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No Overnight Parking

August 7, 2009 Downtown, Parking, Planning & Design, Suburban Sprawl, Travel 17 Comments

My brother’s subdivision, located in a far sprawling area within Oklahoma City’s huge city limits, is a curiosity to me.  No doubt we have similar subdivisions in the St. Louis region.  Every region in the US likely has a similar situation.

The subdivision is gated.  Not just to outsiders but from one part to another – wouldn’t want the Riff Raff from 3 blocks away in our part of the same subdivision.

The sidewalks don’t leave the subdivision because the major roads outside the subdivision lack sidewalks.  I can see the grocery store from his front walk but to get there requires a car trip.

Although they have plenty of room between the curbs & sidewalks, they have zero street trees.  Apparently tree-lined streets are a bad thing?  The one decorative tree in each front lawn is kept back so it can’t won’t shade the sidewalk.

The streets are not public but are privately owned & maintained by the home owners.  All houses have 3-car garages – the minimum allowed.  You can leave a non-commercial vehicle on your driveway but don’t think of leaving your car on the too wide subdivision streets overnight.  Commercial vehicles (company SUV with name on the side, for example) must be kept in the garage.

The logic goes that parked cars on the street overnight is low class and tacky.  To protect their home values, the streets must be free of vehicles.  They live in an environment where the car is a must but they don’t want to see the cars at night.

I don’t get the logic at all.

New Town at St. Charles
New Town at St. Charles, June 2005

To me the narrower tree-lined streets in older areas or New Urbanist areas like New Town at St. Charles (above) are so much more appealing, visually & functionally.

The 3-car wide driveways and the series of garage doors is much more an issue for me.  Narrow streets with parked cars help slow traffic.

Are people selecting the suburban subdivision because they is what they want or are people buying in them because they are the current perception of the ideal living environment?  Has anyone given it much thought?

Clearly the developers, in writing the rules for subdivisions, have set out guidelines that are counter to my way of thinking.  It is not like buyers have any real choice — all the new development follows the same formula – except for the New Urbanist developments which are hard to build because zoning mandates the suburban/sprawl ideal.

I’d love to buy a house in such a subdivision and plant street trees after removing the original lawn ornament tree.  I wouldn’t want to live there, just challenge their view of an ideal place to call home.  But seriously, we’ve got a major sticking issue if people don’t want cars on the street overnight.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Suburbia is dumb and New Urbanism is better, we know this.

  2. Jeff says:

    Well some of the rules of New Town are just as ridiculous. Try painting your house a different color than the choices given to you. I think the whole place looks like a creepy movie set and way too sterile. It is a glorified subdivision just different than what we are used to.

  3. samizdat says:

    “I think the whole place looks like a creepy movie set and way too sterile.” When I first saw the pics of New Town, I immediately thought of Edward Scissorhands. Anywho, I grew up in Glendale, a podunk bedroom ‘burb wedged between Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Parking on the streets at night would get you a ticket. Of course, there was (and is) virtually no crime. At all. Except for the incident in which a mentally ill man murdered his parents, about ten years ago.

  4. W Kruse says:

    I can’t help but think that people who move to developements like this are looking for urban living…but set in a corn-field. It’s homogeneous urban living. They seem to want the urban experience, but without any diversity. Just seems kind of “truman show” creepy to me.

    [slp — I knew I shouldn’t have used a picture from New Town. But the person that lives in my brother’s subdivision wouldn’t like New Town any more than the older core neighborhoods. They like wide streets with zero cars. I don’t understand that.]

  5. Fluffer says:

    I think the most important part of this post is the lack of choice. I don’t care if someone wants to live in a privately owned and operated gated neighborhood with no cars on the street overnight. But if that is the ONLY choice, then that is no choice at all.

  6. Jimmy Z says:

    And from Casselberry, Florida, “City officials say the ordinance is part of an ongoing effort to ‘revitalize’ the city, improve a downtrodden image and increase property values. The language of the ordinance calls [commercial] vehicles ‘visual blight.’ The mayor’s term: ‘commercial intrusion.’ ‘We’re just trying to make ourselves look a little better,’ Mayor Charlene Glancy, who is a Realtor, said last week.

    “Are people selecting the suburban subdivision because they is what they want or are people buying in them because they are the current perception of the ideal living environment? Has anyone given it much thought?” Unfortunately, the answers are yes, yes and yes. Developers may be “evil money grubbers”, but they have figured out that people want 3-car garages and are willing to pay for them. If most buyers wanted purple lawn ornaments, guess what, we’d see a lot more purple lawn ornaments. People are buying into a combination of “better” schools, more “security”, more rules to “protect” the value of their investment and the ability to both store and show off their vehicular toys.

    We urbanistas are a true minority, willing to walk over driving, to use public transit, to live in areas with fewer guarantees, to live in homes that need constant maintenance and repairs, and to live with both the upsides and the downsides that true, urban living brings, including, horrors, on-street parking. Does that make us “better” or more “right” than people who choose the suburbs? I dunno – I believe that life is full of choices and that we each choose what we think is best for us at whatever stage of life we might be in.

    The only “valid” argument I’ve heard over the years, for both parking restrictions and wider streets, is that too many parked vehicles can obstruct access by fire trucks. In a few areas, the solution has been the purchase of smaller fire trucks (duh!), but in most, the answer remains this . . .

  7. Dennis says:

    I just don’t get the 3 car garage minimum. What would be so unappealing if a house only had a 2 car garage? I bet the don’t allow clothes lines either.

  8. poncho says:

    they cant have street trees because it would obstruct the sight of a repetitive streetscape of identical 3 car garages

  9. Charley says:

    I seem to recall that the city of St. Louis used to forbid the parking of pickup trucks on city streets overnight. Did that silly law get removed?

  10. bridgett says:

    Charley–when we were trying to get rid of a problem property on the corner, I think I recall it was commercial pick up trucks (and then, only, if the owner didn’t live on the block–enforcement seems spotty). I could be wrong. But I remember fighting over whether cabs counted as commercial vehicles or not.

    This post is so depressing. My sister in law lives in a similar suburban place, except it’s a “suburb” of a town of 2500 in southern Illinois. She’s not actually a suburb–it’s just a neighborhood set up to look that way. I don’t know–maybe people do want that. But I think people want that because, for the most part, they’ve been told they want that. I like bucking that, but not everyone does.

  11. Isaac Newton says:

    “I think the most important part of this post is the lack of choice. I don’t care if someone wants to live in a privately owned and operated gated neighborhood with no cars on the street overnight. But if that is the ONLY choice, then that is no choice at all.”

    Sure it is – they have a choice not to live there.

  12. colby says:

    I think Jimmy Z has a valid point. Developers and city planners don’t sit around trying to find ways to sabatoge walkable neighborhoods. Most regulations/building codes are the result of some perceived conflict or hazard.

    A couple practical reasons for the no street trees and no on-street parking:
    1. the space between the street and sidewalk may be a utility easement with various underground utility lines – not compatible with tree roots.
    2. On street parking can reduce visibility and increase the risk of kids darting out from between cars and being hit. Ideally, narrow streets/parked cars help slow traffic, but not always.

    So the task is not to judge one style as ‘better’ than another, but to find a way to balance the desire for a more walkable/less sterile neighborhood with the practical concerns above – this obvioulsy requires open communication and education.

    Just my opinion.

    [slp — on-street parking is allowed during the day when kids might be playing, just not overnight. Utilities are often in the back or under the road surface.]

  13. W. K. Lis says:

    “Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes made of ticky tacky,1
    Little boxes on the hillside,
    Little boxes all the same.
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one,
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same.


  14. CarondeletNinja says:

    Perhaps the prohibition against overnight street parking is to serve as a deterrent from residents parking clunkers/project cars/non-running vehicles there for extended periods of time. This would also lend itself to the mandatory three car garage, to have enough space to keep all household vehicles off of the street (mom, pop, and son/daughter/spare car). Alternate reasoning could also be that since the streets are owned by the subdivision, anything happening to the cars overnight could be a potential lawsuit, either from the vehicle owner (someone broke into my car while it was on subdivision property…I’m suing!) or from another motorist (there was a car parked right in the street in the middle of the night! I couldn’t see it, and ran right into it! I’m suing!) As a ninja, I’ve stubbed my toe on many street parked cars while skulking around in the dead of night, and I can tell you firsthand, it’s no laughing matter…

  15. Mottalleyrat says:

    I thought Ninjas had stealth…

  16. PCC says:

    The overnight parking ban is probably for aesthetics, and also to keep people from having guests over too late. The lack of street trees is first an attempt to keep people from driving into trees, second shows their lack of concern about people using the sidewalks (wait, people use sidewalks?), and third perhaps a concern about who would rake up the leaves should they fall onto the street.

    As for the “just as ridiculous” rules in New Town, I’m pretty sure that the gated community has the exact same ridiculous rules — and more, as we’ve found.


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