NEAR WEST SIDE — New parking restrictions on city streets near the United Center have caused confusion among neighbors living west of Damen on the Near West Side.
Longtime resident Eddie Winters said he had no clue the new parking rules were in place during United Center events until he was unexpectedly slapped with a $75 ticket in late December for parking in front of his home.
"It was a total surprise," Winters said. "And a number of my neighbors got them."
The confusion came as Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.'s 27th Ward office expanded restricted parking on city streets during United Center events to include streets west of Damen. Previously, parking was prohibited on city streets during United Center events in an area bound by Lake Street on the north, Ashland Avenue on the east, Jackson Boulevard on the south and Damen Avenue on the west.
Under new boundaries, parking is prohibited on city streets during United Center events in an area bound by Lake Street on the north, Ashland Avenue on the east, Jackson Boulevard on the south and Western Avenue on the west, said Reggie Stewart, who heads Burnett's committee on traffic safety.
DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali and Carto
That means thousands of Bulls and Blackhawks fans, as well as concert-goers, who seek out side streets during events to park, will no longer be able to park for free in the area.
Near West Side residents, churches and schools are exempt from the restrictions, but they must obtain a free residential parking pass from the alderman's office to avoid being ticketed, Stewart said.
To obtain the parking pass, neighbors should bring their ID and proof of residency to Burnett's ward office, 4 N. Western Ave., or Burnett's City Hall office, 121 N. LaSalle St., Room 300.
Residents can also obtain five guest parking passes per visit at the alderman's office, Stewart said.
Burnett said the office won't issue more than five guest passes at one time in an effort to keep them from being illegally duplicated or sold.
"The reason is the guys in the neighborhood [are] selling them," Burnett said Tuesday night.
Although the expanded boundaries and new signs were installed this summer, Stewart said parking enforcement agents didn't begin enforcing the new rules until winter. The alderman's office recently has fielded calls from a number of neighbors, Stewart said, and the office made every effort to inform neighbors of the new boundaries, passing out fliers and informing them via email blasts.
Some neighbors ignored the new restrictions until they received a ticket, Stewart said.
"We did call over to [the city's] Revenue [Department] to try to help them get that resolved," he said.
Concerned about United Center patrons taking up limited street parking spaces during games and concerts, neighborhood residents requested that the parking restriction boundaries be expanded, Stewart said. Some patrons will hunt for free street parking west of the United Center instead of paying to park in a pricey lot near the arena.
Burnett said residents regularly came to his office to complain about United Center customers hogging parking on the streets.
"We decided to put [the restrictions] in to make it feasible for them to be able to park in front of their houses," Burnett said.
The parking restrictions are similar to parking restrictions near Wrigley Field in Lakeview, where zoned parking and game-day parking restrictions are enforced, Stewart said.
Burnett said that while the new restrictions are needed, he is concerned parking enforcement agents are ticketing people who aren't in violation of the rules. He's called the Chicago Department of Transportation to voice his concerns, he said.
"Right now, my wife's contesting a ticket," Burnett said. "She's got the pass, and they still gave her a ticket."
The new restrictions also aim to cut car break-ins on the Near West Side, Stewart said.
Burglars "will see that they're going to the United Center, and say, 'Guess what? I can bust their window,'" he said.
Parking restriction boundaries were first put into effect in the 1990s during the Chicago Bulls' championship run, Stewart said.
In summer 2016, the city expanded restricted parking on city streets during United Center events to include streets west of Damen, all the way to Western Avenue. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
New rules 'maddening'
Claudea Heise, who lives near Madison and Leavitt streets, said a number of her neighbors received tickets.
"As I was just told, it is up to us to track the events at the United Center. This is crazy," she wrote in a Near West Side neighbors group on Facebook. (Click here for a schedule of United Center events.)
On Tuesday, Heise said the new rules are "maddening."
"It's causing complications for neighbors, and there wasn't any public meeting. It was an arbitrary and capriciously made decision," she said.
While the alderman's office has been helpful, Winters said he is not a fan of the new boundaries of the ban and plans to meet with neighbors about them soon.
"I think we're all kind of confused about it," Winters said.
Burnett said he is open to hearing residents' concerns about the new parking restrictions.
"If the residents ever want to take that down, we have no problem doing that," Burnett said.
Left: A residential parking pass for United Center neighbors. Right: A temporary guest parking pass. [Provided]
Union Park parking restrictions
Two years ago, the 27th Ward office also instituted parking restrictions near Union Park during events. Those boundaries are Lake Street on the north, Ashland Avenue on the east, Jackson Boulevard on the south and Damen Avenue on the west, Stewart said.
Union Park neighbors also are exempt from the restrictions and can obtain a free parking pass at the 27th Ward office or Downtown.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.