West Loop parking angst builds

The residents and businesses of the West Loop have just one thing to say to those who commute from the suburbs and park in their neighborhood: The days of free parking are over. 

In an area of the city where meat supply companies exist alongside trendy bars with designer martinis, West Loop community leaders have drawn up a plan to address the parking needs of the area's diverse constituencies. The first step, they say, is to reclaim their turf from the "day trippers." 

"We need to drive them out of the neighborhood," Jeff Taylor, chairman of the parking committee for the West Loop Community Organization said at a community meeting last Thursday. "We developed a goal-to make it practically illegal to park long-term unless you are a resident." 

With its proximity to downtown, the West Loop has long served as a de facto parking lot for suburban commuters. But as industrial buildings are converted to or torn down to make way for condos, new residents are competing with outsiders for a place to park. 

Taylor said he sees the same person walking to the bus stop every morning but doesn't recognize him as a neighborhood resident. And while he sympathizes with the commuters' plight, he says the extra cars are choking the neighborhood. 

Introducing a straightforward permit-parking zone, however, would not solve the problem for everyone. 

While residents want long-term parking near their homes, businesses need short-term metered parking to encourage frequent turnover. According to area residents, without parking, amenities and retailers have been hard to attract; and growth depends on it. 

"Are people going to live in an area where there's no retail?" property owner Lewis Kostiner said. 

"No community will survive without business." 

The parking situation is further complicated by the presence of commercial businesses and institutions such as the Police Academy, which have different requirements still. 

The proposed plan was designed with these different dynamics in mind. 

The neighborhood would be divided into four zones, with metered parking along the East-West commercial corridors and permit parking on most north-south side streets. 

To ensure additional parking in mixed commercial-residential areas, metered parking would not be enforced between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays or on weekends. 

For West Monroe Street resident Anita Flores, whose husband is disabled, the proposal could alleviate her constant worry about how she will get to her car when she really needs it. But she is still taking a wait-and-see attitude. 

"It sounds like a nice compromise but I can't say for sure until I see something in writing," she said. 

The West Loop group will continue to seek community input and involve Alds. Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Walter Burnett (27th) in writing an ordinance. 

"I'm just listening and taking everything into consideration," Burnett said. "We have to decipher what's best for everyone and not best for one person." 

Burnett said that any plan should involve the foresight to accommodate the area's expected growth. As many as 1,000 new units of housing are planned for the next few years. 

Still, some say that as the area continues to develop, residents need to adjust their expectations to the realities of living in a city. 

"It can't be, 'I just want to park in front of my door,'" resident Ellen Duff said. "If you want to park next to your door, go to the suburbs." 


FERDYONFILMS, 05-18-2007

Talk about "reclaiming" the neighborhood from suburban commuters simply ignores the history that put the commuters there before the condo owners. This is typical of newbies who now feel they have a right to demand the entire neighborhood yield to their wishes. Why don't the new residents have parking in their buildings or alongside their homes? Maybe the developers are the ones who need to be lobbied, not making streets that are public the domain of the few.