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Public Spaces

Wells, Catania organize Park(ing) Day on Pennsylvania Ave

For Park(ing) Day tomorrow, DC Councilmembers Tommy Wells and David Catania will turn 2 of the councilmember-only spaces in front of the Wilson Building into a temporary park. Casey Trees will do the same in Dupont, and the Montgomery planning department in Silver Spring.

Photo by Eric Gilliland on Flickr.

Park(ing) Day started as a performance art project from Rebar Group, which made a park out of one San Francisco curbside space for 2 hours with a roll of sod, a small tree, a bench, and a sign. Now, every year people do the same across the nation.

The project illustrates the tradeoffs we make in our public space. For the amount of space devoted to one car sitting empty, we could have a small park. That's not to say all spaces should be turned into parks, or that converting even one space means a "war on cars," but to point out how we have a choice for how to use 150-200 square feet of space.

The curb lane in front of the Wilson Building, DC's city hall/state capitol at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, offers dedicated parking for members of the DC Council. Tommy Wells (who typically doesn't drive anyway) arranged to use "his space" for a Park(ing) Day park, and David Catania joined in to make 2 park(ing) spaces.

The space will be open from 8 am to 6 pm. With the help of Washington Parks and People, Wells will convert these spaces into a park where you can relax (and lobby any councilmembers who pass by). From 12:30 to 1, representatives from the DC Department of Health will organize "light physical activity demonstrations" which people can do in business clothes, and provide information on exercise, nutrition, and more.

In Dupont Circle, Casey Trees is hosting a Park(ing) Day space at New Hampshire Avenue and Q Street, NW from 8 am to 5 pm. And in Montgomery County, the planning department and Congress for the New Urbanism are joining forces to create a space on Ellsworth Drive, between Cedar and Fenton, in Silver Spring, from 10 am to 2 pm.

If you know of any other Park(ing) Day events in the region, note them in the comments and I'll add them to the post.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Aritsphere in Rosslyn will be doing something in two spaces out front. It may get more visitors than they get inside!

I'll be telecommuting from a couch in my garage. Does that count?

by Novanglus on Sep 15, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

With parking being in as short supply as it is ... this whole idea seems very mean-spirited ... and selfish.

by Lance on Sep 15, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

... not to mention 'wasteful' ...

by Lance on Sep 15, 2011 5:23 pm • linkreport

With parks being in such short supply as it is ... the whole idea of car ownership seems very mean-spirited ... and selfish.

... not to mention 'wasteful' ...

by Matt Johnson on Sep 15, 2011 5:28 pm • linkreport

Actually, Lance, it shows the exact oppositeof what you just said. We have too much land dedicated to storing cars. We can take away these spaces and no one will really be affected.

by Cavan on Sep 15, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson Thanks. You beat me to it.

by Ward 1 Guy on Sep 15, 2011 5:33 pm • linkreport

I hope they get tickets.

by TGEOA on Sep 15, 2011 5:40 pm • linkreport

@TGEOA -- on what grounds would you ticket them other than the fact that you don't like this?

by Kate W on Sep 15, 2011 5:47 pm • linkreport


I'm sure this stunt probably violates a law or three. If were lucky they will fail to comply with police orders to move and get tasered.

by TGEOA on Sep 15, 2011 5:55 pm • linkreport

TGEOA: as long as they meet the normal time/feed-the-meter requirements, there is no law violation.

Meanwhile, I'd like to hear Lance's reasoning as to WHY he thinks it's selfish and wasteful.

by Froggie on Sep 15, 2011 5:58 pm • linkreport


You could be right. Though every jurisdiction has different laws about highway usage. If a cop wanted to paper someone I'm confident they could find several statues.

by TGEOA on Sep 15, 2011 6:10 pm • linkreport

Rumor has it tha the 600 block of N. St. Asaph in Alexandria will also have a PARKing spot from 9am to 4pm on Friday. Bocce ball and open space education!

by PM on Sep 15, 2011 7:25 pm • linkreport

Because harassing people that are doing something (and a one time thing at that, considering it only happens once a year) with the explicit blessing of two council members is sure not to cause a PR headache worse that the low impact this will have on traffic/parking. Besides its not even a public parking space so no one except the CM's in question are "inconvenienced"

by Canaan on Sep 15, 2011 10:00 pm • linkreport

@Froggie, If we're only talking about private spaces, they can do anything they want. (And I include the CMs spaces as private in this case since the only people affected are the CMs ... provided they don't end up using a public space on the street because their reserved ones are being used for this stunt.)

But the post also says something about Casey Trees planning to 'do the same in Dupont'. I take that to they're planning to squat in public spaces. That's selfish and wasteful in that those spaces are needed by people going to doctors appointments, running errands, picking up their dry cleaning ... or their kids at school ... or whatever. I.e., it incoveniences others just for the sake of this childish stunt ... which at its heart lies the false assumption 'can't everyone live JUST LIKE ME?' ... 'why doesn't everyone WANT to live just like me?' ... 'I'm perfect' ... childish and immature ...

by Lance on Sep 15, 2011 11:14 pm • linkreport

Lance, perhaps you're living in the wrong area code? Free and abundant parking is not an urban birthright. Most denizens in this area (who can afford it) pay a premium simply to own a slip to store their urban sled. If the market dictates a rate to buy -- and rent -- parking spaces, what does it matter if someone chooses to rent and park a collective bunch of asses in any given space. Rent is rent. Payment is payment. If you get tired of circling the block, perhaps try Centreville.

by jean-claude on Sep 15, 2011 11:51 pm • linkreport

jean-claude has it right. Lance, you're off on the economics, the practicalities, and inreasingly, the urban mindset. It probably all sounds like hipster nonsense to you, but as you plug your ears and grumble "childish and immature" the idea of sharing more of the public space with those who might benefit from it is becoming more and more mainstream in this city. I also suggest you find a way to live with it (enjoy it, even) or try Centreville.

by D on Sep 16, 2011 12:11 am • linkreport

Can't believe there are no comments about the lack of participation by other Councilmembers. You mean Graham wouldn't leave his VW at home for the day, and no Navigator references. It must be Friday.

Good idea to show that the loss of pavement really does little to affect everyones daily lives. And we have spaces going in and out of circulation all the time for weeks at a time for a wide range of reasons. Lance's comments are just his being contrary by nature.

by Me on Sep 16, 2011 7:56 am • linkreport

As a 40-something who recently moved from Reston to Dupont Circle, I am really glad Casey Trees is doing this in my new neighborhood. This kind of devotion to improving the pedestrian experience is what makes Dupont Circle such a liveable place, as compared to the suburban car-centric hell of Reston.

by rock_n_rent on Sep 16, 2011 8:13 am • linkreport

Yeah...cause DC is ya know, really lacking in open park space.

by freely on Sep 16, 2011 8:39 am • linkreport

This will be pretty nice, until Jim Graham rolls up and illegally parks his Beetle in one or both of the spaces.

by Andre on Sep 16, 2011 9:00 am • linkreport

Just for the giggles of it all, this illustrates just how "not" a problem the park space versus parking space debate is.

The District has 7800 acres of official parkland. That includes the 7K acres of NPS land, and 800 acres of DC Parks/Rec owns.

7800 acres is 11.5 sq/miles of parkland, or 17% of the total size of the District. This of course, does not count open green space that is personal lawns or yards.

A parking space is 200 sq/ft. At 43560 sq/ft per acre and 7800 acres in the District, that means that if you turned all the park space in the District to standard public parking spaces, you would have 1,698,840...1.7 million parking spaces.

DDOT currently operates 17K metered spaces, for a ratio of park land to equitable space spent on parking parking spaces to be 100 to 1

Of course you could say that doesn't include all the non-metered street parking spread through residential neighborhoods in the city. Fine, but there isn't 1,681,840 permissbale non-metered street parking spaces in the District.

Point is, DC is not lacking for park space and park land isn't being squeezed by street parking.

by freely on Sep 16, 2011 9:10 am • linkreport

I totally agree with Freely.... If you want green space at the wilson building build it on Freedom Plaza.. Dupont Circle has a HUGE park at 22nd and P st with a "water feature"

by Brightwood 34 on Sep 16, 2011 9:34 am • linkreport

The project illustrates the tradeoffs we make in our public space. For the amount of space devoted to one car sitting empty, we could have a small park. That's not to say all spaces should be turned into parks, or that converting even one space means a "war on cars," but to point out how we have a choice for how to use 150-200 square feet of space.

I think they covered that. Its about how we choose to use our public space.

by Canaan on Sep 16, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

I think it's important to note that Park(ing) Day began in San Francisco, a city that lacks free, urban park space downtown, to point out that very fact. Since, it has evolved into a means to bring other issues to light.

I agree that DC does not lack park space, so it isn't really effective to treat this in the same manner as the original Park(ing) Day in SF.

The beauty of it is in its subversive nature - a legal form of protest that clearly illustrates an issue - DC voting rights, gun laws, crime, ethics in government, etc. If the CM's really want to make a point, they should relocate their desks outside for the day and take meetings from whomever walks by and wants to talk. Mid-day calisthenics don't really help anybody w/anything. If you're going to do it, do something that will contribute to the dialogue.

by bp on Sep 16, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

Looking purely at percentages of parkland won't tell you anything. What matters is dispersion, size, and design.

That said, most areas of DC don't suffer from a lack of access to open space.

by Neil Flanagan on Sep 16, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

*With parks being in such short supply as it is ... the whole idea of car ownership seems very mean-spirited ... and selfish.*

Oh boi, here we go again. More anticar bias. Pity the poor soul who actually likes those mean Cars are evil I tell you. Just evil.

by HogWash on Sep 16, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

+1 Neil.

There's lots of parkland in DC, but most of it isn't remotely accessible to the city's residential population.

East Potomac Park is a huge plot of land that's nearly a mile from the nearest residential unit. Rock Creek Park and the Arboretum suffer from major accessibility problems.

We have lots of parks, but they're not dispersed within our neighborhoods. Many of the ones that are within established neighborhoods offer little more than a parched plot of grass (ie. Thomas Circle).

Oh, and stop feeding the Lance troll. He's not contributing to the discussion.

by andrew on Sep 16, 2011 10:26 am • linkreport

@HogWash - I think you are kind of missing the point, which is that Lance's argument that this was selfish could easily be turned around in the other direction and it would make just as much sense or little sense as the original argument depending on your bias.

Everyone needs to break outside their own view point and consider that other people might have a different point of view.

by Kate W. on Sep 16, 2011 11:07 am • linkreport

Kate, thanks...I understood the "back at cha" point being made. I just don't think that it was a good one. Lance didn't argue that "bike ownership" is bad. Instead he said that this "idea" proposed by Wells/Cantania is bad - at least that's what I got from his post.

by HogWash on Sep 16, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

Really wishing I could "like" Andre's post:

This will be pretty nice, until Jim Graham rolls up and illegally parks his Beetle in one or both of the spaces.

by Dina on Sep 16, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

@Lance: they're public spaces. As long as the "squatters" are Feeding the meter and meeting the time requirements, they can pretty much do as they please with the space. If they're not, then you may have a valid argument there...but if they are, then deal with it. Your whining doesn't hold any water then.

@PM: you were correct. I found it there on St Asaph around 3ish. Thanks for the tip.

by Froggie on Sep 16, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

@Froggie Lance: they're public spaces. As long as the "squatters" are Feeding the meter and meeting the time requirements,

I doubt that's true. They're public PARKING spaces. I'm sure there's something in the code that says they can only be rented (by the minute) for parking vehicles and NOT for any other purpose without a special permit.

The reason this action is so onerous is that it is a spiteful action performed for no other reason than to incovenience people. We shouldn't be acquiescing to such bad behavior which is also certainly illegal behavior. It doesn't help anyone's cause. I've donated my time and money to Casey Trees in the past. I will think twice about doing so in the future. Why they would get into an issue that has nothing to do with increasing the tree canopy in DC .. is beyond me. But non-profit organizations often get themselves into trouble when people working in them use the organizations to further their own private goals ... whether or not they have anything to do with the organization's goals.

by Lance on Sep 17, 2011 9:35 am • linkreport

And as to the ascertion that this excercise was to 'increase the parkland' in DC, I call BS. This stunt was nothing more than one more instance of car haters trying to make life more difficult for the average person in this country (and in the metropolitan area) who buys into the modern vision of people living a life that includes daily access to vast areas ... and correspondingly vast opportunities ...

It would be funny if this stunt had prevented some farmer's truck from reaching the carless people's favorite farmer's market ... Maybe then they'd get it. And stop living in a make believe world. The days when people relied only on mass transit were not the Nirvana these idealists would like to believe.

by Lance on Sep 17, 2011 10:19 am • linkreport

Oh, so that is what was going on at the Wilson Building. A media truck was blocking the bike lane during the event. Red van, no name, DC plate #C64813. You would think that park people would make sure their event respected the bike lane laws.

by tour guide on Sep 17, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

Once again, the killjoys are looking too narrowly at a fun event. DC may have many acres of park space, but the vast majority of it is inaccessible to its residents on a daily basis -- cut off from the city by highways, hillsides, rivers, and too often security fences. Unlike metered parking spaces, those park spaces aren't located right at the heart of the neighborhoods where we work, shop, and live.

More broadly, Streetsblog DC calls Park(ing) Day a "global demonstration about all the ways we can use curbside space besides automobile storage." It's a chance to have a thoughtful dialogue about what else we could use curbside space for, and to get a chance to see just how huge cars are relative to the other elements of our urban environment. We don't often get a chance to see just how much other stuff can fit into the space occupied by one car -- a dozen bikes? a picnic table? a kindergarten class? a City Council?

San Francisco has made Park(ing) Day permanent in many locations throughout the city by allowing businesses (and residents!) to rent curbside spaces annually. Many of them have become elegant sidewalk cafes, some house bike parking, one has a curious dinosaur themed garden. All of them offer something rewarding and engaging to walk past, and many offer the city's economy more of a boost than yet another parked car would.

by Payton on Sep 19, 2011 5:12 pm • linkreport

Oh, and the leading threats to the health of street trees? Polluted runoff from... paved areas. Air pollution from cars. Cars running into street trees. I could continue with the obvious.

by Payton on Sep 19, 2011 5:15 pm • linkreport

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