City clerk urged to scrap residential permit parking

“There’s almost literally nowhere left for people to park if it’s not a residential area in many communities,” Ald. Ray Lopez said at Monday’s budget hearing. Chicago has more than 2,000 residential parking zones. Through Aug. 30, the city had sold 139,004 annual permits at $25 apiece.

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Parking tickets, booting and towing will be curtailed as the city continues to grapple with the coronavirus.

Chicago has more than 2,000 residential parking zones.

Sun-Times file

City Clerk Anna Valencia was urged Monday to abolish resident permit parking and replace it with a city sticker sold at graduated rates depending on how many vehicles a motorist owns.

With Valencia on the hot seat at City Council budget hearings, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) used the opportunity to promote what would be a radical idea for a parking-starved city addicted to residential permit parking.

“In my ward, I’m surprised that we’re not doing it in the alleys at this point. ... There’s almost literally nowhere left for people to park if it’s not a residential area in many communities,” Lopez told the clerk.

“What if we just scrapped RPP as a whole?… What would probably be more beneficial would be to actually have a graduated vehicle sticker so that your first car is one price, your second car is another price and your third car, so on and so forth.”

Lopez said the problem is exacerbated by the growing number of Chicagoans “using their garages for other things — whether it’s their man cave, whether it’s storage, whether it’s an illegal business.”

Valencia did not slam the door on the radical idea. But she wants it to be considered by the committee she created to ween the city from its historic addiction to fines and fees.

“I do not want to do anything that’s regressive or that would harm anyone in any way. So, I definitely want more information about this approach and would want to vet it out with our community advisory council,” said Valencia, a candidate for Illinois secretary of state.

“I definitely think there’s some differing opinions on that.”

Lopez stood his ground.

He argued there is a “growing frustration” from motorists who “signed up for residential permit parking and still find they have nowhere to go” to park their vehicles.

“People are taking advantage of the situation and selling guests passes or flat-out not doing it because they know that we’re not in position to fully enforce [residential permit parking] even though we are charging an extra $25 a year for that option,” Lopez said.

“If we’re not able to enforce it, there’s no point in having this item. … If the entire city goes residential parking block by block, there will be no value to this and it will just look like a money grab, which I know it was not meant to be.”

Residential permit parking got its start in 1979 on the streets near Northeastern Illinois University — and fast became the catchall solution to Chicago’s notorious parking crunch.

Chicago now has more than 2,000 residential permit parking zones.

Through Aug. 30 alone, the city had sold 139,004 annual permits for $25 apiece and 159,992 daily permits, which cost $8 for a sheet of 15.

Together, both types of permits generated $4.6 million in revenue.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) noted that during the pandemic, her constituents were encouraged to buy their residential permit stickers online. But their hands were tied by “database and computer hurdles” keeping the process from being “as seamless as it should be.”

“The No. 1 issue is that people get taken by surprise. They’re new to Chicago. They’re getting their permit parking. They want their guest passes. And suddenly, they get locked out of the system and can’t get it unlocked in our office due to the fact that they need a customer code. … It really does cause a significant amount of customer dissatisfaction. We keep asking that to be fixed,” Smith said.

Smith noted the 43rd Ward is one of seven wards that sell residential parking permits directly to residents. The other six: the 1st, 2nd, 32nd, 35th, 44th and 46th.

“We buy the equipment from you and we use personnel that we pay for. So I’m paying staff to run your program,” she told Valencia. “That’s why we really ask that these e-commerce issues really be resolved because it saves everybody time and money.”

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said his “dream” is to make the process of purchasing parking permits “like Fandango,” the movie ticket app and website, so that residents “can just print it at home and bypass ward offices.”

Cappleman noted that selling permits in his ward office is time-consuming.

“A warning to any of my colleagues who want to start selling parking passes: Once you do that, you will never be able to stop. And I’m not sure how good it is. It takes a lot of office time. A lot of staff. It’s very complicated,” Cappleman said.

“I forced my staff to teach me how to do it — especially during the pandemic. And it was not easy.”

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