This is the view of the south side of Devonshire School, taken from the rear lane. The very old (historic??) chain link fence has been removed in preparation for the Ottawa Carleton District
School Parking Board paving the tiny strip of grass that formerly separated the paved yard from the paved laneway. The playspace, which until last week was the site of parent-paid-for tether ball posts, the Board wants to convert into parking spaces for the staff.
I really must commend the board for their economy, saving money on building parking spaces (then provided free to staff) by converting a children’s play yard. Did I mention this is the smallest play yard in the entire Board?
The Board already has some on-site parking, at the rear of the school:
Bizarrely, it uses it’s front lawn for additional parking. During the summer break, the auto body shops from across the street use the lawn to park damaged cars on. Until last week, the City turned a blind eye to this abusive use of the front lawn/city boulevard. However, the City apparently ticketed — gasp! — cars parked on the lawn.
There are many obvious questions here. Why does a slow-moving Board that cannot find the funds to fix up the playground (parent fundraising had to do it) or repair the dilapidated school, suddenly move with blitzkrieg speed when it comes to staff parking? Free-to-staff parking costs the Board (ratepayers) about $1100 per space per year. Does it offer similar subsidies to transit users? Does it ever priorize hiring to people who live near the work site?* Does it, in short, talk a lot about the evils of capitalist society and McDonald’s clamshell boxes whilst turning a blind eye to its own polluting ways?**
It’s not as if there aren’t alternative parking spaces, either. The City offered free parking a block away at Tom Brown arena. Maybe that’s too far for staff to walk. In that case, there is a spacious private parking lot directly across the street from the school — did they even bother to wonder if it was available for rent?
Lest you think I am too hard on the Ottawa School District Parking Board, compare them to their competitors at St Anthony School, a few blocks east. The Catholic Board lacked funds to repair to school, or plant the school yard… but had buckets of money to buy up adjacent houses on LeBreton Street, demolish them, and install a parking lot that they found money (surely not redirected from the tot lot fund?-ed.) to pave and paint:
Lest you think I am too hard on the
school parking boards, consider the third villain in the neighborhood. The City of Ottawa actually demolished a well-treed children’s playground to build a parking lot — offered free of course — for people to drive to the Plant Rec Centre. Wouldn’t want those exercisers to do anything unscientific like walking… or cycling … or using transit!
The City converted play space into parking space because … it was cheaper than providing space under the building. The Dalhousie neighborhood has the least park space in the City, and the community is bugging Council to buy a parcel of treed land nearby for additional park space … for $2 to $3-million. Makes that parking lot look like a bargain eh?
Whether it is school boards or the City or private businesses, our society caters way too much to cars. The attractiveness of a central city neighborhood is that it is walkable. A whopping 38% of residents in Dalhousie live in auto-free households. Attempting to retro-fit in suburban-style parking lots ruins that walkability. I understand that people in Barrhaven and Kanata need multiple-car households because their suburbs are designed that way. But the central city predates cars and should not be ruined in order to handle them.
Now, for those two * bits above:
*when I was a kid growing up in Nova Scotia, teachers were assigned to schools near where they lived. My grade school principal lived two blocks east; my geography teacher five blocks south; my high school gym teachers (he, seven feet tall, she 4’6″) lived nearby but still drove to school in their old MG, which was so glamorous, until Ms Ashley, who was at least 106, and still taught grade 7 science, showed up in a new red camaro which never went above 25 mph. It was common for kids to walk to school accompanying their teachers. And the secretary.
**the santimoniousness of public employees, esp. teachers, about the evils of capitalism and markets and private businesses (full disclosure: I was one of those evil Vader types) and how they pushed this on the kids always bugged me. I went to some effort to “offer” an alternative viewpoint to my kids when they were in the lower grades (before they stopped listening to me). It was always hilarious to hear them report back at dinner that they challenged their teacher about some pius enviro-crap or used schools as examples of polluters in their assignments. Oh, the thrills of vicariously living dangerously through innocent little tykes!
PS: I hesitate to hazard this warning, for fear the Board might read this blog and take this as operating instructions. But nah, they wouldn’t really do this, would they? Here goes: look at that way-way-up picture again, which shows the big trees on the lawn in front of school. IF the school board extends the tot lot to incorporate the lawn (so they can use the back of the tot lot for parking) will they be so spiteful as to chop down all the trees because they stand on the fence line … or because a branch might fall on little Zoe’s head? Bureaucratic spite should never be underestimated!