Space-saver season apparently has begun, although the chairs and cones placed in the streets after Saturday’s snowfall violated city rules.
The storm dropped about seven inches of snow in Boston and consequently sparked a wave of space saving, a practice almost everyone in Boston has lamented. But the city never declared a snow emergency or a parking ban — necessary to justify a space saver, the city said.
And yet, Boston 311, the city’s non-emergency system, received at least 127 reports of space savers out on the streets between the time the first flurries fell on Friday and Monday afternoon (though one report was a prank, citing the stolen Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum paintings as space savers).
The city says it responds to every complaint about premature space-saving.
"When a space saver is used when no snow emergency is called, the Department of Public Works can and will remove it," said Nicole Caravella, a City Hall spokesperson.
One 311 caller reported the stereotypical space-saver attitude: threatening.
“I took down your license plate number…take my spot again and I will key the s*** out of your car and slash all your tires,” a note reported to 311 read. “This is your first warning. DO NOT F*** WITH ME.”
The note appeared on a car in South Boston, the neighborhood that apparently birthed the space-saver tradition.
And yet, just streets away, a Boston neighborhood was free of space savers — and threats. The South End decided to ban the use of space savers altogether in 2014, right before the terrible 2014/15 winter that dumped nine feet of snow on the city.
That winter, there were seven documented cases of space-saver vandalism in the South End, according to Stephen Fox, chair of South End Forum — exactly the kind of behavior the neighborhood was hoping to avoid with the ban.
South End Forum, a group which represents all 17 of the South End’s independent neighborhood associations, launched a GoFundMe campaign to reimburse every South End resident who filed a police report and documented their vehicle’s damage.
“Everybody who got hit by this was made whole. We thought it was the responsible thing to do, and it also helped take away the threat,” Fox said. “[Last year], we had very little snow and absolutely no space savers, no incidents. This year, we’re looking forward to a repeat of last year.”
Though space savers popped up in Dorchester, Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain and other neighborhoods after last weekend’s storm, none appeared on South End streets, Fox said.
"There’s this sense of entitlement, ‘if I shovel out a space, I own the space,’” Fox said. “We in the South End reject that.”
Many dislike the practice.
“Space savers are such an embarrassment to this city,” a Jamaica Plain resident commented on Reddit about the aggressive Southie note
Only the South End has successfully freed itself from the pattern.
The neighborhood partnered with the city to ensure that trash collectors pick up space savers as they come down the street and that 311 will respond to reports.
“The North End, Chinatown, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Bay Village and Fenway have all petitioned the mayor to join the South End ban,” Fox said. “The reason that the city has not yet fully endorsed [them] is because they’re first asking them to do an education campaign way South End did.”
Through the South End Forum, residents spent about two years letting others know a ban would be enacted through community meetings, posters, ambassadors, articles and more. So how can other neighborhoods avoid the space-saver headache?
“What is key is for neighborhoods to educate their neighborhood people,” Fox said. “Help them to understand the rules, even if they don't want to adopt a ban and they just want to live according to rules set by the city… Every time there's flurry that falls from the sky, it doesn’t entitle you to be able to go out and put a space saver down.”