After any major snowstorm, when it comes time to dig out from the snow, there is often another battle taking place on Boston's streets — the war over parking spaces.
Enter: space savers.
It's a city tradition in which people use anything from household furniture to peculiar objects and signs to claim a parking spot they've shoveled out. The longstanding practice has its own rules — formal and informal. Here's what you need to know about space savers in Boston:
1. The city has a policy
After an official snow emergency declaration ends, you have 48 hours to use space savers, according to the city's parking regulations. It didn't used to always be this way. Former Mayor Thomas Menino encoded the grace period into law in 2005, following years of mayhem involving neighbors ignoring each other's space savers and uncertainty around when it was acceptable to claim a spot.
The logic behind the law has been reiterated by other top officials, like Former Mayor Marty Walsh, who made it clear after the record-breaking 2015 blizzard that if you spent hours shoveling out your car, you could keep it for a little while.
But, if you live in the South End, you won't be able to get away with the practice...
2. Space savers aren't welcomed everywhere in Boston
In 2015, the South End became the first neighborhood in the city to formally ban the practice. The ban began as a pilot program unanimously approved by members of the South End Forum. Stephen Fox, the forum's co-chair at the time, said space saving was not "conducive to community building."
Just across the river in Cambridge, the practice is also banned. Cambridge police have in the past warned residents that officers would confiscate any space savers used after a storm.
3. There have been fights over parking spaces
Retaliation, fights, vandalism — if space savers are common where you live, then you probably already know how contentious things can get when someone removes one to take another person's parking spot. There was the South Boston man who allegedly used a nail gun to shoot out the tires of a car parked in his space. Then there was the guy who allegedly assaulted a 66-year-old man and broke his jaw after a dispute over a parking space. (In the South End, the controversial ban fueled retaliatory vandalism soon after it went into effect and prompted complaints years later.)
There are no hard-and-fast rules on space saver etiquette, though common courtesy would likely avoid these issues. Caught In Southie offers this fun take on some of the unofficial rules of space savers to help you avoid such conflicts this winter.
And if you do have an issue with your space saver or parking spot, you can call the mayor's hotline at 311.
4. Space savers can get pretty creative
One rule that's clear is that you can pretty much use whatever object you can find as a space saver. Lawn chairs and cones are pretty popular and oftentimes are accompanied by a funny or snarky sign. Residents have also used toilets, toy cars and a crib.
Here's a look at how space savers have been used around town in past winters: