PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Three men who drive electric cars in Philadelphia hit the city with a federal class action Thursday over a legislative hiccup that undermines benefits they secured 10 years ago.
Philadelphia ushered in the era of parking in 2007 when it began accepting applications from residents to set aside street parking for their electric vehicles.
William Morlok, Adam Novick and Theodore Lewis — the trio behind Thursday’s lawsuit — say they each set aside time and money to get their parking spaces approved, and they paid to install curbside chargers for their vehicles as well.
Now that they have improved public property, however, the city unilaterally terminated the exclusivity at the center of the arrangement this past spring.
Whereas unapproved vehicles in spots were initially subject to a fine or tow, the City Council revised the law in April so that the spaces are reserved only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
During the day, any vehicle can park in the previously electric-only spaces for two hours at a time.
Morlok, Novick and Lewis note that Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney declined to sign the bill, going so far as to criticize it publicly, but that the amendment became effective on April 20 thanks to the city’s home-rule charter.
City Councilman Mark Squilla sponsored the bill targeted by Thursday’s lawsuit.
Squilla’s Chief of Staff Anne Kelly said in a phone interview that the drivers behind the suit were still waiting on their parking applications to clear when Squilla’s moratorium passed.
“It’s unfortunate those 12 or so people were caught up in the pipeline,” Kelly said, “but we were getting outcry from constituents and a change needed to be made.”
Kelly said the reserved spots were becoming an issue in Philly’s already limited parking scene, necessitating legislative action.
Seeking to represent a class, the drivers allege unjust enrichment and violations of their constitutional guarantees to due process and equal protection.
They demand damages or an injunction ensuring continued exclusive access to their charging stations.
“By stripping plaintiffs and the putative class of their exclusively reserved electric vehicle parking spaces after they had expended substantial funds installing the electrical charging stations servicing those stations, defendant has caused plaintiffs and the putative class to lose the benefit and value of their respective investments in the charging stations, and the improvements they have made upon public property,” the complaint states.
The class is represented by Sean Whalen of Vintage Law in Ardmore.
Whalen has not returned a call requesting comment.
U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson is presiding over the case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.