Compromise reached for some lakefront parking

June 10, 2009 8:54:41 PM PDT
The fight to stop the Chicago Park District's plan to eliminate all free parking at lakefront lots paid off on Wednesday.Protestors from the Rogers Park neighborhood took their concerns to park district commissioners.

It is a nightly ritual for many in the Rogers Park neighborhood: the search for a parking spot. It's a densely populated area with relatively few parking spots. So the 123 spots at Loyola Park right on the lake and also right next to several apartment buildings are very popular.

Some residents were so concerned about the park district plan to charge for parking around the clock that a busload of them came to complain to the board. Then after a last minute closed door meeting, Park District Superintendent Tim Mitchell and Alderman Joe Moore came up with a deal.

"In these dire economic times we are left with nothing but hard choices. But I made the choice based on the fact that I felt it created less of a burden on my constituents," said Alderman Joe Moore, 49th Ward.

The alderman will pay the park district $89,000 from a discretionary fund in exchange for keeping free overnight parking at Loyola Park.

"All of us sort of win. The alderman wins, the community wins. And the park district gets $89,000 more to spend on fixing up parks," said Tim Mitchell, park district superintendent.

There a few free overnight parking spots left in the neighborhood and many residents, some on fixed incomes, depend on them.

"I think it was a creative solution to a difficult problem. The park district has a budget shortfall," said Kirk Markus, resident.

"That is great if they would stay the same. It would be great in they left the covers on them at all times," said Andy Anderson, resident.

While overnight parking in Loyola Park will remain free, daytime fees will go up to a $1 an hour. And overnight fees will still be in effect at some other lakefront lots.

The Park District expects to have the pay boxes in place and the new rates in effect by the end of summer and they say eventually they expect it to bring in about $1.5 million a year.

A park district spokesperson said the city hopes the 24/7 meters bring in $750,000 in the first year and $1.8 million in the second year.

Also at the meeting, a code change that would clear the way for surfing at some beaches is up for consideration. It would remove the ban on flotation devices at some beaches.


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