Ottawa District Parking Board

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:

this sign at St Anthony School forgets to mention the school, opening up the lot to parking for St Anthony Church

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?

Under a lot of community pressure, a portion of the parking lot is converted back to basketball play space each summer.

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!

14 thoughts on “Ottawa District Parking Board

  1. “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?”

    Good question. One can only speculate, but unpopular decisions are best executed quickly, before opponents have time to organize. Fortunately in this case parents were paying attention.

    It is true that the school is dilapidated. Parts of it look like they came straight out of a Dickens novel. Have no fear though, apparently there is a plan to install underground parking in a couple of years! Priorities, you see.

  2. “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.”

    Devonshire School may wish to de-emphasize it’s “EcoSchool” designation from this point on:'s%2Bfirst%2BEcoSchool+devonshire+school+eco+school&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=safari&

  3. Ah Maggie, there was another clue: my kids no longer listen to me. They’ve grown up. Ottawa schools are liberated of one; and will be rid of the other next month. Devonshire is safe in any case — when shopping for schools, we chose others.

  4. The photo of the back of St. Anthonys is absolutely horrific. Can you imagine a private resident being allowed to buy up houses next door and pave them into parking lots. Not likely! Yet, the boards operate with apparent immunity/impunity! I spent much of my school recesses playing on dirt or grass. It makes me sad to see what passes for playgrounds these days.

  5. I had heard about the story but when I read what you wrote: “The City offered free parking a block away at Tom Brown arena. Maybe that’s too far for staff to walk.”, I gasped! So I went to Google Maps to see how far it was. It is WAY more than a block! It is a whole 500 meters and they have to cross Wellington! [sarcasm alert]

    I guess teachers want to know that they can leap into their car parked right outside the building, at a moment’s notice. Maybe they want to be able to make a fast getaway if they discover they have won the lottery on their lunch hour, or something. Maybe they leave all their stuff in their car and can’t live without knowing it is right there. I teach part time at Algonquin and it takes me about 15 minutes to walk over there, carrying all my stuff because I don’t have an office either. I can’t imagine driving and I don’t even think about biking either. It’s just so easy to walk.

    Good grief.

  6. If they really really need to find extra spots, they could start by better using the parking area at the back off the lane. Instead of having cars park perpendicular to the school and lane with lots of surplus space behind the stalls, have them instead park in two parallel lines: one up against the school and the other against the lane in line with the rest of the school beyond. They may even be able to have a type of angle parking along the school.

    It’s not just North America’s obsession with granting space for cars, it’s the obsession with granting those cars excessive amounts of space and an inflexible mindset when it comes to dealing with them. Take a look at the driving aisles in the photos above – those driving aisles would, in many other countries, constitute a fairly wide roadway. Why do parking lots need wide two-lane roads going through them?

  7. I’m not sure what the relationship for St. Anthony’s is with the church, but it may be an unusual example since I think this lot probably serves two purposes. Not that it makes it better for students… just different needs. I am a transit supporter, but Sunday service is dismal.

  8. Excellent post. Unbelievable that any supposedly child-centered organization would take scarce outdoor play space away from children and give it to cars. I’m blown away by all the examples you’ve provided.

  9. Eric, While I agree with much of what you have written here and in other posts, I’m concerned by this: “I understand that people in Barrhaven and Kanata need multiple-car households because their suburbs are designed that way. ” In fact, I think the design of the ‘burbs is most unfortunate in our city. We need to design them as neighbourhoods so the dependency on vehicles is reduced. With that mentality, we’d have a better focus on public transit and more people could live as those of us who live centrally do; smaller and more efficiently. Then maybe too, the parking lots could be transformed back to play and green spaces.

  10. The “walkability” from Tom Brown arena is reduced because of the walk over the bridge. I’ve done it a number of times, it’s not exactly a friendly walk. The Chinese grocery store recently went out of business on Wellington. Could the board at least temporarily use that for parking?

  11. There are lots of nearby parking lots that could be pressed into service, if desired, for the short term. And some for the long term. It’s not the absense of parking spaces that is the problem, it is the absense of trying on the part of the Board. They just don’t seem interested in creative thinking. (Surely they aren’t products of that same education system??-ed).
    – Eric

  12. Question: The board is providing parking, a benefit, to its teachers and staff. Teachers are not forced to drive to work; they choose to. So, since the parking is provided for other than mandatory reasons, shouldn’t it be considered a taxable benefit in the hands of the teachers?

    Methinks if teachers had to pay taxes on $1000 worth of parking a year demand would shrivel up, and more distant parking lots or public transit would begin to be more popular.

  13. Apparently your righteous rant has tweaked some ears at the ODSB, because I heard on the CBC yesterday afternoon that the board has backed down on it’s proposal, and the city has agreed to give teachers on-street permits while they make their previously ad-hoc parking spaces into actual spots.

    Good on you.

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