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Somerville parking regs felt by Medford neighbors

Posted by Alix Roy  March 18, 2010 10:04 AM

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IMG_0302.JPGAlix Roy

Newbern Ave. residents petitioned for resident-only parking after Somerville's switch to city-wide permit parking caused many drivers to begin storing their cars in Medford.

When Somerville's city-wide permit parking took effect in January, Somerville residents weren't the only ones left scrambling. While many permit-less drivers stood in line at the parking office, a  contingent of border residents simply moved their cars to Medford.

Two months later, Medford residents say their streets have become dumping grounds for cars with out-of-state plates whose Somerville owners don't want to pay to register them in Massachusetts. As a result, there aren't enough spaces to go around, some residents say.

“All of a sudden, there were no parking spots left on our street,” said Newbern Avenue resident Michael Schwartz. “It's a potpourri of out-of-state plates.”

Schwartz and other residents of the University Place Condos in South Medford petitioned the city for resident-only parking on a portion of their street. They were granted the status in January, but waited until March for signs to be erected.
Now the problem is enforcement. Unlike Somerville, Medford does not have parking monitors and relies on its police force to ticket parking offenders. According Jim Silva of the neighborhood group South Medford Residents Together, it's been up to the residents to report cars parked illegally.
“We can't get enforcement unless we call it in or write the plate number down,” he said.
Schwartz appeared before the City Council in late February on behalf of all residents of the University Place Condo Association. The condos, which stretch from 72-86 Newbern Ave., have only 15 street spaces in which to park. Sharing the slots with Somerville residents makes parking a nightmare, he said.

“It is so very frustrating to arrive home at the end of a long see non-residents (who often have much lower insurance rates) parked by my front door, forcing me to choose between parking illegally and being ticketed or parking at a great distance,” he wrote in a letter to the council.

Councilor Michael Marks, who led an advisory committee to study parking enforcement practices in surrounding towns, said he receives a fair number of calls from South Medford residents echoing Schwartz's frustrations. His committee submitted a list of recommendations to Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn in September, including a recommendation that the city hire civilian employees to enforce parking regulations.
“We can't expect a depleted police department to do the job,” he said. “Permit parking just falls by the wayside.”

Creating an independent department to manage all parking issues in the city would streamline processes related to permit parking and enforcement, Marks said. Currently the program is chaotic and ineffective, with separate commissions for off-street and on-street parking.
“It just doesn't make any sense to have all these separate bodies,” he said. “It just confuses residents.”

With the Green Line Extension underway, the city is in even greater need of a parking agency to oversee and adapt the city's regulations, Schwartz said. He suggested using Newbern Ave. and the surrounding neighborhood as a testing ground for city-wide residential parking, an alternative to the city's current practice of permitting individual streets upon residents' request.
“It would make sense,” he said. “There's just no semblance of order and I just see this spiraling out of control. We're going to get steamrolled.”

Silva, whose group has advocated for parking and traffic regulations in the past, said the city should be taking a proactive stance to the issues instead of waiting for them to get worse when the Green Line brings hundreds of cars to Medford.

"It's total inertia and the residents are suffering," he said. "These people are going through hell, if you look down the street all the cars that are parked are from New Hampshire."

Marks said he had not received any word from McGlynn since the committee submitted its report.

"As far as I know there has been no move toward implementation," he said.

McGlynn did not return messages left for comment.

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