The art of grabbing public spaces

Parking In Indian Cities - Pune - Herald ColumnArticle about improper use of parking spaces and builders tricking the city administration by just converting public parking into private parking spaces.

As per construction rules in cities, all buildings need a certain parking capacity to be approved by the corporation. Even these standards seem inadequate to handle the traffic mess in cities like Pune. However builders have found a way to make it appear as if they are conforming to the law without doing anything of that sort. They just convert public parking into private parking and supposedly comply with parking capacity rules.

Pune Parking Scam

I will explain using the example of a building near Kamala Nehru Park in Pune. It’s a big building that has only minimal parking inside its campus. However they have made ingenious use of the surrounding public road. This parking space pattern is now seen in almost every new commercial building.

Legend for the image is –
­ 1.Cream ­ The Concrete Building Structure
2.Blue ­ The building parking lots
3.Green ­ The Road
4. Red ­ The area of the road that gets blocked due to the building’s parking. The red public space is converted to the blue private space.

As shown in the image, the builders would say that they have parking for six cars in the building premises. So if PMC rules say that a building of such size needs to provide for parking for 6 cars, this building will be complying on paper.

However a closer look will show that the access to all these parking slots is directly from the road and not through the building premises. The building has no fence or compound and the parking slots can just about accommodate one car. The problem with this is that if you were to park vehicles in the red area of the road, you would be well within the law, but effectively the building parking capacity would come to zero. So for the building’s parking to work, it is imperative for them to keep the red zone free of any parked vehicles. So even though the red zone is legal parking space, the building watchmen spend all day driving people away from parking in the red zone. The red public parking area effectively has got converted into the blue private parking area.

Put a footpath into the equation and things get even murkier as then the builder also paves the footpath and converts it into a trecherous slope that serves as the approach road for the parking space. So not only does walking on the slope become very difficult, but vehicles soon start parking on this footpath area that i made to appear as part of the building. Example ­ Yes Bank building on Bhandarkar Road.

It’s the same case for every new commercial building that is coming up. I recently had an argument with the security staff at the new commercial complex located right at the start of the income tax lane, on Prabhat Road. I checked P1­P2 and accordingly when I parked my car in the space in front of the building (not the gate), the security staff rushed to me and said “Idhar nahi laganey. Saheb ki gadi parking mey kaisey jaigi“. My appeals to reason were futile and I finally took the “discretion is the better part of valour” approach and moved on. I had parked legally on a public road and yet I was driven away.

This trickery employed by builders is the reason why despite buildings providing for ample parking on paper, they in reality do not add any parking capacity to the city. The PMC town planners / officials are turning a blind eye to this problem for reasons best known to them.

1) A building should be said to comply with the parking capacity rules only if in the process of providing the parking, the building is not reducing / encroaching on any existing public parking space.
2) Action should be taken against buildings modifying public footpaths and converting them into slopes meant for vehicles to access their parking space.
Unfortunately these days, it always seems like the builder’s way is the right way in Pune.

(Continued… Click here “The art of grabbing public spaces” for the entire article). Published as part of my fortnightly column for the Maharashtra Herald)