A discussion on spaces savers at Curtis Hall was polite and calm and ultimately roamed, as JP discussions sometimes do, over broader topics - from man's relationship to his fellow man, the growth of anomie in the age of the Internet and the cultural essence of being a Bostonian.
Maybe that's because outside of committee members and the press, only about a dozen residents attended the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council's Public Service Committee meeting tonight.
But regardless of their feelings on space savers, the small group seemed to agree on one thing: The city needs to do more to clear the damn snow away from local roads in the winter.
Omer Hecht, who made the proposal to follow the South End and ban winter space saving, said he's had enough of the vandalism and outright violence that sometimes explodes as people fight over curbside turf after snowstorms. Newcomers and visitors, who have no clue about our decades-long, normally unspoken infatuation with space saving, bear the brunt of the problems as they innocently park in spaces somebody else has cleared out, he said.
And, he continued, "by enabling space saving, we're enabling the city" to do nothing about piled up snow. He pointed to Somerville, which is "kind of like JP" but which has crews completely clear their streets of snow, in contrast to Boston, where, in a snowy winter, like, oh, 2015, the snow just keeps getting piled in ever taller, ever wider mounds that turn even two-way streets into narrow glacial paths.
Hecht acknowledged that banning space saving go over better in parts of the neighborhood with mostly single-family homes with driveways than in more densely packed parts of the neighborhood without driveways and only the street on which to park. He agreed there are also issues of privilege at work: Does a family with three cars deserve more of a limited public resource such as curbside parking than a family with just one?
Hecht makes his case:
Girt Thorn agreed with Hecht our ways can confuse outsiders - he recalled that when he moved to Boston about six years ago and he saw all these things in cleared out spaces, "to me, it was like 'what the hell is going on here?'"
But Thorn said rather than banning space savers, maybe the city should create even more specific rules for their use than the current, simple, 48-hours-after-a-snow-emergency rule.
One example, he said: Residents should be required to label their curbside crap as space savers, so newcomers and visitors don't have to wonder why streets are lined with broken chairs and old traffic cones after a storm. As an example, he said, people could put up little effigies of the mayor marked "Official Boston Space Saver."
Bernie Doherty, born and raised in JP, came out foursquare in favor of space savers: If you spend all that time clearing a space, you deserve it. He said he can understand people shocked at the "gall" of people who pull into their hard-shoveled spots.
"I've never used one, but I would defend somebody's right to use one," he said.
Doherty, while saying the discussion gave him things to chew on, said there's no way that banning space saving would convince the city to come up with a way to clear snow from curb to curb.
"The city is not going to do the right thing," he said. He said one of the real problems is the city letting developers put up large buildings with not enough parking.
Other residents also backed space savers, long a part of the very culture of Boston.
One woman said shoveling out spaces is a way of bringing neighbors closer together, to help each other out with shoveling during storms. She said she's gone out during the day clearing snow off her street just to be neighborly.
Other residents, though, said space savers drive neighbors apart because they're so anonymous - and that people abuse the city's 48-hour rule to hold spaces long after snow has started to melt, sometimes well into the spring, often tolerated by a public-works department that they said just does not care. Sarah Buermann said that they way things are today, with people off in their own little worlds on the Internet, neighbors are growing farther apart than ever.
Another resident said Somerville is not necessarily the shining light of space saver banning, because even there, some people still try to save spaces.
The committee took no vote, agreeing to let Hecht talk to as many of JP's two dozen or so neighborhood associations to make his argument and see if he can build a neighborhood consensus in favor of a ban.