COMMUNITY activist and Kensington resident Greg Bucceroni spent two hours shoveling his car out of the snow. He drove to Dunkin' Donuts to get a celebratory coffee and snack - only to find another car parked in his newly cleared spot when he got home.

For Bucceroni, this was a violation of the neighborhood's unspoken parking-space etiquette, a tradition which the city says is technically illegal but which city officials and residents say is a matter of respect and consideration.

"I'm not going to get in a fistfight over it, but I'll be like a mother lion with its cubs," he said. "I'm going to watch it and make sure no one sneaks in there."

One family put an entire set of "beautiful dining room chairs" in the snow to stake a claim over their dug-out spot, said community activist and South Philadelphia resident Quaintella Asberry.

Maura Kennedy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Nutter, said that the practice of saving spaces with cones or chairs is illegal in Philadelphia because the city's streets are public - but police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said that police have not been enforcing the law in the wake of last week's storms.

"The fact of the matter is, we haven't had snow like this in a very long time," he said. "As far as the streets being public, they are, but there's not a whole lot of enforcement we can do."

Vanore added that he spent hours shoveling a space for his own car, and that coming home to find that spot taken would be "truly frustrating."

Nutter also showed support for the tradition of space-saving when speaking with reporters last week.

"If you spend two hours digging your car out, that is some serious effort there, and, ultimately, it's got to be respected," he said.

Other cities have special space-saving provisions for snow emergencies. In Boston, for example, the city's Web site says that residents may leave "spacesavers" in the street for up to 48 hours after a snow emergency ends.

And some cities, including Baltimore and Wilmington, have taken similar measures to Philadelphia and suspended laws against space-saving in the wake of last week's near-blizzard conditions.

At times, the desire to protect dug-out parking spaces has turned violent. Bucceroni said that he has seen fistfights over parking spaces in his neighborhood, and CBS 3 reported that a South Philadelphia woman is alleging that her tires were slashed for parking in someone else's dug-out space.

Some also criticize saving parking spaces as selfish.

"As it is, it's very hard to get parking spaces," said South Philadelphia resident and community activist J. Singer. "People save these spaces when they go away all day, and you don't have the spaces for people who may need to use them."

Singer's daughter, Holly, said that no one on her street had saved a parking space but that she counted more than 50 lawn chairs within a six-block radius.

She said that she had not seen anyone ticketed for the practice, but "they definitely should be."

Despite the criticism that the practice receives, residents are quick to defend what the Rev. Clarence Hester, of North Philadelphia, calls a "Philadelphia tradition."

"It's just a matter of respecting the work people have done," he said.