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December 11, 2010

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Illegal car parking puts lives at risk

PEOPLE living in the Jade Buddha Residence, a high-rise complex in downtown Jing'an District, were stunned and terrified when they saw that a squad of fire engines coming to put out a fire inside their complex could not gain entry Thursday evening, because too many parked cars had blocked the way.

The residents blamed the obstruction on property managers, who have made opening up the complex to non-resident's vehicles into a lucrative business.

For a much cheaper charge, the complex has become a favorite choice for nearby car owners, the residents said.

Cars occupied both sides of the road in front of the complex's main entrance, leaving a vehicle the size of a fire-engine with no possibility of gaining entrance, a Shanghai Daily reporter found at the site yesterday. Dozens of cars including minibuses were seen parked on other lanes and corners around the residence.

When the reporter, posing as an office worker, asked about parking, a security guard gave a price of 10-yuan (US$1.50) for a full day.

"But you have to wait. At the moment there's no room as the spaces have been taken," said the guard.

In the same area, an authorized car park charges 6 to 8 yuan for one hour, while in office-building -garages the fee can often be even more costly.

A household kitchen fire on Thursday was put out by a building janitor who rushed to the 19th-floor unit with a fire extinguisher. No one was injured. Residents in the complex said they will draw up a petition complaining about the management property's poor parking policy, which has created a major safety hazard for them all.

"The management should stop taking money from non-residential motorists and leave space for emergencies," said a woman who rented an apartment there.

The Jade Buddha Residence on Jiangning Road in the city's central business district has six 28-floor residential buildings and is home to 700 households. Some residents snapped after seeing what happened Thursday evening, which triggered the dreadful memory of the Jiaozhou Road high-rise inferno on November 15 in the same district, in which 58 people were killed and 71 injured.

"More than six fire engines arrived, but none could gain access to get inside," said a resident living inside the same building where the fire took place. "What if the fire had spread quickly?" he asked.

The residents told Shanghai Daily that since the Jiaozhou Road blaze, many residents in the complex had realized the seriousness of the parking problem and decided to protest against the property management. But so far they hadn't received any answer despite Thursday's incident.

The residents' committee found in a survey that residents themselves own no more than 200 private cars, most of which are parked in an underground garage. The committee found more than half of the daily 90-plus cars parked at ground level belong to non-residents.

"Some committee workers followed the people who own the cars and found they mostly came from the office buildings across the road and from service apartment buildings," said a member of the committee.

Moreover, the alarming lack of safety at the residence is not an isolated case in the city, where many guards at other complexes operate a similar system.

The high cost of car parking in the city's central business areas has driven many white-collar workers to seek cheaper parking spaces in nearby complexes. This in turn has led to a booming chain of car parks, significantly boosting incomes for the complexes' property management companies and security guards.


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