Permit parking zone in 4400 block of Lacrosse in Jefferson Park sparks debate; no changes planned
by BRIAN NADIG
(Article updated 7 p.m. March 24)
The owner of a 16-unit building at 4812 W. Montrose Ave. claims that a permit parking zone implemented last year in the 4400 bock of North Lacrosse Avenue is forcing some tenants to park two blocks away and that is making it difficult to lease the units.
Alderman James Gardiner (45th) said that he has no plans to eliminate permit parking on the block or to create an adjacent “buffer zone,” which reportedly could give parking access to about 200 addresses not on the block.
Building owner Barbara Murphy said that she is not seeking to have the parking permit zone rescinded or to create a large buffer zone. She said that her building has 11 on-site parking spaces and that one or two tenants would need to park on Lacrosse on a regular basis in addition to some parking for daytime visitors.
Murphy said that she talked to the City Clerk’s office, which oversees parking permits, and was told that Gardiner has the discretion to “amend the code” to allow only one additional address and that she would accept limits on how many of her tenants could get a permit.
Murphy added that she understands the need for permit parking on Lacrosse given the nearby Montrose CTA Blue Line station, 4600 W. Montrose Ave., and city service yards, including the city Department of Water Management facility, 4900 W. Sunnyside Ave.
The clerk’s office leaves the creation of buffer zones up to the discretion of aldermen, and the office recommended against the creation of a buffer zone in an e-mail to Gardiner.
“After surveying the area (on March 19), it was determined that adding a 200-address buffer zone would overwhelm the current parking situation, potentially causing an extreme decrease in parking availability for residents,” the e-mail states.
The e-mail adds that a buffer zone would “severely decrease” parking on Lacrosse “due to the number of multi-unit residences” in the surrounding area.
Gardiner said that Lacrosse was “packed” with cars on Thursday evening, March 18, when he delivered letters to residents asking for their input about whether the zone should be rescinded. He said that residents were in support of keeping it.
Gardiner said that he has no plans to make an exception for only one building because that would be giving “special treatment.”
“If you’re not adjacent to the street, you don’t get (a permit),” Gardiner said. He added that tenants in a corner building at 4822 W. Montrose Ave. are eligible for a permit because a portion of the building abuts Lacrosse and that its is “common practice” for aldermen to grant access for corner properties. Gardiner has issued at least one letter of exception for a tenant at 4822 W. Montrose who was seeking a permit.
The building at 4812 W. Montrose, which is not a corner property, was constructed about 2 1/2 years ago, and initial plans had called for 16 on-site parking spaces but residents expressed concern about increased traffic in the alley and as a “compromise” only 11 spaces were installed, Murphy said. She added that she and her husband wanted 16 spaces and had offered to pay 3 years of parking permit costs for residents on Lacrosse in exchange for having 16 spaces but that offer was rejected.
Normally the zoning code requires at least one parking space per unit, but the site qualified for a transit-oriented development reduction in parking due to the site’s proximity to a transit center. Zoning for the building was approved prior to Gardiner taking office in the spring of 2019.
In 2017, an aide to then-alderman John Arena said that the 11 parking spaces would be “adequate for a location in close proximity to multiple transit options” and that “our office several times surveyed the parking around the site and didn’t find an issue. If a parking issue develops, we have tools to manage that, like residential parking restrictions.”
Under TOD principles, less parking is needed because the site is supposed to cater to tenants who do not own a car and use public transportation for their daily commute.
Murphy said this week that consideration is being given to increasing the number of on-site parking spaces to 16 by removing some of the green space. There is street parking on Montrose in front of the building, but there are restrictions, including no parking when there is more than 2 inches of snow, according to Murphy.
Controversy over the issue has sparked an intense debate on social media, including videos being posted showing that parking on the block was not filled. The city Department of Finance last year recommended against a permit zone for the Lacrosse block because 61 percent of the spaces there were available, but it reportedly is not unusual for an alderman to go against the department’s recommendation.
Gardiner said that the department’s parking counts are often not reliable because they are conducted on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., a time he said many residents are away at work.
Murphy said that it has been “months” since Gardiner has responded to her inquires about the zone parking and notes that at Gardiner’s request the City Council last September approved the creation of a buffer zone for addresses in the 5200 block of North Lovejoy Avenue. The buffer zone allows those residents to park in a permit zone in the 5100 block of Lovejoy, which backs up to the 16th (Jefferson Park) District Police Station. There is no parking in the 5200 block due to the bend on Foster Avenue, according to Gardiner.
Murphy said that she suspects Gardiner is upset with a possible Facebook post she once made based on a remark he made at a meeting last year with her and her husband.
Gardiner said that his decision is not personal.
“I have nothing against her at all,” he said, adding that there are more pressing matters in the community, including a nearby March 21 shooting in the 5100 block of West Sunnyside Avenue. “We are putting so much energy into permit parking.”
Last week there reportedly was an incident of someone putting dog feces on a property on Lacrosse due to the parking controversy. Videos have also circulated on social media of an object being thrown and breaking a window of the building on Montrose.
There are reports that some Lacrosse residents have provided one-day guest parking permits for tenants of the Montrose building.
Neighboring 38th Ward Alderman Nicholas Sposato said that controversy over permit parking is commonplace, as residents on the same block won’t agree on the need for a permit zone and the zones can create problems for those living on nearby streets.
“They can be nothing but headaches for us,” Sposato said.