An existential debate in Jamaica Plain: Ban or keep space savers

Boylston Street space savers

Your basic JP space saving, on Boylston Street in February, 2018. Photo by Spiff.

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.


Free tagging: 



Thanks, Adam!

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For making me chuckle, first thing in the morning. I should have gone to this meeting instead of staying home to watch the Trump/Schumer/Pelosi show. Would have been more fun!


It really was an interesting meeting

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Speaking as somebody with no immediate stake in this (living in wild and wooly Roslindale and all), it was more like a college seminar class than what I've come to expect from neighborhood meetings in Boston. Maybe the small size helped.


Disappointed with the turnout reported

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And since I'm not affected by the proposal (hence, I will avoid positing an opinion) I didn't go.

That said, if we had had a storm or two in December, the attendance would have most likely been larger and the discussion more contentious. The latter would have been bad, but having more people show up may have been worth it.

Once again

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.

Yeah, but that's a specious argument. You're not clearing a space (which could be done much faster by a plow if it were just a space), you're shoveling out your car.

If you spend all that time shoveling out your car, you get to use your car. That's it. Don't want to shovel out your car? Don't shovel.

If I tell someone to move their knapsack off the seat off the T so I can sit, and put up with the rolled eyes while they o-so-slowly comply, I don't then get to claim that seat as mine for the next 48 hours.


It's hilarious but also

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It's hilarious but also pathetic how space saver users describe clearing their cars of snow. They make it sound like climbing Mount Everest. When in reality a normal person could do this simple task in like 20 minutes without breaking a sweat. But when you are a lazy sack of lard who drives everywhere, pushing a little snow around seems impressive. They are such an entitled and spoiled group that they think doing the bare minimum deserves a reward. They would love a gold medal in addition to "their" parking space. And of course the medal would be paid for by the property taxes paid by non drivers.


Can Confirm

I rarely drive, but own a car that I park on the street in Allston.

Once the snow starts falling, my 4wd vehicle will stay under snow for a week or more. If it gets cold enough and that snow starts to turn into a layer of ice it can be all but impossible to free it.

Fortunately for me, I can walk 1 minute and hop on the Green Line, hop on my bike, walk, or call an uber, but not everyone is as fortunate.

Wrong again Kinopio

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Once again you show your total ignorance about the subject. It's not just clearing the snow from your car, it's also shoveling enough snow around your car so you can drive out of the space, and clearing the (sometimes frozen solid) snowbank up against your car from the plows. It can take a long long time depending on the size of the snowstorm. And it is often very hard physical work. I think you know all this, but insist on insulting those of us who have cars and misrepresenting the facts. You have never offered any worthy comments on the subject.

And by doing that,

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you get the privilege of driving your car out of the parking space. Don't want anyone else parking there after your hard work? Don't move your car, or pay for a deeded space. Somebody else cleared the roads and a parking spot (or you paid for a garage spot) at your destination.


That assumes that the amount of snow matters.

Reading between the lines, there seems to be some kind of judgement based on the quality of snow removal. This is an issue where every individual wants to dictate how everyone else acts without admitting that it is really what is best for that individual.

I am not insulting you, just pointing out that you have no control over other people's actions. There is no law allowing for space savers, but it isn't really against the law either.

Of course you can call it littering, calling something garbage is subjective. The garbage service leaves my trash can in the road once a week. The refuse to pick up any garbage that is not in proscribed containers, but when it snows they will suddenly pick up the space savers because it's trash? What about the actual trash in the street? So you can argue it either way. It is a terrible waste to block a space for 10 hours a day.

Neighbors need to agree on what works for their street and stop pretending that either way is right or wrong.

Are you in Boston?

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Trash collection will pick up pretty much anything. It doesn't have to be in a certain type of container, but just can't be spilling all over the road. Even then, they'll often make an effort. But based on what it says on the website and on my experience, they pick up furniture, large containers, etc. The same stuff people use for space savers.

Can't be

I haven't yet found the thing Boston trash collection won't pick up. Dead appliances, couches, contractor bags of random crap, broken storm doors, all of it alley-oop into the truck. Proscribed [sic] containers? HA HA HA

Unless you get a sudden random vigilante

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We had one put a sticker on a black trash bag that had dust on the outside, saying they don't take construction debris. Which it wasn't, but I was like, since when? I mean, yes, I know that's the policy, but I also see them tossing DIY amounts of construction/demolition materials into the trucks. It was pretty hilarious that my bag suddenly got singled out. I just shoved it along with some less rattly trash into a white kitchen trash bag (the kind the city says you can't put out for trash collection) and they took it the next time.

The only thing we've ever had a hard time getting them to collect was a trash can we were trying to throw out. We wrote all over it, put signs all over it, and it kept ending up back with our good still-in-use trash cans.

lol meanwhile I've been

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lol meanwhile I've been putting out actual construction debris, some of it in black contractor bags, some of it not in bags at all, and they've taken all of it. Go figure!


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Tear down those space savers!



Almost every other city has alternate side parking during the winter or year round. It lets them clear and clean the road and prevents people from abandoning vehicles. Why is this not done in Boston?



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You don't give out stickers on demand. You limit the number.

Where do you put all the cars in the summer?


This is a weekly problem in the summer

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Not enough parking in the summer. Let's do away with street sweeping so we don't have to switch sides every week. /sarcasm

There is never enough parking as long spot density stagnates as population density increases. We can't expect people to rely on the T when it is delayed every day and the T doesn't dig out bus stops.

Boston used to do this.

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Boston used to do this. Today there are many more cars in the city than there were 25 years ago.

Alternate-side parking often

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Alternate-side parking often leads to lots of double parking, as the cars on the even side of the street are double-parked on the odd side for a few hours. This would probably make plowing more difficult, except New York (at least) suspends alternate-side parking for snow emergencies (when the street-sweeping crews are operating snow plows instead).

The Somerville annual alternation of "park even"/"park odd" seems simpler, if only because it only applies during (actual or expected) snow, not on rainy January days.

Does it lead to double parking?

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Alternate-side parking is required most of the year for street sweeping and I don't think I've ever seen long-term double parking going on during street sweeping days.

He pointed to Somerville,

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He pointed to Somerville, which is "kind of like JP" but which has crews completely clear their streets of snow


I needed a good laugh this morning.

Especially the last couple years Somerville has done an abysmal job of clearing snow. Even somewhat major streets that don't have parking still have snow extending into the road by 2+ feet days after the snow.

Last year after one storm it took about a week just to get the right turn lane on Broadway at McGrath plowed at all.

Somerville is far from a shining example of how to do things, but I am glad we don't allow space saving.


I feel like they did a better job during the winter of '15 than they have since. What happened to those awesome snow eaters?

I too am glad Somerville doesn't allow space savers (I have a driveway now, but street-parked for 4-5 years before). People do try to use space savers, but the city *will* come confiscate one if someone reports it, sometimes even if nobody does.

And they still plow *way* better than Cambridge.

I saw the mountain of

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I saw the mountain of confiscated space savers a few years ago while doing some business at the Somerville DPW on Franey- was quite impressive

newcomers and visitors don't

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."

A Boston Strong sticker on a recycle bin. Maybe a picture of Big Papi saying, "This our ****ing parking spots".

Just a thought

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I wonder why the city doesn't do street cleaning year round; instead of April-November. This way, they can plow the odd sides one week, and the even sides the next week (as needed). If there's no snow, just continue with the regularly scheduled street sweeping. People litter year round; it doesn't stop in the winter. What do you think?


if only!

That would be so nice, it could eliminate flat tire season for bikes - the time between when the snow banks recede and the start of street sweeping.

I suggest that people in JP

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I suggest that people in JP talk to people in the South End. It was a neighborhood-based effort to ban them there. Finally, some sanity on the streets.

People need to be less uptight

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Amazing some people get their panties in a bunch over this issue. Ratchet it down. JP has a serious violent crime problem. Deal with that before space-savers.

Lemme guess...

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The guy proposing the ban has a nice garage or at least a driveway I betcha.

There are no space savers

There is just garbage left on the streets and sidewalks. Some of it is occasionally nice lawn furniture that I help myself to.

Ridiculous entitled nonsense

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Are these people in favor of anyone laying claim to city property, or just themselves doing so? Can I just decide Jamaica Pond is only for me on Mondays from 2-4 and vandalize the property of anyone who doesn't respect whatever I bring up to justify my right to take over the park? Can I draw on a sidewalk, block it off, and say no one gets to walk there because I spent time decorating it? Ooh, what about the library? If I spread all my shit out on a table, then remove it, can I say no one gets to use it while I'm at work because I cleared it off? The fuck.