Oak Park mulls overnight parking tweaks as ban looms

Trustees punt issue to Oak Park Transportation Commission for recommendations

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Village Board of Trustees decided to refer staff suggestions and other possible reforms to overnight parking to the village's Transportation Commission in a 4-2 to vote during a virtual Sept. 21 meeting. Trustee Dan Moroney did not attend the meeting.

With the relaxation on the overnight parking ban expiring Sept. 30, staff brought forth two suggestions intended to increase the amount of available overnight parking for residents. 

Development Customer Services Director Tammie Grossman said there's been a "steady" and "concerning" drop in parking revenue since the village relaxed parking restrictions during COVID-19 – a reduction of about 80 percent. 

The first suggestion was to extend the area of permitted overnight parking. Current policy states the overnight on-street parking zone is within 500 feet of buildings zoned in the R-7 district, a multifamily residential classification that includes Austin Boulevard, the Washington Boulevard corridor, the area around Pleasant and Marion, a section near Lake Street just east of downtown Oak Park and other smaller pockets throughout the village. 

Staff suggested an extending overnight parking to within 750 feet of the R-7 district, with the Transportation Commission identifying where to extend.

Secondly, staff suggested increasing the number of parking passes people can have using the Passport parking app. People currently receive three passes for free each month, then pay $7 for the next seven passes up to 10. Staff recommended increasing that to five free passes a month, then 10 passes after that at $7 each.

Staff recommended no change to the price of permits, as Trustee Susan Buchanan clarified during the meeting.

"These proposals don't change the price; the prices stayed the same," said Buchanan. "Nobody's going to be saving any money. They're just going to be able to have more options on where to park."

Trustee Jim Taglia was undecided regarding overnight parking, but he was open to receiving guidance from the Transportation Commission, noting that the complexity of the issue.

 "I would definitely vote to refer it to them," said Taglia, who eventually voted against doing so. 

Trustee Deno Andrews also wanted to get the Transportation Commission's input and mentioned the possibility of a premium parking pass that allowed for unrestricted parking in all areas. 

"I think there's room for that and I would like to see what Transportation commission felt about that," said Andrews. 

Staff did not recommend getting rid of the overnight parking ban in its entirety, but Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla stated she wanted that option considered.

The two staff suggestions, Walker-Peddakotla believed, did not address the issue of equity as related to parking nor did it take into account the financial toll of paying for overnight parking.

"The added expense on top of renting, especially in an economic downturn, I don't see this solving any of those issues," she said.

Trustee Simone Boutet was interested in hearing from Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds on how a permanent removal of the overnight parking ban would affect public safety. 

 "There's definitely an equity issue and a safety issue that we need to be balanced," said Boutet. 

Walker-Peddakotla also had a mind to send the issue to the Transportation Commission.

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb believed that Oak Park will never have a perfect solution that addresses all of its parking problems, because the village does not have enough street space to accommodate all of its vehicles. Abu-Taleb viewed village staff's suggestions favorably.

"It does advance the ball forward," said Abu-Taleb.

The mayor also thanked Fenwick High School for building a parking garage to reduce the number of vehicles parked on nearby streets.

Abu-Taleb warned that a failure to accept the staff recommendations as presented would be detrimental instead of helpful to the citizens of Oak Park, because parking enforcement would resume before the Transportation Commission could give its feedback.

"If this fails, then we're not helping the people who need help most," the mayor stated.

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