Many houses in the central, oldest parts of the City do not have off-street parking. The City sells permits for these people to park on the street without violating the time limits usually put on curbside parking.
There are several problems with this approach. First, houses without parking probably have less market value, to either buy or rent, than does an identical unit with a driveway. This lower value makes housing more affordable to those who choose to be car-free. By creating an “out” from this disadvantage, the City reduces the affordability.
People who value walking to work are priced out by a city anxious to cater to those who want a shorter drive. A classic case of importing suburban values and imposing them on pre-suburban neighbourhoods.
The City further is extraordinarily lax in my west side neighbourhood about enforcing rules about parking on greenspace. Every year, a few more front yards disappear under asphalt , and the streetscape becomes a linear parking lot. What’s worse, each of these informal or formalized driveways further erodes legal curbside parking.
Throw in the desire of property owners to “save” by not buying permits, and there is a monetary and convenience incentive to convert greenspace to parking. Lax enforcement of parking rules is a complicit “OK” from the City. Front yard parking spaces don’t necessarily benefit tenants either: there are numerous spaces on the west side that rent for upwards of $200 a month to nearby office workers while the house or apartments are rented “without parking”.
The Preston-Carling CDP is headed towards some “naked streets” whereby the sidewalks will be flush with the street, no curbs, and both paved with the same look and feel. How will motorists recognize the “sidewalk” in order to not park on it? And with no curbs, isn’t this an invitation to park on front yards?
Some commercial properties play similar games. Buy the residence behind the commercial mainstreet, convert the yard into parking for the business owners and staff, and rent out the house. It’s a profitable land play. The City turns a blind eye to this conversion of residential properties.
More audacious are commercial property owners that supposedly have a parking lot for their own business but rent out the spaces monthly to office workers while visitors to that property find all the parking spaces full. A certain convention and meeting hall on Preston comes to mind … but they are not unique.
Problems can rise from large commercial buildings. The three-tower office complex on Preston at the Queensway has oodles of underground parking spaces, 99% empty during the evening rush hours and on weekends, while the merchants lobby the city for more taxpayer-funded surface parking. Bizarre.
The City is busy with CDPs and “mobility studies” all over the west side, but not one has nibbled on my repeated suggestions that it is time to review front yard parking trends, or to review the horribly inefficient condo parking situation.
Recall that when the Laurier separated bike lane was being opposed by the residents of Queen Elizabeth towers due to the supposed unavailability of visitor parking, the building itself was sitting on hundreds of empty — and unavailable — spaces. Somewhat inefficient. The old ways – 24-7 reserved spaces for each condo unit – have to go the way of the dodo. We have to find new ways.
Some of the new condos are mixed use buildings, with the daytime commercial spaces supposedly available to be evening visitor parking. This seems predicated on businesses being a 9-5, M-F operation. The City seems to be turning a deliberate blind eye to the obvious conflict of which spaces are available when.
Consider also that one of the largest proposed west side condos will have four to six floors of office space. Condo visitors will also access the spaces. Does anyone think the Chief Poo Pah of the commercial space will drive into the garage at 2pm and be delighted to find all the spaces full? Of course not, whether its for the top dog or the outbound salesperson, at least some of the commercial tenants will want reserved parking. Once it is reserved, it ain’t exactly visitor parking any more.
I’d like to see the City do a review of on-site parking rules for condos and commercial buildings. An ideal situation would be to take a land-rush area, like the Preston-Carling CDP zone (although there are other places this could be done) and do a pilot project to disrupt the current dysfunctional off street and on street parking situation.
I’m not thinking of the usual twelve month study either. It is rushing through a bunch of CDP’s and it could easily fund a quick study to see what other cities have come up with (and there are other cities much more advanced than Ottawa on this) and propose some fixes for Ottawa. Here’s a novel idea: hire a consultant. A fresh one, not one in the pocket of the Ottawa industry.
For all my complaints though, we haven’t seen anything like these spaces pictured below, from Boston. And I have seen similar ones in Paris. Posts and chains mark off private parking spaces so no one can sneek in while the owner is driving elsewhere.