Downtown Charleston’s famous Battery is losing half its free street parking

Hannah Reynolds understands why people avoid meters and park near The Battery, but she said she’s looking forward to better parking conditions in front of her grandmother’s home when the city turns the north side of Murray Boulevard into residential parking.

More than a half-mile of unrestricted free parking along Charleston’s Battery — the must-see spot of the city — is about to disappear.

And while the change should make neighborhood residents happy, hundreds of tourists, students, day workers and members of the food-and-beverage crowd who take advantage of the free spots will have to find alternatives.

Charleston City Council this week moved to turn most of the north side of Murray Boulevard into residential-preference sticker parking. That means in order for vehicles to plant there longer than two hours, they must display an official resident parking permit issued by the city.

The change came via a petition request from Murray Boulevard homeowners who say the streets around The Battery — while quaint — have in recent times become one of the most popular parking blocks in the city, crowding out those who live there and affecting their quality of life.

“The free, unlimited parking had been discovered by any number of people,” said Stephen Gates, president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association. “It was pretty much a continuous line of parked cars all day from The Battery, up Murray to near the Coast Guard station.”

City statistics back Gates up. A survey by Charleston traffic officials found that of the approximately 69 parked cars counted there one day recently, only about eight were connected to Murray Boulevard addresses.

Some of the more common parking stories city officials relate are of College of Charleston students leaving cars there all day to attend class, construction workers who park their cars in the morning but leave together in one truck for a job site, and Broad Street employees who park there from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Also, joggers, skateboarders and day-visitor tourists leave their cars before venturing off to explore the rest of Charleston.

“People really could not park in close proximity to their homes,” City Councilman Mike Seekings said in supporting the change.

It’s also important to note that the south side of Murray Boulevard — the side closest to the Ashley River and the Low Battery’s concrete sidewalk — will remain unrestricted, to allow tourists to stop and take in Charleston’s must-see strolling points around The Battery and White Point Garden.

The flip side, however, is that those first-come, first-served spots along the waterside will increase in value as prime free parking real estate.

Residents said Wednesday that a buffer was a long time in coming. “I know friends and students who would park down here because it was free,” said recent College of Charleston graduate Hannah Reynolds, 21. She added, “and more importantly, the meter maids in Charleston are so aggressive.”

Reynolds said the problem is so severe during the school year and Spoleto Festival that her family’s cars were routinely blocked in by drivers trying to squeeze out every inch of the curb.

The restriction will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The two-hour limited term will be enforced by city parking teams. In all, the spaces in front of about 50 houses are affected.

The effort still needs final approval by City Council later this summer, which is expected.

And, as a future warning: Not all the neighborhood streets around The Battery are covered by hourly parking limits like the one Murray Boulevard is getting. But officials believe petition requests for parking limits for those routes will be coming soon — once the cars begin moving toward the next streets over.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.