Alderman asks city to reexamine parking garage issues


Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

The Sherman Plaza parking garage is city owned. Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) asked city staff on Monday to reexamine ways to limit unsafe activity on the upper level of the garage.

Kristina Karisch, Assistant City Editor

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) asked city staff to gather more information on how to make the upper level of city-owned parking garages less dangerous at a City Council meeting on Monday.

Fiske requested that city staff look into the matter to help mitigate incidents at the Sherman Avenue and Maple Avenue garages. Multiple incidents have been recorded that cited individuals sitting on the garage’s perimeter walls and throwing objects, as well as multiple suicides at both locations.

In a seven-month span from November 2013 to May 2014, three Evanston residents died after falling from buildings, which prompted city officials to consider installing fences or netting to make these instances less likely to occur. No such measures ended up being taken, as aldermen questioned the effectiveness of the netting in deterring individuals who may be looking to intentionally get close to the ledge.

“This is a problem that we haven’t looked at adequately,” Fiske said. “It’s time for us to turn to professionals and ask what is the best thing that we can do.”

The issue of whether or not to put up a fence has been raised in council over the past few years, according to council documents. In July 2014, staff recommended the purchase and installation of fencing on the upper deck of the Sherman Parking Garage. The recommendation would have installed a six-foot chain-link fence around the perimeter of the garage, aimed to hinder people from climbing it.

The purchase was not approved at the time, as several aldermen doubted the fence would deter someone motivated to take their own life.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily the issue was raised again in a council meeting at the end of 2016 and said any other related decisions would be deferred for the time being. According to council documents, Bobkiewicz was one of several city staff to visit the parking garage in 2014 to discuss concerns about activity on the upper level at the parking garage.

Fiske told the Daily she is unsure whether a fence is the best solution to the issue, and added that finding people qualified to intervene in situations of attempted suicide is an important step in the process.

“(Looking into the problem as a whole is) what I would ask my colleagues on the council rather than going ahead and authorizing or asking the city manager to look in the cost of a fence,” she said. “I’d rather not attach dollars to it right now. We need to look at the problem and claim that the problem is our own.”

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch