Southwest High neighbors get parking test delayed

Canceling resident-only permits near school raises storm

Councilmember Barret Lane (13th Ward) has delayed a proposed parking test around Southwest High School until this fall, after hearing strong protests from the school’s most immediate neighbors.

Lane created a task force that devised a proposed test that would remove two-plus blocks of resident-only permit parking by the 3414 W. 47th St. school.

Residents closest to Southwest — on the 4600 and 4700 blocks of Chowen Avenue and the northern end of 4700 Beard Avenue — would lose their permits. The hope is that some student parking would move off perpetually filled 4600 and 4700 blocks of Drew and Abbott avenues.

At an April 14 public meeting, Lane, his assistant Julia Blount and a city engineer got an earful from residents who felt the city was moving the problem onto their streets.

Michael Burns, a resident on the 4600 block of Chowen, said that without permits, he and his neighbors would have to park blocks away.

"On our block, there’s no alley, several homes don’t have garages, and a few others’ garages are too small to fit a compact car," said Burns, who is also a Linden Hills Neighborhood Association board member.

Some residents, especially those without garages, feel the high school students are being favored over the residents.

"It’s really frustrating that they’re more concerned for students walking two blocks than for us to be able to park in front of our homes," said Pamela Kollodge, a resident on the 4600 block of Chowen.

Burns, who lives across the street from the school parking lot, added that his block bears the brunt of living next to the high school, mentioning noise caused by buses and late-night games and dances, not to mention snow plows clearing the parking lot at 2 in the morning.

Blount said residents’ reaction prompted the latest delay. "The community meeting on April 14th raised a number of questions that deserved examination," she said.

Greg Abbott, also a Linden Hills board member, was on the parking task force and agreed that removing the permit parking wasn’t a good idea.

"Frankly, I’m glad the residents reacted as negatively as they did," said Abbott, who ran against Lane in 2001.

According to Abbott, the task force was trapped by the reluctance of both police and school administrations to add any management costs.

To save staff costs, Southwest officials only keep their south-end door open during the day, causing student parkers to crowd the streets south of the school. Burns and Abbott said opening the north-end door would help disperse parking.

Abbott also said that police told the task force — consisting of residents, high school and community-education administration and students — that they would not spend significant time ticketing illegal parking.

Residents criticized the task force also for not including a resident who lived on a permit-parking block; Blount said a resident was included but didn’t attend all of the meetings. Residents also claimed they never received notification of public meetings.

Abbott agreed, saying that task force members also had difficulty receiving meeting notices.

"I didn’t receive the announcement for the public meeting…it seems the city can locate my address for my water bill, but not for this," said Burns.

Blount maintains that all of the school’s neighbors received notification.

"This is something that happens with every mailing. We feel confident that the letters were mailed out," she said.

The process for the re-scheduled parking test has yet to be determined. Blount said the 13th Ward office would release that information in the next several weeks.