HCMC to shut all sidewalk parking lots pending evaluation

By Huu Cong   January 11, 2018 | 08:18 pm PT
Captain Sidewalk's pending resignation letter mentions million-dollar interests in the sidewalks backed by some officials.

District leaders in Ho Chi Minh City have been instructed to temporarily close all sidewalk parking lots by the end of March this year.

In a decree, the city's People's Committee stressed that the sidewalks must be prioritized for pedestrians. If the sidewalks are used for other purposes that are deemed necessary they must be strictly regulated, not for profit and must not affect traffic or the city's urban image.

Existing lots will be allowed to stay open if there is a need for them. They will operate as fee-charging lots managed by the municipal Volunteer Youth Force or free parking lots managed by private businesses under a temporary license.

The decision follows comments made earlier this week by the city's deputy chairman Tran Vinh Tuyen who said that people would be allowed to use the sidewalks for purposes other than they were intended, but only under certain conditions.   

A sidewalk parking lot on Thi Sach Street in District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran.

A sidewalk parking lot on Thi Sach Street in District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Duy Tran.

District 1, home to the sidewalk cleanup campaign, currently has 48 sidewalk parking lots belonging to various departments.

According to Doan Ngoc Hai, vice chairman of District 1 and the man behind the campaign, these parking lots have existed for years through generations of district leaders. He has called for all of them to be "suspended immediately" and then evaluated later as instructed by the city's leaders.

"Shutting down these parking lots will help reduce the number of private vehicles entering the downtown area, and therefore curb congestion. It will clash with certain individuals and interest groups, but I'm determined to get rid of these [parking lots] today," Hai said on Thursday.

Hai submitted a resignation letter on Monday, claiming he had failed to keep his public promise to clean up the sidewalks as they have once again been taken over by cars and shops. However, the city's authorities have yet to make a decision on his resignation.

Hai, who was given his post in the central district in 2016, started the sidewalk campaign in early 2017 with a pledge to turn it into a “Little Singapore”.

His team put up barriers and deployed police officers to stop motorbikes from driving on the sidewalks. During the crackdown, vehicles, including government and foreign diplomatic cars, were towed, and invasive constructions that spilled out onto the street, some of which belonged to five-star hotels, were dismantled.

Hai received death threats during his campaign, but also gained widespread public support, except from street vendors who were seen crying and yelling as police seized their food stands.

He was asked to abandon the campaign last October after District 1 decided to replace his daily patrols with a task force that only deals with sidewalk invasions following tip-offs.

In his resignation letter, Hai said that his campaign had collided with businesses that had million-dollar interests on the sidewalks and a large number of officials backing them. The mission needed the support of the entire political system, which he did not receive, he said.

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