People who think too much public space is devoted to parking set out to make their point Friday in an annual event known as Park(ing) Day, which in Charleston involved laying down sod and setting up lawn chairs and a pingpong table in a downtown parking lot.
The thinking, with which Charleston city planners generally agree, is that too much land is set aside for cars.
Vince Graham, developer of the I'On community, organized a similar event two years ago. The city ticketed him after he set up a table and chairs in a metered parking space, the ticket was later dropped.
This year, the city was among the co-sponsors of the event, led by The Trust for Public Land, and the parking spaces used were within the confines of a parking lot along the Market downtown.
"We've sort of embraced this concept that the automobile is king, and it's unfortunate," Graham said Friday. "It's an example of how we let the car trump humans."
But here's the rub: many humans also want a place to park their cars.
When the city proposed new rules this summer that would reduce the amount of parking required for some new construction projects, downtown neighborhood groups quickly squashed that proposal.
Residents were concerned that they would face more competition for on-street parking spots if new homes and businesses did not have to provide as much parking as before.
"We met, on two occasions, with the downtown neighborhood consortium to discuss those concerns, and certain members of that group were adamant in their opposition," said city zoning administrator Lee Batchelder. "We just couldn't get any support."
The city withdrew the plan and is amending it to address the neighborhood concerns.
"The ones who were really concerned were Ansonborough, Harleston Village and the French Quarter," said Charles Rhoden, president of the neighborhood consortium. "I quite understand their concerns about it."
Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association President Lance Hiatt said his neighbors were particularly worried about parking, considering the new arena under construction nearby.
"I think a lot of the things they were pushing for were more for suburban areas and did not really work in the city," he said.
Batchelder said the city's plan likely will exclude the downtown area and indeed focus on the suburbs. There, the city is pursuing zoning changes aimed at reducing the number of huge surface parking lots, and the city already has approved rules that require more landscaping in parking lots.