Resident parking concerns
Published in the Brookline
July 13, 2000
My parents are driving up from Retirement City. I expect that once again
we'll have a good visit, except for one recurring annoyance. Mom and Dad
enjoy our parks and restaurants and stores. They like to hang out and
wander around. But what they don't like is figuring out what to do with
their car every night, and moving it every two hours during the hot day.
Each visit they're flabbergasted anew by Brookline's long-standing anti-parking
Many residents are equally flabbergasted at the town's refusal to address
what is not just an occasional irritant but a daily stressor. This paper
repeatedly prints letters from people tired of walking home at night from
their expensive distant parking spots through endless empty streets, tired
of dragging a sick or sleeping child outside every two hours just to move
their car throughout the day, tired of watching the town bend over backwards
to help commercial-area parkers while ignoring residents.
Parking complaints that aren't simply ignored are met with a combination
of platitudes and hostility. "The streets are safer this way" and "snowplows
can't get around parked cars" are typical responses, ignoring both the
lack of evidence about safety and the example of towns and cities that
manage to function just fine every winter.
The hostility is seen in the smug "Get out of Brookline" response, or
in a simple shoulder shrug--the local symbol for someone who owns a driveway.
During a discussion last month concerning 77 Marion Street, where 90
parking spots were lost to new apartment construction, the Transportation
Board agreed to provide evicted parkers with overnight parking--until
September 1st. When asked about parking on the Beacon Street median, the
board simply refused to go along. They're still studying that particular
Board members didn't beat around the bush when residents asked about
modifying Brookline's overnight on-street parking ban. As Board Chair
Fred Levitan put it, "There's not one vote on this committee to change
the ban." Others agreed.
One evicted parker, a woman with a young child, movingly described her
daily difficulties and said "The situation is unacceptable. Where can
I bring these concerns?" Levitan's response was honest but unhelpful:
"You bring them here, to us"--and then he acknowledged that the board
would do nothing to help her. The woman asked again, clearly frustrated:
"What can I do?" The response: a boardful of shaking heads and lowered
Some in town are beginning to organize, hoping to push a compromise.
Town Meeting Member Craig Bolon held a parking meeting in June for more
than 50 North Brookline residents. The group will try to persuade the
town to open up more overnight lots.
That would help, but a few small lots won't be enough. What's needed
is a breach in the overnight ban--a breach that Transportation Board Member
Michael Sandman said would never happen. Not on every street perhaps,
but certainly in dense neighborhoods where the lack of parking is a nightly
Sandman made another comment at the meeting: "This board, and the Selectmen,
and most voters do not want any change." That's probably accurate, but
it's not the whole story.
The majority of Brookline residents live in multi-family dwellings, many
of them without parking. Most of them don't vote, but an organized "End
the Ban" campaign to register apartment and condo dwellers could shake
things up. It's a long shot, but motivated voters might win a referendum,
or at least elect new Town Meeting members and Selectmen willing to help
what may be Brookline's true majority: the parking-deprived.
A serious voter-registration drive might push the Transportation Board
into a compromising mood. They should at least be willing to investigate
options--not just for show, but with an open mind--just as they have for
commercial-area parking. After all, if all those angry renters and condoites
start voting, who knows what havoc they might create?
As for Mom and Dad, they'll apparently survive the visit. They just told
me they've decided to stay in a Newton motel this time around. Among the
main attractions is the 24-hour parking lot.
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