Backlash Against Boston Space Savers

North End, Fenway groups urge mayor to ban use of chairs, other objects to claim shovelled spaces

It may be almost two months after Boston’s first blizzard and three days from the official beginning of spring, but if you drove around the North End of Boston Tuesday, you could still find items like an orange paint bucket serving as space savers -- a warning to other car owners, I shoveled this space, and don’t you dare park here.

The prevalence of space savers, murky consensus around how long they let you claim a space you shoveled out, and widespread reports of vandalism and tire slashings aimed at parking-space usurpers are leading more Boston neighborhood leaders to say it’s time for this Hub tradition to be banished.

The North End Waterfront Residents Association, for example, just voted by a 3-1 ratio to recommend the city ban the use of space savers. It follows a similar vote by a Fenway group, and in coming days, neighborhood associations representing the West End, Bay Village, Chinatown, and Back Bay are considering similar votes. Depending on how they go, an umbrella group representing residential neighborhoods of Boston Proper, the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations, may vote to urge Mayor Martin J. Walsh to implement a clear ban from the Fenway to the Charles River, Boston Harbor, and Fort Point Channel.

Ford Cavallari, president of the North End group, said of the space saver controversy: "It’s a situation right now which doesn’t have a clear set of rules around it, so essentially, there’s a bit of chaos going on in the streets, and the street savers have become a catalyst in this chaos for people to get angry. There have been a lot of reports of vandalism and other bad behaviors, and eliminating space savers eliminates potentially a lot of those symptoms."

Cavallari and some other neighborhood leaders think the prevalence of space savers actually thwarts and impedes city efforts to remove snow to make room for parking, and a combination of longer parking bans and year-round enforcement of “no parking this side” rules for street cleaning twice a month could facilitate snow removal in winter on what would be street sweeping days in warmer months.

For Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who has to deal with crime, schools, and a $3 billion budget, snow savers appear to be maybe the most vexing and nettlesome issue he faces – and one he wasn’t eager to take up Tuesday or any other day.

“I just think the whole space saver issue is getting a little crazy," Walsh said. “People are talking about banning them and not banning them – first of all, there’s no real law on space savers," the mayor said, but just a past informal practice of allowing people to claim a space for the first 48 hours after they shovel it out. Walsh waited longer than that after some storms this winter before announcing that space-saving objects would be thrown in trash trucks by city Department of Public Works crews on trash pickup days.

“If it works, it works," Walsh said of the custom. “I think when you get nine feet of snow and somebody’s shoveled a space out, certainly it’s going to be very difficult to say the space saver is going to end here in the city."

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