Driving through North Park near the intersection of 32nd Street and Redwood, a neighborhood resident slows his sedan down. "This is where the parking problems start. This is all parking for St. Augustine High School," he says while pointing at full-size pickups and newer model sedans along the right side of the road. "It's like this for blocks."
The resident, who prefers to stay anonymous for fear of retribution, creeps down 32nd and slows at the entrance to the underground parking garage situated underneath a three-story classroom building. "This was built a few years back but it's not enough. There are over 700 students and there are maybe 75 spaces down there. It's just not enough."
Several neighbors of the private Catholic high school say parking problems have compounded in recent months. They say that by 7 a.m. cars are lined up bumper to bumper throughout the neighborhood. By 3 p.m. the students speed down residential side streets, leaving behind fast-food wrappers and Starbucks coffee cups where their vehicles were once parked.
Continuing down the street, my escort stops to talk to two neighbors who live a few blocks south of the school gates. He mentions the word parking and one of the neighbors launches into a tirade. "I can't even park in front of my own house," says the scruffy man whose shirt had stains from drywall mud. "I'm retired and I work on my house. Most days I have to carry heavy materials a few blocks because they are blocking my driveway or parking in front of my house."
The men say they have called councilmember Todd Gloria's office and complained to school administrators, but nothing has been done to rectify the parking overload in the neighborhood. "They just keep blowing smoke," said the man inside his car. "The school is dumping their parking problem in our neighborhood. Kids are paying more than $11,000 in tuition, you'd think that would include a parking space on campus."
While St. Augustine’s principal James Horne acknowledges that parking impacts exist, he says the school has worked to resolve the neighborhood's concerns. Horne says the school is only three spaces shy of meeting the 143-space parking requirement outlined in the Conditional Use Permit, which goes into effect after St. Augustine's expansion is complete. And more will come if a proposal to build an additional parking structure goes through.
"Parking is always going to be an issue in a neighborhood that has a school," says Horne during a March 15 phone interview.
"Prior to our construction of the underground parking facility three years ago, we had less than 50 spaces. So, the number has nearly tripled. We used to have monthly complaints, this year we've had one. I don't want to say there aren't parking issues, but the complaints don't indicate huge issues."
On March 25, St. Augustine High School will host a neighborhood meeting to discuss parking and the next phase of Saint Augustine expansion project.