Letter: Restrictions on downtown Easter parking

Letter: Restrictions on downtown Easter parking

John Mountcastle
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News editor:

When the diamond-shaped “no parking” signs were placed on portable saw horses in the parking lanes of Cathedral Place and King Street on Easter Sunday, the number of available parking spaces were significantly diminished.  City of St. Augustine Ordinance 24-38 relates to the towing and impounding of illegally-parked vehicles, NOT any prohibition or restriction on parking motor vehicles.

As shown in the attached picture, taken Easter Sunday morning at 48 King Street, the sign bears no specific date or time for the proscribed parking period.

City of St. Augustine Ordinance 24-128 authorizes the “city manager” to “order any street or portion of street to be cleared of all vehicles during such parade, public gathering or celebration.” [emphasis added]

Electronic signs along the approaches to the downtown area on Easter morning indicate that the Easter Parade would start at 3:00 p.m. from the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

As Easter is a high holy day for Christian religions, religious services on Easter morning are generally better attended that most other Sundays.

Placement of these signs in the area designated for motor vehicle parking unnecessarily reduced the available parking for those who wished to attend religious services.  It may have violated their ability to freely exercise their religious beliefs by attending religious services of their choice.  Further, the rights of those who are mobility-impaired and who were denied the ability to park near their house of worship could be another violation of federal law and of human rights.

Because the intended proscribed period (although not carried on the sign) would occur well after the worship services, many chose to ignore them and parking there regardless, thus encouraging scoff-laws.

I urge you to change the City of St. Augustine policies regarding parking restrictions.

  1. If there is a legitimate need to distribute the diamond-shaped signs before the start of the period when parking is prohibited, these signs:
    1. Should display the date and time when parking will be prohibited,
    2. Should be placed on the sidewalks adjacent to the parking lane UNTIL the start of the prohibited period (at which time, the sign may be moved into the parking lane),
    3. Should be retrieved or relocated to a marshaling area for future pickup, as soon as practicable after the event has ended.
  2. Additional TEMPORARY HANDICAP parking should be provided, as close as possible to the designated handicapped parking located in the proscribed parking area, in compliance with the ADA Title II requirements.
  3. Every attempt should be made to allow the free exercise of our religious beliefs, as specified in the First Amendment of the US Constitution and laws and regulations issued thereunder.

Also, when will the three (3) parking spaces at Anderson Circle (in front of the Hamblen Club American Legion Post 37) be returned to full availability, rather than be restricted to commercial vehicles only? Construction at this building has been completed.

Lastly, may I recommend that rather than blocking off vehicle parking on Cathedral Place so that only two-wheeled, motorized vehicles may park among the green cones, the City close St. George Street between Cathedral Place and King Street for each “Bike Week” weekend day.  The minor inconvenience for those who use this short street to reverse directions would be more than offset by the convenience for those who would be able to park cars along Cathedral Place.