Should people park on their own property? Residents say council measure will subtract, rather than add, parking

Ward D City Councilman Bill Gaughan says he wants to create more parking. But residents say his proposal will actually take away street parking.

Gaughan’s ordinance, introduced at the July 19 City Council meeting, would let homeowners with 15 feet of space in front of their house park on their land.

But other residents say that the curb cuts will take away on-street parking.

The ordinance would apply to the city’s R-1 zones, where one and two-family homes are located.

Gaughan said he wrote the ordinance in response to complaints he received from his constituents in the Heights section over the lack of parking.

“Parking is a problem, not in Ward D where I represent over 19,000 people, but throughout the city,” said Gaughan. “People tell me more about parking than other issues, and if anyone has a better suggestion, let me know.”

Gaughan said he enlisted the help of a friend whom he would not name but who is a “a professional planner who does not work for the city.”

While there is agreement that there needs to be more parking, there is disapproval about Gaughan’s approach to the problem.Will speak out Wednesday

Among those in opposition is Becky Hoffman, president of the Riverview Neighborhood Association, who sees far less parking will be produced if the ordinance is approved at the next council meeting this coming Wednesday. The association represents many residents living in Gaughan’s ward.

“You’ll have all these curb cuts, and you have driveways two feet apart from one of another that will cut down on on-street parking,” said Hoffman.

Residents aren’t only ones who are unsure about Gaughan’s idea.

Some of his City Council colleagues would like to see this ordinance studied further. One of them is Ward E City Councilman Steven Fulop.

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction that I don’t think will solve the issue of parking,” said Fulop. “It would be like paving over Pershing Field to produce more parking.”

Pershing Field is a city park located between Summit and Central Avenues, within Gaughan’s ward. Change in the zoning

The change in the R-1 zoning would allow houses to be built further back from the street, allowing for more parking in front of the house. Before, the setback from the street was 10 feet, but with the change, a 15-foot setback would be allowed.

In accordance with that, back yards could be smaller. The rear yard setback would be cut from 30 feet to 20 feet.

In terms of parking, the maximum length of a curb cut along the street would be 10 feet along the street. The maximum width of a driveway and garage would be 12 feet.

Garages built in any new two-family home have to be 13 feet wide and 44 feet wide and should accommodate at least two cars.

Part of the ordinance does not pertain to parking. Because the houses may have to be slimmer, building heights could be three stories with floor-to-ceiling height between 9 to 12 feet, with at least two floors connected solely by staircase. A setback that many see as a setback

Some residents are concerned that residents may tear down the front of their house to make room for parking, and this could affect historic houses that are not actually located in one of the city’s four designated historic districts.

Homes in historic district are protected by stringent regulations put down by the city’s historic commission that govern how the exteriors are changed. Houses outside of the district, however, can be changed.

Joshua Parkhurst, president of the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, said last week that the ramifications of any change to the city’s R-1 zoning would be tremendous from a historic preservation standpoint.

Many historic homes do not have enough set back from the front property line to comply with the proposed zoning changes, and therefore would either be torn down or renovated to allow for more front yard room.

“This would give developers carte blanche to tear down historic buildings,” said Parkhurst.

“I live in a brownstone in an historic district in Downtown Jersey City which is protected, Parkhurst said, “but there are areas such as the Italian Village and Bergen Hill where homes will be greatly impacted.”

Parkhurst also took issue with other proposed changes such as decreasing the backyard space from 30 feet to 20 feet.

“This reduction of backyards is a stealth de-greening and a loss of privacy,” said Parkhurst.

Monya McCarty, a Heights resident and another member of the Riverview Neighborhood Association, would like to see the ordinance studied further, and not during summer months when people are away.

“When we pay taxes, we pay for due process. It shouldn’t be circumvented in July and August,” said McCarty at Tuesday night’s Planning Board meeting. Planning Board gives thumbs down

The Jersey City Planning Board had a meeting Tuesday and voted to recommend to the City Council that the ordinance not be adopted, and should be sent back to the city’s Planning Department for further study.

Commissioner Leon Yost asked Robert Cotter, head of the city’s Planning Department, to draft a letter to the City Council stating that the Planning Board disapproved of the ordinance.

“Streets are for cars and sidewalks are for people,” said Yost. “The minute people start going out into the street and cars start going onto the sidewalks, then it is anarchy and chaos.”

Residents at the Planning Board meeting also complained that cars parked in the new driveways would stick out into the sidewalks. They said cars could hit people who have to walk into the street to avoid cars getting out of their driveways.

Planning Board Commissioner Michael Sottolano, who is also a city councilman representing the Greenville section, agreed with Yost about recommending that the City Council vote against the ordinance.

He also expected that this issue will be discussed further at the council caucus Monday morning, where a decision may be made to table the ordinance for further study. What’s next?

When asked about the Planning Board’s reaction, Gaughan said that he had no problem with their recommendation, but will still pursue the ordinance with some further changes.

As far as other council members, City Council President Mariano Vega said last week that he would like to see further study of the ordinance before the council votes on the matter.

Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s spokesperson, Maria Pignataro, said that Healy “is currently looking into the proposed amendments to the R-1 zoning and is not in favor of many of them.” Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at