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Pittsburgh is ticketing residents for parking in their own driveways

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Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Pittsburgh building code officers are citing residents under an obscure and infrequently enforced ordinance that prohibits homeowners from parking in their own driveways without a $225 zoning variance and permit, two city council members said.

Residents who are ticketed typically are unaware of the ordinance until the Bureau of Building Inspection receives a complaint and notifies them, Councilman Corey O'Connor said. City officials say the ordinance has been on the books for years, and controversy crops up cyclically when officials issue citations.

BBI has cited or warned seven residents in his district on Hobart Street in Squirrel Hill, O'Connor said. Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said the bureau issued 14 citations to Wind Gap residents in her district.

“When somebody's parked in their driveway for 30, 40 years and all of a sudden we're going to come out and give you a ticket, that's unfair,” O'Connor said.

Eileen Freedman, 45, and her husband parked in their Hobart Street driveway for 18 years before BBI issued a warning last month. They've since moved to a parking spot on the street.

“It's ridiculous, and it doesn't make our city look very smart,” Freedman said.

Residents must adhere to setback regulations to park in front of their home, whether it's in a driveway or “parking pad” in their yard, according to the ordinance. Setbacks are 30 feet from a property line bordering the street.

Residents must obtain a variance and permit from the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment at a cost of $225 to deviate from the ordinance.

John Jennings, acting BBI chief, said the bureau does not enforce the ordinance unless it receives a complaint. Residents first receive a warning. After that they face fines that district judges determine. Fines can run as much as $1,000, Jennings said.

“We're getting complaints from people around there who don't want people parking on the pads,” he said. “We're kind of the bad guys in the middle here.”

The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, a nonprofit neighborhood civic group, opposes makeshift parking pads. Coalition board member Steven Hawkins said residents have created gravel lots in front yards and dug out entire front yards for pads on which to park commercial vehicles.

“That is not the neighborhood we want,” he said.

O'Connor and Kail-Smith said they will work to enact changes that would give relief to the Freedmans and others in their predicament. They hope to have all recently issued citations invalidated.

“People should be allowed to park in their own driveway,” Kail-Smith said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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