Overnight Street Parking Legalized Under Certain Conditions

Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 7:12 am
Alice Dreger

Above: PACE Supervisor Eldon Evans and a sign at the East Lansing border entrance.

East Lansing’s City Council has voted to legalize overnight street parking under certain circumstances. People who live in East Lansing residences can now ask advance permission to park a car (including a guest’s car) in legal street parking areas for up to twenty night per year per residence.

Before this change, street parking in East Lansing was technically illegal from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. But the ordinance change, proposed by City Council member Shanna Draheim (below), is designed to legalize something that has already been happening, contrary to the law, in certain cases: residents have already sometimes been getting “one-off” permission from East Lansing’s Parking and Code Enforcement (PACE) to park a car overnight on the street.

Residents have sometimes sought to park their own cars on the street overnight, for example when they’ve had construction work happening on their driveways or when they have guests visiting and all the cars won’t fit in their driveways. People also sometimes have asked to park cars on the street overnight when they (or guests) have had too much to drink; this is something the police and Council agree is a responsible decision that has been worthy of support.

The revised overnight parking law, approved unanimously by the new City Council on November 21, 2017, legally enables residents to make overnight street parking requests of PACE and for PACE to grant such requests up to twenty times per year per East Lansing residence.

Requests must be called in before 2 a.m. and must include the make and model of a car along with where it is going to be parked. The parking space used must be a legal parking space (so, for example, not in front of a fire hydrant or on a street where all parking is prohibited). The request, once approved, will be relayed to PACE officers who will then not ticket cars approved for overnight parking. If a ticket is given accidentally after an approved request, it can be voided.

To assist Council in its deliberations on the issue, ELPD and PACE provided statistics from 2016 on overnight parking requests. As shown in the following graph, a total of 3,359 requests were received in 2016, with the bulk coming during MSU football season.

As shown in the following graph provided by City staff, most residences seeking overnight parking permission requested just a few nights’ accommodations.

The draft law as proposed by Draheim had called for the limits to be per resident (rather than per residence) and to be for “up to 3 consecutive nights or 5 nights total in one year.”

But newly-election member Aaron Stephens moved at the November 21 meeting to increase the total to 20 nights per year, noting that that would seem to cover all requests made. He said he was particularly concerned about accommodating people who wanted to park overnight instead of driving under the influence.

Council agreed to Stephens’ suggestion, also changing the wording from “per resident” to “per residence.” (This seems to refer to an East Lansing household, whether that is in an apartment or a house.) Council also eliminated the limit on consecutive nights, recognizing that a household might have an unusual circumstance—like an elderly family member who is being visited by relatives—that calls for requests go on longer than three nights in a row.

A residence can ask for more than one car to be accommodated in a night. In that case, the requests would be counted per night per car—so, for example, requesting to park three cars for one overnight period would count as three requests for that residence.

A public hearing was held on the matter before Council voted, but no one from the public came to speak on the issue. ELPD Chief Larry Sparkes (below, right) explained to Council that while the law would allow requests to come in until 2 a.m., PACE would prefer calls to come earlier whenever possible.

PACE Supervisor Eldon Evans (above, left) told Council that this change will actually make PACE’s job easier because it provides legal clarity on a practice that has been happening technically against the law. It means that residents objecting to overnight parking cannot say “but it is against the law.”

Councilmember Ruth Beier said she wanted to clarify that this move was effectively “putting a limitation on a currently unlimited illegal practice.” She said people needed to know there was now an official limit per residence.


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