It’s time to replace the 24-hours parking rule with a sensible neighborhood parking permit system.
I’ve lived in Athens for 15 years, at 13 different properties, all over town, in both predominantly renter neighborhoods and predominantly homeowner neighborhoods. So I know from ample firsthand experience that the city’s 24-hour parking rule is selectively enforced overwhelmingly against working class and student renters who lack political clout and are therefore targeted as an easy source of city revenue in much the same way the city targets the very same “low hanging fruit” by imposing on renters the maximum garbage hauling fee by default.
In contrast, affluent homeowners are granted the option of paying lower garbage fees, and the 24-hour rule is only enforced in their neighborhoods upon their request or during busy OU weekends.
Park in the same spot in the city’s West Side for 25 hours and you’ll get a $20 ticket. 49 hours and you’ll be looking at a $40 fine and more than $100 in towing fees. But on our city’s predominantly homeowner streets, you can park for weeks or months at a time without APD Parking Enforcement ever bothering you.
I find this regressive, classist, predatory approach to generating city revenue to be completely unacceptable.
If we want to prevent long term storage parking on public streets, curtail unnecessary driving, shrink our city’s carbon footprint, and stop taking advantage of struggling low income residents all at the same time, then we should replace the blanket 24-hour parking rule with a sensible neighborhood parking permit system like those utilized successfully by other cities all across the country.
Whether homeowners or renters, all residents should be able to purchase reasonably-priced annual parking permits up to the number of bedrooms in their home, as well as limited-time parking passes for temporary visitors. Any vehicles lacking a permit could still be subject to a 24-hour parking limit. However, no longer would residents without off-street parking need to start up their vehicles and drive every single day only to find another parking spot, and no longer would the city impose outrageous fines and towing fees disproportionately on working class and student renters.
Forget my opponent Sarah Grace’s proposal to relax off-street parking requirements for rental properties.
Sarah Grace, once again in concert with defeated councilmember Chris Fahl, has advocated removing the current city requirement that landlords provide a number of off-street parking spots equal to the number of bedrooms in the rental home, and allowing homes to exist as rental properties as long as there is street parking within 1,500 feet of the home.
I agree with Democratic councilmember Ben Ziff and independent Council candidate Iris Virjee — both of them working class renters like me– who both opposed Grace’s proposal at the September 21 Council candidate forum.
“Some people have said, ‘Well, you know that’s a quarter or a third or whatever of a mile.’ And yeah — it is,” said Ziff. “And I know that I don’t want to carry all of my groceries a quarter of a mile all the way to my house in the rain. So while I think it’s important that we do overhaul our parking and all of that around here, we need to be very careful with how we do it. And we need to not rush into something that may end up really inconveniencing a lot of people.”
“They presented it as a transit-oriented model, which is a topic used in urban planning — it is a progressive planning model,” stated Virjee, who has a degree in urban planning. “I think that’s misleading. If you are not putting a massive amount of attention and resources simultaneously into bus and taxi systems; building, fixing, maintaining pedestrian walkways; improving pedestrian transit accessibility; safety; streetlights; bus stops — then all of that is more or less meaningless in terms of the transit-oriented model.”
As I explained at the candidate forum, the folks I see pushing for this change are all homeowners with off-street parking and several vehicles in their driveways. And sure, they might walk or bike everywhere around town, but they’ve still got at least one vehicle in their driveway in case they need it for emergencies or for trips outside of town. They just want to deprive low income renters of having the same options.
And why? To make make it easier to convert more single family homes into rental properties?
Well, the more single family homes we convert into rental properties, the more we price would-be single family homebuyers out of city limits. And given that our city contains our county’s largest employer, how are those folks going to get to work now, if not by driving? No more walking or biking to work.
And then there’s this idea that if we make it harder to park, OU students will stop bringing cars with them to Athens. Well, until public transportation is massively expanded at the city, county, state and national levels, students are going to bring cars here. They might walk, bike or e-scooter everywhere once they’re here, but as long as they’re still partially attached to where they lived before they moved here to attend OU, they’re doing to want cars to travel back and forth between here and there. And of course they’re going to want a vehicle for emergencies and for any trip outside of town, too, just like most other folks.
Therefore if we want to shrink our city’s carbon footprint without making life harder for student and working class renters and would-be single family homebuyers, then I think we should work to eliminate unnecessary use of cars and eliminate other unnecessary carbon emissions by doing the following:
- Replace the 24-hour parking rule with a sensible neighborhood parking permit system;
- Make unmotorized transportation and e-scooter transportation safer and more feasible by enforcing the city code’s sidewalk maintenance requirements against scofflaw landlords and other property owners;
- Devote more of the city budget to expanding bus service;
- Improve city bus stops to include clearer information about bus routes and schedules;
- Add more bike racks along city streets;
- Add more solar-powered street lights to provide lower carbon safety lighting for pedestrian travel;
- Invest in expanded use of renewable energy;
- Incorporate insulation and weatherization requirements into the city housing code to make the 78% of off-campus housing stock comprised of rental properties more energy efficient, thereby dramatically reducing our city’s carbon footprint while increasing tenant comfort, improving public health, and reducing tenants’ utility bills all at the same time.
- Actually promote affordable housing by providing public assistance to first-time single family homebuyers who purchase homes within city limits, thereby slowing or even reversing the conversion of single family homes into rental properties, thereby reducing commutes (or even eliminating vehicular commutes) for many city workers.
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