by Brendan Sample
The Philadelphia Office of Licenses and Inspections has officially ruled on the controversial delivery ramp behind the Jenks Academy of the Arts and Sciences, confirming that it is still not intended to be used for parking.
The ramp was never officially zoned for parking when it was installed earlier this year and was only meant for delivery vehicles. Residents of the 8300 block of Ardleigh Street, directly behind the school, however, have taken issue with the ramp being used for a number of other purposes, particularly in regards to parents picking up and dropping off children and creating backups that extend to the street.
This ruling from L&I comes as a result of the Chestnut Hill Community Association intervening on the neighbors’ behalf. At its last board meeting, the CHCA agreed to reach out to City Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ office with a letter outlining the Ardleigh residents’ concerns. Bass’ office then contacted L&I, which prompted a response from Commissioner David Perri confirming that parking is not officially permitted on the ramp.
Although this confirms that parking is technically prohibited on the ramp, the response does not mean L&I will start issuing individual citations. Karen Guss, director of communications at L&I, specified that the department’s jurisdiction applies to the property owners, which would be the School District of Philadelphia in this case. Any potential L&I citation would ultimately be issued directly to the school district, while the Philadelphia Parking Authority would handle ticketing cars.
Guss also indicated that L&I would be willing to step in to help find a solution for both the Jenks administration and Ardleigh residents. As with a potential fining of the School District, however, the department wants to wait in the hopes that the school administration and neighbors will be able to work out a solution before such an intervention may be necessary.
“We’re ultimately hoping to see the Jenks School and CHCA resolve this situation amongst themselves, now that everyone knows it [the ramp] isn’t for parking,” Guss said. “We want to see this issue resolved on the community level, as we feel that would be in everyone’s best interest.”
It remains to be seen if the school and Ardleigh neighbors can come to some sort of understanding, as the two groups have been at odds over the ramp dating back to last year. Jenks principal Mary Lynskey has continued to assert her feelings that her teachers should have a place to park, as she has allowed two handicapped teachers to park regularly at the top of the ramp for easier access to the school.
The neighbors, meanwhile, continue to insist that Jenks live up to an agreement signed in July 2016 that specified that parking would be prohibited on the new property. Several Ardleigh residents feel that the purpose of the entire ramp project has been distorted from the beginning, with neither Jenks nor the school district involving the neighbors in the planning process.
“The PSD and the school misrepresented the project from the start, claiming needs for the ramp that were just not supported by the design,” said Judy Muenzberg, a resident of the 8300 block of Ardleigh Street. “There were better, less disruptive and – most importantly – less costly ways to achieve those ends. We could only conclude that the prime purpose for this ramp was to provide parking for the teachers. Had the school been upfront about that and spoken to the neighbors about their perceived need, we might have been more receptive and helped offer solutions that would have been acceptable to all. Instead, we were met with obvious untruths and even false accusations.”
Brendan Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org