Drivers avoiding Chestnut Hill’s pay parking creating problems for nearby residents

Some Chestnut Hill residents say drivers trying to escape the pay parking lots are flooding nearby residential streets.

In May, the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation turned its ten parking lots into pay lots. Since that time, the lot behind Spa Elysium on Bethlehem Pike has seen the parking kiosk removed.

The issue of residential street parking came up at committee meetings held by the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) Thursday night.

On the agenda was whether to help a proposed frozen yogurt shop win a variance request from the city. As it turns out, under Philadelphia’s new zoning code, Chill on the Hill, which will be located at 5 E. Highland Avenue, does not need a variance to sell prepared foods.

Chill on the Hill owners, Leslie Newbold and Alison Shoemaker nonetheless came to the CHCA’s meetings on Traffic, Transportation and Parking (TTP) and Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee (LUPZ) to express their intention to be good neighbors.

Several residents from the 8400 block of Ardleigh Street did express their concerns that the yogurt shop would only make parking worse on the side streets off Germantown Avenue. “You have walked into a hornet’s nest,” near-neighbor Carole Michaels told Chill’s owners.

Residents complained that employees who work in Chestnut Hill’s Germantown Avenue businesses and customers who refuse to use the pay parking lots are taking up all of the available space on side streets.  Neighbor, David Plimack said parking at night is not much of a problem, but “during the day it’s a different story.  During the day, Highland is a nightmare.”   He is especially concerned about the Engine 37 fire truck, which often travels up Highland Avenue and then drives up Ardleigh Street in order to bypass traffic congestion on Germantown Avenue. Plimack fears that if the streets are further clogged up with parking, the fire truck will not be able to get through.

Residents said they are seeing more incidents of illegal parking as well.  Plimack noted that many times delivery trucks park directly in front of his garage.  “Usually they try to give me some space to get out, they don’t always,” he shared.  Another neighbor was recently blocked in all night by a car parked in front of her driveway.  “This is becoming like South Philadelphia,” exclaimed John Michaels, who said he feels drivers are parking wherever they wish without worry of punishment.

How things worked in the past

The Chair of the resident’s traffic committee Tom Hemphill shared that in his own experience, he has found implementing permit parking on side streets to be “very successful” for ensuring residents have available space for their cars on their own blocks.  Philadelphia’s Residential Permit Parking program would require neighbors to circulate a petition to get permit parking.  Parking would then be enforced by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA).

Hemphill says things were better when the Chestnut Hill parking lots used a sticker system to provide select customers free parking. The cost for the parking stickers was funded by merchants, who then provided stickers to shoppers. Neighbors and committee members agreed that much of the overspill of parking onto side streets stems from those who seek to avoid paying the kiosk fee of 50 cents each half hour.

The Parking Foundation

Residents Thursday night also expressed a desire for greater representation with the Parking Foundation, which re-introduced pay parking to the Chestnut Hill lots without feedback from the community. “They do things without any input from any residents”, asserted John Michaels, of  He said excluding residents gives the impression that the Parking Foundation operates in a very secretive manner.  Michaels would like to see someone from CHCA’s traffic committee as a liaison.

Hemphill stated that the need for better coordination between TTP and the Parking Foundation is evident.  “There’s a gap,” he remarked.

Joyce Lenhardt, Vice President for CHCA’s Physical Division says CHCA does have Mark Keintz as a representative on the Parking Foundation.  She also agreed that having someone from the traffic committee could be beneficial. Hemphill from the traffic committee says TTP will  continue to explore solutions to the parking situation. “We’re dedicated to working on this and will do our damnedest to solve it,” he declared.

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