Greater Greater Washington

Can DC decouple growth and "parking pressures"?

Councilmember Tommy Wells re-introduced legislation this week to let a developer of a new building promise that tenants can't get stickers to park on neighborhood streets, if they choose to offer such a guarantee to neighbors. Would this alleviate the parking angst that erupts over nearly every development project, like ongoing controversies in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant?


Harvard Street in Columbia Heights. Photo by Kent Boese.

In Tenleytown, the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) supported a new building with no underground parking last year, on the condition that new residents not be able to get residential parking stickers. That was fine with developer Douglas Jemal, but government agencies may not enforce this provision, leaving it entirely to the private agreement between Douglas Development and the ANC.

Neighborhood opposition to growth often revolves around traffic and parking. Even if a developer wants to market a new building to car-free and car-lite new residents, people worry that residents will bring cars anyway and park them on the street.

Building underground parking isn't a solution, either, because some people will still park on the street to save the monthly garage fee, and that underground parking means a lot of cars which add to traffic.

Just look at this message on PoPville's forum, from a resident in Columbia Heights. Some people have been double parking on Harvard Street, stopping emergency vehicles from getting through. Clearly, people should not double park and ought to get tickets, but the resident then went on to use this case to argue against a parking-free condo project:

The reason I'm asking is that a developer is seeking to build an 8 unit apartment building on Harvard Street, NW and they are asking the board of zoning to waive the parking requirements to have parking for their building. We submitted over 70 signatures and 10 letters of opposition today, but apparently the planning department is planning on supporting this application.

It is my feeling that worsening the parking problem on Harvard street will effectively cut off access to local hospitals for residents in Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights, and will make it impossible for the fire trucks in Adams Morgan to help out at fires east of 16th street.

It's not possible to solve a double parking problem by ensuring that there are 8 more parking spaces off street. The only solution, as many commenters pointed out, is to ensure that we enforce the double parking rules so that parked cars don't block emergency vehicles. Still, we know that the prospect of more residents makes people worry that parking on the street will get harder.


Meridian Hill Baptist Church. Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

Not far away, Mount Pleasant ANC Commissioner China Terrell worries about a development project at the former fire-ravaged Meridian Hill Baptist Church:

[The developers] want to build 75 condos in the church (mostly 1-bedroom units), with no on-site parking. Instead, homeowners would have the option of leasing parking spaces at DC USA in Columbia Heights. When this plan was introduced at the May 21 ANC meeting, residents were not supportive for obvious reasons. Increased parking and population pressures? The residents said no, thank you.
DC USA is just about 2 blocks from the church, so actually, parking off-street in that garage is probably a shorter walk than trying to find an on-street space in the neighborhood at busy times, where you might circle for a while and end up as far away.

It's bad policy to require parking in every new building, like the Harvard Street condos and this church, but it's also understandable that residents would worry about the impacts. There's an existing shared resource that's often scarce. People are used to consuming that resource.

One solution is to ensure that new growth doesn't impact the resource. We want new residents, but don't want parking pressure. Just like it doesn't affect neighbors whether a new building has a fitness center or not, or whether there are 2 bathrooms for 2 bedrooms versus just one, Wells' bill could let parking be another issue that's up to the building and its tenants rather than a neighborhood impact.

It ought to be a basic value we all share (though not everyone does) that we want to welcome new people into our neighborhoods. New residents mean more vitality for local businesses, more tax revenue to shore up our city's budget, more people on the street to make neighborhoods safe.

Some people are nervous about treating new residents differently from existing residents. Why should one group of people get to use the public space and not others, they ask? We already give existing residents a break on property taxes, for instance. On the other hand, we shouldn't say that new residents can't use a public park, or send kids to a school, even though sometimes people oppose adding neighbors because they fear those resources will get more crowded as well.

Unlike those, however, driving is just one of several methods of getting around. In a place like Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, there are many other alternatives, like Metro, buses, bicycling, and more. Some people still need to drive, but it's very reasonable to internalize that cost. If you want to drive, you will have to rent a place with a parking space, or rent a separate space at DC USA, or otherwise provide for this just as you pay for your bathroom space.

Wells' bill might not eliminate all opposition to growth. People will still also say they don't want to have to look at buildings, or don't want population in general. But trouble parking seems to be the biggest fear residents have from most projects. It doesn't need to be.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. 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 daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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can anyone explain why Council Chair Phil Mendelson opposed this bill before? It seems to me that it would mollify most of the concerns that residents have towards new development. Mendelson is perceived to be anti-development. It is hard to fathom how one can be anti-development and opposed to this bill. Thus, an explanation would be appreciated.

by William on Jun 6, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

"It ought to be a basic value we all share (though not everyone does) that we want to welcome new people into our neighborhoods. New residents mean more vitality for local businesses, more tax revenue to shore up our city's budget, more people on the street to make neighborhoods safe."

There is a big difference between welcoming new people to a neighborhood and welcoming more people to a new neighborhood. Adding density to older neighborhoods is not always the best thing.

by Joe C on Jun 6, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

William: I think Mendelson is in the camp of feeling that you shouldn't have people who can use a public resource and people who can't.

I don't know if it's true that one can't "be anti-development and opposed to this bill"; this bill might remove one of the neighborhood complaints about development, so it depends on whether your goal is to make development less impactful (if so, support it) or just stop it entirely (if so, oppose it, so that development has more impacts and thus residents will fight it harder).

I don't think Mendelson is being all nefarious like that, though; I just think that this policy doesn't fit into his current view of how things ought to work.

by David Alpert on Jun 6, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

If everybody who needs to park on public property paid a fair market rate for the privilege, would this be a problem?

by spookiness on Jun 6, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

Personally, I have changed my mind on this. I think it's absolutely disgusting that we should have two classes of access for a public resource, but the parking issue is such a deal-breaker for new development that we have to accept that new development doesn't come with resident parking permits. @Spookiness is right that the market should take care of parking, but making people pay for a resource that is currently free is just not going to happen. Down the line, demand for parking among new residents will inevitably bring about some kind of market solution, but for now, enabling new residential density at in-town locations is so advantageous that it is worth the sacrifice of free on-street parking.

by renegade09 on Jun 6, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

@spookiness & renegade09

The problem is kind of that people who want cheap parking are are largely insulated from distortions to the housing market caused by under-priced parking. They own their homes, are sitting on really cheap rent-controls or are living in subsidized housing. There should be some way of transmitting back to them the costs of their anti-development craziness.

by Steve S. on Jun 6, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

I don't see the big issue with letting someone opt out of using street parking voluntarily. All the time, developers voluntarily build with less height or density than allowable to mollify neighborhood concerns.

But it also seems that the ultimate solution has to be letting the market set rates for street parking. If a sticker costs $70 and you don't use it, you might feel like you're giving something up. If it cost $200, though, you'd feel smart for not buying one if you didn't need it.

by Gavin on Jun 6, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

I suppose I should also point out that this wouldn’t be treating new residents differently from long-time residents. New residents would still have all the rights they currently do, and could live in any of the RPP buildings that are currently available. What would change is that residents both new and old would have the option of moving into an RPP-free building (and moving out if they decided they wanted an RPP). But there would be no discrimination based on when they started living in DC.

by Chatham on Jun 6, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

This system is already in place in Arlington, where resident permit parking in the US started. If you get your development approved under a "site plan" (read: most of the time reduced on-site parking requirements), then you're not eligible for resident permit parking.

I figured this out when I tried to petition the county to get a couple of uncontrolled street spaces inside our development changed to resident permit and to get resident permits for our community. Turns out we were built under a site plan, so we couldn't qualify.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 6, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

If congestion and pollution are issues then the culprits are the suburban-mindset owners with concrete parking pads where their SUV is parked and used for daily commuting downtown and two-block trips to get more Perrier.

The effect of the impervious surfaces is very bad and the increased auto use that a vehicle right out the back door encourages is awful. People with this mindset should have never moved to the city and they need to be made to pay for the external consequences.

I doubt residents' cars parked on the street are used very much in neighborhoods with little open parking.

This devolves usually into an "I've got mine, Jack" attitude with people with concrete off-street parking looking down on the peasants who park on the street. Nice way to try to deflect notice of who's really living a suburban privileged lifestyle.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 6, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

"we shouldn't say that new residents can't use a public park, or send kids to a school, even though sometimes people oppose adding neighbors because they fear those resources will get more crowded as well.

"Unlike those, however, driving is just one of several methods of getting around."

I can't believe anyone thinks new residents shouldn't get the same benefits of long timers. Having two classes of citizens is wholly un-democratic, no matter how many "methods" there are to getting around. What if a resident get's a job in Hernon? It's like the residents who want to deal with traffic woes by denying others to drive through their neighborhood. If parking has become impossible, build better transit, but you're setting your self up for some well deserved law suits.

by Thayer-D on Jun 6, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

The effect of the impervious surfaces is very bad and the increased auto use that a vehicle right out the back door encourages is awful. People with this mindset should have never moved to the city and they need to be made to pay for the external consequences.

Wait, now the problem is people who aren't parking their cars on public streets? That makes no sense. My house has two on-site parking spots in its garage. If there's a parking problem in DC (there isn't in my neighborhood, though), I'm certainly not contributing to it.

by Potowmack on Jun 6, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

No, if you allow a whole 8 units to be built on Harvard street we can expect at least 24 cars to be added to the neighborhood (1 for each parent and another for when junior turns 16). Then you'll have triple parking and we know that the parkig spaces the city has are there naturally and the city has no means of regulating it. It's all a mystery.

by drumz on Jun 6, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

I can't believe anyone thinks new residents shouldn't get the same benefits of long timers.

It's not "new residents," it's "people who live in certain new buidings." It doesn't matter how long you have lived in DC - if you live in one of these buildings then you can't have RPP. If you are new to the city and choose to live somewhere else you can have RPP. Likewise, if you have lived in DC your whole life but choose to rent in this building you will be ineligible for RPP. I do think RPP prices should be raised to make things more fair.

Why will there be lawsuits?

What if a resident get's a job in Hernon?
If they need to buy a car they can rent a space in which to park their car. I don't see how this is different from complaining "what if they get a job in Herndon" about someone who can't afford a car.

Honestly the only issue this system presents is making sure that the RPP ineligibility is up-front and clear to potential tenants.

by MLD on Jun 6, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D

That resident who works in Herndon would very likely not choose to live in a building without RPP eligibility... Right? They would pay a bit more to live in a building with RPP privileges. That is the exact point here. The people who can walk to work WOULD decide to live in the RPP-free building.

Pretty simple concept..

by Kyle-w on Jun 6, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

"If congestion and pollution are issues then the culprits are the suburban-mindset owners with concrete parking pads where their SUV is parked and used for daily commuting downtown and two-block trips to get more Perrier."

Stereotype much? My neighbors on the Hill who have SUVs certainly didn't purchase them with a family in mind. They load their SUVs with Perrier and caviar while tying the children to the roof....

by Andy on Jun 6, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D raises an interesting point and in the context of that I've wondered if there should be some distinction between apartments and condos.

Not because apartment dwellers vs condo dwellers should have different rights but because in a sense an owner occupied condo/co-op is more limiting in terms of mobility when that job in Herndon comes up.

Having said that it would surprise me if we get a lot of proposals for condo's without parking though David's piece references one but I suspect even some car free buyers might hesitate to buy into a building without parking though the answer here might be decoupling parking from the units.

I also think it is worth considering that there are locations where the vehicles from car free buildings could be absorbed on the street without too much burden on existing residents, particularly from smaller projects. Probably not in most parts of Ward 1 or areas near metro stops but there are a lot of areas of the city where parking is just not that difficult and that includes areas with commercial/retail and near high frequency bus routes.

by TomQ on Jun 6, 2013 1:25 pm • linkreport

While David may be right about Mendelson, there is the possibility that his position is anti-development. If Wells' bill passes, this will remove a MAJOR argument those against development and against the zoning rewrite have been espousing. So it is possible that Phil recognizes that once this impediment is removed, the opposition to the zoning rewrite also goes away.

It is great that Tommy "gets" this and is introducing this bill.

But Phil's policies have always been based on concerns about getting the City into more litigation, witness his position on the gun regulations, so it is possible he just thinks this policy is unfair and that someone will sue the city later on. Hard to know.

by Steve Seelig on Jun 6, 2013 1:28 pm • linkreport

If DC RPP were just about residential parking, that would be one thing. But it is not. The zones are so big that they offer far more privledges for permit holders. A Zone 6 holder living in Southwest can drive up to H St NE for dinner and park on the residential streets. A Zone 3 resident in Palisades can drive to Metro and park-n-ride on residential streets.

by Alex B. on Jun 6, 2013 1:29 pm • linkreport

has anyone sued arlington county about this issue yet?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

I really find the opposition to this on all sides obnoxious. People think they are entitled to anything they want. The Columbia Heights was particularly eggregious since it was clearly someone coming up with excuses to protect "their" on street parking. RPP should go up of course, but in the meantime no parking developments make a lot of sense especialy say within 1/2 mile of metro stations. I mean if I can decide whether I want to pay more for an apartment with gym and pool access, why not decide to pay less for no parking. Anyway they can still own a car they would just need to secure paid parking somewhere or otherwise coordinate it.

by Alan B. on Jun 6, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

@Steve S @ThayerD
I agree with you that the way existing residents seek to block new development or impose restrictions on it is unfair. I'm just being completely pragmatic-- the parking and traffic issue is one of the biggest things you hear at planning and zoning meetings. Local officials tend to pay much more attention to the concerns of existing residents than they do to hypothetical future residents. I hate a two-tier system, but I try to see the positive of increasing access to the neighborhood versus the disadvantage of having restricted parking rights.

by renegade09 on Jun 6, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

I've heard there are numerous complaints to council members' offices from residents who are in non-RPP apartment buildings in commercial areas and who want RPP privileges.

Whether or not this is the motivation, the real problem is occurring because DDOT has recently taken the position that residents at commercially-zoned addresses can now obtain RPP to park on nearby residential streets.

RPP's first word is Residential for a reason. It was meant to apply to residential zones and not commercial zones. With DDOT recently allowing commercially-zoned residents into RPP the flood gates are opened on what is already a ridiculously crowded situation in many neighborhoods.

Taking RPP rights from a development makes the development worth marginally less as rents will have to be lower to compensate for no RPP eligibility.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 6, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

There is a parking problem in DC? Huh. For some reason, I've never noticed. I also hear there are these things called speed cameras. I'm not really familiar with those either...

by rg on Jun 6, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

@ Alex B The RPP zone issue will be the next battle, and one that will get a lot more debate. Obviously, you are correct, but that is for another day.

To me, Tommy's bill is helping to decouple the RPP zone and all other parking issues from the zoning rewrite debate. Recall, the latest anti-development talking point are that the zoning rewrite cannot go through until the parking issues are dealt with.

by Steve Seelig on Jun 6, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

@awalkerinthecity: Arlington was sued in the 1970s about the legality of reserving public space just for residents and won. The case went to the Supreme Court and Arlington won in 1977.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 6, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

that was about the policy of having new buildings without RPP privileges?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

Here is the citation for the court case, Arlington County Board v. Richards 434 U.S. 5 (1977)

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=434&invol=5

by Michael Perkins on Jun 6, 2013 1:46 pm • linkreport

This?

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=434&invol=5

SCOTUS sided with Arlington. But that was about residents vs non resident, not about buildings without parking. I am asking if Arlington has been sued for its recent policy of excluding some buildings from RPP. That would seem relevant to the discussion now underway in DC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

I would assume that if the US Supreme Court allowed Arlington to draw a distinction between residents and non-residents for parking privileges with a rational basis, then drawing distinctions between residents of buildings that were allowed to reduce their mandated parking and buildings that were built earlier would be OK too.

by Michael Perkins on Jun 6, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

I guess my thought is that no one is even suing ArlCo (perhaps with such precedents in mind) so its unlikely DC would be sued.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

Of course in my dreams I'd like to see new buildings near Metro minus RPP plus density bonuses in exchange for additional contributions to a citywide transit trust fund to pay for things like streetcars, bikeshare, and premium/express bus service.

by Alan B. on Jun 6, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

Oh and I lived on Harvard St between 14th and 15th for about 3 years. I saw double parking blocking the street maybe 3-4 times, and 2 of those times it was moving trucks serving row houses...

by Alan B. on Jun 6, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

@Alan B: You're describing the Arlington process, where we give you density bonuses in exchange for doing stuff we want (build-to lines, transportation demand management programs, bikeshare and carshare spaces, rebuilding the local streets per our design, affordable housing set-asides or contributions, etc).

by Michael Perkins on Jun 6, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

It's not "new residents," it's "people who live in certain new buidings." I don't think it matters. When a city grows, it must mature. I agree with those that say every new building should have a minimum parking allotment which would put those Herndon working people on the streets, which would piss off the residents becasue there's more competition for the limited street parking. On the other hand, all those other people wanting to get in to your neighborhood are raising the value of your property, so you can't have it all. I used to drive up to the front door of my Logan Circle Condo when I moved in. By the time I left, it was like Adams Morgan on a Friday night. But then again, I stopped going to Adams Morgan for all the restaurants that openned up, and the Whole Foods wasn't too bad either. Living in a crowded city means sharing the good and the bad. No?

by Thayer-D on Jun 6, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

Some people are nervous about treating new residents differently from existing residents. Why should one group of people get to use the public space and not others, they ask? We already give existing residents a break on property taxes, for instance. On the other hand, we shouldn't say that new residents can't use a public park, or send kids to a school, even though sometimes people oppose adding neighbors because they fear those resources will get more crowded as well.

Unlike those, however, driving is just one of several methods of getting around. In a place like Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, there are many other alternatives, like Metro, buses, bicycling, and more. Some people still need to drive, but it's very reasonable to internalize that cost. If you want to drive, you will have to rent a place with a parking space, or rent a separate space at DC USA, or otherwise provide for this just as you pay for your bathroom space.

I'm not sure the "unlike those" is accurate here - I fail to see the distinction. Yes, there are multiple ways to get around, but there are also multiple schools to which a resident can send their kids. And there are certainly multiple parks kids can go play at. In your words, there are lots of alternatives.

Certain (very good) schools WoTP are overcrowded. Imagine if someone wanted to build a condo building, and the rule was - OK, you can build it, but only if you don't send yout kids to the local JKLM school. Why not? Well, it's a scarce resource, and we'd prefer that people who can afford single-family homes attend.

How is that any different?

by dcd on Jun 6, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

"Certain (very good) schools WoTP are overcrowded. Imagine if someone wanted to build a condo building, and the rule was - OK, you can build it, but only if you don't send yout kids to the local JKLM school. Why not? Well, it's a scarce resource, and we'd prefer that people who can afford single-family homes attend."

pardon, but couldnt you draw a school zone that effectively excluded one particular building? As long as it wasnt done with a racial intention in mind?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

We also dont in general exclude ANYONE from parks, residents or non-residents. Only exceptions I can think of are some public beaches. Could a town exclude some new buildings from those? Since they can exclude non-residents, Im not sure why not.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

@DCD

It's not that different. And we already make arbitrary decisions on who goes to what school. It's called school boundaries. It's never as clear as we're talking here, but the effect is the same.

However there is a big difference between street parking and schools. Schools can be made larger a lot easier than more street parking can be found.

by TM on Jun 6, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

A lot of the objections to Wells' bill seem to boil down to a complaint that this would hurt poorer people. That's totally misguided. This bill would *help* lower income people because it makes the purchasing of car storage *optional*. You want to buy or rent an apartment without off street parking or an RPP, here you go. You can either live without or rent a space somewhere else. Forcing people to buy or rent an apartment with off street parking is the truly anti- lower income policy.

People seem to have a visceral reaction to it that is based upon the normalization of car ownership and dependence. Think it through a bit more and you'll see that it's not anti-egalitarian as you make it out to be.

by TM on Jun 6, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

dcd, that doesn't even make sense as every school has its catchment area already. To deny students the local school without providing an alternative would be unethical. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to driving as we've said nothing would prevent someone from choosing to buy/rent private space though I suspect most people who want to drive would just not buy/rent a unit that came with no parking priveleges. Comparing schools (a vital and basic right for all kids in this country) to parking which is one out of many modes of transportation doesn't make sense in my opinion.

by Alan B. on Jun 6, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

I find it unlikely that no car storage/RPP automatically translates into lower rent. Furthermore, I am skeptical that these developments are designed with low-income individuals in mind. This isn't to say that these developments aren't valid.

Are there any examples in a similar neighborhood to indicate that this will translate into lower rent?

by Andy on Jun 6, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

@TM

People seem to have a visceral reaction to it that is based upon the normalization of car ownership and dependence. Think it through a bit more and you'll see that it's not anti-egalitarian as you make it out to be.

That's true... to a point. The fact is that much of our society IS car ownership normalized, and the burdens of this fall disproportionately on the poor. The ability to rent a non-RPP apartment doesn't help you any if your job is at the sort of place that prioritizes cheap/industrial land use over central location. You may live near a metro or bus line, but if there's no transit out where your job is (and you generally have far less choice in terms of where you work when you are lower-income), or you have to work the graveyard shift and transit doesn't run at those times, etc. etc., then it's of little help.

I understand that the urbanist strategy here is two-fold: de-incentivize car use and expand transit. But the latter is expensive and difficult, while the former is more easily accomplished, particularly when you are targeting marginalized/disenfranchised/otherwise less-powerful groups. This is kind of what Thayer-D was alluding to when he mentioned the neighborhoods that have tried to insulate themselves from the negative externalities of the car-centric lifestyle they enjoy and prefer by making their streets "local traffic only" and the like. Cars for me, but not for thee. So you do end up with proposals that, in the absence of improved transit, most likely will disproportionately affect lower-income people in a negative manner. Market Pricing of RPPs would have a similar effect, unfortunately, unless priced by Zone (which would open up its own huge can of worms).

by Dizzy on Jun 6, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@Andy

Just think through it. The building has one less amenity than the building next door. Given two identical buildings, next door to each other, there would be more demand for the building that was RPP eligible, as it would attract both car-owners and non-car-owners, while the RPP-ineligble building would only attract non car-owners.

Lower demand=lower rent. Even if it is $50 or $30 cheaper per month, it would undoubtedly be cheaper.

by Kyle-w on Jun 6, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

"Cars for me, but not for thee. So you do end up with proposals that, in the absence of improved transit, most likely will disproportionately affect lower-income people in a negative manner. "

requiring parking in new buildings is not going to make it easier for a poor person to have a car. they most likely won't live in the new buildings anyway, and the cost of the space will be passed along.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

It is wrong to argue that excluding parking-less and parking-lite projects from RPP somehow creates 'two classes of citizens' and is unlawful discrimination. If residents in these projects are being treated differently, it is that they are reaping the economic benefits, passed down in the form of lower purchase prices and rents, resulting from not saddling such projects with the off-street parking. So giving up RPP eligibility , with advance notice to prospective homebuyers/renters, is a small and reasonable price to pay for the benefit of more affordable housing. No?

by James on Jun 6, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

"Even if a developer wants to market a new building to car-free and car-lite new residents, people worry that residents will bring cars anyway and park them on the street. "
------
Makes perfect sense to me if the car-free arrangement is mutually agreed upon between buyer and seller or landlord and tenant.

But what about visitors? Will people who move into those buildings be required to promise only to associate with people who don't drive?

by ceefer on Jun 6, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.

Comparing schools (a vital and basic right for all kids in this country) to parking which is one out of many modes of transportation doesn't make sense in my opinion.

They certainly are different, which is why I've come around to renegade's position: this is a highly suboptimal solution, but it may be the best that can be accomplished at the moment, and on balance is probably worth pursuing in order to achieve TOD gains.

Having said that, even though parking is materially different from school eligibility in various ways, I think it is still worth thinking through the issues of equity and incentive.

On the equity side, you have the creation of a precedent that you can exclude certain residences from a civic privilege to which the residents would otherwise be entitled. You say that schools are a "vital and basic right," but of course there is no right to attend a specific public school, only the right to be able to attend some public school somewhere (unless it would create an undue burden, as the anti-school-closing litigants tried to argue). So the notion of carving certain residences out of school districts and other civic privileges is not as far-fetched as you might think. I can totally imagine, in 10 years, a generation of now-spawning Columbia Heights gentrifiers working to exclude the public housing developments from the neighborhood school zone, so that little Auden and Maeve don't have to go to school with Tyrone and Laquisha (and Jesus and Renata).

For that reason, when implementing policies like this, it needs to be made extremely clear that they are not being targeted toward specific classes of people. It's a good thing the Babe's project isn't low-income: can you imagine the fecal storm that would've erupted if it was proposed that new low-income residents should be denied parking privileges - and no one else?

As for the incentive issue, in addition to the concerns alluded to by Thayer-D of residents trying to insulate themselves from the negative externalities of a car-centric lifestyle by restricting other people's ability to use cars, but never their own... we have a bit of a logical issue here. By what logic should a development that provides ample off-street parking automatically get RPP eligibility, while one without parking does not? If it weren't for the grandfathering in of widespread entitlement to street parking, the logic would run in the exact opposite direction: your place comes with an off-site spot? Great, but then you don't get to park on the street. Instead, we have the opposite, where someone with a designated off-street spot gets to park on the street for free, while someone without one does not.

Moreover, RPP doesn't just let you park somewhere around your residence, but anywhere in the Zone. Is it a good idea for the city to tie the ability to park anywhere in one's Ward to having their own off-street spot (or else being grandfathered in, as many/most would be now)? Should having the means to rent an off-street spot or a grandfathered residence carry with it this civic privilege, to the exclusion of others lacking those means? I'm not sure what logic would argue in favor of that, unless you do simply accept that people with greater means should receive greater privileges, because their wealth brings value to the District.

by Dizzy on Jun 6, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

I draw the line at excluding kids from a particular building from a local public school.

It's true that the fear of over-crowded schools is usually on the list of reasons to oppose development. I don't have an easy answer to it...making the school bigger is good enough for me, but not for others. All the same, getting parking off the issues list is a big step forward.

by renegade09 on Jun 6, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

requiring parking in new buildings is not going to make it easier for a poor person to have a car. they most likely won't live in the new buildings anyway, and the cost of the space will be passed along.

I was speaking to various car dis-incentivization measures more broadly. You're right to point out that lower-income people are by and large not living in new construction anyway, except for designated set-asides. My point is that car dis-incentivization measures that are targeted at 'other people' in order to appease existing (typically wealthier) residents are going to create perverse incentives, reifying the car-centric lifestyle of those grandfathered in.

@James

If residents in these projects are being treated differently, it is that they are reaping the economic benefits, passed down in the form of lower purchase prices and rents, resulting from not saddling such projects with the off-street parking. So giving up RPP eligibility , with advance notice to prospective homebuyers/renters, is a small and reasonable price to pay for the benefit of more affordable housing. No?

This is why I've asked before whether anyone has good data on this. My gut sense is that in the sorts of places we're talking about, it actually does not have much of an effect on rents at all, because demand already exceeds supply by so much that even if you're eliminating all the people who insist on parking from the potential renter pool, you still have more than enough demand to bring the price up to a level akin to that of units with parking privileges (a personal off-street space that you can rent out is different, since that is monetizable in a way that an RPP or a general parking decal for your car isn't).

In other words: if you don't care about having parking, then to you it is not a relevant variable, and what is driving your willingness to pay are things like location (above all else) and amenities. Since parking is irrelevant to you, it does not affect your willingness to pay, and the collective demand of you and people like you will drive the price up to where it is equalized with that of comparable units that do carry parking privileges. Therefore, you reap no benefit.

Repeat disclaimer: I am in favor of allowing no-RPP buildings. I just think that we shouldn't kid ourselves about the downsides.

by Dizzy on Jun 6, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

One thing that seems to be missing from the article and comments is the ridiculously low cost of the annual RPP. We need to increase the price dramatically to gauge more realistically the parking demand.

Also, another example of overbuilt/underutilized parking is listed here:

"The building would not have any parking spaces, however the developer noted that the parking lot associated with the Loree Grand is not even 50 percent leased, and residents of the new building would be encouraged to park in the lot. "

http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/additional_41-unit_residential_building_to_be_included_in_major_noma_comple/7163

by h st ll on Jun 6, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

Kyle,

You assume savings will be passed onto the individual and not simply absorbed as profit by the developer.

I understand the theory. I asked for a real-life example.

by Andy on Jun 6, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

Honestly my ulterior motive is that if you get enough non-drivers in the city, hopefully that will create a better constituency for right pricing of RPPs and parking in general which I agree is the principal issue.

by Alan B. on Jun 6, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

pardon, but couldnt you draw a school zone that effectively excluded one particular building? As long as it wasnt done with a racial intention in mind?

I'm not talking about whether it's legally possible - I'm talking about whether it's advisable, and whether there would be a flood of protest if we tried.

by dcd on Jun 6, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

Re: cost savings, a while back there was a development proposal for a former rail yard in Cambridge, MA, that tried to eliminate all parking from the neighborhood.

http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/northpoint/

There should be some information on costs saved in there (I thought it was on the order of $30,000 per unit). Having trouble finding the number right now, but perhaps some of the resources in there are helpful.

by xmal on Jun 6, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

Found it:

"A 1997 study for the San Francisco Planning Department found that "housing units without parking spaces were more affordable and sold more quickly than units with parking. Using 1996 housing price data, the study found that the average value of an off-street parking space was $46,391 for a single family home and $38,804 for a condominium unit." From tenants' point of view, the average car costs $5,674 per year to own and operate (American Automobile Association, 1999), money which can otherwise be spent on housing."

by xmal on Jun 6, 2013 4:51 pm • linkreport

dcd, that doesn't even make sense as every school has its catchment area already. To deny students the local school without providing an alternative would be unethical.

There are numerous alternatives to schools - charter schools, OOB schools, private schools. And what if the city said you can't go to the local school, but you can go to the one across town (that happens to suck, and not meet your needs, but hey, you chose to live there). Why wouldn't the same argument apply? As various people have said, street parking is just an amenity. If you don't need it, it's no big deal, and the lack of it will be reflected in your rent or purchase price. There's certainly a market in DC for condos that don't have a right to send kids to the local school, just like there's a market for condos that have no right to RPP. People will choose accordingly; they'll choose a lower priced place without the amenity; the market will decide. Paraphrasing someone upthread,

"Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to [local schools] as we've said nothing would prevent someone from choosing to [attend a charter or another DCPS] though I suspect most people who [need access to their local school] just not buy/rent a unit that came with no [local school] priveleges."

Who was that again? Oh yeah, it was you. Why would that not apply to schools (or if you prefer, public playgrounds or parks)?

I do wholeheartedly agree with you, though, that dramatic right-pricing of RPPs is in order. I suggest $1 per day for 1 car, $2/day for the second car, etc.

by dcd on Jun 6, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

A city could provide no parking at all.

At one time, in an attempt to avoid integration, a few southern states considered abolishing their public school systems? Were those equivalent? You may think so, but most people did not. The south ended up giving up on massive resistance rather than abolish public education, yet many places have no RPPs, etc.

Even among the autocentric, RPPs are not a public service, a universal public service, funded by the state to achieve basic social purposes, that schools are. Basically RPPs are a result of an earlier period when road space was so available that on street parkign was not scarce and an attempt to protect the status quo of free on street parking when conditions changed (including the construction of heavy rail) Its a backed into set of regulations, not a basic service or a basic right.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

" I'm talking about whether it's advisable, and whether there would be a flood of protest if we tried."

Then the substantive role and view of education vs parking matter. I would suggest that the majority of even the childless feel a strong ideological belief in universal education, that is simply not matched for parking. I cannot see the car free getting upset, and I cannot see the residents of buildings with RPPS getting upset about this. As for the people who move into those buildings, most I think are more upset about regulations that make it harder for them to move to desirable parts of DC in the first place. Its really totally unlike education in that regard.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

"I'm not talking about whether it's legally possible - I'm talking about whether it's advisable, and whether there would be a flood of protest if we tried."

I am unaware of any such protests in liberal, arlington, which there would certainly be if Arlco had publicschool free buildings.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

@TM

I think you miss the purpose of the bill just a bit:

A lot of the objections to Wells' bill seem to boil down to a complaint that this would hurt poorer people. That's totally misguided. This bill would *help* lower income people because it makes the purchasing of car storage *optional*. You want to buy or rent an apartment without off street parking or an RPP, here you go. You can either live without or rent a space somewhere else. Forcing people to buy or rent an apartment with off street parking is the truly anti- lower income policy.

You are talking about unbundling parking - that is, separating the price of the housing from the price of the parking space, preventing developers from building the price of the parking into the price/rent of the unit.

Wells' bill is specifically talking about buildings without parking. By nature, a building without parking can't easily bundle parking. And Wells' bill has little to do with off-street parking, and everything to do with RPP.

However, the Council could just as easily pass a law that makes un-bundled parking the standard in DC. See this previous GGW post on unbundling: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/16489/to-discourage-building-empty-garages-unbundle-parking/
Such a bill could accomplish the same thing you are talking about (making the purchase of parking optional), but in a broader and more efficient manner, and without even touching on RPP. This is because the purchase of parking is a separate decision from the building of parking.

Also, I haven't seen anyone make the case that this would hurt poorer people. Citation? I've seen lots of allegations that this is unfair, but not that it's specifically unfair to poorer folks.

by Alex B. on Jun 6, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.

Also, I haven't seen anyone make the case that this would hurt poorer people. Citation? I've seen lots of allegations that this is unfair, but not that it's specifically unfair to poorer folks.

I think it's a pretty straightforward logical assumption. Parking and car ownership are presently underpriced and subsidized. Those in lower income brackets are often the most car dependent - they live in areas with poor transit access, have jobs that are poorly served by transit or require the ownership of a car, often lack the disposable income or credit card that makes Low Sunk Cost/High Marginal Cost options like ZipCar, Car2go, etc. viable, etc. etc. Insofar as user fees are inherently regressive, and regressive taxation hits the poor the hardest, these sorts of measures would hurt poorer people the most.

This is the issue with the call by h st ll and Alan B. (among many others) for market-based RPP pricing. If you make it city wide market-based, then the lower classes are going to get nailed, because the people in the favored quadrant will pay a very high premium for RPP, far beyond what those of lower SES can afford. If you broke it up by Zone, you would ameliorate some of that, but then you would create some pretty negative incentives: everyone - and especially those in Wards 7 & 8 - would suddenly have a direct interest in discouraging any sort of growth that might increase the level of market demand for RPP. You think parts of the city are unfriendly to developers now? Imagine what it would be like if each resident's RPP cost were directly tied to the number of people living in their Ward...

To me, the only ultimate answer is to strongly emphasize the transit side of the equation, so that parking demand is lowered through alternatives, rather than punitively or through economic incentives that hit the poor the hardest. We need London-levels of transit. Plenty of reasons why that hasn't happened and won't happen, but that's the goal to strive for, anyway.

by Dizzy on Jun 6, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

@ Dizzy - "To me, the only ultimate answer is to strongly emphasize the transit side of the equation, so that parking demand is lowered through alternatives, rather than punitively or through economic incentives that hit the poor the hardest. We need London-levels of transit."

Exactly. Build a 21st century comprehensive transit system and people will become much less concerned with whether they can get an RPP or not.

by Chris S. on Jun 6, 2013 6:20 pm • linkreport

We should just send $100M checks to Tom Buzzuto, P.N. Hoffman and Joe B. Gildenhorn. Undoubtably they would lower rents in appreciation of that gift since they're not about maximizing profit.

And the last $1M each could be in blank money orders so they could be more easily turned back over to the Gray re-election campaigns.

Of course we don't have the ready funds to do this so straight-forward so we revert to this windfall and call it progressive.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 6, 2013 6:54 pm • linkreport

Tom hit it on the head

by Exactly on Jun 6, 2013 7:50 pm • linkreport

"We should just send $100M checks to Tom Buzzuto, P.N. Hoffman and Joe B. Gildenhorn. Undoubtably they would lower rents in appreciation of that gift since they're not about maximizing profit."

They ARE about maximizing profit. send them a check, fixed without regard to what they do, and it will not effect rents naturally. Eliminate something that adds cost, and they will end up with rents lower than otherwise, because more projects will look profitable than otherwise.

The economic analyses that suggests mandates like parking mins increase rents are completely based on developers being profit maximizers, not altruists.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 9:24 pm • linkreport

"I think it's a pretty straightforward logical assumption. Parking and car ownership are presently underpriced and subsidized. "

the current proposal discussed in this post is NOT market RPP pricing, but excluding new buildings with zero parking from RPP. I think the equity implications of that are rather different from those of free market RPPs.

There are a number of different ways to deal with the equity implications of free market RPPs - one would be to grandfather in low prices for existing RPP holders, possibly with a white market so they would have the incentive to sell them at market rate, but could keep them if they chose. ANother would be to hit everyone with the RPP fee, but to rebate that to the poor in some fashion.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 6, 2013 9:29 pm • linkreport

I had a very good discussion about the idea underpinning this last night: that everyone needs a car nearby. We were hanging out with one of our newer co-workers when she told me she was looking for a new apartment, and her price range and some other demands. I told her she was in luck, since she was sitting with 3 investors/landlords who know the city well. Then she said one of her demands was parking. We all just looked at each other and told her she wasn't going to get what she wanted with *off-street* parking in her price range. But, as the conversation progressed, and we found her several promising places in one neighborhood in particular, she said "wait...there's a grocery store 2 blocks away, Metro 3 blocks away, and lots of bus routes nearby?" I chimed in with "not only that, but right over here (a few blocks away) are a couple of fun bars, and a few more blocks away are lots of restaurants and shops." She then sheepishly asked if we thought, if one of those places worked out, selling her car was a good idea. She had NO IDEA that she could get into a place where she wouldn't need a car. We all told her to look at the apartments, find something she liked, and then get a visitor permit for her car for 2 weeks and give "not owning a car" a dry run...basically, join Zipcar, use bus & Metro, see if you're enticed to use cabs and how often, and just let your car sit. If you can pull it off, do it...you won't regret selling the car. And that's how you mint a car-free resident. :)

With DC attracting so many new young people, especially ones from car-dependent areas, seeing what's possible and knowing people who live without a car really helps. It took me years to realize how much money I was wasting on a hunk of metal that spent most of its time sitting at the curb...now I find ways to get around without driving much even in the very car-dependent area I grew up in (wouldn't you know there's a grocery store 4 blocks and great pizza shop 2 blocks from my brother's house, and other restaurants less than a mile away; the area actually has pretty responsive and affordable taxi service, and decent sidewalks and crosswalks; and we *can* actually arrange for 6-8 people to go to the same place (usually a restaurant for family brunch) without taking a car for every adult!).

Also, as an aside, I saw a post from you, h st ll, elsewhere, and I think we may have a couple friends in common from what you said there (what you said about your investments matched a conversation I had with some friends about another friend of theirs). Small world, and all. :)

by Ms. D on Jun 6, 2013 11:53 pm • linkreport

What's missing from this discussion is what should be obvious: denying RPP permits to these new residents won't prevent them from parking on our neighborhood streets. Thanks to DC's insane block-by-block RPP designation, these residents will simply seek out the remaining non-RPP blocks, park there, and walk.

This has been a horrendous problem in Mount Pleasant, where numerous short-term residents decline to register their cars in DC, and thus cannot get RPP stickers. Those cars congregate on the remaining unzoned blocks, creating exceptional congestion on those blocks. More blocks have become RPP-zoned in recent years, not in defense against commuters -- the purpose of RPP zoning -- but to fend off parking by residents lacking RPP permits.

In 2003, a parking task force recommended ending the block-by-block RPP zoning, but nothing has come of that.

by Jack on Jun 7, 2013 9:31 am • linkreport

Or they drive to work and park overnight on RPP blocks, arriving after 6:30 pm and leaving before 9 am. No RPP hardly means no on-street parking. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/2448/does-rpp-force-new-residents-to-drive/

And no, RPP denials don't address opposition to projects based on parking impacts. Adequate on-site parking is what's typically being called for. (Arlington typically combines the two -- it's one thing to say "No RPP" to new residents when there's on-site parking available and quite another to do so when there's ZERO on-site parking).

by BTDT on Jun 7, 2013 9:55 am • linkreport

I live in Adams Morgan, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city. It's pretty much built out, with little vacant land. There's a lot of expansion of existing rowhouses going on, and a number of infill projects in the Reed-Cooke part of the neighborhood.

We're not building any more streets on which to have public parking. But we are building more living units. Whether to own a car is a private question of personal need and lifestyle. So some new residents will bring cars with them, especially those who spend big bucks for high-priced new condos - they are not likely to do without the amenity of a car.

This is why parking minimums should be maintained. It's the only way to grow our parking supply.

To prevent certain residents from being eligible for an RPP sticker is unequal treatment under the law. All such efforts in that direction should be rejected. There are visitor parking passes, too. Are we going to say that we should legislate against a neighbor having a visitor pass?

by Denis James on Jun 7, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

There's a widespread misconception that RPP blocks are a universal right in residentially zoned neighborhoods. The RPP status was determined at some point in time by the city and/or residents (often the latter). Residents can petition with enough local support to either implement or remove RPP. Most opt for RPP because it's in their individual interest, but RPP could just theoretically be removed if neighborhoods wish to eliminate it (I suspect it's never happened).

Older buildings without parking may have been grandfathered in, but newer buildings must meet or exceed the zoning requirements for parking. These cases involve developers seeking exemptions to the current law. The bill is simply a mechanism to enforce an otherwise informal agreement. It's not a universal right like primary education.

by anon_1 on Jun 7, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

"So some new residents will bring cars with them, especially those who spend big bucks for high-priced new condos - they are not likely to do without the amenity of a car"

my wife and i not long ago looked at an apt in NoMa in one of the priciest new buildings in that part of the city. The units were expensive, but the fact that we COULD have gotten along without a car (the building was practically on top of the metro station, was close to union station, was biking distance to my work, I think had zipcar inside the building) would have offset a lot of that. We decided we were not yet ready to move - but being car free could be for some precisely what makes pricey buildings affordable. And if the developer was losing money on the garage (as some are) then taking away the parking min could add to supply making units cheaper.

by EmptyNester on Jun 7, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

So some new residents will bring cars with them, especially those who spend big bucks for high-priced new condos - they are not likely to do without the amenity of a car.

So isn't that the developer's gamble to make, then? If you build a building without RPP and without parking, it would seem they have locked out the segment of the market that is "likely to do without the amenity of a car." Why can't the people building the building choose to cater to someone else?

by MLD on Jun 7, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

I live on a block that does not have limited timed parking. As such purchasing an RPP is not an option. This means anywhere I want to park in Ward 5, I am limited to the timed parking requirements and am not afforded the exemption for Ward 5 permit holders. This includes situations for shopping but also for visiting friends.

Providing housing with no RPP option is obviously not a new concept!!!! IT is not a matter of taking rights away from residents. Residents who choose to live in the non-RPP buildings will know what they are getting into. IT WILL BE THEIR CHOICE whether to live there or not.

By the way an RPP is only $10 which is added on to your registration when you register your car under your address.

by mizliz on Jun 7, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

@ Jack - "What's missing from this discussion is what should be obvious: denying RPP permits to these new residents won't prevent them from parking on our neighborhood streets. Thanks to DC's insane block-by-block RPP designation, these residents will simply seek out the remaining non-RPP blocks, park there, and walk."

In Japan you cannot register a vehicle without proof of a parking space. DC could similarly deny registrations to residents without dedicated parking spots or RPPs. But that might be a little radical for the U.S., and I guess people moving in might try to get around this by registering their vehicles elsewhere. Can you keep a vehicle registered in another state in DC long term without penalties?

by Chris S. on Jun 7, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

If your out-of-state vehicle is parked on a block week after week they are supposed to give you a ticket. I'm not sure if the parking enforcement cars with their license plate readers track this but I suspect they do.

Jack's complaint is similar to others I've heard from Mt Pleasant residents, which claim that it's all those "other people" clogging up all the parking rather than the reality which is that Mt Pleasant residents own lots of cars.

In the places with parking problems (like Mt Pleasant) there are basically no non-RPP blocks left.

What non-RPP blocks are people parking their out of state cars on in your neighborhood, Jack?

by MLD on Jun 7, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

@Ms D - that's funny! Small world. I wonder who we know in common. Good comment, also, btw.

@Dizzy - excellent comment, and a good preview of what arguments would likely be used against increasing RPP rates by certain populations/politicians. However, I would counter:

1) We already subsidize many of the bus routes EOTR (cost is only 1.10 a ride instead of 1.60).
2) Most of DC has at least decent bus service. Is a car really necessary?
3) One of the quickest ways to build wealth would be to eliminate major expenses - getting rid of the car seems like a no brainer and can save you $200 to $800 a month.
4) Off street parking (driveway/lots) are more prevalent EOTR.

Not sure that any of those responses are an adequate response, though. You did a good job of laying out why any substantial increase will likely be very, very difficult.

by h st ll on Jun 7, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

Also meant to add that most of the neighborhoods EOTR are not in the RPP program, right? I don't have a car so I don't really pay attention but I think most (if not all) neighborhoods are not. I will check more carefully next time I am in various neighborhoods down there (a basic google search didn't seem to indicate any of the neighborhoods are but I am not a google expert).

by h st ll on Jun 7, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

Not trying to spam the thread but from looking at the city's website on RPP (here: http://ddotfiles.com/db/RPP/rpp.php)
RPP is mainly near the metro stations EOTR (which makes sense - and undermines the argument that one would need a car if living in that immediate neighborhood).
For example these areas (and more) are listed - 44th st ne, east capitol 4400 block, 42nd st ne, 3900 penn ave se, parts of alabama ave se, parts of minnesota ave se etc

by h st ll on Jun 7, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

The Office of Planning and DDOT are already encouraging developers to provide less underground parking in new buildings. This has happened twice recently in Adams Morgan in C-2 zones. The developers went to BZA and got approved to provide less parking than the Zoning Regulations would normally require.
The effect of placing a new mixed-use building say, 3-6 residential floors over first floor commercial space with less parking than the Regs require, in an intense urban setting like Columbia Road in Adams Morgan, is that the spillover from the building will make it harder to park in the RPP zones. As one DDOT official said at a community meeting: "An RPP sticker is just a license to hunt".

Why should we let or encourage private developers to make these choices for us? They will do what is expedient, and the neighbors will feel the pain. Oh, and did I mention that the over 7,000 seats of ABC occupancy in Adams Morgan attracts so many patrons in vehicles that locals have to park up to a half mile away on weekend nights?

Imagine yourselves getting older, infirm, or as a person with disabilities, or that you just need your vehicle to run errands.

by Denis James on Jun 7, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

The dirty little secret of out-of-state vehcles and RPP is that for those who are unable to qualify for reciprocal RPP treatment (as a student, congressional staffer, etc.), they just use the free visitor placard to evade DC registration. ROSA is supposed to control for this, but the reality is that the 'permanent' vistor parking placards, even if displayed day after day, are given a pass (pardon the expression). DDOT has helpfully mailed vistor parking placards to every RPP address (and residential unit within an RPP address), whether or not the addressee even has a DC-registered vehicle. Consequently it is very easy to park a vehicle in an RPP zone while it is registered (and has the benefit of lower insurance rates in) Anyhometown, U.S.A. The result is even more demand for RPP spaces while undercounting the number of vehicles which are owned by persons actually living in DC.

by James on Jun 7, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

To create a class of citizens permanently barred from RPP is wrong.

It's like saying we have too many people using the public library, so let's bar new residents from getting library cards. The wait for book holds is too long. You moved to DC and these are our rules! B&N will welcome your business.

People who end up in RPP-excluded building are going to be a permanent of class of very irritated residents. I would not be surprised if the buyers of these units have no idea that they couldn't get an RPP. Many condo buyers only learn after the fact that they can't rent out their units because of condo-board limits. First time condo buyers don't know how things work, and first time DC residents won't either. Sellers and agents tend to leave out the unpleasant details.

Life changes. Someone buys a unit in one of these buildings. Their job is relocated to outskirts Va. They now need a car. Tough luck on parking.

It is wrong to take away rights from a group of people who have no input into it. Anyone who thinks this is a solution is selfish.

If you think cars are a problem, get rid of your car, not your neighbors. The best people live by example. The remainder run for office.

by kob on Jun 7, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ kob - "Life changes. Someone buys a unit in one of these buildings. Their job is relocated to outskirts Va. They now need a car. Tough luck on parking."

The sensible decision for the people you describe is not to buy a no-RPP condo, since they might at some point be interested in owning a car. They should buy a unit that gives them a parking option. That's just smart shopping.

These no-RPP units are a better fit for people would strongly prefer to avoid driving (no matter how life changes), or people who can afford to rent a parking space nearby.

by Chris S. on Jun 7, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

@Chris S

People who can avoid "no matter how life changes." Most don't have the capability of absolute foresight. But that's only an illustration of a consequence, and leaves the essential problem of taking rights away from people who are excluded from the decision.

by kob on Jun 7, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

Interesting that what is really needed to make car-free living possible -- better public transit -- is missing from this discussion.

Separate the blue/orange and yellow/green lines. As it stands too many jobs are remote, and we know that around 50% will need cars for many years.

Some people manage car-free, but I contend DC is still a basically car-dependant city. It isn't close to Manhattan density, the only US city that really is car-free.

by goldfish on Jun 7, 2013 5:32 pm • linkreport

ITA goldfish. I've walked the walk on this issue and, as a result, I'm more sympathetic to peoples' need to drive/desire to own a car than many car-owners who think other can and should do without. In terms of connectivity, reliability, and hours of service, our transit system just doesn't serve the needs of people whose lives are more complicated than sleep-work-party-repeat.

And it pisses me off that we're acting as if developer incentives in various forms somehow constitute transit improvements. They don't.

by BTDT on Jun 7, 2013 6:36 pm • linkreport

Life changes. Someone buys a unit in one of these buildings. Their job is relocated to outskirts Va. They now need a car. Tough luck on parking.

Someone buys a small condo and then they have a baby. Now their condo isn't big enough for their needs. Or, someone buys a condo and their job is re-located to Richmond or North Carolina...tough luck on getting to that job.

My point is that life circumstances change for everyone all the time. If you don't have sufficient foresight about what might happen in your life, then you need a more flexible living situation. If you're lucky enough to have a stable situation and able to plan things out well, you can do something like buy a condo that doesn't come with parking.\

Btw, in your scenario, the person who's job has moved out to the boonies and now needs a car can always rent a parking spot.

by Falls Church on Jun 7, 2013 11:07 pm • linkreport

@James, I am one of those car-free people you mention who gets a guest permit in the mail. Why not? My home is RPP-eligible, and it saves us the trip to the police station to otherwise get a guest permit. Just because I don't currently have a car registered in the District doesn't mean that I don't occasionally entertain guests with cars. No, the permanent permits should not be abused. No single car should be allowed to park for more than 2 weeks at a time (I believe that is a restriction), but the convenience of tossing the permanent permit in the window of a visiting friend's car is GREAT. I mean, I normally put them in my unused off-street spot, but, if they come to their temporary home and someone has parked poorly, blocking the spot, or if they're hauling stuff in or out (parking is out back, with no direct access to my home), the permit is great. As a resident of an RPP-eligible residence, why does it matter whether I have a car of my own? Honestly, it's better if I don't, since my friends and family, while eligible to park on the street, are less likely to do so if they can take my unused, off-street spot. And, either way, my guests would be eligible to park on the street, the only difference is the inconvenience of going to the police station first.

Mr. H St...see if these ring a bell. Friend #1 owns a place in Hill East and is in the process of buying something downtown. Friend #2 owns a couple of places, most notably something in NoMa he lives in and something in Logan Circle he rents. Check yes or no and, hey, maybe if yes our mutual friends can introduce us. Also, a state that looks like a mitten is a common theme. :)

by Ms. D on Jun 8, 2013 12:45 am • linkreport

Same situation/same attitude re VPPs as Ms. D. Seems wrong to deprive people who actually are car-less of a visitor parking pass. Seems perverse to suggest that households make fewer demands on these public spaces should therefore be deprived on any access to them. Key use of VPPs at our HH is when distant/disabled grandparents visit for a week or two and rent a car.

by BTDT on Jun 8, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

The devil's in the details and the devil in the VPP program will be the details when and if DDOT switches to giving them online with a charge for each temporary VPP. That could really hurt people who rent often as well as those with a lot of visitors.

by Tom Coumaris on Jun 8, 2013 4:45 pm • linkreport

ITA. It's clear they'll start with contractors -- buy this citywide VPP (cf. the Car2Go deal) and your vehicles won't get ticketed. Homeowners won't object (or bitch about price) because it doesn't directly affect them. At which point ddot has started to commercialize parking in RPP zones (and found a way to do it without meters). Why draw the line at contractors?

by BTDT on Jun 8, 2013 5:43 pm • linkreport

Let's describe this issue for what it is: a shake-down by some at the expense of the rest. Essentially, some residents want to use a scarce publicly owned resource at below cost. Permitting other residents to use that same resource on the same terms threatens their sweet-heart deal and so they threaten to abuse zoning processes to keep it. At the same time, they expect those other residents to continue paying all taxes without any reduction to compensate for being excluded from this public benefit. Tommy Wells, like apparently a lot of posters here, wants to indulge their selfishness.

by adam on Jun 12, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

Not really. The shakedown is by developers at the expense of residents (new and old).

If the choice were between (A) build new housing with adequate off-street parking and allow new residents access to RPPs on the same terms as existing residents or (B) build new housing with no on-site parking and deny new residents RPPs, many current residents would choose A. I suspect many future/potential residents would choose A as well. And A, in fact, is the existing law.

RPP denials are only on the table because when developers ask to have parking requirements waived, existing residents are justifiably skeptical of claims that buildings without parking will be filled by households without cars. Empirically, that's not true in DC and it hasn't been true in Portland where this experiment has been tried.

So RPP denials to new residents are offered by (some) SG partisans as an alternative to the enforcement of existing on-site parking requirements for residential construction. If the choice is between (B) no on-site parking and RPP denials vs. (C) no on-site parking and the hope that its absence will be sufficient encouragement to discourage new residents from car ownership, (some) current residents will choose B. (And then, apparently, be chastized for abusing zoning processes when, in fact, they're the ones asking for existing zoning requirement re parking provision to be enforced).

Arlington offers option (D) adequate on-site parking and RPP denials.

by BTDT on Jun 12, 2013 7:44 pm • linkreport

The shakedown is by developers at the expense of residents

Residents who by and large benefit from having the gov't decide it's only going to charge 35$ a year to park on the street.

by drumz on Jun 12, 2013 7:57 pm • linkreport

And A, in fact, is the existing law.

Except that the current law has no connection to what constitues 'adequate off-street parking.'

Developers are looking to build zero-parking buildings because in many cases, zero off-street parking is more than adequate.

How do you define 'adequate?' What price for parking would be adequate? Would you agree that we cannot discuss the relationship between supply and demand must include price?

by Alex B. on Jun 12, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

The current law underestimates multifamily residential parking demand in most cases -- in other words, the on-site parking it requires only covers part of the additional demand for parking that the building creates in the area where it is located. (Generally one space is required for every 2-4 households (depending on zone) in an apartment building. Car ownership in DC averages .6 cars per rental household (It's significantly higher for owner-occupied households, including condos.)

In the residential context, I'd define adequate as sufficient to house the cars owned by occupants.

by BTDT on Jun 12, 2013 9:04 pm • linkreport

The current law underestimates multifamily residential parking demand in most cases -- in other words, the on-site parking it requires only covers part of the additional demand for parking that the building creates in the area where it is located. (Generally one space is required for every 2-4 households (depending on zone) in an apartment building. Car ownership in DC averages .6 cars per rental household (It's significantly higher for owner-occupied households, including condos.)
In the residential context, I'd define adequate as sufficient to house the cars owned by occupants.

Why assume that past is prologue? And why assume all parking must be accomodated on-site?

My answer would be that we cannot predict what future parking demand will be. A parking minimum requirement is not a prediction of future parking demand, it will shape future parking demand.

You also made no mention of price. If we agree that parking is a scarce resource (otherwise, what is the reason to require it?), then why not inform your estimate of demand with information about price?

I would note that an adequate supply of parking (using your defintion - sufficient to house the cars owned by occupants) cannot be defined to any single number. The rate of car ownership most certaily would depend on cost and convenience; and therefore the amount of parking required to meet that demand would vary widely.

Conversely, let's say the parking supply is fixed and cannot expand. Thus, the price of parking should rise. Even in that case, the supply would be 'adequate' by your defintion.

Price must be taken into account. And I would suggest that if the assumption is that the price should be artifically low, then we are oversupplying parking - and therefore it should not be mandated as part of any zoning requirement.

by Alex B. on Jun 12, 2013 11:38 pm • linkreport

@Alex B: My answer would be that we cannot predict what future parking demand will be.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

You take historical trends and project into the future. And certainly the developers [deleted] would do the same.

Using the observed (declining) rate of car ownership, we will arrive at zero sometime around year 2100.

by goldfish on Jun 12, 2013 11:56 pm • linkreport

Examples abound that, in transit- and amenity-rich areas, our parking requirements are too high. In Kenyon Square, as noted by a resident of the building elsewhere on this forum, most of the OWNED spaces are rented out to commuters (I also happen to personally know an owner of both a condo and a parking space in this building who rents her spot to a commuter). The owners of the Loree Grand want to allow residents of another, nearby, building (also owned by them) to rent existing spaces because those built have not been filled. DC USA has so many parking spots that an entire level of parking has never been used and the level that *is* used costs only $1/hour to park in. On a personal level, there are *3* (out of *6*) parking spots in my building that are completely unused. Sure, we have enough space that a 6-spot parking lot wasn't too much of a waste of space, and since it's surface, it didn't add too much to the purchase price, but the reality is different in denser neighborhoods.

Building underground parking is expensive in dense areas, and particularly where there is already plentiful parking available (like in DC USA, the Loree Grand, and other places I probably don't even know about), the compromise of saying that residents can't park on the street, but here, here, and over here you can get a spot seems pretty reasonable, if a little imperfect. I'd gladly live in a place and forgo the expense of building a parking spot to go with it AND the expense of renting one. Yes, I occasionally have guests with cars, or even bring a car to my home myself. All but once or twice a year, the cars hang around for less than 4 hours, and if the neighborhood were denser, we'd probably seek other options. FE, we post-office-partied at a friend's place in CH not terribly long ago. Most of us took the Metro, but one person's spouse (coming from a job in the 'burbs) brought a car. Since street parking is so tight, we told them to park in DC USA and just pay the $1/hour charge...it was more efficient than driving around forever looking for a spot and pretty cheap. They gladly did so, and thanked us for the tip since they were MORE THAN WILLING to cough up less than $5 to avoid endless circling. So, yes, there should be parking options, but there are a lot of places that clearly demonstrate that we are currently building WAY more parking than necessary.

by Ms. D on Jun 13, 2013 1:32 am • linkreport

I don't think Alex is saying its unknowable but rather you need to know the constraints. A world with parking minimums is going to have a different number than a world without.

by drumz on Jun 13, 2013 7:11 am • linkreport

I don't think Alex is saying its unknowable but rather you need to know the constraints. A world with parking minimums is going to have a different number than a world without.

Exactly. The question we are asking ("what should the zoning requirement for parking be?") explicitly affects the outcome of the other question: "how much parking is 'adequate' for the city?"

There is not a mathematical truth there. No right or wrong answer. The assumptions we use to project the future are more about shaping the future than they are about an abstract answer on a math test.

Second, even if we felt confident in our numbers, we shouldn't. There will be a large margin of error in any such prediction: "beware of certainty where none exists."

Don Shoup puts it this way: http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/RoughlyRightOrPreciselyWrong.pdf

HOW FAR IS IT from San Diego to San Francisco? An estimate of 632.125 miles is precise—but not accurate. An estimate of somewhere between 400 and 500 miles is less precise but more accurate because the correct answer is 460 miles. Nevertheless, if you had no idea how far it is from San Diego to San Francisco, whom would you believe: someone who confidently says 632.125 miles, or someone who tentatively says somewhere between 400 and 500 miles? Probably the first, because precision implies certainty.

Since a hard and fast minimum requirement does not allow for a range, we should aim to make such a requirement accurate. And, as the pre-war market and new parking-free buildings show, there is clearly a market for zero parking buildings. Ergo, in order to be 'roughly right,' zero-parking buildings should be allowed by right.

by Alex B. on Jun 13, 2013 8:06 am • linkreport

@Alex B: even if we felt confident in our numbers, we shouldn't. There will be a large margin of error in any such prediction: "beware of certainty where none exists."

The number of registered vehicles in DC is about 275,000, and has not changed in 10 years. All those cars need parking.

Given that this number has been constant for so long, and that the whatever changes that may occur are tied to slow-moving, demographic trends, we can be sure of the steady need for parking, for many decades.

by goldfish on Jun 13, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

According to this City Paper article: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2013/01/29/the-state-of-the-district-in-numbers/ auto registrations are up over 5,000 in 2012 from 2011.

Also, see this article in the Washington Business Journal: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/2013/02/dc-vehicle-taxes-surge-in-january-a.html

Sounds like the number of vehicles registered is in fact growing along with the population.

by Denis James on Jun 13, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

Kenyon Square and the Loree Grand are projects that built significantly more parking than the current (then and now) zoning regulations require. They aren't examples of parking minimums requiring the overproduction of residential parking.

And, FWIW, if there are areas in which parking has already been overproduced, then the zoning code has provisions that enable developers to lease that surplus parking for their tenants rather than build new parking. Strikes me as a better solution than simply denying RPPs to new residents without ensuring that there are nearby off-street parking alternatives available to them.

by BTDT on Jun 13, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

The number of registered vehicles in DC is about 275,000, and has not changed in 10 years. All those cars need parking.

DDOT says there are 260,000 on-street parking spaces in DC, 400,000 spaces total.

Again, this doesn't change my point: the code that requires parking will influence how many cars are owned in DC. You can't use the current ownership level as evidence that the current regs are 'right,' because the regs directly impact how many cars people own.

Nor does it change the larger point: No one is saying we won't need parking. What we are saying is that we do not (and should not) need to mandate on-site parking minimum requirements for each new building in DC. That is a dumb way of solving DC's parking issues - and, in fact, it doesn't solve any of those issues and hasn't since the code was adopted all those years ago.

Kenyon Square and the Loree Grand are projects that built significantly more parking than the current (then and now) zoning regulations require. They aren't examples of parking minimums requiring the overproduction of residential parking.

And this is a great case of the market 'learning' from experience. If the regulations grant them the flexibility to do so.

And, FWIW, if there are areas in which parking has already been overproduced, then the zoning code has provisions that enable developers to lease that surplus parking for their tenants rather than build new parking.

It is a good policy, but it shouldn't be constrained to just their tenants. It also isn't an argument to require more parking than the market demands.

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2013 7:51 am • linkreport

You haven't established that the existing zoning "requires more parking than the market demands" -- the two residential examples cited were of cases where the market itself overproduced (or overpriced) parking.

Re shared spaces, I was just pointing out that, under the existing code, the developer has a legal obligation not necessarily to build new parking but to PROVIDE parking for incoming tenants. If the project is located in a place where that obligation could be met by leasing surplus parking nearby, the developer has that option under existing law. But the developer can't just gesture vaguely toward other buildings telling tenants there's parking available there without actually verifying that fact and making an arrangement that tenants of his building can lease those spaces.

As for comparing the number of parking spaces in DC with the number of cars in DC, that overlooks three things

(1) The number of cars registered in DC is increasing while the number of on-street spaces are decreasing; this is why it is important to continue to require the production of off-street spaces in conjunction with new development

(2) According to ddot's estimates, 2/3 of the cars in DC during weekday rush hour have out-of-state plates. We need parking for commuters, visitors, deliveries, etc. as well as residents' cars.

(3) It matters where parking is -- available street parking that's mile's away from the residence or destination where someone needs to park is useless to that person. Parking's inherently location-specific.

by BTDT on Jun 14, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

Is the parking overproduced, meaning its not needed, or is that just the appropriate level? One indicates that the market is better suited for determining what amount of parking is need and the other still doesn't indicate that gov't is better suited for it.

by drumz on Jun 14, 2013 9:46 am • linkreport

You haven't established that the existing zoning "requires more parking than the market demands" --

Sure I have. In many cases, the market demand for new construction is zero spaces. Therefore, any requirement above zero requires more than the market may demand.

The market is a lot more complex and varied than any code can hope to be; it depends on what submarket the developer is building for, etc. However, there is clearly a demand for units without parking (as shown by the fact that we have lots of them in this city, with proposals to build more).

But the developer can't just gesture vaguely toward other buildings telling tenants there's parking available there without actually verifying that fact and making an arrangement that tenants of his building can lease those spaces.

Why not? The only reason we don't allow that is because the code requires off-street parking. I've argued the logic of that requirement is dubious. Ergo, the logic of this argument is also dubious.

(1) The number of cars registered in DC is increasing while the number of on-street spaces are decreasing; this is why it is important to continue to require the production of off-street spaces in conjunction with new development

The number of on-street spaces is hardly decreasing much.

If you want to argue that more parking is important, that's fine. I still don't see how that justifies a requirement that it be built, with no regard to the economics or cost-effectiveness of doing so.

(2) According to ddot's estimates, 2/3 of the cars in DC during weekday rush hour have out-of-state plates. We need parking for commuters, visitors, deliveries, etc. as well as residents' cars.

Absolutely, but let's also realize that the car is inherently inefficient. Your logic would assume that everyone will continue to commute by car. That itself is spatially impossible.

The car simply does not scale. Biking, walking, and transit use all scale better than the car. WMATA ran some numbers on this before:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2011/12/imagining-city-without-its-public-transportation/690/

So, yes - 2/3rds of the cars might be from outside of DC, but the ability for DC to absorb future commuters will not (indeed, it mathematically cannot) rely on the car.

(3) It matters where parking is -- available street parking that's mile's away from the residence or destination where someone needs to park is useless to that person. Parking's inherently location-specific.

I do not agree. The use value to a person will vary, depending on that person and what they need the parking for. This is what I mean when I say the market is far more complex than the code allows.

Imagine a resident who takes transit to work everyday, walks to her neighborhood grocery store to run errands, but still needs a car for weekend trips to Small Town, USA to care for an ailing grandmother. This person can easily park that car remotely during the week.

Yes, parking is location-specific. But that specificity is individualized. What matters to the market is different depending on the individual. The zoning code does not allow for that flexibility.

The best way to grant that flexibility is to simply eliminate the code requirement. Then you eliminate all of the unintended consequences it carries with it.

And none of this will solve the challenges of managing on-street parking. To solve those problems, you need to actively manage on-street parking. Zoning will not do it.

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

On-street parking become more manageable when there are reasonable off-street parking alternatives. And parking minimums certainly don't preclude on-street management -- we can have both.

by BTDT on Jun 14, 2013 10:13 am • linkreport

No, on street parking will remain the same. There is no guarantee in the current code that parking be public in any way so most new spots will go to new residents of those buildings. The best you can hope for is status quo.

by drumz on Jun 14, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

On-street parking become more manageable when there are reasonable off-street parking alternatives.

Two things: First, can you show a case of things being 'more manageable?' And if that management is based on nothing but an unfunded mandate to provide massive underground parking garages that reduces the supply of housing and increases the cost of housing, I'm going to go ahead an argue that this is not the most efficient or equitable way to manage parking.

Second, what is reasonable? I know lots of folks who live in buildings with garages but park on the street. Why? Because an RPP permit is much cheaper than the rate for underground parking. They, given the price information they have, are acting reasonably - as individuals. Does this make sense in terms of policy? Probably not. But it is a direct result of our parking management policies (for both on-street parking and for off-street zoning requirements) that willfuly ignore price data and what the market is trying to tell us.

If the on-street parking is so valuable, shouldn't the price of a permit be higher? If off-street (underground, structured) parking is also so valuable, shouldn't the rate charged for it cover the costs of building it? Shouldn't the current mis-match between prices and policies make us want to re-evaluate the very structure of our regulations?

by Alex B. on Jun 14, 2013 10:28 am • linkreport

@drumz

I agree that the best case scenario for the foreseeable future is probably that the parking situation doesn't get worse. (Although I hold out some hope that smart parking technologies could make a noticeable difference downtown.)

But the comparison I had in mind was between a future in which there were no minimum parking requirements vs. a future in which we retained existing minimums. And my point was simply that on-street management will be easier/less oppressive if the new residents have off-street spaces available to them than if they don't.

by BTDT on Jun 14, 2013 7:02 pm • linkreport

Predicting the future is always pretty much so a fool's errand, but a couple of points don't hold much water.

If many of the vehicles in the city during work hours are those of commuters (i.e., out-of-city plates), then RESIDENTIAL parking minimums are not in play in this decision. We need not build more RESIDENTIAL parking to accomodate commuters. This situation demands better transit from the 'burbs, more parking at suburban Metro stations, and some additional parking in *business* areas. The fact that some jerk parks on my street because he finds that more convenient/cheaper than Metro-ing from the closest stop to his home (even risking a ticket) is a function of transit reliability, parking availability at his local Metro, and a lack of enforcement, not the fact that my street happens to be convenient to his job.

There is certainly demand for parking-free homes where it saves money. Yes, we own an off-street parking spot, because, well, everyone does around here. But we'd like to eventually move to a denser neighborhood. We would gladly forgo a parking spot if we saved a little coin. We don't have a car, most of our friends fly to see us, and even when we *do* bring a car home, it's pretty brief (just to unload and well under the 2-hour limit). Even if we had to pay for a spot for random friends who come by car, it's cheaper than maintaining a car. ESPECIALLY when there are so many overbuilt, cheap parking lots running around. We'd gladly pay the market rate, but we don't have to because of the general wisdom that a developer needs to build 500 paring spots for a <300 unit building (cough, RIR).

No one will ever tell a developer they're building too much parking, so places that are overbuilt will continue to happen. TRUST ME, even people who have never owned a car in their life (my friend who lives at Kenyon Square...who decided a DRIVER'S LICENSE was too expensive to maintain because she had never really driven in her life), will think that a parking spot is valuable, and parking spots *will* continue to be produced. But, maybe, we can provide some options for people who want nothing to do with them, and waste less space otherwise. Seriously, if you want to walk through the nearly vacant parking lot at RIR any given weekend, just let me know. If you don't think that massive space could have been put to better use, well, *I* think there might be something wrong with you...

by Ms. D on Jun 19, 2013 12:34 am • linkreport

"Comparing schools (a vital and basic right for all kids in this country) to parking which is one out of many modes of transportation doesn't make sense in my opinion."

Perhaps, but not in my case. And I imagine many other peoples' cases. I don't have kids and I don't plan to have kids. On the other hand, I do have a job that I can't get to without public transportation. Parking is very important to me. And I resent the claim that you guys are subsidizing my car. Um no, I'm subsidizing YOUR public transportation. The last time I checked, Metro's operating budget is 20% from fares. Whereas, I pay tolls, my gas is taxed heavily, etc etc.

I also highly doubt that developers are wanting to get rid of the parking space regulation because they want to offer lower priced units out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to do away with parking because it EATS INTO THEIR PROFIT MARGIN. Plain and simple. And the city should not be in the business of maximimizing the profit of a private corporation at the expense of present residents.

by adriana on Jun 20, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

And I resent the claim that you guys are subsidizing my car.

When you park your car on the street (or publicly owned lot/garage)for a price either at or near zero dollars your parking (and in effect your car) is being subsidized.

It may be right, it may be wrong, but its still there.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

to drumz

I think you missed my point. I subsidize your public transportation. I'll temporarily agree with you that you subsdize my parking - never mind that I also pay a heavy tax on gasoline.

The net is probably zero.

It's not fair that you throw that claim in my direction (as a driver), while being at the same time completely being ungrateful about the money I pay to subsidize your public transporation.

by adriana on Jun 20, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

Well, if the case were being made that no transportation should get subsidies maybe.

But I,and many others find it perfectly consistent that government should subsidize public transportation while seeking to eliminate subsidies that encourage personal automobile use. I'm very grateful for subsidies that allow me and others to take metro to work. I want to see the number of people taking metro (and number of metro/bus lines) grow.

But this helps you too, I don't drive to work which means that's one less car for you to deal with on the way to work.

by drumz on Jun 20, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Adriana - I own a car, sometimes drive to work, usually take metro.

Metro benefits me when I take it.

It ALSO benefits me when I drive, since without it the roads I take would be even more crowded than they already are. Subsidy to metro is NOT there as a transfer to help metro riders, its to make the region function for all of us (including people who drive). Since the cost of operating metro is largely fixed, raising fares would mostly just mean less utilization of it, and more congested roads. Raising the price of parking is not the same, unless and until we raise the price of on street parking so much that we have unused capacity. Of course there are folks here who would use that capacity for other purposes, like bike lanes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps, but not in my case. And I imagine many other peoples' cases. I don't have kids and I don't plan to have kids."

nonetheless society will not continue into the future without children. And we REQUIRE parents to make sure their children or face jail.

"On the other hand, I do have a job that I can't get to without public transportation. Parking is very important to me."

"very important to me" is not the same as a basic public service.

"I also highly doubt that developers are wanting to get rid of the parking space regulation because they want to offer lower priced units out of the goodness of their hearts. "

No, but that does not mean that the parking mandate does not lead to higher prices. The motive in the developers hearts is not what matters, its the impact in the marketplace.

"And the city should not be in the business of maximimizing the profit of a private corporation at the expense of present residents."

The company you work for chose to locate at a non metro location, not out of the goodness of its heart, but to save money and earn higher profits. By subsidizing auto use, we are effectively subsidizing firms like that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

I would love to do away with a car for commuting reasons. But I'm an electrical engineer, and jobs for me don't normally exist in cities. They're usually in places where the land is cheap, so I have to drive.

I would hope that people like me would be welcome in cities like DC. I *could* probably find a job in DC, but my guess would be that my pay would be cut in half (and so will my tax dollars) and I probably won't like the job.

I do agree that the city probably needs a better parking solution, and I'd be happy to pay more than the $35 that I guess is currently charged for an RPP sticker.

Because I do resent some of my neighbors who don't in fact need cars but nevertheless needlessly taking up parking. Sometimes FOR WEEKS on end.

I am also constantly looking for parking spaces to buy, on redfin and craigslist. I would buy a spot if one were within a few blocks of my house, in a heartbeat.

by adriana on Jun 20, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

The last time I checked, Metro's operating budget is 20% from fares. Whereas, I pay tolls, my gas is taxed heavily, etc etc.

Your gas isn't taxed enough. Not enough to cover the costs of the infrastructure, anyway. Not even close.

For starters, just look at user fee revenues (gas tax, tolls, fees) and compare it to expenditures: it's not even close: http://dc.streetsblog.org/2013/01/23/drivers-cover-just-51-percent-of-u-s-road-spending/

For a more in-depth look at roads, you must look at the lifecycle costs of building and maintaining that road, as well as the lifecycle revenue generation: http://www.austincontrarian.com/austincontrarian/2009/05/do-roads-pay-for-themselves.html

From the Texas DOT:

The Asset Value Index is the ratio of the total expected revenues divided by the total expected costs. If the ratio is 0.60, the road will produce revenues to meet 60 percent of its costs; it would be “paid for” only if the ratio were 1.00, when the revenues met 100 percent of costs. Another way of describing this is to do a “tax gap” analysis, which shows how much the state fuel tax would have to be on that given corridor for the ratio for revenues to match costs.

Applying this methodology, revealed that no road pays for itself in gas taxes and fees. For example, in Houston, the 15 miles of SH 99 from I-10 to US 290 will cost $1 billion to build and maintain over its lifetime, while only generating $162 million in gas taxes. That gives a tax gap ratio of .16, which means that the real gas tax rate people would need to pay on this segment of road to completely pay for it would be $2.22 per gallon.

This is just one example, but there is not one road in Texas that pays for itself based on the tax system of today. Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less.

The situation in Texas is not much different than it is anywhere else in the US.

----------------

On housing and parking:

I also highly doubt that developers are wanting to get rid of the parking space regulation because they want to offer lower priced units out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to do away with parking because it EATS INTO THEIR PROFIT MARGIN. Plain and simple.

Looking at the percieved goodness of the hearts of developers is not a particularly useful way to understand the impact of an expensive regulation like this on the real estate markets.

No, developers would not just lower costs out of the goodness of their hearts, but that's not how markets work. If you lower the cost of building (and that is the effect of removing the requirement for building parking spaces that would not otherwise be built), you open the door for developers to target a larger group of sub-markets. They can then build for a lower sale price market because they're allowed to lower their costs accordingly.

We've observed this to be true:

http://www.its.ucla.edu/research/rpubs/manville_aro_dec_2010.pdf

I find that when parking requirements are removed, developers provide more housing and less parking, and also that developers provide different types of housing: housing in older buildings, in previously disinvested areas, and housing marketed toward non-drivers. This latter category of housing tends to sell for less than housing with parking spaces. The research also highlights the importance of removing not just quantity mandates but locational mandates as well. Developers in dense inner cities are often willing to provide parking, but ordinances that require parking to be on the same site as housing can be prohibitively expensive.

So, remove the requirements and you get: more housing and a wider range of price points (e.g. cheaper apartments).

Imagine if there were a huge tax on beef. Cheap hamburgers wouldn't be feasible because you couldn't make money on them due to the tax. If you sold beef, you could likely only afford to sell fancy steaks (because people are willing to pay more for a fancy steak, but not for a fast food burger). But if you lower that tax, suddenly a wider range of products at a wider array of price points is feasible.

That's why removing an expensive mandate like on-site parking will help lead to lower housing costs.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

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