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February 18, 2010

It's time to stop saving parking spaces

OK, it's been eight days since the last of the big snowflakes fell on Baltimore and now many feel it's time to get on with life and stop saving parking spaces with chairs and other furniture. I took these pictures on West 37th Street in Hampden.

Yes, the mayor suspended enforcement but now her spokesman tells me the respite is over. While cops aren't ready to fan out and slap the cuffs on homeowners saving spaces with ironing boards, officials are urging a quiet, respectful retreat.

"At this point, the mayor believes that people should do the right thing, be good neighbors and take the lawn chairs off the streets," the spokesman for Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said Thursday.

There are reports that things are getting out of control -- neighbors fighting neighbors over saved spots and who cleared them and who has the right to them. Many aren't even saving spots they've cleared anymore, they're saving spots someone else has cleared, and angry citizens are taking it out with threats and force.

City Councilman James B. Kraft said he has received several complaints of vandalism over parking and he’s urging the mayor to face the public and announce a firm deadline for removing chairs from the streets. But he stressed police have better things to do than "be out there writing citations for this."

"I know the frustration of people out there," the lawmaker said, noting he saw three streets on Thursday "that have not seen a plow. How do you tell people who dug out their cars that they can’t save five spaces?" Just the same, Kraft said, "Folks have to realize it’s time to bring the chairs in. We can’t have a Hatfield and McCoy enmity that can come out these neighborhood situations."

Residents have taken to Facebook to sound off on the issue and argue with each other -- far better then fistfights in Hampden, but still not the image we want. Technically, blocking a public street carries a $140 fine and two points on your license.

City police tell me they're urging officers to use common sense and not start a blanket ticketing or enforcement program. They have better things to do. It would be nice if residents banded together, like they did when the snow first fell, and decided street by street what the rules should be. Housing inspectors could also go out an issue citations or simply seize the potted plants and chairs used as place-holders.

The frustration is understandable. Snow still covers streets and blocks roads and some city streets haven't seen a plow since the last snowstorm in December. And city didn't exactly follow through and tow cars from snow emergency routes and plow them as promised. So people are angry with the city and with each other.

But it seems it's time to bring the furniture inside.

Posted by Peter Hermann at 4:40 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Breaking news


Some friends and I thought it would be funny to rearrange the chairs that are saving spaces - people would still have their parking spot but they would have a new chair.

I think this entire story is very funny. I try to avoid the city because it is normally a dirty place anyway, but adding all of the lawn furniture and ironing boards makes it look even more ghetto. If you want a parking space then move to the county where the local government actually plows the roads and you can have your own driveway. I wonder if most city residents feel that the services that the city provides are equal to the taxes that they pay. My guess is no!

I think the nerve of these chair savers is ridiculous. The worst is hearing stories about them leaving hateful notes on people's cars.

If anyone took your saved chair spot, guess what happened to the spot that they dug up. Someone also took it.

During the storm, I dug out four separate spots in my neighborhood. Why should I respect the spot of someone who has only dug out one and is trying to hoard it with a chair.

How could they ticket unless there's a name and address on the chairs-- are police supposed to go about it with stakeouts?

Doesn't the mayor have the authority to send trash or other trucks around to collect the chairs? They are an impediment, our street is one lane, you go to pull over and let someone pass and there's all this freaking furniture in the road!

It seems like announcing the city is going to trash the chairs and clearing a few token streets for news cameras would be pretty effective.

The county is also still having a snow removal problem. I live on a court that is off a street with on-street parking. There are still a lot of people who have not cleared snow from in front of their homes. Is it right that some of us spend hours doing it while others just take the parking because they were too lazy to clear a space?

It's all a matter of civility and common courtesy. Since it's been years since I lived in the city - I'm not sure how much the civility and courtesy has degraded. But, from the stories I'm hearing about people taking spots - I'm guessing that it's on the verge of lawlessness. This is a wake up call Baltimore - spiralling into depths beyond recovery - first the seizure of one's parking spot - then - what next?

I've only lived here for 5 years, so I'm not a resident, but c'mon, Hun!. "Chair Parking" is ridiculous and i'm shocked that this wasn't addressed on snow day 1. Kiney Parking Systems needs to "Get in on It" issuing a standard City approved "parking Chair" with an annual assessment, of course.The "charm" of the Chairs and Thangs is played out and is way beyond Ghetto.

I totally agree with MJB. What are they going to do, trace the serial numbers of the chairs to a credit card to figure out who bought them??? There's no identifying marks on chairs. Though I have to say, it would add a new level of kitsch to this snow tableau to see Baltimore's finest prowling the streets, tucking tickets in between the straps on 1970s-style lawn chairs.

i could tak me 2hr-2day just to clear a spot so im saving it

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About Peter Hermann
Peter Hermann started covering news for The Baltimore Sun in 1990, first in Anne Arundel County and, starting in 1994, reporting on the Baltimore Police Department. In 2001, he was assigned to Jerusalem as the Baltimore Sun's Middle East correspondent. He returned in 2005 as an assistant city editor overseeing crime coverage. In 2008, Peter returned to the beat as a daily reporter and blogger. A recent BBC report featured him in a segment on the harsh realities of covering crime in Baltimore.

Coverage will focus on crime trends, problems in neighborhoods in the city and elsewhere, profiles of victims and police officers and try to offer readers a fresh perspective on one of the most vexing issues facing Baltimore and its future.

Contributing to this blog is Justin Fenton, who joined The Sun in 2005 and has covered the Baltimore City Police Department and the criminal justice system since 2008. His work includes an investigation into Cal Ripken Jr.’s minor league baseball stadium deal with his hometown of Aberdeen, a three-part series chronicling a ruthless con woman, coverage of the killing of five Amish children at a schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., and a job swap with a British crime reporter to explore differences in crime-fighting. A special report looking into how city police handle rape cases led to sweeping reforms that changed the way sexual assaults are investigated in Baltimore. He was recognized as the best reporter in Baltimore by the City Paper in 2010 and by Baltimore Magazine in 2011.

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