It all started with a parking ticket.

Now one Oak Parker has made it his mission to make the village’s residential parking woes as well-known as its connection to architect Frank Lloyd Wright and author Ernest Hemingway.

In early June, Oak Park resident David Patterson launched the Facebook community page “Oak Park/’No Park’ Illinois” and in a few short weeks says he already has 250 followers and has reached thousands of users.

Patterson’s page often takes a whimsical approach to parking problems in the village — he regularly posts historic facts, quotes, editorial cartoons and even poetry written about parking in the village since the overnight ban was established in 1939. 

A recent post on “Oak Park/’No Park’ Illinois” reprints a poem published in the Oak Leaves newspaper on Nov. 23, 1939, just after the overnight ban went into effect. Written by resident L.M. Johnson, the poem begins: “Who is that nasty village man, Who forced on us the parking ban — Who no doubt lives in mansion grand, With his garage right near at hand?” 

Patterson says the trip down memory lane aims to make the point that “even when the parking ban was first adopted in 1939, it was controversial.”

Although his page is often lighthearted, Patterson is dead serious about creating awareness about Oak Park’s parking woes. Along with the overnight parking ban, he takes aim at confusing signage, exorbitant fees for parking permits and the disparity in parking options between homeowners and renters.

In one of his more no-nonsense posts, Patterson addresses the topic of neighborhood streets that are designated “resident permit parking only,” noting that 75 percent of homeowners on a street can petition the village for permit parking, rendering the street useless for those without a garage.

“If all Oak Parkers pay the taxes that maintain the streets, what are the acceptable ways in which any one group can claim rightful ownership?” Patterson asks on his community page. “If any group can claim a part of the street as exclusively ‘theirs’ simply by compiling a list of signatures, is it safe to assume that the expense in maintaining that part of the street is entirely theirs as well?”

Patterson said in an interview that the idea for the page started in early May, when he and several of his neighbors in the 100 block of N. Humphrey who hold overnight parking passes were ticketed for parking on the west side of the street. He acknowledges parking is not allowed on the west side of the street for Z4 permit holders, but the village gave them a pass for years.

“Parking enforcement has consistently demonstrated that while it would ticket unknown cars parked on the west side of the street, it would systematically bypass any cars that bore Z4 night stickers,” Patterson said in a letter to Oak Park Deputy Police Chief Tony Ambrose and Village Community Relations Director Cedric Melton.

Patterson said he’s “perfectly happy to abide” by the parking rules but added that parking enforcement officers could have at least given neighbors a heads up that their illegal parking would no longer be tolerated.

Village Parking Director Jill Velan said in a telephone interview that she had not yet seen Patterson’s Facebook community page but acknowledged that parking in the village can be a challenge — especially for renters.

“We don’t have a solution for every parking issue in the village, but we try to provide options for people,” she said.

Velan said parking in the village has become increasingly difficult over the last half century because there are simply more cars on the road. The construction of the Eisenhower Expressway in the 1950s set the stage for easier access to the city by automobile, and by the 1980s Oak Parkers had two or three cars per household — or more.

The village began establishing permit parking lots in the late ’70s and now has more than 100 lots for residents scattered throughout Oak Park and four parking garages — Holley Court, Avenue Garage, OPRF High School and (the former and future) Lake and Forest, Velan said. 

The board of trustees established on-street parking permits in 1988 and has since expanded on-street parking. And yet the trouble with parking persists.

In 2013, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb pressed the issue, encouraging the board of trustees to increase the number of monthly overnight parking passes from five a year to 10 a month. 

Velan noted the village also created an online system for purchasing parking passes and installed systems at metered parking spots that allow residents to pay by credit card through a smart-phone app.

She said Oak Park is a dynamic community and parking demands change over time. She currently is working to develop a pilot program that aims to make parking signs less confusing for residents and visitors. 

Oak Park is a small community with high density and a lot of commuters, and that’s a tricky combination, Velan said.

“We have similar problems to large cities, but we’re a suburb, and that’s the difficulty,” she said. “We’re trying to be a suburb in an urban environment.”

Contact: tim@oakpark.com

Oak Park/’No Park’ Illinois parking verse

In Manner of Walt Mason …

 To the Editor: 

Who is that nasty village man

Who forced on us the parking ban – 

Who no doubt live in mansion grand,

With his garage right near at hand?

A dictator he, as you will note,

Who will not let us poor folks vote;

Who cares not how pennies must be 

spent,

Or that parking costs us lots more 

rent.

I’ll say he’s nothing but a boor,

Who grinds the faces of the poor.

Let him be known, whoever he be,

And we’ll hang him in effigy.

 — Mrs. L.M. Jonson 

[Oak Leaves, Nov. 23, 1939]

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