I am pleased to report I have reached an agreement with the Chicago Park District to retain the free overnight parking at the Loyola Park and Leone Park parking lots.
Under the agreement, parking in the Park District parking lots will be free of charge from 7:00 at night to 9:00 the following morning. This represents an additional two hours of free parking. Currently, the Park District parking meters operate until 9:00 at night.
The Park District still plans to impose a $1.00 an hour charge to park in the lots from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. seven days a week.
The Park District had planned to begin assessing this summer an overnight parking charge of 25 cents an hour. This would have created an enormous economic hardship for the many ward residents who have come to depend on the parking lots in our densely populated and parking-starved community. Many of the residents who park in the lots are senior citizens and others on fixed income, and the overnight parking rates would have resulted in a yearly cost of over $1,200.
The overnight parking charges also would have exacerbated the parking shortage on the surrounding residential streets, as drivers seeking to avoid the parking charges would compete for scarce on-street parking.
As I reported to you last month, I expressed strong opposition to the Park District plan and called upon neighborhood residents to express their views to Park District officials. As a result, 49th Ward residents flooded the Park District with scores of e-mails and letters of opposition.
Before the Board meeting, I met with Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchell and Park District Board President Gery Chico and we reached an agreement to retain the free overnight parking. In return, I agreed to pay the Park District $89,000 from my aldermanic “menu” fund to compensate the District for its lost revenue. The aldermanic menu is a fund of $1.3 million to $1.5 million that each Chicago alderman receives annually to spend at his or her discretion on ward infrastructure, such as streets, alleys, sidewalks, street lights and the like.
I discussed this proposed agreement with a delegation of 40 ward residents who traveled with me to the Board meeting, and nearly all of them agreed it was a compromise they could live with.
I believe this constitutes an acceptable expenditure of menu money–it works out to about $69 a month per parking space. The Park District was not willing to forgo the additional revenue it needed to close its budget gap, and the alternative–allowing the overnight parking charges to go forward–was far worse. Community residents, who have come to depend on the parking lots, would have been forced either to pay an enormous sum of money to park overnight or compete with their neighbors for scarce on-street parking, exacerbating the parking problem for everyone in the area.
I would like to thank everyone in the community who took the time to share their views with the Park District officials and/or attend the Park District Board meeting. Your voices certainly had an impact and helped forge a compromise that will benefit the entire neighborhood. It proves that your voice can still be heard. I’m proud to represent this neighborhood.