Argument in Ottawa, Canada for parking as a human right

Here is an overview of an argument made in Ottawa, Canada for the human right for a parking spot:

In a novel case before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Ottawa Monday, Ms. Howson argued that the city discriminated against her on the grounds of family status by not letting her build a parking pad in front of her house.

But city lawyers argued that Ms. Howson has never applied for a minor variance from the city’s committee of adjustment — the body legally able to consider her request — so she actually has never been denied anything…

Ms. Howson shares with a neighbour a narrow driveway that varies in width from 2.6 to 2.78 metres. It’s technically possible for her car — a 2.25-metre-wide Mazda 5 — to squeeze through the laneway.

But such manoeuvring is difficult at the best of times and impossible in winter because of snow and ice buildup, she said.

Under the current zoning, front-yard parking isn’t permitted on her street, which is in a heritage preservation district.

However, exceptions can be granted under certain circumstances.

Two years ago, Ms. Howson — a former investigator with the Ontario Human Rights Commission — approached the city to see if it would grant an exemption based of her family’s “special circumstances.”

The city’s refusal “constitutes discrimination on the grounds of family status,” she said.

While some might dismiss this quickly because it is a trivial application of the idea of human rights, this does seem like a bigger issue of zoning and who can grant exceptions. This woman may not win by casting this as a human rights issue but her argument does highlight how zoning and preservation districts can conflict with modern wants. Zoning may be an helpful tool for governments on a broad scale, but it also can lead to a large number of requests for variances and changes for specific properties and political accusations about who gets awarded variances and how long the process takes.

Also, this is a reminder of how important the car is in today’s society. In order to get around in many communities, a car is required and one needs a place to park a car. How much one should have to be inconvenienced or have to pay to park their car is another story but it does have to be factored into discussions about having and promoting an automobile society.

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