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July 24, 2017

Lawsuit sparks debate over median parking on South Broad Street

Push has been met with resistance from residents who say the 200 spots are vital part of living in neighborhood

Urbanist political action committee 5th Square is suing the Philadelphia Police Department in light of a long-standing South Philadelphia tradition: parking on the South Broad Street median.

Since its beginnings in 2014, 5th Square's development initiatives have seen a fair amount of success. Government employees no longer park on the sidewalk around City Hall thanks to the group's request to Mayor Jim Kenney. The group was also instrumental in pushing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision on allowing local governments to implement plastic bag bans and regulations.

While advocating for urbanist-friendly politicians and practices, the group’s latest push to enforce the no-parking rule on the South Broad Street median has been met with contention from residents who say the roughly 200 parking spaces are vital in getting everyone a place to park in their neighborhood.

The long-standing parking tradition is, technically, illegal. Jake Liefer, co-founder of 5th Square, filed the lawsuit after he “tried to work with the city and the parking authority to enforce the existing law,” he told PlanPhilly last week.

“They have not done so, but we believe the enforcement of the law will be upheld by the court.”

The group asserts in the lawsuit that, despite volunteering time to convince authorities to enforce the parking law, it has met no success. Liefer told PlanPhilly he has received threats from members of the community who want to keep the illegal parking spaces.

Supporters of the ban point to the risks for pedestrians and cyclists that the median parking causes, particularly because it forces parkers to jaywalk once leaving their car. Supporters of the parking spaces claim they slow down speeders and, of course, provide ample parking in an area where a spot can be hard to come by.

Joe LiTrenta, a supporter of the median parking practice, told CBS3 he and some neighbors are working to make the parking practice legal and, therefore, satisfy the 5th Square lawsuit.

“Our position is [that] the current law is incorrect and an amendment needs to be made to it,” LiTrenta told the station.

Zoning lawyer Matt Monroe told PlanPhilly that the lawsuit has a considerable chance of success.

“It’s a good and colorable claim, not just something you’d crumple up and throw in the waste basket,” he said.