During a July 27 meeting, Oak Park’s village board decided to extend the easing of overnight parking restrictions it had put in place back in March in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The relaxation of the regulations will now continue until Sept. 30.
“Everybody who’s had a car in Oak Park since cars were invented has had parking problems,” said Trustee Deno Andrews.
Those who don’t have garages or parking spots have to buy parking permits, which require some people to park several blocks away from where they live.
“I think this is a longstanding equity issue in the village,” said Andrews.
Andrews suggested continuing to lift restrictions until the village board had the opportunity to create a permanent system for overnight parking that is both equitable and that would not alter the village’s character.
Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla agreed with Andrews that Oak Park needed a better solution for parking.
“I actually had to pay a significant part of my paycheck, both when I was a condo-owner and a renter, for parking permits,” said Walker-Peddakotla. “I think a complete overhaul of the system is needed.”
Walker-Peddakotla told the board she did not understand why some citizens desired streets free of parked cars.
“We’re right next to Chicago,” she said. “If you’re moving to Oak Park and think nobody is going to park in front of your house, that is not something we should give people an expectation for.”
Due to the unknown length of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, Walker-Peddakotla said she was against putting an expiration date on the lifted overnight parking restrictions.
Trustee Jim Taglia wanted to know the financial effects to the village in continuing to lift overnight parking restrictions which do result in fee revenue to the village government.
“Ultimately, it’s going to affect our [tax] levy,” said Taglia. “One way or another, people are going to have to pay.”
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said that the “bottom has really fallen out” regarding parking revenues as a whole due to the COVID-19 crisis with discounted permit costs, lifted restriction and decreased usage of meter parking.
“Any conversation should also understand the economic entanglement that the entire parking system has and understand what obligations you have in terms of debt that you may not be able to pay in revenue,” said Pavlicek. “You would then need to pay for those with property taxes.”
Trustee Susan Buchanan voiced her support for Andrews’ suggestion but asked for more information on the parking pilot program, as it pertained to overnight parking. The pilot program was adopted by the village board in 2018.
However, due to the shutdown and the paused enforcement of parking restrictions, the village was unable to gather the needed data to make an assessment of the pilot program’s efficacy.
According to Pavlicek, enforcing the overnight parking limits generates a very small amount of revenue, about $30,000, for the village’s parking fund.
“I don’t consider that substantive in a fund that generates $6 million worth of revenue,” said Pavlicek.
Trustee Dan Moroney said trying to fix parking in Oak Park was “a fool’s errand” and impossible.
“The reality is that we do have limited parking in Oak Park,” said Moroney.
According to Moroney, one of the reasons people move to Oak Park is to escape the city of Chicago and its perpetually clogged streets. Moroney said he’d sold many homes in Oak Park to people who were moving out of Chicago.
“I think the goal of parking is to have cars put away and reduce the number of cars,” said Moroney. “Whatever parking you provide will get filled up.”
Moroney said the village needed to incentivize people and landlords to park their cars in designated areas.
The village board opted to extend the eased overnight parking ban until Sept. 30 and directed village staff to create a calendar of meetings wherein the public could share their thoughts on the parking system.