Illegal median parking battle divides South Philly residents

There are two major issues that get South Philadelphians riled up: street cleaning and parking. And since the only major criticism against street cleaning is that it requires parked cars to move, the only issue that truly troubles South Philadelphians seems to be parking.

South Broad St Parking divide
South Broad St median parking is the South Philly norm (photo by Claudia Gavin)

Illegal median parking on south Broad Street has long been a topic of discussion and debate. Cars park on the median of Broad Street, Oregon Ave, Washington Ave, and wherever it the PPA and Philadelphia police turn a  blind eye. Other neighborhoods don’t get it, and South Philadelphians don’t really think anything of it. It’s the way it has always been, legal or not.

Since the Democratic National Convention, when median parking ban was enforced, the controversy has only escalated. Median parking practice is technically illegal, but is it dangerous? 5th Square, a political action committee, seems to think so. 5th Square started an online petition to ban median parking that has since gained over 900 supporters. The organization recently hosted a fundraiser, “No Parking on the Dance Floor” at our own Dolphin Tavern to support the banning of median parking. According to 5th Square, the funds will be used to “pay for the next phase of the Broad Street campaign, which will include professional planning and design work, and multiple public engagement sessions that empower South Philadelphia neighbors to reimagine what Broad Street can be.”

South Philly Parking Ban
South Broad Street with no cars parked on the median due enforcement during the DNC

Leading the other side of the median parking war are many vocal long-term South Philadelphia residents. Most notably, the administrator of Taking our South Philadelphia Streets Back (TOSPSB), a local pro-police/anti-crime Facebook group, has led a social media campaign to support maintaining illegal median parking in South Philadelphia. The TOSPSB Facebook group is a page for community residents to warn each other about local crime and share events to support the PPD. The Facebook group identifies as diverse, with majority vocal members being traditional, long-term South Philadelphia residents.

Although noncommittal about the issue, Mayor Jim Kenney has encouraged the PPA to start ticketing some of the worst violators, according to Philadelphia Magazine.

“The mayor, the PPA and members of the administration met to discuss the median parking issue a few weeks ago, before the administration met with 5th Square this week,” said Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt. “In that meeting, we agreed that PPA should ticket in the median when a car is fishtailed, in the turning lane, and in the crosswalk. We also agreed that any other changes should be community-driven.”

Mayor Kenney’s compromise, although agreeable to both parties, was criticized by some community members as “weak and noncommittal.” Such criticism has been said of our mayor many times since his taking office in January. Kenney has not pushed to action some of his campaign promises, notably ones that involve a firm stance. Tough decisions often offend, and Jim Kenney is not one to offend. As Kenney is currently involved with scandals and an FBI investigation, perhaps the non-offensive route is his best position.

Polls, action calls, and surveys are flooding Facebook, with South Philadelphians split nearly 50/50 between the sides. Enforce the law and ban median parking or continue the South Philly tradition and let it be? Is it simply a battle of new residents vs old residents? Will Mayor Kenney’s efforts be enough to peacefully settle this deeply divided issue?

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