WANT TO TRIGGER a 10-minute tirade from a Philadelphian?
Mention one word: parking.
Finding a spot, saving a spot, losing a spot - it's the kind of thing that people obsess over, that can turn friends and neighbors against each other.
"In this city," City Councilman Mark Squilla said, "people kill each other over parking."
He's expected to explore one aspect of the hot-button issue, residential permit parking, during a Council hearing Wednesday morning.
Squilla, whose 1st Councilmanic District includes South Philly, Center City, Fishtown and Northern Liberties, has introduced a bill that would allow a city block to implement permit parking only if 70 percent of its residents sign a petition in favor of the move.
Currently, only 51 percent of residents need to sign off before permit parking can be implemented.
"A lot of streets barely get the 51 percent, and then you have the other residents filing a petition to remove [the permits]," Squilla said. "It becomes like a civil war."
The permit system, run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, is in place on 1,180 blocks in the city, said PPA spokesman Marty O'Rourke.
Residents are required to pay a $35 fee during the first year, and $20 every following year, O'Rourke said. A book of day passes for five visitors costs $35. Temporary 30-day and 15-day passes cost $30 and $15, respectively.
O'Rourke said the PPA hasn't fielded many requests from residents who want the permit system pulled from their block.
Requests have poured in during the last year from residents in Fishtown, Northern Liberties and South Philly who want to move to permit parking, he said.
Signs usually dot the neighborhoods closest to the stadium complex during Eagles games, reminding motorists that they can be towed if they don't have a permit.
But opinions on the permits' effectiveness vary block to block.
On 12th Street near Moore, a stone's throw from the bustling restaurant scene on Passyunk Avenue, parking permits restrict visitors to two-hour parking during the week.
"It helps a little bit, but on Friday and Saturday nights, it's very difficult to get a spot around here," said Maria Disciullo, 31. "You still see people saving spots with their chairs."
Roscoe Flowers, 60, lives on 18th Street near Carpenter, in the growing Graduate Hospital neighborhood. His block added permit parking about four years ago, as the area began seeing a population surge. "Still, if I come home at night, I can't find a spot. I have to park on Washington Avenue," one block south, Flowers said.
"I think [the PPA] does a poor job of enforcing [the permits]. I never see anyone doing a walk-through around here."
In Fishtown, some residents are annoyed at the idea of having to pay for the right to park on their congested streets.
"Look, there's nowhere to park right now, and it's the middle of the day!" said Marc Breuninger, 48, of Wildey Street near Columbia Avenue. "People are bitter. I don't think permits will make any difference."