Update: Bridget Collins-Greenwood, Commissioner of Public Property for the City of Philadelphia, confirmed the bubble-bursting news this morning that not only is the no-parking policy limited to the northwest half of the City Hall apron, but the change actually has nothing to do with the grassroots pressure campaign–they’re just doing construction to repair the apron, and that’s why people won’t be able to park there. Elected officials and their staff will still enjoy parking privileges on the northeast side of the apron during construction. Democratic Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney has pledged to end apron parking, in the likely scenario that he wins the general election this November. So the general thrust of this post is still basically correct, even if the timing is off, though sadly for Jon Poet, it isn’t time to power down the City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr just yet.
Word came down this afternoon that as of this Monday, June 15, there will be no more parking on City Hall’s north apron:
“Please note that effective Monday, June 15, 2015, parking will no longer be permitted on the north apron of City Hall” wrote Mary Ellen Milovsky of Council President Clarke’s office, in an email shared with PlanPhilly, “Any members or staff who currently park on the apron have been advised of their new parking location.”
The city isn’t bowing to urbanists’ calls to end the vulgar practice though–they’re just doing construction on the northwest half of the apron so it’ll be physically impossible to park there. Politicians and staffers will continue to enjoy parking privileges on the northeast half right next to Dilworth Park for the time being.
But that won’t last long. Jim Kenney is on the record opposing the practice, and has vowed to end it in the likely event that he becomes Mayor:
“I have some strong feelings on vehicles parking on the City Hall sidewalk, as you might imagine,” he wrote in the 5th Square PAC’s candidate questionnaire, “I introduced legislation in December 2014 to end the practice, and as Mayor, I will not permit vehicle parking there. This area is for the public. With the revitalization of Dilworth Park, it creates an opportunity to completely reshape how we look at City Hall’s public space.”
The main point to take away from this saga is that hashtag activism works sometimes for minor issues, and this is a pretty big win on a minor issue for Philly’s online urbanist community.
The issue of administration staff and Councilmembers parking on City Hall’s north apron has rankled lots of people’s aesthetic sensibilities for decades, but local AP editor Jon Poet was able to steer enough sustained public attention and mockery to it with his dryly hilarious City Hall Parking Lot Tumblr to finally get the job done.
That Tumblr became a big hit with urbanist Twitter, and the media followed up with some stories that moved things along. Geoff Kees Thompson pulled a Right-to-Know request of all the city-owned fleet used by elected officials and their staff, many of which were parking on the apron. And then Patrick Kerkstra at Citified really moved the ball down the field substantially by bugging the Nutter administration about it, and then embarrassing officials with the list of who all has been parking there.
Jim Kenney, while still a Councilman, introduced a resolution ending the practice, and then when he started running for Mayor he said he would stop it on day one.
The 5th Square put the question to candidates in their candidate questionnaire, and got all the City Council and Mayoral candidates who responded to say they’d end the practice too.
So while it’s not happening early, as I over-eagerly reported in the first draft of this article, it has been clear for a while now that the end is nigh for the City Hall Parking Lot beginning next year.