LINCOLN PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel could introduce an ordinance in April that limits free Sunday parking in some neighborhoods.
Mayoral spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said Monday that the mayor would combine requests from aldermen who had asked to end free Sunday parking in their neighborhoods, a perk Emanuel had put into place when he renegotiated a 75-year parking-meter lease that had given control of the meters to a private company. Those aldermen, with the support of local chambers of commerce, said the paid meters increase turnover in spaces for shoppers coming to their stores.
"While we believe the vast majority of Chicagoans are pleased with free
Sunday parking ... , we understand that three out of 50 aldermen prefer to restore paid Sundays in certain areas where the businesses/residents support it," Quinn said. "To that end, as promised, we intend to introduce an ordinance in April that will combine the requests of the few aldermen who requested paid Sundays be restored."
She added: "We are currently conducting our review of the requests for operational consistency and to prevent against confusion for motorists who will need to observe different rules than the rest of the city neighborhoods on Sundays."
The statement came after the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce sent an email to its members last week, entitled "Call to Action: End Free Sunday Parking at Meters."
The chamber said the free parking is hurting the bottom lines of area businesses.
"Frustrated sounds right," chamber spokesman Padraic Swanton said Friday. "The general tone is, 'Where are we and what happened'? We thought we were moving ahead on this."
Nearly a year ago, during hearings on the renegotiated contract with the private company, Chicago Parking Meters, aldermen with busy retail businesses corridors in neighborhoods like Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown and Lincoln Park were told their wards could eventually retain paid Sunday parking to keep customer turnover high.
Swanton says that for the many retailers, restaurants and bars in Lincoln Park, Sunday is the third biggest day of the week. Free Sunday parking has noticeably hurt sales, because many drivers park their cars in the spaces Saturday night and don't move them till Monday morning, he said.
"When the free Sundays was originally put through we didn't think too much about it," says Swanton. "But now that it has been put in practice we can see it has become a problem."
Until Monday, there had been little movement on making a change, aldermend said.
Salvatore Arenella, the owner of DaVinci Vision Boutique located at 1449 W. Fullerton Ave., sees the lack of turnover on Sundays as a problem in Lincoln Park.
"In order for businesses to be successful they need movement," says Arenella. "Businesses depend on local customers for sales but it's important to bring in customers from afar. Especially in the city because it's so congested."
DaVinci Vision Boutique is located on a five-block stretch of Fullerton between Ashland and Sheffield avenues without parking meters. But Arnella says he and the other businesses in that area want metered parking on that section of Fullerton.
"Businesses can't survive in this area and it's due to the parking," Arnella explains. "Anyone who wants to drive here can't find a space."
The chamber of commerce's e-mail is asking members to reach out to aldermen like Michele Smith (43rd), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and Robert Fioretti (2nd) and express support for restoring paid Sunday parking as soon as possible.
"Our understanding is feedback from business constituents would help sway those forces that are holding it up," explains Swanton.
Most aldermen which represent the area support the business community on the issue.
"I do agree with the chamber," says Fioretti. "I do love the free parking when I can find it, but I understand the problem of turnover. If the cars don't move, it impacts negatively on our businesses. The numbers that park in a single spot all day long on Sundays is the problem."
Waguespack, who has pushed to restore paid Sunday parking since the change last year, believes ignoring small business is a bad policy. He feared the mayor won't change the policy, after the city issued a press release earlier this month stating that the savings for drivers by installing free Sunday parking was greater than expected. The release also touted features that will soon allow parkers to pay their meters by smartphone and other savings in the renegotiated contract.
“By delivering on free Sunday parking in the neighborhoods, pay by cell convenience for our motorists, and financial protections for our taxpayers, we were able to make a bad deal better,” Emanuel said in the release.
Countered Waguespeck: "Their businesses are hurting. [Emanuel] never met with chambers or small business owners. He doesn't understand small business or the fundamentals of urban planning."
Smith, who originally requested a reinstatement of paid Sunday parking last June, now says she's still evaluating her position.
"What we're doing now is waiting to receive feedback before we take a position on restoring paid parking on Sundays," she said last week. "We've only received a handful of responses so far."
Waguespack said if Emanuel doesn't move on the issue, he'll introduce his own ordinance to address the issue at April's City Council meeting.