuters, and she thinks the pilot should be small. She asks how many requests the police get for overnight parking enforcement. She says the Housing Corporation of Arlington's property on Westminster has no parking, but the tenants all have cars. She says this seems pro-density, and supports the overnight parking ban.

(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says the police department receives between 1200 and 1400 requests for enforcement per year.

(Corey Ratteau, Arlington Police Department) Mr. Ratteau says that a "complaint" means one call about one street. If a person calls about two streets, that's considered two complaints. He says that in a few cases, they've had the same person call every night for a month.

(Jean Clark) Ms. Clark has worked as a transportation and parking planner. When she worked for the city of Chelsea, her first charge was to implement a resident permit parking program. She contacted parking departments in other communities and the most common response was "don't establish a residential parking program; they're too much hassle and don't pay for themselves". Chelsea piloted their program in one neighborhood before taking it to the entire city. Ms. Clark thinks the issue is that landlords don't inform tenants about the parking ban, and she thinks that tenants need to sign something to say that they're aware that the ban exists. She says we need to focus on other forms of transportation, and believes that free parking is likely to lead to more automobile use. She says that not having parking makes it easier to add other road amenities. She also thinks that street parking is like taking the public domain and treating it like private ownership. She also believes that free parking will allow landlords to illegally subdivide their property.

(Arthur Prokosch) Mr. Prokosch's concerns are about safety and parking capacity. He says it can be slow going if cars are parked on both sides of the street. If that's a concern, Mr. Prokosch encourages eliminating parking from one side of the street. He thinks that trying to restrict capacity by requiring off-street parking means that most back yards get paved over. He'd like there to be a meaningful cost for parking on the street, so that we don't give it away for free. The policy should reflect the role of land in Arlington.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey says the board has talked about one-sided parking but aren't there yet. As the board has talked about this with more people, more issues have come up. He says there's still a lot on the table.

(Lauren Nelson) Ms. Nelson says she doesn't have driveway access, and the closest option is a municipal lot that would cost $1000/year. She says this is a real inconvenience for individuals that don't have the luxury of owning a large house. Compare $1000/year against the $25/year that Cambridge charges or the $40/year in Somerville. She says the ability to park overnight would be a game changer for her.

(Kathryn Sievers) Ms. Sievers owns a home on a 2000 square foot lot. She says there are no signs in the heights about the overnight parking ban. In the past, she requested an overnight waiver from the Select Board that but was denied. She strongly supports the pilot program, and thinks that complaints are an unfair way to enforce the overnight parking ban. She sometimes has to park on the sidewalk. She's in great favor of reconceiving East Arlington for safety, as denser parking slows drivers down. Ms. Sievers says we should have greater density in Arlington, and she understands that would feel like a change. She hopes environmental values are part of that. She'd be happy to pay the town to fund alternate forms of transportation.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the meeting was scheduled to go until 8:30, but he's happy to stay later, as there are a number of people waiting to speak.

(Grant Cook) Mr. Cook thinks that parking regulations should deal with space savers. He doesn't want to see people leaving space savers out in the winter. He encourages the Board to conduct the pilot in winter, when there's the challenge of snow and plowing. He says that we're sandwiched between two towns -- Cambridge and Lexington -- that allow overnight parking, though Lexington doesn't allow it in the winter. He thinks this might require some creative thinking.

(Johnathan Weiss) Mr. Weiss lives in East Arlington near the hardy school. He says he doesn't want Arlington to become Cambridge, where he can't have five friends over and park their cars.

(Deb Bermudes) Ms. Bermudes says that parking is allowed during the day, so street parking is already happening. It doesn't bother her if people park on the streets at night. If it's residential parking, then it benefits the people who live there. She says we can think about eliminating parking on one side, where the streets are too narrow. She says there have been times when she's had guests over for more than 14 nights/year. She's for the concept of parking overnight.

(Peter Bermudes) Mr. Bermudes perceives this as an affordable housing issue. The street frontages in East Arlington are narrow, and to afford to live here, they have to rent. To him this seems like a class issue. People with large single-family homes don't have this issue, but people with tenants do.

(Carl Wagner) Mr. Wagner thinks a nuanced approach is probably best. He thinks hardship parking should be possible, and Arlington should be able to allow a few more cars on the street without going to a permit system. He says that one of the things that keeps Arlington from getting denser is the off-street parking requirements. Article 41, passed by the last town meeting only requires landlords to provide one space per apartment; Mr. Wagner thinks that will create hardships. He says we'll give developers the green light to come in. He thinks that Arlington has kinetic open space, where cars move around, and that parking on the street will lead to less trees.

(Darcy Devney) Ms. Devney says that an evaluation needs to know what works and what the goal is. She thinks Arlington is doing schizophrenic things with zoning and parking, and there's a conflict there. Ms. Devney says the Select Board knows why people ask for waivers, and she doesn't think these waivers should be given out for mere inconveniences. If the problem is landlord fraud, then address that. She sees this as aiding and abetting the problem. She says the reason why on-street parking isn't allowed from 1:00 am to 7:00 am is to prevent people from parking on the street all day every day. Ms. Devney has a neighbor that parks on the street in front of her house. She agrees that a limited number of people should be given waivers. She thinks the pilot should be nuanced and not a forever thing.

(Randy Winchester) Mr. Winchester is under the impression that most of his neighbors aren't aware that Arlington has an overnight parking ban. He says there aren't a lot of signs to inform people of this. Mr. Winchester used to get home from work at 3:00 am, and he says that some neighborhoods always had cars parked in the street. He thinks the safety concerns are valid, and is concerned about emergency vehicles not being able to get through. He says these are really difficult issues.

(Pini Koren) Mr. Koren supports overnight parking and one-side parking for narrow street. He thinks that having only one side available will limit the number of cars parked. He lives in a two-family home with tandem parking. He says they can park in the driveway when there's snow, but would prefer not to outside of that. Mr. Koren says that residents of two-family homes often have different schedules, and sometimes you have to wake up the other family in order to get your car out. He suggests looking at two-family homes with tandem parking for the pilot.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey says there were questions in the chat about how often emergency vehicles are blocked.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says this happens moreso in the winter, on narrow streets. Usually it's during the day.

(Steve Decourcey) Mr. Decourcey says there was a question in that chat about the Select Board's standards for granting waivers. He says the threshold is whether there's parking available on the property; if so, then the request will usually be denied. He says that medical issues are an exception.

(Patricia Browne) Ms. Browne says that parking permits don't guarantee you a space, they only allow you to park on the street. As a landlord, she was super clear about the parking situation, and that did decrease the number of people who responded to ads for her apartment. She says that streets are often blocked by cars parking on both sides. She's concerned about safety, and would like to see one-sided parking during the day with a parking ban overnight. She asks how many parking tickets the police department writes.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says the department writes about 13,000 tickets per year.

(Patricia Browne) Ms. Browne says it sounds like the parking ban is only enforced when someone complains.

(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says there are typically 4--5 officers working the overnight shift, and they can't get to every street.

(Lawrence Rogovin) Mr. Rogovin has three points: flooding, diversity, and metrics. He's in favor of rescinding the overnight ban, and thinks that police officers could do more useful things with their time. For flooding, our off-street parking policy is an environmental disaster which requires people to pave over their yards. He says the overnight ban is a problem for DEI, because some kinds of households need multiple vehicles.

(Lisa Hersey) Ms. Hersey says the overnight parking ban is horrid for private ways; people park there and the police can't ticket them. Ms. Hersey lives in Menotomy Manor. The duplexes there have their own parking, but the bricks have 126 apartments with far fewer parking spaces. She says that Menotomy Manor residents all favor getting rid of the ban.

(Todd Mansfield) Mr. Mansfield lives in Arlington Heights, near the reservoir. He says that overnight parking would hurt his neighborhood. He thinks the planning department's push for reduced parking contradicts this. He says we need a unified story with parking, and asks whether the pilot will be for 24 hour parking or just overnight.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says the pilot proposal is TBD.

(Todd Mansfield) Mr. Mansfield thinks the permit system will require dedicated officers for enforcement. He asks if we'd hire more officers.

(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins says this will be an area to carefully consider. Ideally the program should pay for itself, and enforcement should be even. But, this is another factor that's to be determined.

(James Fleming) Mr. Fleming has a suggestion for measuring success. He says that parking is a valuable and limited resource, and we could measure success by seeing how much people are willing to pay. He thinks that parking fees for residential neighborhoods are okay, as long as the money is used to make improvements there. He says the costs will be limited to those who use it.

(Janet McKelvey) Ms. McKelvey lives in Arlington Center. She says the overnight parking ban has been an issue since she moved here. She has a waiver because there's no parking on her property. She's also had issues with guest passes -- even after getting a pass, her guest still got a ticket. She struggles with parking in the winter. Now, they're able to park in a municipal lot during snowstorms, but had no options before that.

(Scott McKenzie) Mr. McKenzie says there's been a lot of talk about hardships. He says that off-street parking is a luxury, and feels that the overnight parking ban is a hardship. Charging a fee seems like penalizing people who don't have that luxury. He supports an overnight parking program for those who need it, for a nominal fee. He says that East Arlington parking is a commuter issue, which is separate from the overnight ban. He thinks these two things should be addressed separately.

There are no further comments, so meeting adjourned.