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Winter (Overnight) Parking Ban(ished)

I have a problem with the winter parking ban, and street parking bans in general.

It’s that time of year again — time for the winter parking ban. From November 27, 2011 through April 1, 2012, no vehicle can be parked on the street for more than one hour between 1 a.m. - 6 a.m. Last year, the town’s web site read, “The Department of Public Works needs to have the streets clear of any parked vehicles in order to perform street cleaning, catch basin clearing, and the removal of snow and ice from the roads.”

I would be very surprised if the first two activities are done every single night of the four months that the parking ban is in effect. And when the town declares a snow emergency, all cars must be moved off the street anyway to allow for snow removal; I would think this would suffice. So why must cars be banned from parking on the street for this entire time?

I have a problem with the winter parking ban, and street parking bans in general. I realize some towns have even more strict parking rules, such as Brookline where overnight street parking is banned year-round. These rules make no sense to me. Not everyone has access to off-street parking. Where are all the cars supposed to go?

For homeowners with driveways that can accommodate all of their cars, this is probably barely a blip in their radar screen, as it would rarely affect them. It could be an annoyance if the household included a member, or members, who were not amenable to going out to move their cars at an inconvenient time so someone else could get his car out. But for many renters, the winter parking ban goes beyond the category of annoyance into that of a hardship.

I would imagine that those who rent in an apartment building are allocated a parking space along with their rental, though they may not get more than one space to accommodate more than one car in the household. Watertown is home to many two-family houses, some with a third apartment inside, and these are residents for whom the parking ban would most likely cause hardship.

Today, many households have at least two cars, and many driveways in town cannot accommodate all of the cars owned by residents of the entire house. A good number of driveways cannot accommodate two cars side-by-side, which means cars have to be parked one behind the other. Even if the number of cars can squeeze into the driveway, it is not practical for people from two different households to share the space because one cannot count on the appropriate driver being available to move his car to allow another car to exit. Because of this, a landlord often will not make the driveway available to her tenants.

Several years ago I went to a meeting — I think it was the zoning board — and one of the items on the agenda was a man asking permission to build a second driveway on the other side of his house. He wanted to do this to accommodate his tenants’ cars, which he could not do in his current driveway. The board turned him down, saying that it would take away green space in the area. Ironically, he had studied his property and said he’d found allowances so that the project would not diminish the green space. (He also lived about a block away from a park, a good-sized area of green space.) They still turned him down.

Tenants with no driveway access often have no choice but to park on the street. Some folks may be able to find a space to rent nearby, but I would be surprised if there were all that many spaces available, and that’s an additional expense that may not be affordable. The town does offer some off-street parking areas to residents in the winter, which is a good thing, but there are several problems with that as well. First, I have no idea if there are enough available spaces. They may be at a distance too far from someone’s residence, or too far for someone to comfortably walk alone at night. These spaces aren’t available until 7 p.m., and a person has to remove her car by 7 a.m. (by 6 a.m. during a snow event if parked at a school). Depending on a person’s situation, this might not be a practical solution.

Though I currently own a house, I am very sensitive to the issue of tenants and parking because I spent many years as a renter who had to park on the street (though not in Watertown). Living like that is not easy, with a winter parking ban only adding to the misery.

david brooks December 05, 2011 at 12:21 PM
If Watertown's parking rules puzzle you then prepare to be amazed. The town has taken over several spaces on Whites Ave, a residential street, for exclusive use by town employees during the 7 AM to 7 PM timeframe during weekdays. Apparently, the 10 or so spots at the old Police Station would not accommodate these needs for town employee parking. Also, the town plans turn other parts of Whites Ave, a residential street, into metered parking. They started this process over the weekend with the painting of lines marking the spots. This is even though a group of concerned residents has been meeting with the town council and expressing concern over this proposal. Whites Ave is a densely populated area with about 250 condo and apartment households, who rely on the parking on this street for parking for residents, friends and family.
Mike DelRose Jr. December 05, 2011 at 01:33 PM
The parking bans are perplexing to everyone. The Whites Ave situation seems crazy. A simple solution would be to only have parking bans during snow and on selected and announced dates for street cleaning. Growing up in Belmont, I understand the frustrations of parking bans. You will most certainly find a ticket on your car the next morning if you car is left out overnight.
Peter O'Hardon December 05, 2011 at 01:38 PM
These are yet two more examples of a local government that is out of touch with the electorate. The winter parking ban is a farce, rarely enforced by the WPD, but demanded by the WDPW to demonstrate the power of the Superintendent. Metered parking on Whites was the cause celeb of a TC member as a payback for a personal feud. So sad.
Paul Angiolillo December 05, 2011 at 05:31 PM
When I lived in Waltham for several years, it worked fine to alllow on-street parking in the winter time. And when there was a snowstorm coming (which isn't hard to predict), the town broadcast a parking ban until the plows had done their job. It seemed to work fine; and it's certainly a fact that hundreds of vehicles didn't have to be moved around every evening and morning.
patti December 06, 2011 at 01:25 PM
i agree this makes no sense. we do have prior warnings of snow storms and those bans make sense. who is in charge of this? good article once again marian!
Vinnie Dummerino December 07, 2011 at 01:30 AM
we need to form a concerned citizens group on this and a few other issues and even an Occupy Watertown Group if necessary. I have been here 40 years and this one is (the parking ban) is totally unnecessary and there are many sensible alternatives and particularly as Watertown is not like other communities. It also unnecessarily and unfairly interferes with every one who rents property and interferes with and impedes their conduct of their business and the same for home owners and their fair use of their property. I think residents have a class action case based on these points and what is essentially snob zoning and snob bylaws and the town refusal to work out a sensible and reasonable plan and set of alternatives on this issue. the town's intransigence is such on this issues that i think forming a group of concerned and feed up citizens is needed and perhaps we could use facebook or something similar to do so.
John MacNeill December 07, 2011 at 12:00 PM
>even an Occupy Watertown Group if necessary. Same "person" who thinks shoveling his walk is an unecessary burden.
Elizabeth Pratt December 07, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Thank you, Marian for this article. This issue is one of the main reasons we want to move out of Watertown. We only have one parking spot for a family of four and we finally got rid of our second car for the Winter because we are so tired of walking down the street to the elementary school every night and morning. The irony is that we dutifully did this for seven years and we even got yelled at by the school custodians when our car remained at the school during a snowstorm past 6am. Then we slid our car down to sit in front of our house and got yelled at by the plows for leaving it in front of our house. Aaaargh, Watertown!
Vinnie Dummerino December 07, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Yes, please read my response to John MacNeil on that thread as I do not have time just now to copy it here.
Peter O'Hardon December 07, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Elizabeth I share your frustration and have myself contemplated leaving Watertown for various reasons. That being said what struck me most about your post was your observation that on different occasions you "...got yelled at...". I have experienced this as well. In the Assessors office, when calling Public Works and at public meetings it seems that the loudest voice wins. Yelling is so prevalent that the elected and appointed officials have developed a catch phrase to stifle debate: "I'm speaking now" they scream in mid rant when one attempts to interject a bit of sanity into the proceedings. While I like the location the attitude of those "in power" is ruining the ambiance. "Aaaargh, Watertown!" Indeed !
david brooks December 08, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Hi Peter, can you provide me with the name of TC member who was the sponsor or primary backer of the Whites Ave proposal?
Peter O'Hardon December 08, 2011 at 03:12 PM
http://www.susanfalkoff.com/
Marian Ferro December 14, 2011 at 05:16 AM
I'd like to thank everyone who commented on my article. I guess I struck a nerve: I'm not the only one who thinks the winter parking ban is onerous.
Anthony Koroskenyi September 20, 2013 at 04:54 AM
I have lived in Watertown for a year (and in Brookline before that, had some good shouting matches with the parking clerk after catching their meter guy red handed lying about the time on tickets). This is the #1 reason why I will not live in Watertown very long, my Apt has 2 spots, my roommates each have a car. I cannot buy a vehicle because I would have no place to park it during the winter. And none of the town lots are within reasonable walking distance during the frigid winter months. What really baffles me is that my street is loaded with so many vehicles during the non winter months that it becomes a 1 lane street. Most of these houses I walk by already have 2-3 cars in their driveways with multiple cars parked on the street. I have no idea where all the cars go in the winter but they're all gone. Some townie secret I assume. Very frustrated.
D.j. Murray February 27, 2014 at 05:40 PM
This is still relevant today. The parking vultures will intentionally target vehicles at the town library knowing that they are residents of the apartment complexes. The library does not open until 9AM, yet they show no leniency to hard-working residents nearby and will ticket well before the library opens. In regards to the town hall spaces, I'll speak as a resident of Whites Ave. They are *rarely* used and public officials and town vehicle would rather lazily park at and take up library metered spots. The meters on Whites Ave. are a complete joke. It's a RESIDENTIAL street.

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