St. Paul residents unite in fight for permit-only parking

Max Rust

Finding a parking space on the St. Paul campus isn’t always easy.
But if a group of residents in the neighboring St. Anthony Park area has its way, the task of finding parking could become even more difficult for University commuters.
The group recently filed petitions with their local community council to modify the current parking status on three streets in the neighborhood on which University students frequently park.
The streets’ current status is one-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays without a permit. The petitioners want to change that to no parking from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, with residents of the designated streets the only people able to obtain the permits.
“Initially, I wanted to keep the parking the way it is just because I like having people around during the day,” said Albert Webster, a resident who signed the petition. “But frankly, it really is getting quite parked up. It’s hard for me to get in my driveway in the winter, and the street feels really quite crowded.”
In addition to crowding the streets and sometimes making driving difficult for residents, students’ vehicles often force neighbors’ guests to park several blocks away.
“If we should have an invitation or somebody coming for lunch or for any kind of activity that we would like to have during the day, our guests never have any parking space, and after a while, it becomes very annoying,” said Maryse Fan, a longtime resident who supports the petition.
Fan said the problem often continues into the evening when many students park in the neighborhood to use the nearby St. Paul Gymnasium.
The three petitions state the same mandate, differing only in naming targeted street segments, reading:
“University students and staff use our street for parking from early in the morning to well into the evening so that there are often few or no available parking spots for residents. They flagrantly violate the one-hour parking allowed on our street and enforcement is difficult and spotty.”
“Most of (the commuters) don’t reside in the city of St. Paul, so if they get a parking ticket, they’re like ‘Pff… I’m not going to worry about this,'” said Linda Tomasino, who works for the division of surface parking for the St. Paul Police Department.
Tomasino said the parking police in St. Paul are understaffed and cannot always patrol the St. Anthony area when residents call and complain, which, Tomasino added, is on a weekly basis.
But the student-neighborhood parking friction is not limited to University commuters. Macalester College, the University of St. Thomas and other campuses in the city are also awash in illegal parking.
Many times — particularly with the private schools — motorists will snub parking laws because their vehicles have out-of-state license plates, Tomasino said.
She said the modifications called for in the petition would make the parking police much more effective and efficient, since they would not have to monitor how long each vehicle has been parked.
“Whatever doesn’t have a permit we could automatically tag,” she explained.
The problem of the process
Although the petition received more than 60 percent support from the affected residents — as called for by city ordinances to be approved — it still faces a technical snag.
Two of the three petitions do not state in writing the days of the week that the parking modifications would be enforced.
This technical flaw could result in the community council not voting to accept the petition when they meet Feb. 9, said Duane Jagiello, a traffic technician for the St. Paul public works department.
If the petition is accepted by the community council, it will then be passed on to the full St. Paul city council for approval.
If not, Jagiello said, the petitioners could conduct another petition that would include the language that is missing now.
But whatever happens, the problem of University commuters parking in the adjacent neighborhoods will not end.
“It’s a bandaid,” Jagiello said. “Permit parking does not solve the problem, because people still are going to go to that place, but they no longer park in those particular places, they end up parking further out so that the problem changes.”
The result, Jagiello explained, is “a snowball, or domino effect.”
Tony Drillinger, a natural resources and environmental studies major who parks almost every day in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood, said he does so because he doesn’t have to pay.
Though the St. Paul campus has more than 40 parking lots, almost all of them require permits, which range in cost from $78 to $141 per semester.
If Drillinger is no longer allowed to park on those streets in contention, he said, he will probably just park further south in the neighborhood.

Max Rust covers community neighborhoods and agriculture and welcomes comments at [email protected]