The city has banned parking by outsiders throughout Otterbein, transforming the neighborhood's fashionable streets into a private parking preserve for its residents.
Earlier this month, Transportation Commissioner Herman Williams Jr. limited parking in Otterbein to neighborhood residents and authorized visitors. Violators can receive a $27 ticket.
While many city neighborhoods have two-hour limits on parking by non-residents, Otterbein is the only one where parking by non-residents is outlawed.
The nearby Federal Hill neighborhood is now seeking a modified version of the parking ban.
Under a bill approved by the City Council last June to deal with parking problems expected to be caused by Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the transportation commissioner can impose such parking bans in residential neighborhoods as far as a mile from the new stadium.
The council also has given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise parking fines throughout the so-called "stadium impact" area to $100 two hours before and two hours after stadium events.
The tough parking restrictions were warmly received by many Otterbein residents, who say they're already besieged by outsiders who park in their gentrified neighborhood to visit the attractions of the nearby Inner Harbor.
And, with the nearby stadium set to open next April, Otterbein residents feared that their parking problems would only get worse.
Transportation officials said Otterbein residents thought the usual two-hour parking restriction for non-residents would not adequately protect Otterbein from stadium traffic.
"We did it because the community wanted it and because they are so close to the stadium," Williams said yesterday.
While Otterbein residents wanted the ban, the tight restrictions are causing problems for business people and churches in the area.
Real estate agents have had trouble showing property in the neighborhood. Corner stores in nearby neighborhoods have complained about no parking for customers because of the overflow of parkers who used to park in Otterbein. And some church leaders say their congregations have nowhere to park.
"Many of our members are getting tickets because there inowhere for them to park legally," said the Rev. Wendell O.E. Christopher, pastor of 151-year-old Ebenezer A.M.E. Church on Montgomery Street.
The 400 who worship at Ebenezer are not eligible for visitor parking permits because the church sits just outside the "zero-hour" parking zone.
The vast majority of Ebenezer's congregation now lives outside of South Baltimore, largely as a result of the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood during the 1970s.
The turnover in the neighborhood was underwritten by the city, which invested millions of dollars in period street lighting, cobblestone streets, new sewers and housing-rehabilitation incentives.
Now the city has closed Otterbein's streets to parking by other city taxpayers -- a situation that strikes some people as unfair.
Michael Foster put up with stadium traffic for years as a resident of Charles Village. Now, new red signs with white backgrounds warn him against parking in Otterbein -- where he used to park while he worked out in a nearby health club.
"Never, ever, ever have I not been able to find a parking space there during the middle of the day. But now I can't park there," Foster said. "Am I not a citizen of Baltimore? Do the people of Otterbein have some special rights? It just seems unfair."
City transportation officials admit that the new parking provisions have created some problems. And, they add, they will think hard before imposing similar restrictions in other neighborhoods.
But already, Federal Hill, which officials said is suffering some spillover from Otterbein, has asked the city to restrict parking by non-residents between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Sundays.
"We are not going to grant this just because neighborhoods want it," Williams said. "They are going to have to show a real need, because this restriction really can be a problem."