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Newton North neighbors grapple with parking issues

Posted by Sarah Thomas  September 15, 2010 11:00 AM

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When Dr. Ofra Segal bought her 1890 Victorian home on Trowbridge Street in Newtonville, the street was a sleepy little place across from mature trees and a tall wrought-iron fence. Newton North High School, only 20 years old at the time, was just visible on the other side of the athletic fields.

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The new Newton North High School will open on Walnut Street in Newtonville. It replaces a 37-year-old building, which will be demolished.

"It never occurred to me that they would replace the school so quickly," Segal said. "Now we're in a situation where we would have moved out in a heartbeat, if the children weren't still in school. And it pains me to say that, because I love my house and I love my neighborhood."

For the last three years, the view at the end of Segal's road has been the growing bulk of Newton North High School. The cul-de-sac leading to the school's main entrance, Tiger Drive, is directly across from Trowbridge. Since the beginning of the school year, Segal said that parents had been treating Trowbridge like an extension of Tiger Drive.

"They drop students off and turn in our driveways. There is so much traffic. This Saturday, I was woken at 7 a.m. by honking horns," Segal said. "This was a quiet neighborhood when we moved in."

The complaints of residents around the new Newton North have led to a balkanization of traffic rules that can be very confusing, said the city's traffic engineer Clint Schuckel.

"Some streets have parking between certain hours, some streets have resident-only parking, some have no parking at all," Schuckel said. "It's a patchwork of rules that was developed over years by residents coming to us and making their voices heard."

After a June 24 Traffic Council meeting, new parking rules were enacted on Trowbridge that prohibit all parking on the north side of the road. On the south side, parking is limited to an hour. The rules are temporary, and will be revisited at the next meeting of the traffic council on Sept. 30.

But Segal said that the parking ban is often ignored, and that she and neighbors have called the police regularly on cars parking for hours.

"We're looking for some accommodation," Segal said. "We don't want anything out of the ordinary."

During the 2010-2011 school year, much of the parking on streets around the school will be teachers, staff and students at the new Newton North, as well as construction staff involved in the demolition of the old Lowell Street building. An additional 110 parking spaces will be available next year in a parking lot being constructed on the Lowell Street site, and more on-street parking will be gained as jersey barriers around the demolition work are removed.

Schuckel said approximately 190 faculty and staff members, along with approximately 100 students and 80 construction officials, had been issued on-street parking permits. The permits come with a specific address at which the cars must be parked; Schuckel said the system was designed to eliminate undue parking stress at more desirable locations.

"The way we have it set up, no more than 40 percent of the parking on any one street is dedicated to school traffic," Schuckel said. "That way we don't have everyone trying to park closer and there's nowhere for residents or their company to go."

Captain Howard Mintz of the Newton police traffic bureau said that there are 10 dedicated parking enforcement officers who work the area around the school, and that they were well aware of the differing parking rules on the nearby streets.

"We put up lots of signs letting drivers know where they can and cannot park, and for how long," Mintz said. "We've had calls from residents telling us where there were cars flouting the rules, but we've been able to keep on top of it."

Some of the members of the NNHS Liaison Committee, which was formed three years ago to deal with anticipated problems like this, say that singling out certain streets for specialized rules is not the way to manage traffic and parking.

"Sometimes, the most vociferous groups get their way, and granting favors can get in the way of good planning," said Anatol Zuckerman, an architect who attends committee meetings. "It isn't right to have the city divided like that."

Schuckel said that residents concerned about the parking regulations on their street were welcome to attend the Traffic Council's Sept. 30 meeting.

"We anticipate a longer discussion on the parking issue with the board of aldermen sometime in the fall, once we see how residents feel about the situation," Schuckel said.

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