The Cambridge City Council last night agreed to restrict and regulate commercial parking, as part of an interim agreement that should bring the city closer to compliance with air quality standards established in the 1973 federal Clean Air Act.
Two years after local residents brought the city's parking situation to the attention of state and federal authorities, the council voted overwhelmingly to limit the number of new parking spaces to 500. Beyond that, the creation of new spaces will be allowed only to replace spaces that have been closed.
In addition, the council agreed to:
. forbid any new parking garage or lot from opening its gates before 9:30 a.m.
. require any commercial organization opening a garage to give the city proof that it has a traffic mitigation plan. Under such a plan, a company would provide employees and customers with alternate forms of transportation, or incentives to use public transportation.
. require all current garage owners to petition the city before opening new spaces.
According to the resolution, the city will inspect local garages and lots regularly. Garage owners convicted of violating the regulations must surrender their spaces to the state for redistribution.
Cambridge Mayor Alice K. Wolf called the city's parking freeze a "landmark agreement" and Councillor Edward A. Cyr called the agreement an effective solution to one of the "naughtiest problems facing the city this decade."
One of the naughtiest problems of the decade was also one of the most pressing. In accordance with the 1973 U.S. Clean Air Act, a parking freeze was established under which Cambridge could not expand its existing 3500 commercial spaces by more than 10 percent. That would have brought the total number of spaces to 3850.
However, in what City Manager Roger W. Healy recently called "a misunderstanding," Cambridge continued to allow the development of commercial parking spaces. Today, it has more than 12,000 spaces, Cyr said.
In 1988, a number of local residents broughtthe discrepancy to the attention of environmentalagencies when they filed a lawsuit opposing theconstruction of a parking garage in EastCambridge.
But efforts to limit the number of parkingspaces in a city already plagued by trafficproblems has met with resistance from somecitizens. Many think that the new agreement mayexacerbate rush hour traffic, and effectivelyprevent those who begin work before 9 a.m. fromdriving to work.
Under the terms of the agreement, the citygovernment will work in conjunction with theUnited States Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) and the Massachusetts Department ofEnvironmental Protection (DEP) to insure that thenew measures are fully implemented.
The City Council also agreed to provide the DEPwith a more detailed freeze enforcement strategywithin a month