BY ALANA LEVENE
The City of Sydney Council is putting off plans to install parking meters in Paddington and Darlinghurst due to a unified and forceful resistance from local residents and business owners.
Councillors voted unanimously on 8 April to reject a proposal from the traffic committee to install paid meters along sections of Greens Road, Oxford Street and Goulburn Street. The recommendation, made in December, drew the ire of community members, who were explicitly told there would be no paid parking in Area 15.
The Council will instead consider bringing free timed parking to the area to help rangers enforce limits. They’ll also review the parking time limits in the area, and in a year, they’ll reconsider ticketed parking on Greens Road and parking meters on Oxford Street.
The Council also voted to suspend the use of a new paid parking meter on Goulburn Street, where it planned to trial 15-minute free parking.
“Once [Lord Mayor Clover Moore] saw how all the businesses and residents were opposed to it, she was very receptive,” said Will Mrongovius, President of the Paddington society.
Traffic department vs community
The traffic department initially proposed ticketed parking in late 2016 as a way to boost compliance with parking restrictions, prevent visitors from hogging spots and give residents better parking access.
The initiative was halted months later.
“The City received 71 submissions to the consultation, of which the majority objected to the introduction of parking meters,” said a March 2017 letter from Cr Moore to Mr Mrongovius. “The City will therefore not be implementing paid parking in the area.”
The City’s revenue from parking meters and fines was $45.7 million last financial year, according to a City of Sydney spokesperson.
Ticketed parking already exists on main streets in Newtown, Surry Hills and Redfern, and in residential areas like East Chippendale, East Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. There are also parking meters on the north side of Oxford Street toward Woollahra under the Woollahra Council’s jurisdiction.
There are no parking meters in the City of Sydney’s section of Paddington, and the community took Cr Moore’s letter as an assurance that it would stay that way.
That’s why it came as a surprise when in December 2018, the traffic department again pushed for parking meters on Oxford Street and Greens Road.
Cr Kerryn Phelps put forward the initial Notice of Motion so the council could confront the ongoing parking saga.
“Residents have been fighting against this issue for years,” Cr Phelps said. “The proposal keeps rearing its head for the Paddington community.”
Ms Phelps said the proposal was a “knee jerk reaction” intended to improve parking turnover, but in reality, it would just drive customers away.
“I encouraged council to look for alternative measures to encourage turnover in a way that is more consistent with community expectations,” Ms Phelps said.
Local business owners, like Sue Ritchie of the Beauchamp Hotel, feared the toll parking meters would have on local businesses.
“It’s just another deterrent to coming to Oxford Street if you have to pay for parking, compared to going to another area that gives you free parking,” Ritchie said. Competitors, like Westfield in Bondi Junction, offer shoppers free parking.
“If people come down here and suddenly have to park before they go into Berkelouw’s, they won’t do it,” Mrongovius said.
Ritchie said parking meters would be “another nail in the coffin” for Oxford Street. The vibrant shopping and nightclub strip has suffered financially in recent years due to lockout laws, extensive development in nearby areas, and changes to the retail environment.
“It’s been a slow and extended death by a thousand cuts,” Ritchie said. “There is still so much passion and energy and fantastic people on Oxford Street. At this point in time, we need help rather than deterrence.”
Councillors side with community
Residents joined business owners in their opposition. They say they don’t want their family and friends to have to pay for parking when visiting, among other logistical reasons.
“We know, based on experiences of friends in other areas, that if you put parking meters on one street, what people do is go to the streets that don’t have parking meters,” Mrongovius said.
When Cr Kerryn Phelps tabled a motion in favour of the constituents, it came as a huge relief following the years’ long back-and-forth.
“We had been trying to resolve it at lower levels, but the community wasn’t getting listened to at the traffic committee level,” Ritchie said. “By her tabling the motion, it was resolved at a council level. That was really fabulous.”
Ritchie credited several councillors, especially Cr Phelps, Cr Vithoulkas and Cr Moore, who chaired a meeting the previous week between the traffic department and community members.