Three cars parked in the lot above the Ardleigh Street ramp at Jenks Academy of Arts and Sciences. Neighbors argue the parking is a violation of use. (Photo by Brendan Sample)

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 brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

  • ArdleighCitiZen

    I’m not sure I understand why the neighbors would be opposed to parking for the teachers, when parking on Ardleigh street is in such short supply. Am I misunderstanding or missing something?

    • Jill W.

      It’s a safety issue, mostly as cars are completely blind when exiting the ramp. You should watch cars coming out of there sometime. It’s scary.

      It’s also something the school specifically agreed not to do before construction.

      • ArdleighCitiZen

        There are certainly safety issues but parking at the top of the ramp doesn’t seem to be the root cause. Vehicle congestion in the morning, unsafe drop-off of children on a two-way street, parking on the sidewalks which restricts safe pedestrian movement and bus and car idling which drives up air pollution for vulnerable children and neighbors alike are all public health and safety issues that need to be addressed, in addition to the overflowing garbage receptacles. The ramp seems to have become a lightning rod, but banning parking on the premises only solves one problem, and at the expense of reducing parking competition in the neighborhood.

        • Joel

          I agree with everything you have said. I just hope that all this turmoil doesn’t result in the psd or the city trying to “fix things” with more insane construction. This would really set off the whole community.

          Instead, Jenks should really attempt to clean up their act. Issue #1 is to ensure their trash and garbage doesn’t spill out and litter the streets. It’s just ignorant and lazy. I bet the neighbors are pissed about how poorly the exterior of that school is maintained. A good faith effort on their part might go a long way in allowing teachers to park up atop the ramp.

  • James Goodwin

    Problem is the arrogance of the neighbors who think they should have absolute power on what gets to be built and what does not get to be built. Such arrogance soured relations between the neighbors and the school district. Given the shortage of parking in the neighborhood, it would be advantageous for teachers to be able to park on the property without having to take parking spaces from the neighbors.
    Now the neighbors have learned that it is very costly to hire an attorney to fight with the school district. Perhaps they will cool off and come to an understanding with the school district and see the wisdom of letting teachers park on the property vice taking valuable space from the neighbors. If they do not like it, they do not have to live in the neighborhood and are free to sell their houses to find a more amenable location to live in.

    • Jill We.

      I’m not sure you understand the issue here. Parking there creates numerous safety issues. Are you an advocate of children getting crushed by cars? It’s clearly not zoned for parking, and there is a reason for that. You should be careful when demeaning neighbors, when you are so woefully misinformed.

      Also, if you are such a fan of the Jenks School administration… why don’t you go clean up all the trash that spills out of their dumpsters and is carelessly littered across their property. Even though they have a city paid custodian, it’s obvious her union allows her to sit in her arse all day instead of doing her job.

      • Yooooo

        I live in the neighborhood and I honestly think Jenks is vastly overrated and unworthy of the benefit of the doubt (my kids go to private school) but I think you’re being ridiculous – ‘safety issues’? ‘Crushed by cars’? Come on. Get off your high horse – it could be far worse than a ramp and parking…maybe even (gasp) a new development housing a chain restaurant or even a Korean convenience store with plexiglass!

        • Jill We

          What a rude sob you are.

          Not sure where you got your civil engineering degree (I received mine from Drexel) – it’s absolutely a safety issue. Why don’t you review the approved zoning for the ramp. I’m glad you can afford to send your kids to private school (speaking of high horses), where they don’t need to worry about cars crushing them on account of people breaking the law and parking we’re they shouldn’t.

          • DWeller

            If you don’t want to worry about kids being ‘crushed by cars’ I’d suggest moving to the exurbs. Then you don’t have to worry about having a bankrupt, corrupt school district as a neighbor.

          • Jill We.

            Right, right – let’s run away from the problem so that the corruption and kid crushing isn’t “our” problem anymore. Good solution.

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