Students fight back against parking ordinance
For the past year West Linn High School student Rory Bialostosky made sure to arrive at school before 7 a.m., nearly two full hours before class started. A member of the school's broadcasting team, Bialostosky had to stay late most days for sporting events, yet found himself having to arrive at school hours before the first 8:30 a.m. bell so he could find a parking spot.
Bialostosky's morning challenge is a problem that West Linn sophomores and juniors know all too well thanks to a shortage of student parking at the high school. But Bialostosky — who will be a senior next year — says it's an issue made worse by a West Linn city ordinance that forbids students to park in nearby residential streets during school hours. The high school has 277 parking spots allotted for students, the vast majority of which go to seniors. Seniors apply for an assigned spot each summer, with a lottery taking place if there are more applicants than spots. With a senior class that totaled 391 this past year and a projected senior class of 446 next year, there aren't many parking spaces to go around.
That means that any student without a designated spot who wants to drive to school is forced to fight over the meager spaces that exist on McKillican Street or directly in front of the school along West A Street. Students who aren't able to locate legal street parking are forced to drive home and find a different ride, park illegally in the visitor's lot in front of the school, or on neighboring residential streets. But because of the ordinance requiring a residential permit to park — which includes Buse Street, Broadway Street, Easy Street, First Court, Lewthwaite Street, Terrace Drive, Willson Street, K Street and Webb Street — students can receive $30 parking citations from the city.
"A lot of kids get to school at 6:30 a.m. and then just sleep in their cars until school starts," Bialostosky says. "If you get here at 8 a.m., what are you going to do? It's a dilemma, because you can either park in the visitor's lot and get a $15 ticket from the school or park in the neighborhood and get a $30 citation. It's just annoying."
Parking in surrounding neighborhoods is permit only from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. on school days. The ordinance was enacted in 1995 stemming from problems related to student parking. Residents living close to the high school complained about students using the on-street parking, littering and making noise, as well as general safety concerns from speeders. Some even testified they'd seen drug use from students parked on the streets, according to the West Linn City Council meeting minutes from June 12, 1995. Some current neighbors are worried those problems would re-emerge should the ordinance be lifted.
"I've only lived here recently, going on two years, but I have a lot of safety concerns from students speeding on lunch breaks to get to lunch and back, and speeding during peak hours as well," says Dylan Pakes, who lives on West A Street north of the high school, where no parking is allowed. "We don't have sidewalks and so there are dangers for pedestrians and especially kids that walk that street.
"I'm a dad with two young kids and we already have our concerns with this area about excessive speeding, and we don't want our street impacted with another issue."
Bialostosky first spoke with the city's Youth Advisory Council in December about reviewing the ordinance, but recently revamped his efforts to repeal the parking ban on students after receiving three tickets in a period of three weeks. He set up meetings with the Bolton Neighborhood Association as well as city councilors Brenda Perry, Bob Martin and Richard Sakelik to discuss his concerns.
Bialostosky reviewed the original ordinance and came to the conclusion that it was not only outdated, but that residents were abusing the situation by selling parking spaces on their properties for students. He reached out to multiple students, finding that some were renting out residents' driveways during the school day for as high as $100 per month.
"A lot of residents are renting out spots in their driveway for like $20, $30, $40 a month. At the same point you can't park on the street, so essentially they're profiting off of the ordinance. That's kind of screwed up," Bialostosky says. "It's unethical. They're probably not even claiming that money on their tax returns. It's basically an under-the-table business making money off students."
Bialostosky worked with the school's National Honor Society, which agreed to set up a monthly community cleanup project around the areas where students would park. Bialostosky says he's also hoping the City Council will look at opening up additional parking on the West A and Broadway Street bridges where parking is currently prohibited.
City council temporarily lifted the ordinance soon after it was put in place in the 1990s when the school's Ecology Club promised to monitor student parking and littering, but the parking ban was reinstated during school hours when problems persisted. Residents in the past have suggested the school should add more parking for students or revamp its after-school busing system, but West Linn High School has maxed out its property with no room to add additional student parking, and has seen enrollment grow steadily in recent years.
"I think the high school needs to take charge and find a suitable change," Pakes says. "If you suddenly allowed students to park on the streets I think there would be some unintended consequences that would cause other problems."
While Bialostosky will likely get his own assigned parking space in either the high school's Senior Lot or Tripp Lot this coming school year, he says he's not going to give up on his mission. He spoke at Monday's City Council meeting June 26, alongside a group of similarly-concerned students, and plans to continue to work toward a parking change.
"It's the independence of being able to stay after school, work with teachers and do homework — that's why students need to drive to school," he says. "We have massive sports programs where kids practice after school, so they have to get here for workouts in the morning and after school. It's not just a bunch of spoiled brats who want to drive to school instead of taking the bus. Everybody has a reason for it."