City seeks solution to parking squeeze
In the age-old conflict between town and gown, few issues are more intractable than parking. "I have an elderly couple on the far end of my street," said Jodi Libey. "If they have caregivers coming there's no place to park, because it's bumper to...
In the age-old conflict between town and gown, few issues are more intractable than parking.
“I have an elderly couple on the far end of my street,” said Jodi Libey. “If they have caregivers coming there’s no place to park, because it’s bumper to bumper.”
Libey lives on Lyons Street, across Kenwood Avenue from the College of St. Scholastica. The street was one of the focal points of a public forum about parking problems late Friday afternoon at the Universalist Unitarian Congregation in the heart of Duluth’s campus district.
If 5 p.m. on a Friday seems like an unlikely time for a meeting, it didn’t keep residents from what the city calls the Lower Kenwood Residential Area away. Sixty-five people signed in at the forum, although actual attendance appeared somewhat greater. It was, said Matthew Kennedy, the biggest turnout at a neighborhood forum on parking since he became the city’s parking manager in March 2012.
The time slot was one of the few available at the church, which was the ideal location for such a forum, Kennedy explained.
The time didn’t seem to matter, perhaps because the issue raises passions in the neighborhood between the University of Minnesota Duluth and St. Scholastica. Even before Kennedy and parking operations specialist Mark Bauer finished their presentation, residents were asking questions and offering suggestions.
Bauer summarized the problem in a nutshell: There’s not enough on-street parking to satisfy the demand. The city has been conducting counts of cars parked along the neighborhood’s streets twice a day, Bauer said. Those counts show a problem increasing from east - the UMD side - to west, near St. Scholastica, he said.
“The real hot spot is Lyons,” Bauer said. “Lyons has had an increase in cars, probably from St. Scholastica.”
Libey knows where the cars are coming from, because she has asked their drivers.
“They’re saying that they don’t have adequate space at St. Scholastica, or if they do have space, they’re parking so far away it’s closer to park on our street,” she said.
Megan Perry-Spears, dean of students at St. Scholastica, said during the forum that the school has never had a day when it has run out of parking. But some of the students may have chosen not to pay the $150 fee for a parking permit on campus, she said.
Kennedy later said that while the fee is not new, the school seems to have been enforcing it more stringently recently.
Another sore spot is Chester Way, which curves between Lyons Street and Missouri Avenue.
Juris Zelenko, a graduate student at St. Scholastica, acknowledged that he and some other residents of a small housing complex that opened in June recently have been parking on the other two streets. But it was not a problem of the residents’ making, he said. The complex has 16 occupants and only eight off-street parking places. And residents recently were informed that Chester Way is too narrow for on-street parking.
The city’s parking department hopes to address the problem, in part, by placing signs to alert people of such restrictions as alternate-side parking, Bauer said. A more complicated fix would be to establish residential permit-only parking in the district, similar to districts already in place in the immediate UMD, Duluth East and Duluth Denfeld neighborhoods. Residents could obtain up to three annual permits for $5 apiece, and up to two permits for guests at $2 apiece.
That would solve much of the problem, said Libey, who has gathered 14 signatures from Lyons Street residents favoring such a designation. Three neighbors said they were undecided, and she was unable to contact a fourth, she said. Petitions also have been gathered on Missouri and Niagara streets, she added.
But Paula Rannikko, who lives on East Toledo Street, is opposed. She doesn’t want to pay even a nominal fee to park in front of her own home, she said.
She urged other residents not to take out their frustrations on college students. She welcomes the students who live next door, Rannikko said.
“We appreciate that they are there, because they bring growth to our community,” she said. “They bring liveliness to our neighborhood. We enjoy them. If you talk with them, you see a problem, they’re receptive and they’re going to listen.”
Kennedy and Bauer will scrutinize comments filled out at the forum and conduct a resident survey before possibly proposing a resident-permit district or other options. Their recommendations will be presented to the Duluth Parking Commission. Any changes then would require City Council approval.
Bauer said whatever is done should be implemented in time for the 2015-16 school year.