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How the rich steal parking spots from you

Owners of pricy electric cars can get a permit for parking right in front of their doors.

An empty parking space usually stays that way because the house it's in front of is unoccupied. Bob Curley takes issue with that, and with signs being posted on streetlamps.
An empty parking space usually stays that way because the house it's in front of is unoccupied. Bob Curley takes issue with that, and with signs being posted on streetlamps.Read moreStu Bykofsky/Staff

DID YOU KNOW you can reserve a permanent, on-street parking space right in front of your home if you drive a pricey electric vehicle (EV)?

Neither did the residents on Delancey Street between 2nd and 3rd in Society Hill until they awoke to find their parking spots reduced.

City planners sometimes forget that "good" ideas can have a "bad" impact on people. The EV program was not thought through. It turned into a land grab for the wealthy, providing them with a bonus worth more than $100,000 a year. Call it Electric Privilege.

There are two designated EV spaces on the south side of the 200 block of Delancey, a quaint, cobblestone stretch between Spruce and Pine streets.

Longtime resident Deen Kogan tells me: "It's hard enough to find parking without having a dedicated space for an individual house. It's ludicrous."

The EV spaces are located in front of 214, 216 and 218 Delancey St. In front of one of those homes, near the curb, is an electrical outlet, secured with a small padlock.

The owner of 218, who declined a full interview, says the box is locked because she and her husband pay for the electricity to recharge their car (a Tesla, reports another neighbor).

The annual fee for an EV permit in this neighborhood is $150 a year.

A garage parking space in Society Hill costs more than that a month, says Kogan.

Bob Curley, president of the Society Hill Civic Association, says with a smile that he's a "zero carbon footprint guy" as he gives me a slight-seeing tour of the neighborhood. The central issue is fairness, he says, and the EV program is unfair in many ways.

On Delancey Street, it's available only to those on the south side of the street, where parking is allowed. It's unfair on any street with parking on only one side.

It's unfair because only EVs can park in EV spaces while EVs can also park in regular spaces.

Perhaps most unfair is that the permits "basically are deeding land to private homeowners for $150 a year," when off-street deeded parking in the neighborhood goes for well more than $100,000, says Curley.

A homeowner wanting a permit has to apply to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, jump through some hoops and lay out some cash, such as for the installation of the charging apparatus. Once installed, the EV spot can be used by any electric vehicle, not just the homeowner's. But no one else can charge up because the box is locked.

Curley also complains that a homeowner can go away for months, leaving the spot vacant, unusable to the vast majority.

He walks me over to an EV parking spot on 2nd Street below Spruce in front of a now-vacant house with an EV permit. The parking space was vacant Saturday and usually is, says Curley.

This Electric Privilege problem had a long gestation period.

Legislation creating the EV program was signed into law by Mayor John Street in 2007. Administration is provided by the Parking Authority, with the Streets Department charged with putting up the signage.

The signage hurts the colonial look of the neighborhood, says Curley, and he's particularly ticked off with parking signs attached to old-fashioned Franklin lamp posts.

"There are 15 current EV permits, most in Center City, Fairmount and Bella Vista," says Parking Authority spokesman Marty O'Rourke. "Five others are pending."

I predict more problems when neighbors lose parking spots to the electric beneficiaries of the land grab.

Society Hill is in City Councilman Mark Squilla's district and he's heard from residents, I am told by his chief of staff, Anne Kelly King.

A meeting will be held with the Parking Authority and the city Streets Department to resolve the problems, she says.

The meeting should include Curley, a lawyer when not volunteering to head the civic association.

He suggests setting up charging stations - available to everyone - in Parking Authority garages and parking lots, and encouraging gas stations to have charging stations.

It's bad policy - and unfair - to give EV owners private possession of public space.

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky