South Side residents seek expanded permit parking

Outsiders would get two hours free

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Permit parking may be coming to 14 streets near the SouthSide Works, a measure that, when enforced, will assure residents that from noon to midnight Monday through Saturday, outsiders will have two hours of free parking but then they will ticketed.

Permit parking is increasingly sought as residents tire of commuters and entertainment seekers using their neighborhoods for free parking. The city has 33 permit zones. In addition, the South Side permit zone is pending and two others are in the process.

The city planning commission approved the South Side measure this week. It still needs approval of city council and the mayor’s office.

On the South Side, the permit parking zone would stretch from 22nd to 29th and from East Carson to Mary streets. A few blocks would be exempt because of lack of support.

In South Oakland, lack of support kept Lawn Street outside the zone in Oakcliffe until last year, “when a lot of people came to their senses,” said Dave Panasiuk, chairman of the Oakcliffe Housing Club. The club led the effort to get Lawn included.

“Our biggest parking problem has been people who work in Oakland” and drive in from elsewhere. There is also a nearby Point Park University shuttle, he said.

Permit parking doesn’t assure a resident a place to park.

“We have increased our student population,” Mr. Panasiuk said. “If several people in a house all have cars, that’s several cars too many. Right now, we have more cars with permits than there are places to park.”

He said enforcement is vigorous only when students are moving in.

The cost of enforcement is one reason for its inconsistency. Twenty dollars per permit “doesn’t begin to cover the costs” of enforcement, signs, printing and distributing stickers and mailings, city council President Bruce Kraus said.

Permit zones are first identified by neighborhood petition and require the signatures of 70 percent of affected residents. The planning department investigates for eligibility. The Pittsburgh Parking Authority administers and enforces the zone.

For $20 a year, a resident gets a decal for his vehicle and for an extra dollar, he gets a visitor’s pass that can be used multiple times. The span of days and hours vary by zone, depending on the petitioners’ consensus.

All but a handful of permit zones are in Oakland, the East End, North Side and South Side.

Candice Gonzalez, executive director of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber has asked the city to review and update the permit ordinance, which is 33 years old.

“In 1981, we didn’t have the demands we have now,” she said. “The South Side has more businesses, day and night attractions. A lot of people live adjacent to a lot of businesses. We have a myriad of parking needs.”

Residents who oppose permit parking may do so for a number of reasons: the $20 may be too expensive for them; they may see the fee as a tax to park in their own neighborhood; they may have big parties and the petitioners want enforcement until midnight; or they may not want the hassle of proving residency and car ownership.

Michael Clark collected signatures for the latest South Side permit zone and said he knocked on about 600 doors, and residents at about 20 were opposed.

“The No. 1 opposition I heard was, ‘Why should I pay to have a non-guaranteed parking spot?’ But most people grabbed my clipboard and asked, ‘How soon can we get this?’ ”

The process isn’t quick. The petition portion alone takes 90 days. Mr. Clark said the process for his zone began last summer and that signs probably will be installed late this year.

On the North Side, Allegheny West rallied and got permit parking years ago to push back the onslaught of drivers seeking free parking to attend events at Three Rivers Stadium. Most of Deutschtown and part of the Central North Side secured permit status to keep the cars of Allegheny General Hospital employees and visitors at bay.

An effort to include more of the Central North Side is underway to discourage commuters who park free all day and take a bus or walk to work Downtown.

James Eash lives in Bloomfield near West Penn Hospital, where one alley is outside the permit zone, and it fills every day with nonresident cars.

“I work out in the morning and try to get back just after 7,” he said. “If I am 10 minutes later, there’s no chance to park in the alley.“

Some hospital employees risk getting tickets in the permit area, he said, but without it, “there would be no parking for residents. The one-hour grace period is important for the business district.

“I think if enforcement were better, you’d see permit parking really take off.”

To see maps of all the permit zones in the city:

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626.

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626.

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