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Neighbors at odds over street parking

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Parking Problems

Vehicles are parked along the curb on Fisher Street in Oak Forest. 

Oak Forest residents Greg and Emily Lambert have a spacious front yard, but they do not let their two young children play in it. They said their stretch of Fisher Street is often occupied by vehicles parked along the curb, which they see as a safety hazard.

One day earlier this year, the Lamberts said the kids who live across the street were playing basketball in their driveway, when the ball bounced away from them and into the road. The ball was promptly run over by a motorist who had just turned onto Fisher from Golf Drive, which is roughly 50 feet to the east.

“Luckily the kids didn’t run after it,” Emily Lambert said. “That ball was run over by another car because they didn’t see it coming through, because of the other cars that are parked there.”

Parking on their street has become a growing concern for the Lamberts and several of their neighbors on the 1000 block of Fisher. Twelve of them signed an application for the City of Houston’s Residential Permit Parking Program, which was submitted July 15 and seeks to restrict non-resident parking on the eastern end of the block during a 12-hour period each day.

Residents of four different houses on Fisher said most of the vehicles they’ve seen parked in front of their homes appear to belong to Jonathan Campbell, who lives on Golf near its intersection with Fisher. Those residents said they also are concerned about overflow parking from nearby businesses and multi-family developments on Fisher Street east of its intersection with Golf as well as on Wakefield Drive one block to the south, where several restaurants and bars have sprouted up in recent years and more are planned.

Jeremiah Wheeler, who lives on the 1000 block of Fisher and submitted the application for permit parking, previously brought the issue to the attention of the Oak Forest Homeowners Association. His block of Fisher is part of Oak Forest, whereas the stretch of Golf immediately to the east is part of Oak Grove.

“The OFHA’s concern was that the parking situation over there probably isn’t going to be limited to this dispute between homeowners,” OFHA president Geoff McKeel said. “It’s probably going to be something bigger.”

Campbell did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment and did not directly respond to emailed questions. Maira Giraldo, who said she works for Campbell and could speak on his behalf, said in emails and in a phone interview that Campbell parks on Fisher because he previously had a vehicle flood in front of his home and that Fisher has higher elevation than Golf and is therefore less prone to flooding.

It is unclear how many vehicles Campbell owns or has in his possession. Giraldo said she did not know, adding that Campbell’s vehicles are personal vehicles and not used as part of a business.

“Since they have not lost a vehicle due to a flash flood, it is Mr. Campbell’s opinion that (Fisher Street residents) do not see this from the same perspective,” Giraldo wrote in an email. “Mr. Campbell will comply with all laws to include but not limited to parking on city streets.”

Rules of the road

According to ParkHouston Assistant Director Maria Irshad, whose organization is processing the application for permit parking on Fisher, Texas law stipulates that vehicles are not allowed to be parked on a public street for longer than 24 continuous hours. She said two parking tickets were issued in the 1000 block on Fisher on Monday, but she said she did not know who the owners of the ticketed vehicles were and could not provide license plate numbers or descriptive information about the vehicles.

Wheeler, the Lamberts and two of their Fisher Street neighbors – Yaqing Fan and Derryck Noser – said they have observed Campbell parking vehicles on Fisher both east and west of Golf and moving them on a daily basis to ensure they are not parked in the same spot for more than 24 hours at a time.  Greg Lambert said he confronted Campbell about the parking issue earlier this year and was told by Campbell that he was aware of the parking laws and was not violating them.

“They’re always here, and they always move around,” Wheeler said.

Jay Desai, whose family owns a rental home that has been vacant at the southwest corner of Fisher and Golf, said she recently discovered that Campbell had two Corvettes parked underneath the carport on the property, inside of a gate that had been locked, along with another vehicle in the driveway outside of the gate. Desai said Campbell was asked to remove the vehicles, and they were no longer there as of late last week.

If any vehicles are on parked on the property in the future, Desai said she would have them towed.

“It’s our personal property. It’s a private property,” Desai said. “Nobody has a right to park anything there.”

Permit parking process

It remains to be seen whether Wheeler’s application for permit parking on Fisher will be approved by the city. Irshad said ParkHouston will conduct traffic and parking studies to determine whether there is a problem with overflow commuter parking.

To meet the city’s threshold for the program, Irshad said at least 60 percent of the on-street parking spots must be occupied during the requested time frame in the specified area – the first five houses on both sides of that end of the block – and at least 25 percent of those parked vehicles must be registered to people who do not live on Fisher.

If that threshold is met, Irshad said a public hearing will be held, and then ParkHouston could recommend the approval of the application to the Houston City Council, which would accept or deny the application. If the application is approved by city council, the permit parking regulations would take effect 60 days later.

Signage would be installed in the interim and residents of that stretch of Fisher would be able to purchase permits for themselves and visitors. Permits would be required to park on the street during the specified time frame – in this case from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday through Sunday – with the permits available only to residents. Public parking would be allowed outside of those time windows.

“I want residential permit parking so I can get them towed off my street,” Wheeler said.

The Leader observed one vehicle parked on that stretch of Fisher on the afternoon of June 29, and three vehicles parked there on the afternoon of July 12. Emily Lambert estimated there is an average of four vehicles parked along the curb per day.

For the sake of her children, ages 7 and 4, Lambert said she would prefer to see no vehicles parked on the street.

“I love the fact we moved here, because we wanted our kids to be able to feel safe and be able to run around,” she said. “I don’t necessarily have a problem with one or two cars, but right now, especially when there’s a lot of cars, we just don’t let our kids go play in the front yard anymore. And I think that’s kind of unfortunate, since we purposely picked this area to have that available.”

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