The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Capitol Hill ANC poised to endorse zoning update

ANC 6B, which covers the southern portion of Capitol Hill, is likely to endorse the DC zoning update after a majority of its members voted in favor at a committee meeting. It would join Glover Park's ANC 3B, which endorsed the proposals about 2 weeks ago.

Photo by katmeresin on Flickr.

In a post on his blog, Capitol Hill Corner, resident Larry Janezich (who clearly doesn't agree with the zoning update) reports that chairman Brian Flahaven, vice-chairman Ivan Frishberg, commissioners Nichole Opkins, Kirsten Oldenburg, Brian Pate, and Phil Peisch all voted for the proposals, along with 3 resident (non-commissioner) members.

According to Janezich, commissioners cited the value of encouraging more affordable housing and reducing car pollution, among other reasons, for supporting proposals to reduce parking minimums and allow accessory dwellings in single-family areas. Another part of the zoning update, allowing more corner stores in residential areas, appeared less controversial.

A majority of the ANC voted for the changes at the meeting, making it very likely they will fully approve these recommendations at their full meeting on Tuesday.

Not everyone supported the changes. Francis Campbell, Chander Jayaraman, and Dave Garrison voted no. It also got opposition from Ken Jarboe, a former commissioner defeated by Pate in 2010; Jarboe spoke against reducing parking minimums back in 2008 during the first round of Zoning Commission hearings. Janezich writes:

Former ANC commissioner Ken Jarboe, who worked on the ANC's Regulation Review Task Force, said he opposed the OP proposals because no alternative to taking away the parking had been presented. He pointed to the problems likely to ensue from the plan to put multiple small units in the Medlink building (7th and Constitution, NE) with no onsite parking. He said he was frustrated by people trying to use the Zoning Code to fix a problem that you can't solve by using the Zoning Code, likening the effort to using a hatchet where a scalpel was needed.
It's funny Jarboe makes that last point, because that statement is a perfect argument for removing the minimums, not against them. Much of the opposition to removing parking minimums has nothing to do with parking minimums at all, but on-street parking. People are afraid that the change will mean more cars competing for limited space on the street, but that's already a problem, minimums or no minimums.

At a recent debate, Elissa Silverman expressed some trepidation about removing parking minimums entirely. I had a very productive conversation with her on the phone, and we were able to explore the issues more deeply. I pointed out the analogy to why the government doesn't require, say, rooftop pools on every building. That would certainly make buildings more expensive, though it's something many residents would benefit from.

One difference, Silverman noted, is that omitting rooftop pools has no detrimental impact on other neighbors. And this is what she had been most concerned about: new development significantly upsetting existing residents' ability to park on a street near their home.

Many zoning update opponents keep claiming that no parking minimums means no parking, but that's fallacious. The Park Van Ness project, for instance, is building 226 parking spaces, far more than zoning requires, even though it is a matter-of-right proejct and 2 blocks from a Metro station.

People are also already parking on the street even when buildings have a lot of parking. Often they park on the street and spaces in the building go empty, because on-street spaces are cheaper and more convenient. In short, we have a problem that parking minimums aren't solving today. The solution, therefore, is not to keep things as they are, but to actually solve the problem directly.

Silverman also said that she wants to see housing near Metro stations accommodate everyone from singles to larger families, but a lot of buildings in places like H Street and 14th Street are just providing studios and one bedrooms. I agree we should have housing for families. Again, though, parking minimums are doing nothing today to ensure family housing near Metro stations.

There are definite problems with our parking policies today. We don't effectively manage on-street parking spaces. That causes problems. Jarboe is, therefore, right to be "frustrated by people trying to use the Zoning Code to fix a problem that you can't solve by using the Zoning Code." People are trying to use the zoning code to protect some residents' ability to park on the street, a problem you can't solve by using the zoning code.

Our current parking minimums don't fix on-street parking; if they did, it wouldn't be a problem today. They don't ensure family housing; if they did, we'd have more being built. It's wrong to oppose reducing parking minimums because of other problems which our parking minimums aren't preventing anyway.

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. 


Add a comment »

As someone with a family and no car - I'd like to not be a straw argument in support of parking minimums. Not everyone who has a family has a car. Some of us prefer to walk and metro as much as possible, and rent cars when needed.

by Gil on Mar 7, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

@Gil +1
Same here. I hate being used as the argument for parking.

by dc denizen on Mar 7, 2013 10:40 am • linkreport

Indeed. Have a family, have a car, but don't see how parking minimums work on my behalf.

by Tim Krepp on Mar 7, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

Performance parking should be extended to reduce the impact on residential neighborhoods and dissincentivize neighborhood street parking for visitors. Standing resident guest passes can mitigate the problem for residential as opposed to general visitors. I'd rather see more of the residential parking dedicated to zoned permit holders with a smaller amount of visitor parking available at all hours either free to zone holders or for a fee for those without zoned permits.

Residents will have less issue with scarcity from new developments if their valid concerns about parking plannning are addressed.

I'm all for multi-modal options, but I'm enough of a realist to see the number of drivers from outside the area who invade these areas around specific times.

by anon_1 on Mar 7, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

A Farce

Arlington makes developers give up on-street parking to get parking minimums, Seattle counts each car-share space in a building or space for bicycles as 3 spaces toward minimums. DC wants to give it away for free with no conditions or bargaining and in the meantime give up the one bargaining chip DC currently has to encourage smart growth.

An average smaller-size building developer will get a windfall of at least $1 million for nothing and I'm sure some of that will find it's way into official pockets as appreciation. Since rents and condo prices are set by supply and demand I doubt a penny will go to lower rents or prices. And any encouragement of less car use by making parking even worse is very iffy.

As Arlington has shown, there are plenty of car-less prospective tenants and DC should have such buildings for them too. We should encourage car-less newcomers, not move their cars to street parking.

Whether it's stupidity or corruption, either is inefficient.

The opposite of smart growth and it's a farce that people pushing this give-away call it that.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 7, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

Sad to hear about Silverman's position on this issue. I would be shocked, shocked if this were part of her strategy to lure the Ward 3 NIMBYs to vote for her, knowing that she needs to get at least some of them on her side if she has a chance of winning. Pandering in this way would be unfortunate.

Perhaps it would be useful for her to consider that zoning rewrites come around as frequently as Haley's Comet, whereas, if she were a lawmaker she could actually help rewrite our silly RPP rules to completely mitigate these concerns.

by fongfong on Mar 7, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

"Arlington makes developers give up on-street parking to get parking minimums"

Arlington also underprices residential parking permits, as far as I can tell. They should also look at market pricing permits.

"Since rents and condo prices are set by supply and demand I doubt a penny will go to lower rents or prices"

Supply is impacted by cost of construction, which is impacted by mandated spaces.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 7, 2013 11:49 am • linkreport

Silverman's comments were made at a candidate forum in Takoma DC. Everyone was answering the same question. Zuckerberg came out strongly in favor of all of the controversial zoning changes and cited his past work with Safe Routes to Schools. An audience member repeatedly hissed at him. Nobody else stood up for the zoning changes.

Parking spots are expensive. If given the choice many people on a budget would probably choose a 2 bedroom apartment over a 1 bedroom apartment that includes a parking space. The pro-parking minimum crowd isn't letting them choose.

by TakomaNick on Mar 7, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

@DA: In a post on his blog, Capitol Hill Corner, resident Larry Janezich...

You may disagree with him, but you have to respect his ability. Mr. Janezich is a very good local reporter.

by goldfish on Mar 7, 2013 12:10 pm • linkreport

Was I disrespecting him? He's a resident, his blog is Capitol Hill Corner, he disagrees with the zoning update. Honest question - was something disrespectful?

by David Alpert on Mar 7, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

@DA: I wrote "disagree," but I did not mean to imply any disrespect on your part. I have been following him for years, and I have been astonished at some of his scoops. I am only pointing out how good he is.

by goldfish on Mar 7, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

WRT WITC's comment about Arlington, DC underprices residential parking permits too.

wrt anon_1's comment, as long as DC underprices residential parking permits, so called "Performance Parking" has almost nothing to do with the market, except for a wee sliver of it--the visitors. So called PP mostly is about privileging resident parking.

e.g. this is a recent email from the Columbia Heights e-list:

Remember those "permanent" Ward 1 parking passes Councilmember Graham sent out a few months ago? Well, our nanny somehow lost hers--and she needs it every day to take care of our boys.

By chance, are there any good souls out there who never use theirs and would be willing to donate it?

I would be glad to stop by and pick it up in person.

Many thanks!

13th/Girard area

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

The answer to the conundrum is straightforward: No RPPs for residents of buildings that don't meet parking minima. That is, if the notion is that people without cars will live there, reaping the benefits of somewhat lower rent/price. If we are happy to just move cars from underground lots to the street, sure, just leave the proposal as is. Yet nobody, least of all OP, will cop to that.

by Jon on Mar 7, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

Jon -- but why should current residents be accorded virtually free parking at the expense of everyone else. Why should they not pay for it.

wrt goldfish's comments about Larry J., there is a difference between objective reporting and opinion. Bloggers often (as do I) mix the two. But then it becomes "opinion" almost entirely.

E.g., Larry J's recent piece saying the focus on reducing parking minimums is about applying "new urbanism" to DC, when DC is OLD URBANISM and the spatial design of the city was created to optimize walking, and then biking and transit as those modes were invented.

When you put that kind of stuff in your "articles" it negates your being able to be called a "reporter." An analyst-columnist sure, but not a reporter.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

A HUGE obstacle to family housing in the District (cannot speak to this in other areas) is the historic preservation law.

Consider Capitol Hill where there are lots of young families. Sure, some of them move when they decide that the schools are not up to scratch; but, many many many of them move because they simply run out of space. Many Hill homes are two or three bedrooms and that is just not enough for growing families after your kids turn five or six.

So, why not add more space, increase the value of the housing stock, increase density, and stay on the Hill? Because --in 99% of the cases-- you can't add an extra floor, you can't expand out the back, you can't do much of anything. And the process of finding out what you can and can't do will almost always set you back at least $25,000.

Yes, there are trade-offs. The Hill is an attractive place to live, etc. etc. But I don't hear people discussing the very great burdens on density and long-term residence by young families that historic preservation implies. But perhaps loosening historic preservation strictures a bit would ameliorate some of the problems mentioned in this article.

After the zoning re-write is over, let's move on to historic preservation.

Bill White

by William C. White on Mar 7, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

FWIW, back in the day, as many as 9 people lived in a typical DC rowhouse in Greater Capitol Hill. And the houses in my neighborhood (Manor Park) aren't much bigger when it comes down to it. Except for basements. And attics.

Some people finish their basements. Some their attics. (Pretty much CH houses don't have what we would call an attic.)

And it's possible to dig out basements in Capitol Hill, although it's true that many of the houses don't have basements.

... rather than change the houses too much, I'd rather the people moved.

And the so called Wardman rowhouse (the ones with porches) are significantly bigger than the Queen Anne style rowhouses anyway.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

wrt anon_1's comment, as long as DC underprices residential parking permits, so called "Performance Parking" has almost nothing to do with the market, except for a wee sliver of it--the visitors. So called PP mostly is about privileging resident parking.

I think you understate the impact of visitor parking for those who live near commercial areas or near attractions. I have no objection to realistically priced RPPs (scaled higher for multi vehicle owning households) but I can't get behind the idea of disincentives for residents that simply free up space for non-residents (mainly evenings/weekends). If we're talking market rates, why should visitors get largely exempted when parking for free on RPP streets rather than paying? Performance Parking impacts the areas most in need of relief. Increasing the cost of RPP may disincetivize car ownership for residents, but I seriously doubt it would have much impact on ownership rates if that's the underlying goal.

by anon_1 on Mar 7, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

I originally read the headline as:
"Capitol Hill ANC poised to endorse zombies"

Clearly, I need to slow down. But then the zombies might catch me!

by Anonymouse on Mar 7, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Richard. If we prohibit RPP eligibility for buildings w/o underground parking, folks looking for housing will still have a choice between obtaining a habitation with street parking privileges and one without, because properties turn over.

I do not think we should treat street parking as a civil right, either for new or old residents. By the same token, however, I'm happy to accord some preference to existing properties, i.e., "grandfathering."

One way or the other, I think we underprice RPPs, and street parking should not be virtually free for anybody (or at least anybody with means).

by Jon on Mar 7, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport


there may be sone folks in existing properties who dont value them much, while there may be some in new properties who value them highly - ideally folks would sort, but since there are other aspects to housing preference aside from parking, thats likely to be a very incomplete sort.

and alterntative way to grandfather would be to let the residents who have RPPs sell their RPPs to folks in new properties without parking, in a "white market" That would leave no one worse off.

OTOH it would show nakedly the value that the underpriced RPP represents to the grandfathered residences.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 7, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Walker. The white market is an interesting idea and worth considering. At a minimum, such a market should not permit sale of guest passes, or at least not without sale of the primary pass as well. One might also want to permit white market sales of passes only for those who do not have off-street parking. That's not a strictly market-based process, but would get at the notion of not shrinking the pool of existing street spaces while allocating those spaces to the people who value them.

by Jon on Mar 7, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

fwiw, I used to live within one block of H St. for about 15 years, although granted it wasn't as happening as it is today. I have a good sense for this issue, and I understand why people want some controls over it.

2. and while I would rather people didn't drive, I've even come to accepting building some parking, having integrated parking systems through transpo management districts, etc.

3. But I just can't agree to the idea of free ride grandfathering of almost zero priced parking for current residents. That's why so called performance parking "p**** me off to no end." It's mostly a "property grab" by residents.

If they would acknowledge this, and then not be on their high horse wrt bike lanes, bike parking, car sharing, and the pricing of car share parking in the public space, then I might not be so incensed about it. But most of the people take take take and are totally oblivious to the other side of the issue.

Even someone who flunked econ has to understand why the current system doesn't work, because for the bulk of users, parking is free and the supply is relatively fixed. That's why it doesn't work. And the PP system makes it a little worse, because many residents end up using their "temporary" visitor permits as permanently privileged daily parking passes--for free. (E.g., the nanny example in a previous comment.)

4. The only reason I favor new construction with less or no parking is to attract more people for whom driving isn't their first choice. The more we attract people for whom driving is first choice, the more problems we create--at least in neighborhoods where the supply is oversubscribed.

Where I live, you can fit at least three cars in front of my house, and if we wanted we could park at least one car on our lot in back. Instead, we don't have any cars.

But I live outside the core, but still within walking distance to Metro. Car first people should be attracted to such places, rather than in the core.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

@Jon - I think there is a big difference between grandfathering in existing residents vs. existing properties.

Drastic changes on existing residents are unpopular and can be very disruptive. But once all the properties have changed hands I see no rational reason why the owners of single family homes should be privileged over residents in multi-family housing.

by Kate W. on Mar 7, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

Richard Layman writes...

"... rather than change the houses too much, I'd rather the people moved."


Historic preservation over community continuity? Historic preservation over demographic sustainability? Historic preservation over folks' being able to stay in their homes with their children?

I guess Historic Districts are just for a certain kind of right-thinking person. Big families, the poor, etc., are just not welcome --in fact, Mr. Layman would rather they just leave.

I think we can sum up Mr. Layman's point of view as "preserving houses is more important than allowing people to stay in their homes."

Remember this when you read his blog and weigh his arguments.

by Jim Simpson on Mar 7, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

@Richard "The only reason I favor new construction with less or no parking is to attract more people for whom driving isn't their first choice. The more we attract people for whom driving is first choice, the more problems we create--at least in neighborhoods where the supply is oversubscribed."

Yes. That's what I'm grasping for with the no-RPP thing.

by Jon on Mar 7, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

I'm with Goldfish. I think Larry Janezich does great work. He clearly has a LOT of "institutional memory" about various Capitol Hill organizations.

The Hill is Home used to have some solid original reporting but not so much anymore --it's more of a lifestyle blog now.

The Capitol Hill Restoration Society newsletter (available on their Web site) has some good general interest articles, though obviously with a pro-preservation slant.

A handful of ANC commissioners across the city also have good blogs / Web sites.


by Paxton Helms on Mar 7, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Jim Simpson -- it's pretty hard to change rowhouses. And since people in this thread are discussing Capitol Hill, which is probably comprised of about 99% attached housing, that means people are talking about rowhouses.

Rowhouses weren't designed to be significantly modified or changed. They are on small lots, usually about 15 feet wide, about 40 feet long, with a 25 foot long lot behind the house. Two story houses have 2-3 bedrooms (one will be small). Three story houses have 4 (usually very big) bedrooms and a den, plus the LR, DR, and Kitchen. It's probably 50/50 in terms of whether or not houses have basements. None have attics to speak of.

So yes, rather than tear down the house--which negatively impacts the houses on either side--yes, I'd say it's better to move. Otherwise just deal with the constraints of the form.

WRT multiunit buildings, I have no problems with units being combined. Similarly, that's an option with rowhouses. But given the property market in Capitol Hill, it's very expensive and unlikely. The same goes with digging out existing basements, but it's happening more.

As far as other types of housing types (four square, bungalow, Colonial Revival) they are much more modifiable, even if I might not necessarily like the results that many design-challenged people come up with. But those kinds of houses exist not in Capitol Hill, but in other neighborhoods.

I feel no need to be apologetic for saying rather than individualistically aiming to significantly modify a house in Capitol Hill for a way of living that the house and lot combo is unlikely to be able to accommodate, it makes more sense to move.

FWIW, a majority of the houses in my neighborhood that turn over are bought by families with kids. They are houses with front and back yards, basements and attics, etc. (Note that I would have been fine living in a constrained rowhouse--I did for more than 15 years--but Suzanne didn't want to live in a situation where you could hear the noise and antics of others sharing our walls.)

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

(NOte that the comments about Capitol Hill pertain to other rowhouse neighborhoods as well. Another option is adding a third floor. Generally I am not in favor, but maybe if people were more capable of producing a design worthy result, I'd be less inclined to be reflexively opposed.)

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

@Richard- ""4. The only reason I favor new construction with less or no parking is to attract more people for whom driving isn't their first choice.""

You attract more people without cars by having buildings where no parking is available in house or on the residential streets surrounding them as Arlington and most smart-growth places do. If parking is available to those new buildings on the street all you're doing is shifting the burden of parking for those developments' residents from the developer onto the city.

If we were talking about a Seattle type scheme where the parking minimums were swapped automatically for car-share and bicycle spaces or some other smart growth benefit I'd be all for it. But just giving away this financial windfall to developers for nothing in return is anything but smart growth.

Or going to an Arlington type scheme where developers have the choice of internalizing the cost of residents' cars either by building parking or lowering rents because no parking is available anywhere is fine.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 7, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

"If parking is available to those new buildings on the street all you're doing is shifting the burden of parking for those developments' residents from the developer onto the city."

In the case of Arlington, the County collectively is allowing the residents in existing housing (some of whom are new residents themselves) a windfall in the form of RPPs that are particularly valuable now that the area has increased in value. Including, IIUC, people who have offsteet parking - so they can park their extra cars more easily.

That does not create any benefit to anyone in Arlington who does not live in those areas. Nor, of course, to any Arligtongian who does not own a car. The only justification I can see is that otherwise, it would have been politically more difficult to ease parking minimums in a county with a considerable number of people who still it as "suburban" and who are reluctant about its transformation. Its a bribe, IOW. I don't believe the Arlington RPPs are saleable, but they might as well be. Why not let the existing residents get cash, if they prefer that to having space for an extra car?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 7, 2013 5:14 pm • linkreport

I don't see the problem. They have the same issue as the houses with no onsite parking, no onsite parking, just in a multiunit building, and then the variety of people vying for the parking get cues +/- on whether or not it makes sense to get a car.

Plenty of buildings were constructed with no parking back when the streetcar was the dominant form of transit. In fact this was the proto type of "transit oriented development" that is associated with subway stations today.

In fact, many such buildings were clustered at key transit locations, such as the ends of the line. (Sorry to be pedantic about this, it's very basic but for some reason seems to elude many.)

It was only with the dominance of the car that zoning codes were changed to require on site parking.

The proposals in the zoning rewrite are based on the argument that providing lots of onsite parking induces driving and that for the city, especially in transit priority zones, that's not a good decision overall.

It has to do with the difference of individual household decisions vs. the impact of the sum of the decisions (the totality). It makes sense for individuals to maximize their utility by driving, but if everyone makes the same decision, the system doesn't work, because there are absolute limits on capacity.

another thought would be why should "developers" be penalized by having to pay for parking provision, but residents of single family housing are awarded virtually free use of the extant and scarce parking resource.

FWIW, in the traffic study for a new development proposed in Takoma, they also studied another similar building next door--the building is about one block from the Metro, with about 200 units. Fewer than 25% of the units use cars during morning and evening rush periods (presuming that each unit has no more than one car--anyway, they didn't do an inventory of the amount of parking used in the underground structure, which also ought to be done).

Note that personally, it is only at Metro stations and say in a max 0.50 mile radius (maybe a bit farther) where I believe it is fine to build housing with no parking. Other places, it depends.

I don't think that bus dependent areas are equivalently deserving of the same treatment. Maybe streetcar is though.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 5:22 pm • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris: "...If parking is available to those new buildings on the street all you're doing is shifting the burden of parking for those developments' residents from the developer onto the city...."

Hence proposals to make such buildings' residents ineligible for RPP permits, something which apparently is actually being done with a planned upper Connecticut Avenue project. I don't know how well it will work there, but it would be quite effective in my part of Capitol Hill, where the non-permit parking restrictions are systematically enforced.

by A Streeter on Mar 7, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

but why shouldn't "these people" be allowed to buy RPPs, just at much higher rates (and current residents should be paying more too). The only point I am making is that there isn't any kind of "higher law" that justifies treating residents in single family households any differently than those in multiunit households.

Note that if RPPs cost a lot more, it would be economic for multiunit buildings to build parking and charge for it and make it available to nonresidents.

The same goes for parking in office buildings and hotels in the core. As long as street spaces are priced so low, there isn't really much of an incentive for these buildings to actively market parking, because they can't really compete.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 5:52 pm • linkreport

@Richard and Walker- The reason the word "growth" is in smart growth and "planning" is in urban planning is that we are talking about how new growth should be regulated. And I think it's always assumed that especially with market rate housing the developer should internalize the cost of new development as much as possible and not burden the community with it's external costs and consequences any more than necessary. We don't do so well with that in DC. Subsidies, negative impacts and assumptions of burdens of new developments seems to be the norm here.

And there's a reason it's called the "Residential" Parking Program. It's on residential streets, not commercial ones which usually have parking meters. Until recently it was never considered that commercial zones could get RPP stickers to park on nearby residential streets. That's a new curveball DDOT has recently thrown at us that worsens the whole parking planning problem.

However much DC can get RPP stickers more toward market rate is fine with me. And trading away parking requirements for benefits like car-share parking, bike parking, transit stops, EV stations etc is fine with me. I really think we should trade them totally for car-free buildings with no RPP rights.

But for RPP to have any value there has to be a chance at a parking spot and for us to assume some of a developers external costs especially, we need a fair trade for something that helps make DC less car-congested.

This is just a give away.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 7, 2013 7:11 pm • linkreport

RPP was initiated to militate against commuters coming into the city and parking all day for free on residential streets. It was also designed to prevent people from driving in and parking by Metro stations all day. It wasn't supposed to be a perpetual giveaway to residents.

Circumstances are much different now, now that the city is growing rather than depopulating, and rather than perpetuate how RPP was set up decades ago, it should change. (And note I think that you half agree with me, but half don't, in that you accept differential treatment more than I do).

For what it's worth, wrt a project in Takoma, and an ANC Commissioner asked me to read the proposed traffic plan, which wasn't bad, but the narrative was, I said doing less parking was fine but that they should be required to do TDM in perpetuity, not just for the initial complement of tenants, provide SmarTrip cards, give discounts on rent to people who don't have cars, support car sharing and the highest quality bike parking. I don't remember if I wrote anything about EV specifically, but the fact of the matter is that EVs are still cars, and therefore shouldn't really be given privileges, other than access to adequate power.

I guess what I would say is something like this. Since DC has set a 75% target for trips by sustainable means, that DC should set parking maximums for multiunit buildings of under 50%. I would say they should be more than 25% but not a lot more.

(Note that I make similar arguments about bike parking requirements. 1 per bedroom in the core, less outside of the core, where people are less likely to bike.)

Maybe that would assuage a lot of the fear, but probably not, since people want 1+ spaces per unit, not significantly less than one.

As I have written in my blog, this whole process is dis-served by not having adequate information about available inventory in neighborhoods, both on street and off street, and the experience at various buildings, for both commercial and residential multiunit (e.g., DC/USA, Tenleytown Sears, and many different and various buildings in different places, not unlike how WMATA has a typology for different types of Metro stations).

So we're all talking past each other, because we just don't have good information.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 7:47 pm • linkreport

not that it matters, I also recommended that the alley-street be extended to Piney Branch Road, which might have involved a wee bit of condemnation.

This would have significantly reduced pressure on Blair Road between Piney Branch and Cedar Street, which is already failing, badly, during rush periods.

The part on Chestnut Street is used as parking, not for a house, but the Piney Branch side is more a part of a house's yard.

So I am not reflexively against road network improvements. The ANC definitely didn't forward that recommendation onward or as part of their resolution on the project.

by Richard Layman on Mar 7, 2013 7:53 pm • linkreport

@Richard- RPP was not put in to discourage commuters from parking on commercial streets and RPP was never envisioned to include commercial streets either for RPP parking or getting stickers.

Boston does include commercial streets in it's RPP. Only residents can park on any RPP area street 24/7, including commercial streets and including both sides of the street.

This whole recent malarkey of DC giving RPP stickers to commercial zones is dumb.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 7, 2013 9:47 pm • linkreport

Actually, from my recollection RPP was put in to prevent commuters from parking on residential streets near metro etc. during the day.

by Andrew on Mar 7, 2013 10:01 pm • linkreport

As one of the 6B Commissioners who voted to support OP's draft proposal on eliminating certain parking minimums, I find it most appropriate that this discussion has morphed from zoning to the RPP system.
RPP has created a sense of entitlement by car owners to virtual free use of public space. It desperately needs reform, which hopefully will come if we all dig in and force DDOT to make its 2013 Parking Action Plan a reality.

by Kirsten on Mar 8, 2013 5:53 am • linkreport

Tom, I wasn't talking about commercial at all. Although there are some people who live in commercial property who need access to RPP.

In my (printed) testimony on parking issues (reprinted in my blog), I listed dozens of better practices from around North America including some that pertained to commercial zoning.

wrt Andrew's comment, RPP had two intentions: to disallow out-of-city commuters to park on residential streets while working in the city; and to discourage residents from driving in from other parts of the city to park in neighborhoods adjacent to Metro stations. (But it still gets gamed unless you have more micro-targeted RPP zones, like in Ward 4, otherwise outer Ward 5 residents drive to Brookland and use up a lot of the parking resource during the day etc.)

The other thing is that RPP was created during the period of the shrinking city. That didn't mean that all neighborhoods weren't thriving. Places like Dupont Circle and Georgetown etc. had plenty of demand. But overall there wasn't as much demand for parking, so pricing parking wasn't really an issue.

As the population has begun increasing, RPP's basic foundation is no longer working, especially because it never did anything like charging more for each additional car, charging more for bigger cars, charging more if you had on-site spaces available to you, etc.

And it's further stressed because people are tending to buy bigger vehicles. Maybe they only buy one car now instead of two, but it's a Jeep Cherokee or other SUV-type vehicle, and the vehicle length is roughly equal to the width of a rowhouse, using up the resource more quickly.

On the basis of the change from the shrinking to the growing city, RPP needs to be rebuilt from the foundation.

by Richard Layman on Mar 8, 2013 6:05 am • linkreport

More on rowhouse neighborhoods and accommodation. WRT the subthread with Mr. Simpson, I've been thinking more about what I wrote. I probably didn't emphasize enough that there are multiple issues:

1. small houses vs. large houses -- small houses are really hard to change, and aren't designed to accommodate growing families.

2. Wardman houses and rowhouses in different neighborhoods. Rowhouses built later than in Capitol Hill, especially the "S" or "Wardman" style (which I think of more as an Arts & Crafts styled rowhouse) are much bigger than the small Queen Anne brick rowhouse on Capitol Hill, in Shaw, etc., and would be better for families.

3. Modification. People do "update" their houses internally to better accommodate how they want to live. (E.g., open plan.) Typically houses that had sleeping porches have converted this space to permanent living quarters. Some people build in porches (generally not very well) etc.

4. Larger houses. Again, over time, rowhouses got larger. E.g. rowhouses in Petworth are 2400 s.f. or more, and were built with rear entry garages (now of course, far too small for the size of today's cars). The downside is that they might not be "close" to Metro and the set of amenities available to residents isn't the same as on Capitol Hill.

But I still believe wholeheartedly that rather than suggest houses be demolished or people build a 100% lot coverage building, that it's better that they move to a different part of the city where their personal lifestyle choices can be better accommodated by housing that already exists.

Yes, to me, historic districts are about the collective, not the individual, and are about preserving the city's architectural heritage over generations.

by Richard Layman on Mar 8, 2013 6:13 am • linkreport

The thing about the SUV taking up more space is false. Their footprint isn't any bigger than a typical car. They are taller, but that does not mean the take a bigger parking spot.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 9:36 am • linkreport

@Richard- I'll give you my block as a typical problem in rapidly developing areas:

My block is R-4 and has 75 distinct living units and about 125 people. The block has about 40 parking spaces without meters and about 25 of the residents park on street. Empty spaces are non-existent at many times.

A new 125-unit building is about to open on the end of our block in the commercial zone. The builder had to build 110 underground parking spaces. The builder and the residents relied on the testimony of DDOT at the Zoning Commission that the new building would be ineligible for RPP. But the street address of the new building will be on our block and so even without petitioning to get into RPP, DDOT now says they can get RPP stickers. The builder is stuck with a lot of parking spaces now and the block residents aren't thrilled about the new building adding dozens more RPP cars to the mix when we were promised otherwise by DDOT.

Whether or not RPP rates are high enough, DC offering to in the future take on the burden and expense of parking cars for new developments, especially in commercial zones, is just dumb. That burden and expense should be internalized and borne by the builder.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 8, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

"Whether or not RPP rates are high enough, DC offering to in the future take on the burden "

These are NOT seperate issues. DC is only "taking on the burden" because the RPP rates are too low. If RPP rates were correrct, I do not see why it would be a burden. Whats the burden? Not an out of pocket cost to the district, or to residents. The only "burden" is the burden of sharing the underpriced resource.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 8, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

Tom - how is that case relevant?

If the problem is the new residents getting RPP stickers in spite of the fact that their building provides parking on an almost 1:1 unit:space ratio, then that tells me the real problem is with the pricing and structure of the RPP program, not the zoning requirements.

Whether or not RPP rates are high enough, DC offering to in the future take on the burden and expense of parking cars for new developments, especially in commercial zones, is just dumb. That burden and expense should be internalized and borne by the builder.

Except that internalizing that cost via a zoning requirement does not lift the burden! The solution you propose does not solve the problem.

by Alex B. on Mar 8, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

Good points both, actually. As long as RPP is underpriced compared to parking in a building, people will seek out the lowest price, hence RPP.

This thread is maybe convincing me that the parking proposals that have been bandied around aren't ready to move forward.

RPP needs to be fixed first. Doing the changes on parking minimums won't work as long as RPP is so flawed. And note that unlike this blog, I've never been particularly impressed with "Performance Parking" initiatives because for the most part it bolsters the worst aspects of RPP.

Another thing is to better target the proposals. While I agree that parking minimums should be adjusted in transit zones, maybe the requirements should be graduated both by R type/density and location (although all residents think probably that they shouldn't have fewer requirements for multiunit regardless of location).

I think another justification is the 75% target, but even that is achievable more in the core, and less outside of it, and should be weighted accordingly.

And wrt Tom C's points about multiunit buildings in RPP zones being determined eligible, it shouldn't just be addresses, it should be based on housing types. Etc.

ANyway, as I said earlier, without good data and case studies, we are flying blinder (not blind) than we should be.

by Richard Layman on Mar 8, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@AlexB and Walker- Correct pricing of RPP is fine but I don't see it happening. In truth the biggest revenue source from RPP is the $30 tickets that violators pay, often knowingly taking a 50/50 chance on a ticket when the $15 lots are full. DC makes close to $100M/yr on parking tickets, about the same as the speed cameras.

The burden is best lifted by a parking-free building that also is not eligible for RPP. There are plenty of prospective tenants to take such buildings and I'd assume the rents would have to be lower because of that, which is fair since the builder would not have to spend money subsidizing such parking. Win-win-win for builders, new tenants, and current residents.

But every new addition to the RPP sticker pool is one more car police will have to care for thefts and vandalism and accidents. One more car in the crazy circling frenzy looking for an empty spot. And one more legally-parked RPP car stopping that space's stream of $30 tickets.

by Tom Coumaris on Mar 8, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

It gets very tiresome to read over and over again that the solution to all parking problems is to increase the RPP fee. The amount of increase necessary to actually accomplish this -- like $500 -- just ain't gonna happen without open warfare. I think I am like most people when I see red every year when I open my registration bill; and adding $500 will have many other negative consequence, such as people moving away. Much short of that, an increase of say $200 will be very annoying to say the least but for people that need a car, they will pay it (after loudly complaining!) and the number of registered cars will stay the same and it won't help the parking problem. The end result is it will just be a tax increase, which given that DC has a surplus, is unjustified and probably will never pass.

So to keep on proposing that RPP should be increased without acknowledging these realities does not advance the discussion.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Excellent point, @goldfish. On the margin, raising the fee will have an effect. But since it won't completely fix everything, we clearly shouldn't bother.

I hope you apply this analysis to all of your day-to-day activities:

* Breakfast will make me less hungry, but it won't fix my hunger problem permanently! Therefore I just shouldn't eat.
* Leaving earlier for work will make me more likely to be on time, but it won't guarantee that I get there on time! I should just leave later.
* I could go to a competitor restaurant to this one two doors down and get the same meal for a dollar less, but my lunch wouldn't be free. So why bother?

And so on...I'm sure this works really well for you.

by Gray on Mar 8, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Gray: your snark does not address my points. Perhaps you would like to try again? I suggest you start with your own personal decisions about car ownership: would an increase of $200 for registration be enough "encouragement" for you to give up your car?

That margin is much further away than you think, given the other cost of driving, such as a repair ($500) or a speeding ticket ($100).

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

and adding $500 will have many other negative consequence, such as people moving away

All you have to do is hold out until enough people move away and then there won't be a parking problem at all!

I'm being facetious obviously but there would be impact at the margins. Would some people move? Probably, though they're just as likely to move somewhere in DC vs. going out to MD or Va. Others may decide that expense isn't worth having the car (or the RPP) and sell or move the car. Thus removing that car from the equation.

So beyond the fact that raising the price wouldn't necessarily be the only component it would have an impact. That's why its called supply and demand.

It does help the conversation by the way. It may help some realize that there are different ways to allocate the scarce good and that they may prefer the status quo compared to what else could reasonably be done.

by drumz on Mar 8, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

"The end result is it will just be a tax increase, which given that DC has a surplus, is unjustified "

IF that's the case couldn't DC just cut the property tax or income tax or sales tax to offset it - which might also offset any negative impact on people staying?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 8, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

"Correct pricing of RPP is fine but I don't see it happening."

Has any pol seriously tried to move it forward? Given that about a third of DC households are carfree, that some have one car AND at least one off street space, and that many people live in areas where the market clearing price would be no higher than the current price, AND that it would bring in revenue, I'm not sure I understand the politics that makes it impossible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 8, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

It may help some realize that there are different ways to allocate the scarce good and that they may prefer the status quo compared to what else could reasonably be done.

It may have, first 20 times is was mentioned. After 1000 times, it is just noise.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

"I suggest you start with your own personal decisions about car ownership: would an increase of $200 for registration be enough "encouragement" for you to give up your car?"

Why would it be for registration? Shouldn't it be for the RPP?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 8, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

I'm not Gray but I'll answer:
would an increase of $200 for registration be enough "encouragement" for you to give up your car?

Maybe, maybe not that's a decision that everyone has to make some would, some wouldn't where I live if I wanted to park a second car I would have to pay a (smaller than 200$) fee and while it wasn't the deciding factor it definitely did get considered. I know that if I were mayor/dictator/whatever that I'd probably gradually implement the fee for current holders so its not an all at once shock.

by drumz on Mar 8, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

It may have, first 20 times is was mentioned. After 1000 times, it is just noise.

So are complaints that the city is declaring a war on cars/hates residents/is caving to developers/whatever every time the zoning update is discussed.

by drumz on Mar 8, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

IF that's the case couldn't DC just cut the property tax or income tax or sales tax to offset it - which might also offset any negative impact on people staying?

As a homeowmer one of the things I guard against is "project creep" -- one project leads to another which leads to another and the next thing you know you are doing a gut rehab. This is issue creep: I do not think the parking problem is worth re-jiggering the entire revenue system. It will open too many other issues: E.g., I am low-income, I should get my RPP for free because I need my car to drive to work! etc.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish, while _some_ SUVs are merely taller, Richard is not wrong. At least three people on my Capitol Hill block own and park SUVs that are substantially longer than our midsize sedan, let alone the smaller cars most of my neighbors keep.

by A Streeter on Mar 8, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

wrt RPP fees and DC's "surplus", there is plenty of projects to do that we don't. A couple people at the parking hearing last December made the point that all new money raised by an increase in the parking fee should be spent on transit improvements (although I'd extend this to other transpo improvements, not just transit).

That would be comparable to how London used revenues from the Congestion Charge for transit improvements.

A good example of coming up with a plan to use such monies (although I'd include stuff like the separated blue line and streetcars) is Seattle's Bridging the Gap initiative.

I think it's important to deal with all of this in an integrated way. People might feel like their registration fee ($72 to $155/year, depending on weight), RPP fee ($35), Inspection Fee ($10 every four years) and the average amount of gas tax they pay, federal ($92, for 12,000 miles at 24mpg) and state ($117.50 or less, depending on where you buy gas) covers all of the cost of the roads/streets/etc.

But it doesn't.

by Richard Layman on Mar 8, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@A streeter: How do those large SUVs compare to large cars? I'll bet they don't need anymore room than a Volvo V70.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 4:44 pm • linkreport

"This is issue creep: I do not think the parking problem is worth re-jiggering the entire revenue system."

Here in the suburbs the property tax rate is readjusted on a regular basis. I'm not sure why in DC a change in the rate is such a big deal.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 8, 2013 6:39 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: Here in the suburbs the property tax rate is readjusted on a regular basis. I'm not sure why in DC a change in the rate is such a big deal.

You are not proposing a minor adjustment; you glibly suggested that property, income, and sales tax be lowered to compensate for a huge increase in the RPP fee (note the word 'fee' is intended to convey that this has never been intended to be a tax, but the cost to administer the program). Converting the RPP program into a revenue generator, with due consideration to need and income for residents, coupled with offsetting reductions in other taxes is not a simple thing to legislate, not to mention that such a system would be ripe for abuse and gaming. It will take several legislative attempts to devise a fair system. No matter how bad the parking is today, it is probably not so bad to be worth this amount of effort and complexity to fix it.

by goldfish on Mar 8, 2013 8:41 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish, I'd imagine the SUVs don't have footprints much larger than, say, a Ford Crown Vic, but I wouldn't really know, as no one hereabouts seems to go in for such very large sedans. The SUVs are far and away the largest beasts on this or any nearby block.

by A Streeter on Mar 8, 2013 11:37 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us