Over the last three weeks I have entered into the discussion of the pros and cons of parking pads three different times. Once when upon being informed by letter that someone living down the street had applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a new front yard parking pad. Another time when I was reading through the Zoning Board Agenda (ZBA) and noticed a surprisingly high number of appeals for parking pads all over the city. And a third time when a friend flagged me down and told me that his immediate neighbor had just applied for permission to install a parking pad.
Until recently I had not much thought about the issue (or non issue) of parking pads one way or another. Of course living on the West Side, parking pads are just something that you deal with (when cars miss the pad and park across the sidewalk, for example – see lead image). I understand that there are areas all over the city where parking is an issue – more cars than there are driveways. Obviously parking pads can alleviate parking woes, making city living easier on homeowners and tenants. At the same time, an onslaught of parking pads could impede beautification efforts if not regulated. Who wants to live on a street where parked cars essentially replace front yards?
As the city continues to attract more people back into its neighborhoods, the ‘issue’ of parking pads will continue to arise. From what I understand, people cannot just run around putting in new parking pads willy nilly. There is a process, and neighbors are notified and allowed to object to the pads. I’m sure that there are some people who get away with laying down asphalt without consulting The City… heck, if you can remove a storefront facade on Elmwood Avenue on Christmas Day (without a permit) and not suffer any repercussions, then what’s to stop someone from putting in a residential parking pad on any given weekend?
In the end, there are some parking pads that blend in to properties, rather than sticking out like sore thumbs. It all depends on how far the houses are set back from the street I suppose. Permeable pavers and landscaping can go a long way towards making the occasional case for parking pads, but more often than not these additions to streets detract from neighborhoods in a number of ways, including safety, home values, walkability and aesthetics. For those who do have parking pads already, they will tell you that the ease of parking far outweighs any of those other considerations.
It will be interesting to see how our neighborhoods continue to change with the addition of more parking conveniences (pads) coming online. At this point there doesn’t appear to be any given zoning code precedents for anyone to adhere to (Green Code anyone?)… and if there are, what are they and who is monitoring them?