Tightly parked vehicles crowd the edges of city lanes. Idle commercial trucks hog scarce residential parking spots on residential streets. Requests for neighborhood parking passes are left unanswered. Public frustration is growing with Norwalk’s endemic parking woes, spurring Common Council members to ask for stricter enforcement of parking rules.
“It’s getting frustrating at this point to continuously have this conversation,” Common Council President Darlene Young said at the Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on February 1. “It’s been [like this] for decades and the response has been the same for decades,” she said, adding: “The community is changing and it’s time for a change.”
Council member Heather Dunn said some Norwalk residents have been expressing frustration at the hassle of finding parking in some neighborhoods, and at the perceived increase in poor parking practices and unticketed violations.
“People are getting aggravated with neighbors with five cars parked all over the front of their house and they have no place to park when they come home at night,” she said. “So I would like them to feel like they have a path to remediate some of that, just give them some tools and some control over where they live.”
But enforcement on residential streets can be a little complicated, city officials said.
While the Norwalk Parking Authority has jurisdiction over paid parking in the city—such as issuing a ticket if a car has an expired meter—parking enforcement for spots in the city that are unpaid, such as on residential streets, is mainly up to the police.
“Today by ordinance the only person that can issue a ticket is the police department,” Jim Travers, the city’s head of Transportation, Mobility, and Parking told the committee.
Young said that parking enforcement was “the last thing on their list.”
Chief James Walsh said that the Norwalk Police Department issued 1328 parking violations in 2023.
“Enforcing parking violations remains a priority for the officers of the Norwalk Police Department to address all violations that affect quality of life issues such as moving traffic violations, noise complaints, and parking issues,” he said in a statement.
During public comment, resident Diane Cece said that she was surprised to find that there wasn’t a mention of a residential parking pass program in the department’s 2023 report.
“I would like for Mr. Travers or Mr. Bolella to provide an update on the status of requests from residents for residential parking passes, in particular in different East Norwalk areas, which you’re well aware of—this has been a topic for several years now,” she said adding that residential parking passes “come up under every plan and study” including during the zoning rewrite. “I’m a little disappointed that this continues to not be addressed and not to be acknowledged anywhere I could find.”
Council members followed up with concerns about cars parked on the streets for extremely long periods of time and large commercial vehicles that are parked on residential streets.
“The reality is this happens mainly in the densely populated areas with lots of people living on top of each other, in south Norwalk, and Taylor Avenue where the streets are narrow,” Young said. “And I’m going to continue to say it until we make some traction because it’s really ridiculous. I have a truck where I live, it’s been there three weeks. It’s empty, who do I call?”
Dunn said that some of these issues are safety concerns.
“I know there’s places like Taylor Avenue where people are parked so closely—you can’t look around and there’s no way you can bike down there,” she said.
Both Young and Council member Jalin Sead said that landscaping trucks can cause problems with lots of them parked on residential streets.
“Woodbury [Avenue] is one we have a lot of landscaper trucks, where there’s really no parking for residents’ cars,” Sead said. “I think that really is something we ought to tackle because in the urban core of Norwalk it’s a huge issue.”
Challenges with Enforcement
Travers emphasized that right now there’s no real mechanism for enforcement outside of the police ticketing cars.
“Currently right now, by legislation, the Parking Authority only has the ability to manage metered or timed spaces, so we need to adopt a change to that that allows the Parking Authority to do that,” he said. “We’ve been working on a baseline for a recommendation, but we don’t have a mechanism to be able to manage it, execute it, write citations, so that needs to be changed.”
However, Travers said that he and his team—along with some help from the Department of Public Works—are looking to “get back to basics” in some areas to address some of these issues in the meantime.
“We have tools in our toolbox, in our basic toolbox—it’s not legal to park 25 feet from the corner, but sometimes our signage is missing,” he said. “The issues that are a problem are when those cars are up against the corner and they can’t get out. And we don’t have a sign to dictate that or our signs were not to the standard, the stop sign was askew we need to do the basics to get there to make those happen.”
He said that they were recently out on Taylor Avenue and saw some of the parking challenges. Travers said that they’re working with Public Works for when they go to pave that road to put some paint markings down to help alert drivers where they can and can’t park.
Still he emphasized that changes to enforcement were needed to make a big difference.
“We don’t have the ability to enforce which I think is key to moving that forward,” he said. “So if someone recognized that if someone’s blocking a driveway, someone’s parking too close we have the ability to respond to that and I think then change behavior.”
Walsh said that residents can use the Norwalk Police App to report violations anonymously to combined dispatch.
Jessica Vonashek, the city’s Chief of Community and Economic Development, said that they’re discussing some of these issues with the mayor’s office about enforcement. But she emphasized that enforcement would most likely come as a part of a new parking management contract, such as the one the Parking Authority has with LAZ for paid parking.
“We would look to include it in the new [request for proposals],” she said, adding “because we just don’t have the bandwidth from a city staff perspective.”