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Obscure Pittsburgh driveway parking ordinance still on books 2 years after pledge to change it

Bob Bauder
| Monday, Sept. 7, 2015, 10:30 p.m.

Some Pittsburgh residents are worried they will again be cited for parking in their driveways under an archaic ordinance City Council promised to change two years ago but didn't.

Code enforcement officers in 2013 issued a flurry of citations and warnings to residents of Wind Gap and Squirrel Hill for parking in driveways without obtaining a $225 zoning variance and permit.

“It opens the residents anywhere in the city to arbitrary enforcement of a law that continues to exist but shouldn't,” said Scott Blumenthal, 52, of Squirrel Hill, who was cited. “This had the effect of taking people's cars out of the driveways and putting more cars on the street.”

Corey O'Connor of Swisshelm Park and Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood, council members who represent those areas, called the ordinance ridiculous and vowed to change it in September 2013. They blamed the delay on a change in mayoral administrations and the complicated nature of parking in dense neighborhoods.

The Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections has not issued any citations in their districts since then, they said.

Erik Harless, assistant director of the department, said he doesn't believe any citations have been issued for a vehicle in a driveway.

“The common violation that we do enforce is when off-street parking areas, not driveways, have been created without obtaining the necessary permit,” he wrote in an email.

“It's a debacle,” Smith said. “The problem is we want to be sure that when we make changes that it doesn't create a problem somewhere else.”

Residents must adhere to setback regulations to park in front of their homes, whether it's in a driveway or “parking pad” in their yards, according to the ordinance. Setbacks are typically 15 to 30 feet from a property line bordering the street.

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

The problem is many shared driveways that run between houses were built in the early part of the last century and are too narrow to accommodate today's cars. Residents cannot park vehicles within the setback because they can't get cars between the houses.

People such as Eileen Freedman, 47, of Squirrel Hill were cited for parking in driveways, but outside of setbacks.

“Because you can't get through the driveway, people have to park in front of their house, but still in their driveway,” she said. “You take a drive around the city, and you can see it's a very widespread, common occurrence. That's the part of the ordinance that needs to change.”

On Thursday, at least 10 vehicles in the immediate vicinity of Freedman's house were parked illegally in driveways.

O'Connor said the easiest solution would be to grandfather every existing driveway and legal parking pad, but the city hasn't documented them. He said people with illegal parking areas could claim an exemption.

O'Connor said he has scheduled a meeting with the zoning board to figure out how to amend the ordinance.

“We just need to get the right language so it makes clear sense that everybody can park in their driveway,” he 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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