Sofia municipal council voted on September 13 to keep the controversial plans that have raised the ire of residents of central Sofia, who will now have to pay for the right to park their cars in the paid parking areas in the centre of the Bulgarian capital.
Since late July, hundreds of protesters occasionally gathered to rally against the changes – residents of the paid parking areas would be allowed to purchase parking stickers priced at 150 leva a year/15 leva a month in the central “blue zone” and 100 leva a year (or 10 leva a month) in the outlying “green zone”. Parking stickers for a second car are priced much higher – 450 leva a year in the “blue zone” and 300 leva a year in the “green zone”.
On September 13, as Sofia city councillors met to debate several proposed amendments to the parking regulations, about 100 people gathered outside city hall to demand the resignation of Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova – but this time, the protest appears to have been orchestrated by the VMRO and Ataka parties; the civic association that organised the earlier rallies has distanced itself from the protest.
Inside city hall, the issue that dominated proceedings was a motion by city hall chairperson Elin Gerdjikov to cancel the councillors’ right to park anywhere in the paid parking areas. This was opposed by councillors from the socialist opposition, who described it as populist, but also a splinter group of councillors from ruling party GERB. As a result, the motion was defeated.
The opposition was less successful in pushing through its own amendments. However, in a bid to make the process of issuing parking stickers for residents of paid parking areas, the city hall voted to reduce the number of documents that these residents would need to produce in order to prove that they qualify to buy a sticker. The amendments also make it possible for a resident who rents property inside a “blue” or “green zone” to receive such a sticker.
Without such a sticker, parking in a “blue zone” costs two leva (about a euro) an hour with a two-hour limit for parking. Payment can be made by sending a text message that contains the licence plate number to the number 1302. Parking in a “green zone” costs one lev an hour with a four-hour limit (payment can be made to the number 1303). The parking restrictions are in effect from 8am to 7pm from Monday to Friday and up to 2pm on Saturdays.
The system went into effect on September 1, but due to the protest rallies, Sofia city hall has delayed the introduction of the paid parking stickers for residents to October 1. With its decisions on September 13, the municipal council effectively refused to bow down to the protesters’ demands.
(“Green zone” parking sign. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)