The ‘No Parking’ signs on a former governor’s street? They weren’t allowed, but he still got them.

For more than 17 years, "No Parking" signs dotted the entire public cul-de-sac in front of former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield's high-priced home in West Anchorage.

But not anymore.

Earlier this year, the city took down signs on the south side of the street after the city ombudsman's office investigated and concluded the city had violated its own policies by installing the signs in the early 2000s. The investigation found the signs were installed at the request of Sheffield, who served as governor from 1982 to 1986 and was working at the time as the director for the Port of Anchorage.

Ombudsman Darrel Hess said the signs were installed over the objections of traffic officials and were not connected to a documented traffic safety problem. He said exceptions to city policy for the powerful and politically connected undermine trust in local government.

"(The city) can't be complicit in turning a public cul-de-sac into a private one because of who the person is," Hess said in an interview.

Sheffield's home adjacent to Lyn Ary Park and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail was most recently assessed at $1.3 million. The spacious property with a long driveway has been the setting for a revolving door of fundraising events for the state's highest-profile politicians, including Gov. Bill Walker and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. A prominent Anchorage developer, Mark Pfeffer, lives next door.

The request for the "No Parking" signs was in line with Sheffield's well-publicized attempts in the early 2000s to effectively privatize his street when he asked the city for permission to install a gate. (He didn't get it). The ex-governor was frustrated with partying, crime and littering in the neighborhood.


In an interview, Sheffield, who is 89, insisted he didn't ask anyone at the city to install the signs, though records show he used his city email to do just that.

"I never talked to anybody," Sheffield said, standing out on his street recently. He said the signs were installed by a Fairbanks contractor he met while working at the port.

But in 2002, city traffic department records show, Sheffield, who was port director at the time, used his city email account to write city officials and request "No Parking" signs on his street because he was frustrated about vehicle traffic.

"Request that no parking area be extended west to head of cul-de-sac to help keep cars off my lawn–please," Sheffield wrote in the 2002 email to then-public works director Craig Campbell, which was reviewed by the ombudsman and obtained by Anchorage Daily News through a public records request.

In the email, Sheffield said police had done nothing to help him address routine messes on his street. He contended the cul-de-sac wasn't built as an entrance to Lyn Ary Park.

Sheffield acknowledged this week the "No Parking" signs, as well as other signs warning about 24-hour surveillance, were "probably illegal" because they were mounted on city signposts. But the signs immediately put a stop to problems that ranged from broken bottles and condom trash to gunshots, fireworks and young people canoodling in cars, Sheffield said.

He said he'd never gotten a thank-you for making the neighborhood better.

"I think it was every bit worth it, but I get written up as the bad guy," Sheffield said.

He also said, with a chuckle, the city wasn't particularly alert when it came to the presence of the signs.

"It only took them a couple of years to figure it out!" he said.

In December 2017, someone contacted the Anchorage ombudsman's office to ask whether the signs were allowed. Sheffield's street leads up to the dugout of a baseball field.

Sheffield acknowledged that guests attending fundraisers at his home have parked on the street in front of the signs. He said he doesn't stand outside  and police parking for people who want to visit the park or the ballfields, as long as they're not causing trouble.

But the signs have prompted park visitors, including the person who complained, to drive to a parking lot on the other side of the park, according to a memo Hess wrote to city traffic supervisors. To get to the baseball field, people were carrying equipment from the other parking lot, Hess' memo said.

City policy says "No Parking" signs are rarely installed except to cure a documented traffic problem, such as a line-of-sight issue, Hess wrote in his memo. He said traffic officials cite the policy in repeatedly turning down requests for such signs in other neighborhoods, where neighbors voice concerns similar to Sheffield's.

The city first installed "No Parking" signs on the north side of Susitna View Circle in November 2001, in front of Sheffield's driveway, according to traffic department records reviewed by Hess' staff and obtained by Anchorage Daily News. A report filed at the time listed "heavy use of the park & homeowners driveways are being blocked" as the reason. In his memo, Hess said Sheffield was the one who requested the signs.

Records also show that early in the morning on April 30, 2002, Sheffield, using his city email account, wrote to Campbell, then the director of the city's office of planning, development and public works, and asked for the "No Parking" signs to be extended west. Two hours later, Campbell emailed back and said the city would "follow-up accordingly," according to the email record.

Sheffield said this week he could not recall sending the email to Campbell.


Campbell asked then-traffic engineer Lance Wilber and then-parks director Jim Posey to look at extending the "No Parking" area and installing signs against littering, the email records show.

An investigation and authorization report filed by the city traffic department on May 7, 2002 lists "Bill Shefield" (sic) in the "requestor" field, asking for "No Parking" signs to be extended west on Susitna View Circle. Drawings in the traffic department's file showed where the signs were installed on Sheffield's street.

The street was wide enough so that blocking driveways on the other side of the street would have been impossible, Hess wrote in his memo. He cited city policy that the space on the street in front of a home does not belong to that resident.

"When the (city) makes exceptions to policies or code, based on a person's socioeconomic status, the neighborhood they live in, or how politically connected they are, it undermines the public's confidence in our local government," Hess wrote in the memo.

Hess sent his memo to traffic supervisors Jan. 9. About two days later, city workers took down the "No Parking" signs on the south side of the street, to allow better access to the park, according to Kris Langley, the traffic safety division manager.

City workers also took down non-city signs that Sheffield had installed on the signposts that warned of "24-hour" video surveillance.

Those signs weren't legal. Private citizens can't put up signs on city signposts on public streets, Hess wrote in his memo.

There are still some "No Parking" signs mounted on poles at the end of the cul-de-sac and on the north side of the street today. Traffic officials decided that cul-de-sac area should remain off-limits to parking to allow fire equipment and ambulances to turn around in the event of an emergency at the park or at the homes on the street, Langley said. Hess' memo said keeping signs on the north side would strike a "reasonable balance" between the concerns of homeowners and the public's right to park near the ballfields.


Sheffield said he's worried about bad behavior cropping up again in his neighborhood. He said he wants the city to let him re-install the signs warning about surveillance.

Chris Schutte, the city development director, said those signs, which were not city property, were sitting at the city's sign shop earlier this week. He said the signs can't be legally posted in the public part of the street.

But Schutte said he did plan to personally retrieve the signs and return them to Sheffield.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.