Greater Greater Washington

Curb parking and garage parking aren't the same

"It almost always comes down to parking," said DC Councilmember Tommy Wells at a hearing last week on DC's zoning update, and he's right. Wells tried to explain a tricky point to opponents of the zoning update: how higher parking minimums don't make it easier to park on the street.


Photo by tedeytan on Flickr.

Wells agrees with many residents that parking on neighborhood streets has become more difficult, and he wants to do something to ease that task for existing residents. However, he doesn't believe that requiring new apartment buildings to build more parking, or preventing them from building less, is going to really have any effect.

"In ward 6 we've had substantial infill development," he said, "and the way we've managed parking is through regulation" like adding meters and limiting parking on one side of many streets to Ward 6 residents. Residents of some new buildings also can't get residential permit parking (RPP) stickers. And, Wells argued, it's worked.

On the other hand, minimum parking requirements along with the existing cheap, easy-to-get RPP stickers won't dissuade people from parking on the street, said Wells:

If you put in minimum parking and they get RPP, there's 2 things that will happen. The first is, almost every building charges for the parking... If they get RPP, which are they going to pay for? a $100-200 a month space, or $35 [a year] for the RPP sticker? You know exactly what they're going to do, it'll be $35 for the RPP sticker and they won't buy the parking inside."
Wells wants to solve this problem with his legislation (which Chairman Phil Mendelson opposed last year) to let developers opt out of RPP eligibility. Before a specific building has anyone living there, its developer can agree that future residents, in perpetuity, won't be able to get residential stickers.

Some people don't like the idea of residents of some buildings not being able to get stickers while their neighbors can get them, but Arlington and many other cities do have similar practices. Whether you support this approach or not, Wells is right on the mark that parking minimums won't make parking on the street easier.

Off-street parking is not the same as on-street

Many people seem to assume that parking is a single market. If you build more parking of any type, it becomes easier to find; build less (or even require building less), and it will get more scarce. But in fact, there are two separate markets.

Later in the hearing, Lon Anderson of AAA made the same mistake. He expressed his incredulity that the Babe's project, which will have 60 units, only 1 parking space (for persons with disabilities), and a deal with the ANC to prohibit residents getting RPP stickers, would work. Why? Because it's hard to park in Tenleytown.

In fact, it's hard to park on the street. It turns out that there are extra spaces for rent in the Whole Foods and Best Buy garages. But people assume that if the streets are full, there must not be any empty space in a garage, and that's what Wells is trying to rebut.

Allen Seeber, one of the witnesses, claimed that the Office of Planning "can't produce any evidence whatsoever" that some buildings have overbuilt parking. Wells immediately cited the Loree Grand, a building in NoMA. Seeber pressed on, and Wells again jumped in with the Bernstein property in Southwest where, Wells said, "they built a condo building, they provided a bunch of parking, and it didn't sell."

People are renting their spaces and parking on the street

Wells said that in his experience, people on Capitol Hill are actually renting out their spaces and using their RPP stickers to park on the street. "They have parking behind their house, and then they park on the street for $35 a [year], and they can get $100-200 a month for the parking behind their house," he said. "[Parking minimums] did nothing to protect our parking in that part of the Hill."

Wells also mentioned a pair of parking spaces on the Hill which just sold for $120,000. The purchaser was an area business, which wanted the spaces after new restrictions reserved more of the neighborhood space for residents. And that, Wells said, was the point. Instead of competing with residents, businesses now have a reason to pay for the parking they need.

Witness and Palisades resident Alma Gates said she'd rather have employees in her neighborhood be able to park on the street. That's fine, if that is what Palisades residents want. Neighborhoods ought to have input into how to allocate on-street spaces. On Capitol Hill, the decision was for residents.

Whoever gets the spaces, having a scheme which rationally divvies them up among users makes much more sense than leaving them first come, first served, then opposing any new development and insisting on big garages just in the vain hope of keeping the demand low. As Wells explained, the demand for on-street spaces has a lot to do with how many people and businesses there are in the neighborhood, and very little to do with the size of garages since people will usually pick the cheap street parking over the pricey garage.

"I strongly want to protect neighborhood parking in the District of Columbia," Wells said, but "I am not sure [parking minimums] will protect neighborhood parking in the District of Columbia." He's right: we need to fix on-street parking with better on-street parking regulations. Lowering minimums won't really help or hurt the on-street situation. There's no reason to hang onto that outdated policy tool when it's not working.

You can watch the entire 10-minute exchange between Wells and the opponents:

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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Parking is an issue in DC? Huh. I've never really noticed...

by rg on Jul 9, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

It's what many of us have been saying. It's not about a "giveaway to developers" or whatever its about how DC chooses to manage its own resources.

In addition to people who rent their spots and park on the street I wonder how many people just have a garage filled with stuff and park on the street for lack of their own garage space. Or any other number of situations. If RPP changes, you'll see just as many people just moving their cars off the street as you would people who just finally decide that the car just isn't worth it.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

"I wonder how many people just have a garage filled with stuff and park on the street "

why do you support the war on junk?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

Tommy Wells wants to give away my old mattresses to greedy developers.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

Its not a surprise: if I can get RPP for $35, and the market value of a spot is $1000-2000, its buy low and sell high. The simplest solution is to charge market rates for RPP.

by SJE on Jul 9, 2013 11:19 am • linkreport

There is no fix to this problem, notwithstanding Well's support for legislation to deny some residents RPPs.

But if we are going to allow developers to screw over residents, DC should adopt legislation as well denying RPPs to anyone who has off-street parking.

We should also limit RPPs to one car per family.

Let's make life in this city as miserable as possible for everyone.

by kob on Jul 9, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

Again, you've got to seperate condos vs. apartments here.

The pricing logic somewhat works with apartments.

With condos, you're buying the spot, and the 25K-50K is easier to include in the purchase price and has a significant bump in resale value.

by charlie on Jul 9, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

A couple of notes:

1) Parking on the street in Tenleytown, at least to my experience, is not very difficult. The fact that there is plenty of off-street parking as well is gravy.

2) Two recent development proposals in Upper NW, 5333 CT Ave and Park Van Ness, include more parking than is mandated by current zoning. Clearly it is in the developers interest to invest in these spaces. Why do people think this would change under the OP proposal? As it is, Park Van Ness would likely be included in a future transit zone.

by Andrew on Jul 9, 2013 11:22 am • linkreport

Kob,

Indeed none of those things would be done with the aim to make life miserable but they could be things considered to do to better manage street parking.

Meanwhile no one is being screwed by a new building with no parking. No one is force to live there.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Residents of some new buildings also can't get residential permit parking (RPP) stickers. And, Wells argued, it's worked.

Completely agree.

Many people seem to assume that parking is a single market. If you build more parking of any type, it becomes easier to find; build less (or even require building less), and it will get more scarce. But in fact, there are two separate markets.

Yes, those are two different markets just like Class A and Class B apartments are different markets. But, prices/supply/demand in one market certainly impacts prices/supply/demand in the other.

In fact, it's hard to park on the street. It turns out that there are extra spaces for rent in the Whole Foods and Best Buy garages.

There will always be some availability of parking spaces for rent. That doesn't prove that there is an excess of parking spaces anymore than the availability of apartments on craigslist proves that there is an excess of apartments.

Wells said that in his experience, people on Capitol Hill are actually renting out their spaces and using their RPP stickers to park on the street.

So, where would those people renting out the spaces park if those rental spaces didn't exist? A small percentage may give up on owning cars but the vast majority would be trying to park on the street.

The first is, almost every building charges for the parking... If they get RPP, which are they going to pay for? a $100-200 a month space, or $35 [a year] for the RPP sticker?

The only reason buildings charge $100-200 for a space is that they believe that price point maximizes revenue. Sure, the revenue maximizing price point is going to result in a few spaces going empty (just like some seats on an airplane go empty at the revenue maximizing price point) but if buildings were finding that a big portion of their spaces were not getting rented out by residents or non-residents, they would simply lower the price.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

@ david Great piece.

I think it was Gates who said she want the employees to park in her neighborhood of Palisades, which just happens to be the same neighborhood where she is opposing a new mixed use Safeway development.

One bone to pick - on-street parking in Tenley is not hard to find at all. This is a myth put forth by the Babes' opponents. There is scads of on-street parking within 1/4 mile of the Tenley metro, much of it free. Yes, when Babes arrives there will be more demand for it, but I would suggest that if anyone needs to walk more than 5 blocks from their on-street parking space to the new Babes, they are doing it wrong.

Check out the part around 9:15 when Gates states that she believes people who live in the condo being discussed ought to be able to afford to buy a parking place for $60,000. This is really the crux of the generational divide. To Gates, the space is worth that much, both because she feels like her only transportation alternative is her car, and because $60K doesn't seem like a lot of money to her. So an off-the-cuff statement like the one she made seems eminently logical to her. The problem is that she is unable to imagine that anyone is different from her.

by Steve Seelig on Jul 9, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

"But if we are going to allow developers to screw over residents,"

But the new residents are people moving in KNOWING they won't have RPP's - they could rent/buy in a building with parking, or try to get a lower price in one without. How are they being screwed?

Right now I am being screwed by a tight market that makes it hard to find a place in a WUP that has the price/size/neighborhood quality combo my wife and I want. If we could find one that met our needs in an area with good transit, with bike lanes and bike parking, with walkable amenities, and with Zipcar nearby, we would go carfree - as long as there is a for hire garage somewhere nearby we can chance the possibility of someday needing to own a car again.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

" but if buildings were finding that a big portion of their spaces were not getting rented out by residents or non-residents, they would simply lower the price."

And if the price they had to lower it to, was lower than the cost to provide it, that loss would have to factor into the decision to build or not - it would mean less would get built, and market clearing rents/prices would be higher.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Falls Church: I think the analysis showed that there were/are lots of unrented spaces in the 2 garages, enough for the Babe's residents. The fact that there are some apartments on Craigslist indeed doesn't tell us that there isn't a housing shortage, but if you had, say, a group of 100 Hill interns coming in and there were 150 vacant apartments in the area on Craigslist which had been on the market for a little while, you could say that there's no need for the government to mandate a new dorm for Hill interns right now.

by David Alpert on Jul 9, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

DC gov't can put all the signs up they want, but if they aren't going to enforce the parking restrictions, it's pointless. There's a church on K ST NE that is in session 4 days a week, for literally hours at a time. All the neighbors call 311 on a weekly basis because of the 2 hour time limits for non permit holders. Has anyone ever gotten a parking ticket? No. Even people blatantly illegally parked. Guess everyone is downtown handing out parking tickets...

by DCLady on Jul 9, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

"I strongly want to protect neighborhood parking in the District of Columbia," Wells said

I'm not really sure what that means - I'm not even certain he knows what it means. It sounds a lot like hollow political rhetoric to me.

Wells has already expressed his displeasure with residents parking ("storing", if you will) their unused cars on the street (Washington Post 12/07/12), proposed raising the fee for 2nd & 3rd vehicles to $50 and $100 annually and favors denying some residents RPPs.

So if you're not protecting residents who store their cars on the street, and not protecting residents who use multiple spaces, and not protecting certain residents at all, then who exactly are you protecting? And is it compatible with more people taking public transit, something which Wells also wants to protect?

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

Even people blatantly illegally parked. Guess everyone is downtown handing out parking tickets...

I guess so. In many NW neighborhoods officers spend much of their day waiting by cars, ready to ticket them 1 minute after the 2-hour limit expires. If only other city services attended to such level of detail ....

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 11:36 am • linkreport

"Wells has already expressed his displeasure with residents parking ("storing", if you will) their unused cars on the street (Washington Post 12/07/12)"

I thought the point of RPP was to help residents who need cars to get places.

"proposed raising the fee for 2nd & 3rd vehicles to $50 and $100 annually"

Since thats still well below the market rate for parking, I don't see how thats failing to protect them. Are there lots of people in DC who need a 2nd or 3rd vehicle and can't afford $100 for an RPP for it?

" and favors denying some residents RPPs."

Residents of new buildings, who would move into them KNOWING they would be RPP ineligible. How is it protecting me to deny me that choice? Are you trying to protect me from life in DC, by keeping me in the suburbs? Please, I'm an adult, allow me to make my own choices. Go protect someone else.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

How about this: dramatically reduce the size of RPP zones, then auction off a capped number of RPP stickers with a Dutch auction. That way we'd figure out exactly what the stickers are worth. Some will probably complain about this being unduly burdensome of lower income residents, but the smaller zones would mean lower prices in poorer neighborhoods and we could set aside some stickers for genuinely needy residents. Besides, many of the neighborhoods with strong pockets of poverty don't actually have much of a parking problem, so the cap could be raised higher resulting in an even lower strike price.

by TM on Jul 9, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

Thanks - this is a great post.

Kob's earlier post [deleted for violating the comment policy] [uses a] false baseline.

Currently parking in high demand neighborhoods is already poorly managed which leads to a lot of circling and unnecessary congestion, noise pollution and less optimal conditions for pedestrians and bikers who more than likely live in the same neighborhood.

But what drives me nuts [deleted for violating the comment policy] is that many of these folks are unhappy with the status quo but also completely unwilling to consider alternate ways to manage existing problems.

So the existing problems drive their unhappiness and intransigence but they are unwilling to discuss solutions to the existing problems.

The silence and confusion from the panel when CM Wells presses them on how we need to rethink parking management is telling but whether these folks are unwilling or unable to think this through is something only they can answer because it has long baffled me.

by TomQ on Jul 9, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

Part of the problem is that RPP has little to do with residential parking.

If you go to another city and ask about a residential parking permit, they will unveil a program that prevents overnight parking on residential streets. DC's program is not structured to do that; it is structured to prevent daytime parking within neighborhoods.

When people complain about infill development impacting on-street parking for residents, they are often talking about parking in the evening - but that parking is not currently regulated by our RPP system.

So, RPP doesn't even address the stated problem.

Worse yet, RPP conveys specific benefits to permit-holders that have nothing to do with residential parking. The large zone sizes allow for commuting within a zone; zone 3 holders can drive from Palisades to, say, Cleveland Park and park and ride on the Metro (both zone 3) - This is not residential parking. Zone 6 holders in Southwest DC can drive and park in neighborhoods to visit Barracks Row/Eastern Market or H St NE; those areas complain about a lack of parking and blame outsiders, when a great deal of the problem is likely their fellow zone 6 permit-holders.

I don't have a problem with limiting parking-free buildings from getting RPP stickers if those stickers were just about residential parking; but our current system is not.

I would also consider a different way to go about it; perhaps a higher price for parking-free buildings to get a sticker, etc.

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

The point of RPP was to ensure that people didn't drive to a metro station in DC (like Dupont) and park all day while they went to work. Lately its been expanded to cover some evening hours as well.

By and large its done a great job of preventing people from doing that. Unless you live in the same ward and have a ward-wide RPP sticker allowing you to drive to near a metro station and park all day. But it's at least prevented drivers from va or md doing so.

Now if you live in a popular night life place the RPP still isn't going to work because it wasn't really intended to protect evening parking.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

"Wells said that in his experience, people on Capitol Hill are actually renting out their spaces and using their RPP stickers to park on the street."

In my experience this is true, but the reasons are a bit more complicated.

My block has residential parking restrictions, and it is easy to park during the day. Someone came to us looking to rent the space behind our house, for their nanny, who was getting ticketed. We don't use the space then, and we were happy to help a neighbor, for a very nominal fee.

Incidentally, the garages and spaces behind Capitol Hill row houses were sized for model-Ts. They are not very good for cars of more recent vintages. My car won't fit.

So this practice is not rooted naked profit; it is due to practical considerations of having an available space that we could not use ourselves.

Parking is far more difficult during the evening and on weekends, when the residential restrictions do not apply. For that reason the RPP is almost meaningless -- it is just another $35 for the city.

I say, lets consider jettisoning the RPP altogether. What would that do?

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

@Scoot
>It sounds a lot like hollow political rhetoric to me.<

Good point.

What's wrong with a laissez faire approach?

You can't reboot parking in DC. There is no version 2.0 possible. There's no chance of an upgrade. You can't add more RAM or disk space. There's nothing you can do to improve performance in a meaningful way.

Wells is attempting to over engineer a solution to a product long past its prime: off-street parking in DC. He's trying to run ahead of collapsing dominoes.

Everyone who lives in DC should know off-street parking spaces are an evaporating asset.

Instead of trying to put in policies that will create new sets of problems, Wells should focus his neighborhood protection on improving the alternatives to vehicles.

by kob on Jul 9, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

@Alpert

Agree with your analogy on Cap Hill interns. I wasn't aware that there was that much space for rent at those garages. OTOH, it sounds like you weren't aware that street parking in the area was so easy. If street parking is free and easy, then the garage spaces are unnecessary. This would be a good example of where parking mins are unnecessary and I generally agree that mins are not necessary for commercial buildings where the surrounding street parking is preserved for residents through the RPP program. That's the commercial equivalent of allowing new condos/apartments without parking mins if the residents of those buildings aren't eligible for RPP.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 11:56 am • linkreport

If buildings were finding that a big portion of their spaces were not getting rented out by residents or non-residents, they would simply lower the price.

You'd think so, Falls Church, but that's not happening in my neighborhood. For example, the garage in my own building has been less than 2/3rds full for at least the past year. The manager has made no move to lower the rate.

by TJ on Jul 9, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

I thought the point of RPP was to help residents who need cars to get places.

I'm not really sure what the point of the RPP is, in its current form. The fee and terms are set at such a low bar that one can get a permit without proving whether a car is necessary to get places.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 11:58 am • linkreport

DDOT needs to make a priority of maximizing existing curbside spaces by efforts such as relocating street signs, allowing parking on both sides of streets where it is currently allowed only on one side (with the width of the street permitting, of course), consolidating bus stops, etc...

It is far cheaper to use infrastructure that already exists than to build new parking at $40,000 per spot, raising the cost of housing. Additionally, since most development battles are based on the amount of parking provided, increasing the amount of curbside parking will help reduce these tensions. Finally, the District could earn more parking revenue if more curbside spaces were created and then metered.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 9, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

And if the price they had to lower it to, was lower than the cost to provide it, that loss would have to factor into the decision to build or not - it would mean less would get built, and market clearing rents/prices would be higher.

If there are buildings that only profitable to build if they receive the subsidy of nearly free on street parking, then those buildings shouldn't get built.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

If there are buildings that only profitable to build if they receive the subsidy of nearly free on street parking, then those buildings shouldn't get built.

Or you could fix the subsidy (like Wells is pointing out) and then the equation will change anyway.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

Eh. The Whole Foods parking lot seems to be a huge waste of space to me. I’d much rather have developers build space below ground and replace above ground lots with housing and retail.

by Chatham on Jul 9, 2013 12:07 pm • linkreport

falls church

"there are buildings that only profitable to build if they receive the subsidy of nearly free on street parking, then those buildings shouldn't get built."

Agreed. They should have the ability to waive the right to RPP's in exchange for not being required to build parking. That's CM Wells's proposal, IIUC. In that case they are not being subsidized.

Alternatively, as Alex suggests, their residents could be allowed to purchase RPP's , but at a significantly higher price.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

"I strongly want to protect neighborhood parking in the District of Columbia," Wells said

I'm not really sure what that means - I'm not even certain he knows what it means. It sounds a lot like hollow political rhetoric to me.

What it likely means are programs to make one side of the street resident-only parking at all times. I believe Wells pioneered that concept in W6 and its now spread to many other places.

What's wrong with a laissez faire approach?

How about this: dramatically reduce the size of RPP zones, then auction off a capped number of RPP stickers with a Dutch auction

The problem with market-based approaches like auctioning off the RPPs that current residents already have is that it is a unnecessary transfer of wealth from RPP holders to everyone else. That would be about as fair as paving over everyone's front yard (which is public space owned by the city) to create new bike/car lanes.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

"I'm not really sure what the point of the RPP is, in its current form. The fee and terms are set at such a low bar that one can get a permit without proving whether a car is necessary to get places."

Whenever someone suggest market pricing for RPP's, or reducing parking minimums in the zoning code, or even taking parking spaces for bike lanes or bike share stations, the usual cri de coeur is "but there are people who NEED cars to get to work, to take their child to school, to go grocery shopping, you just can't live carfree here unless you are an elitist hipster, what about workmen with tools, etc" If thats the case, then there is still no reason that someone who is not actually driving their car, needs an RPP.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 12:11 pm • linkreport

"The problem with market-based approaches like auctioning off the RPPs that current residents already have is that it is a unnecessary transfer of wealth from RPP holders to everyone else."

LOL! So just declare the RPP's property, deed them over to current owners, and let them rent or sell them as the wish.

" That would be about as fair as paving over everyone's front yard (which is public space owned by the city) to create new bike/car lanes."

I can see nothing wrong with that ;) If the front yards really ARE people's property, just deed them to them. If they are not, then they are not.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 12:14 pm • linkreport

@EmptyNester
Sure some people need cars, but not EVERY person needs a car. It's that latter group that take valuable parking spaces and congest our streets. The point is to take those people who don't need their cars off the street so those people who do need cars have a place to park and drive without congestion. It's actually in the interest of people who must drive to support public transit, tougher parking restrictions, etc. because ultimately they are the ones to benefit.

by dc denizen on Jul 9, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

@EmptyNester
Sorry, didn't read your post well. I think we are in agreement :-)

by dc denizen on Jul 9, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

If thats the case, then there is still no reason that someone who is not actually driving their car, needs an RPP.

You could be right, but your very point illustrates that demonstrating "need" is no easy feat.

It also seems that your position has changed slightly from "The RPP is for people who need their cars" to "The RPP is for people who drive their cars."

What about people who actually drive their cars but don't need to? How far should the city go in restricting RPP access to those people?

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

". If they get RPP, which are they going to pay for? a $100-200 a month space, or $35 [a year] for the RPP sticker? You know exactly what they're going to do, it'll be $35 for the RPP sticker and they won't buy the parking inside."

Wells doesn't understand economics. Some people will pay the $100 - $200 a month because (a) they can afford it and (b) it's worth it to them to not have to search for parking which might not be available when they need it. It's just like the HOT lanes in Va. But you have to have that underground off street parking available for people to rent for this to work. Not having this parking available just pushes everyone out in the street ... And does market distorting things like forcing those who can afford off street parking (and want it) to look elsewhere where it exists ... Such as our completion in Tyson's and Bethesda.

by A neighbor on Jul 9, 2013 12:25 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Price is a pretty good way to figure out who wants vs. needs. That's why some support raising the price of an RPP sticker because then you can more clearly see who really values the on street spot vs. alternatives.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

But you have to have that underground off street parking available for people to rent for this to work.

The proposal doesn't ban off street parking. It just doesn't set a minimum. There are already plenty of off street spaces in DC and that number will grow as lots are redeveloped. All things equal we are still likely to see a net increase in parking spots in DC.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 12:29 pm • linkreport

limiting parking on one side of many streets to Ward 6 residents

I don't particularly like this program, or the mindset that street parking should somehow be exclusively limited to residents. Back when I was dating somebody in Columbia Heights, it was a complete gamble if I was able to find parking on the street, because such a big portion of the neighborhood had been marked off as "Ward 1 Only" without the 2-hour grace period that most RPP spaces used to have.

There were many times when there were plenty of open resident spots, but no places for me to park overnight, even if I wanted to pay. Similarly, the disappearance of the old "Green Sign" 2-hour spaces mean that short trips to Columbia Heights are now very difficult to make by car. It almost seems as though the policy was engineered to keep "outsiders" away from Columbia Heights.

Meanwhile, the Ward 6 RPP program is distinctly lacking in purpose. Why on earth should there be parking restrictions in a residential neighborhood between 10AM and 6PM? This only makes it difficult for me to entertain guests from out of town, and doesn't actually make it any easier for me to find a parking space when I get home from work. There is no daytime parking shortage in my neighborhood, and the hours of enforcement need to be completely inverted for the program to achieve any of its stated goals.

Oh, and of course, the churches remain the 500lb elephant in the room. Parking is almost never an issue in my neighborhood, except on Sundays and during church events (when the otherwise ninja-like parking enforcement patrols mysteriously vanish for the duration of the event).

*Note that some of this is hypothetical. I'm car-free at the moment, and have never commuted to work by car in DC. The real solution to DC's parking problems is to provide better transit so that fewer people need to drive. I used to drive from NoMa to Columbia Heights, because the equivalent transit trip took about 3-5 times as long. Better bus service is the key...

by andrew on Jul 9, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

Wells' proposal on no-RPP developments is what Arlington provides now, and that seems fair. If a new building gets exempt from off-street parking requirements because it claims it is 'transit-oriented,' then no-RPP ensures that new residents will take transit, as the developer contends. Plus, it eliminates the risk that avoiding private costs (for the developer to build off-street parking) simply shifts the burden of those costs on to the general public (in the form of more and more vehicles circling for limited street parking). As long as new residents/purchasers/renters receive adequate notice that they are moving into RPP-ineligible properties, it should be fine. Moreover, by not building offstreet parking the developer is saving costs that it will pass along in the form of cheaper rents and purchase prices, so the residents are getting a tangible benefit in exchange for no RPP. At least, that's the theory advanced for eliminating off-street parking requirements.

by Axel on Jul 9, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

"I say, lets consider jettisoning the RPP altogether. What would that do?"

I know what it would do - because that is what they did with the 3-4 blocks near my house that weren't zoned (until they were). It would mean people from VA and MD (or those people that live there and don't bother changing their cars registration from NY or wherever) from driving in and parking all day - particularly in those areas that are a few blocks from a Metro. They don't pay to register their cars where they are living and don't get ticked when they park all day. Bonus!

by ET on Jul 9, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

"It also seems that your position has changed slightly from "The RPP is for people who need their cars" to "The RPP is for people who drive their cars."

What about people who actually drive their cars but don't need to? How far should the city go in restricting RPP access to those people?"

Presumably all the folks who don't drive their cars don't "need" them. Its harder to tell who among those who drive them really need them. Thats why price is the best way to allocate RPP's. In the absence of that, though, taking away RPP's from folks who ever actually drive their cars does not seem to contradict "protecting RPP's" Recall that is the discussion - whether Wells is honest in saying he wants to protect neighborhood parking - not what the final, ultimate, best policy is.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

Similar to Andrew, I'd rather just have more meters all across blocks (not just commercial ones) and repurpose RPP stickers so that neighborhood residents are exempt from paying the meters/staying within their time window.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

" And does market distorting things like forcing those who can afford off street parking (and want it) to look elsewhere where it exists ... Such as our completion in Tyson's and Bethesda."

or they can rent in buildings in DC that provide on street parking. If the market clearing price for parking incents developers to provide it. If it does not, then having some people move to bethesda or Tysons is not market distorting (except to the extend that those places have more parking due to parking minimums - but MoCo has a new zoning code proposal to reduce such minimums, and Fairfax is discussing it for Tysons - in fact IIUC Fairfax is looking at parking maximums)

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

Wells' proposal on no-RPP developments is what Arlington provides now, and that seems fair.

No, it is not. And the reason it is not is because of the differences between DC RPP and Arlington parking permits.

Arlington zones are smaller. Their hours can include night-time restrictions.

http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/EnvironmentalServices/dot/traffic/parking/images/file72709.pdf

http://magellan.co.arlington.va.us/Maps/Standard_Maps/Transportation_Maps/Parking_Zones.pdf

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@andrew

"Why on earth should there be parking restrictions in a residential neighborhood between 10AM and 6PM? "

See my above response to @goldfish. And don't think that it wouldn't be hard for people to find parking in their own neighborhood in the daytime if RPPs were abolished because it would -because it was. And that is a big quality of life issue for people that really grates after a very short time.

by ET on Jul 9, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Price is a pretty good way to figure out who wants vs. needs. That's why some support raising the price of an RPP sticker because then you can more clearly see who really values the on street spot vs. alternatives.

I'm fine with raising the price of the RPP but any price that would actually reach a tipping point is not only politically unfeasible (it would be seen as nothing more than a revenue grab) but also practically untested (what cities in the world charge over $1000 for an on-street permit?).

Alex B raised a very good point that for some reason, DC's existing parking regulations often release parking spaces to visitors at nights and on weekends - precisely when you'd think residents would demand them.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

Recall that is the discussion - whether Wells is honest in saying he wants to protect neighborhood parking - not what the final, ultimate, best policy is.

I stand by my original opinion that Wells does not really know what he wants, and that leaves the rest of us not really knowing either.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 12:54 pm • linkreport

Free/cheap parking is such a high commodity in my part of town that when it's packed, cars just park illegally in the alley that I paid a good amount for a spot in.

What's real annoying is the competition for spots on the street to open. The typical behavior is to drive all the way down the narrow one-way street looking for a spot, and if no spots are available, to reverse it back up the one-way and double park and just sit and wait for somebody to come out and move. This literally happens every single day.

by UrbanEngineer on Jul 9, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

See my above response to @goldfish. And don't think that it wouldn't be hard for people to find parking in their own neighborhood in the daytime if RPPs were abolished because it would -because it was. And that is a big quality of life issue for people that really grates after a very short time.

This is almost certainly true in many parts of town, but it makes no sense in a working-class residential neighborhood.

There is no daytime parking shortage in my neighborhood. The streets are often literally empty during the day (including a few nearby non-RPP blocks).

It doesn't even make much sense in Columbia heights, which is also primarily residential. I'd also have to imagine that places like Logan Circle and U Street would benefit more from nighttime RPP enforcement than the current daytime restrictions.

by andrew on Jul 9, 2013 1:09 pm • linkreport

To those who are detracting parking minimums, I have simple question: Why do you assume that the removal of parking minimums will result in fewer corresponding parking spots? I have cited two examples of recent proposals where developers are proposing MORE parking than is required by zoning. Other than Babes, which had a very unique circumstance, can anyone cite a single example where a developer has proposed less parking than is required, where there wasn't neighborhood and corresponding zoning commission (or BZA) approval?

by Andrew on Jul 9, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

@ET: those people that live there and don't bother changing their cars registration from NY or wherever

I suggest that the difficulty here is the way-to-high cost of registering car in DC. It is 5%, 6%, or 7% of the book value of the car, depending on weight. This can amount to $500-1000 on top of the normal registration fee.

The fee gouges people that have just moved to DC, and it is no wonder that they try to avoid it.

Cut that fee and more people would register. We need to remove disincentives for doing the right thing.

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2013 1:21 pm • linkreport

"where there wasn't neighborhood and corresponding zoning commission (or BZA) approval"

How long does it take to get such approval? What is the cost in paperwork, etc? What is the cost impact of delaying a project? Who do you think ends up bearing these costs?

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

Wells says that his bill will allow the developer to request that future tenants of his building would be prohibited from obtaining RPP as a covenant that runs with the land. He seems to anticipate that developers of residential buildings will make this request when they choose to provide less than the minimum parking requirement of one space for every two to four units. Wells also supports the ZRR parking changes, which would eliminate minimum parking requirements for nearly every project that would be near an RPP zone.

If the ZRR proposal goes into effect, the developer wouldn’t be required to provide parking, and is unlikely to request that future tenants of the project permanently waive access to RPPs. In combination, it would mean that the developers would not be required to provide any off-street parking, and the residents will be eligible for RPPs.

by Mike on Jul 9, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

EmptyNester wrote: So just declare the RPP's property, deed them over to current owners, and let them rent or sell them as the wish.

That would be fair but probably difficult to implement politically and logistically. Also, while landlords would love to be able to rent out RPPs to their tenants, I imagine tenants would not be too happy about it.

Eliminating parking mins in exchange for not making those buildings eligible for RPP would be much easier to implement (although still run into some political pushback).

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

@goldfish - If your car is registered in another state and you move to DC, you don't have to pay the excise tax.

by Laura on Jul 9, 2013 1:39 pm • linkreport

I'm fine with raising the price of the RPP but any price that would actually reach a tipping point is not only politically unfeasible (it would be seen as nothing more than a revenue grab) but also practically untested (what cities in the world charge over $1000 for an on-street permit?).

I don't know if you'd need to go so high to see changes. Plus I think the political process would ensure that any hikes would be gradual (especially for current RPP holders) over a few years.

I'd be interested in a comp. list of what other cities charge. I know when my parents went to Japan you had to prove you had a place to park your car before you were allowed to buy one. I don't think that's necessary in DC but there is a lot of room between the status quo and that as well.

But ultimately as you, me, and Alex B. pointed out. RPP is for daytime use anyway. I'd rather go along with meters along any block that could use it and just exempt (smaller zoned) RPP holders.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

Arlington zones are smaller. Their hours can include night-time restrictions.

DC hours can also include night-time restrictions. In fact, in some neighborhoods, one side of the street is reserved for residents 24/7.

by Falls Church on Jul 9, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

@goldfish

Do you assume that those from way out of state actually live in DC itself? I don't believe that is necessarily the case. There are a lot of people in the DC metro area - including Maryland and Virginia - who don't want register their cars in their respective jurisdictions. Since it costs in all 3 and even lowering it in all 3 jurisdictions wouldn't necessarily mean they would change it because they don't want to pay. Anything.

I know this sounds piddling but in 3+ blocks that were not zoned about 80% of the cars had Maryland, Virginia, or some other state's plates and these blocks were 4 or so away from a Metro.

by ET on Jul 9, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

“The proposal doesn't ban off street parking. It just doesn't set a minimum.”

Umm…yes, and then the for-profit developer makes the obvious next choice which is to simply not build the parking and pocket the difference. Why would any developer, even the ultra high end ones whose customers are more likely to drive 120K Benz’s as they are Honda Civic’s choose to spend the ~10% of the project budget building parking when they can offload the responsibility onto the District of Columbia and its citizens. You know as well as I do, if you were the developer and could pocket an extra few million on the project, you certainly would.

As I’ve said, time and time again. A much cleaner solution would be for the DC Treasury to simply cut PN Hoffman, Donatelli et.al a 100 million dollar check a piece for the money they will save on their future projects and call it a day.

If DC intends on proceeding with this “Developer windfall day”, they should atleast take it to its full logical conclusion, which is modeling it after Arlington’s program. Then you could atleast “kinda” justify it.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Could someone explain what incentive the developer would have to designate residents of the property as ineligible to obtain a parking permit?

Would any developer advertise "ineligibility to obtain a parking permit" as a perk to living there?

Or is it little more than a bargaining tool in order to placate the ANC?

What's more, the legislation only requires that the developer provide written notice of the designation, and require written acknowledgment from the buyer "before entering into a purchase agreement", which most likely just means inserting it into the dozens of other agreements, disclosures and notices that the buyer has to sign at closing.

In that case, it certainly doesn't give the buyer that much opportunity to back out.

Maybe the legislation should require the developer to provide notice in the MLS, or better yet, on a sign in front of the building.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

@Laura: Thanks, and also see the excise tax exemption table.

Now, how do I get my $700 back, after I was improperly advised by the DC DMV?

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

Here's a thought: stop relying on your cars and get rid of it! Use zip car for the occasional auto needs. I've lived in DC for 5 years and I have not had a car my whole life. Haven't ever found myself thinking "Jee I wish I had a car" and this is why. Sucks to be you all who are so glued to your cars that you have to struggle with all this parking bullshit.

by Matt on Jul 9, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Sidewalk:
Umm…yes, and then the for-profit developer makes the obvious next choice which is to simply not build the parking and pocket the difference.
If you really think this is how competitive markets work, I'm not sure how we can have an actual discussion about this.

by Gray on Jul 9, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

I've lived in DC for 5 years and I have not had a car my whole life.

Must be nice. I know I just love spending like $500/month on something I don't really need.

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

"Could someone explain what incentive the developer would have to designate residents of the property as ineligible to obtain a parking permit? "

In order to get the waiver on the parking minimums. The concept is they only get the waiver on the mins IF they waive RPP's.

"Maybe the legislation should require the developer to provide notice in the MLS, or better yet, on a sign in front of the building."

Okay.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

"Why would any developer, even the ultra high end ones whose customers are more likely to drive 120K Benz’s as they are Honda Civic’s choose to spend the ~10% of the project budget building parking when they can offload the responsibility onto the District of Columbia and its citizens."

I think most people agree that ending the parking minimums, while keeping residents eligble for RPP's and keeping RPPs at their current low prices, is not the best solution. That is not what CM Wells is proposing.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

I'd be interested in a comp. list of what other cities charge.

You could certainly Google that information and make a list yourself. I think Boston charges $0-20 annually. I know SF charges $104 (up from $67 a few years ago). I think Portland charges $60. Chicago charges $25. Toronto charges about $120.

There are a few things other cities do that make the process just slightly tipped out of the favor of the "free parking for everyone" model, that DC could easily establish without much political hullabaloo.

1 - set limits on how long a parking permit lasts before it must be renewed

2 - increase the fee for residents who already have access to off-street parking

3 - establish a waiting list for high-demand neighborhoods

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

Ok Matt,

God forbid your house, you job, your wife/partners job, your kids school or any of the other 30 daily things in most peoples lives all "not" be within a 5 minute walk of a metro station.

You are clearly a minority in the District. The other ~85% of us will continue to have this conversation.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

Why would any developer, even the ultra high end ones whose customers are more likely to drive 120K Benz’s as they are Honda Civic’s choose to spend the ~10% of the project budget building parking when they can offload the responsibility onto the District of Columbia and its citizens.

Why is DC responsible for ensuring that someone who has a $120K car has a potential spot for it in a new building? Surely if you can afford the car you can afford to figure out if the building you want to live in can provide parking for it or not if that's a dealbreaker for you.

If you want to stick it to developers a better way would be to just raise taxes on them and still get rid of parking minimums anyway since subsidizing cars carries a lot of social harm.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:04 pm • linkreport

You are clearly a minority in the District. The other ~85% of us will continue to have this conversation.

~38% of households in DC are car free. Presumably out of the majority left who have at least one car many of them have off street parking spaces. There still may be a minority but it's not overwhelming. Also this isn't about getting rid of current parking. This is about managing the growth of future parking.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

@Sidewalk

The low cost of RPP permits means that some of those people on the margins who could do without a car decide to keep their car rather than getting rid of it. That means fewer parking spaces for those people who have more use for a car.

35+% of households in DC don't have a car. So it's not a tiny minority, but a substantial number.

by MLD on Jul 9, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

God forbid your house, you job, your wife/partners job, your kids school or any of the other 30 daily things in most peoples lives all "not" be within a 5 minute walk of a metro station.

Why should developers or the city government be beholden to you or anyone else's extenuating circumstances?

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

"You are clearly a minority in the District. The other ~85% of us will continue to have this conversation."

actually somewhere between 33 and 38% of district households are carfree. Thats with the current incentive structure, where there its difficult for a developer to build a parking free building, RPP's are cheap, non-transferable, etc. And with metro in the midst of a backlog of repairs, bike infrastructure growing but still incomplete, the Silver Line uncompleted, the streetcars not yet in operation, etc. I think the percent carfree will only increase.

That said I think Matt is wrong if he is suggesting that DC should not accommmodate cars at all. However I think the proposed parking changes are quite consistent with accommodating auto use appropriately.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

In order to get the waiver on the parking minimums. The concept is they only get the waiver on the mins IF they waive RPP's.

Well, the legislation is not written that way. It just happened to be the case with the Babe's Billiards site. There is no telling if other ANCs will cooperate in the same way.

The legislation seems more like a workaround until such time that the parking minimums can actually be repealed.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Drumz, you are missing the point.

Let me ask you a question. Would you do away with the proffer system in VA? The system that puts a large portion of the fiscal responsibility for building the schools, paving the roads and buying fire trucks on the backs of the developer who are bringing people to the neighborhood? Why/why not.

It is the developers responsibility. Why? Because their project brought 100 more cars to the neighborhood. The responsibility of finding parking for them shouldn't be "Sally Homeowner" who lives 3 houses down.

You seem to think that everyone who wants to buy in these fictional buildings are carless. They aren't, not by a long shot. And instead of the developer having to deal with the problem they created (as they are made to do in neighboring jurisdictions), the problem is foisted onto the streets of DC because they will simply park on the street.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

Scoot,
I was speaking generally that there are lots of prices that could be charged before you actually get to the value of an actual spot. Or like you said, implement other policies before you get to raising the price.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport

I was speaking generally that there are lots of prices that could be charged before you actually get to the value of an actual spot.

I'm sure there are. But there is no evidence that any of them actually get people to reconsider buying an RPP. That's the goal, isn't it?

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

You seem to think that everyone who wants to buy in these fictional buildings are carless. They aren't, not by a long shot.

Why on earth would you want to buy in one of these buildings if you have a car?

If there is a market for a building entirely filled with carless people, then that will be built. And if there is a market for building with parking spaces then that will be built as well. Nobody is forcing buildings to be built without parking.

by MLD on Jul 9, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

Sidewalk,

It is your responsibility to know where you park your car. I don't know why it's the developers or the city's or my neighbors. Right now though we've got a situation where the city owns a huge number of parking spots and lets people park there as long as they want for 35$. Meanwhile you have regulations that encourage people to bring more cars to DC since developers have to provide spots.

system that puts a large portion of the fiscal responsibility for building the schools, paving the roads and buying fire trucks

I'd agree that these are good things. Parking isn't since cars are dangerous and mostly harmful to the environment.

Would you do away with the proffer system in VA?
I'd rather have clear zoning that acknowledges impact, transportation management that efficiently allocates a scarce resource, and a tax system that ensures that all people/companies pay for the impacts of their projects.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

The fee gouges people that have just moved to DC, and it is no wonder that they try to avoid it.

Not sure if you can call a one-time per-vehicle registration fee of $500 a gouging. As we discuss here all the time, car ownership has negative externalities. Those should be reflected in the cost of owning.

by oboe on Jul 9, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

ET (both posts) - it really depends on the block. My street isn't zoned RPP, but the city comes around all the time for ROSA -- registering out of state vehicle -- and writes tickets for that. It's a very onerous process to prove that your vehicle shouldn't be registered.

http://dmv.dc.gov/service/registration-out-state-automobiles-rosa

Some people on my block compensate by parking off-street. But most everyone has their car registered in DC.

But that's at night. Daytime is different, and yes, within decent walking distance to Metro, unzoned blocks tend to get a lot of out-of-state vehicles that park.

-- since I've written a lot about this, otherwise it isn't worth saying anything, except to Scoot -- Toronto parking permits can cost as much as $50 month, but generally the numbers are right.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/12/testimony-on-parking-policy-in-dc.html

Some day I may create a master parking policy toolbox document listing various options and policies from around North America.

wrt the general post, parking policy in DC is crippled because we don't have an inventory of spaces that's public (see the Seattle document in the post) and policy planning generally doesn't include for profit parking assets.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Scoot,
You'd have to test it to see where the price becomes elastic. I'd hope that the city would enlist some economists to figure this out before actually implementing any new fee. The Fee anyway right now is to handle the administrative costs of the program not to manage demand.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 2:22 pm • linkreport

"The legislation seems more like a workaround until such time that the parking minimums can actually be repealed."

Its all timing. The zoning code allows for parking free buildings, but folks are saying, don't pass the zoning code cause there is no way to exclude such building from RPP's. IIUC CM Wells is simply proposed legislation to overcome that objection. Its unfortunate they can't be passed in the same document, but since parking rules are seperate from the zoning code, thats the way it is.

by EmptyNester on Jul 9, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

I wonder if those who support parking minimums would be willing to create a fund to subsidize the health car costs the rest of us experience due to the pollution and other externalities resulting from automobile use?

by William on Jul 9, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

I didn't want to write anything but Sidewalk's comments compel me to make a wee point: it's fine to drive and to park. I only state one of the most strident positions on the issue because most people argue like you do and there are minimal representatives of the other perspective (except maybe here).

The point of changing the various parking planning requirements is to attract more people to the city who behave in ways that are in concert with a car light lifestyle.

The reality is that the road inventory is pretty much fixed. So is the parking inventory (with the exception of off street parking in multiunit buildings).

As we add more residents, if a majority of them choose to get around mostly by driving, we are f*ed, because our mobility system in the city isn't designed to optimize automobility and it's space constrained. More people chasing the same amount of resources creates problems...

So we need to do more things, including improving transit, and the environment for walking and biking, etc., that encourage the attraction of car light/car free/no car residents. And we need to do it in more parts of the city.

That's what the various proposed regulation and policy changes will do.

And as I repeat ad infinitum, adamant car users ought to be encouraging these changes, because it reduces the number of competitors for scarce road space and scarce on-street car storage space (excepting the competition between bicyclists and automobilists over dedicated cycletracks).

Instead they see this as a threat to their quality of life, and don't consider the long term implications of creating an environment that promotes automobility at the expense of more urban-appropriate mobility decisions. (Again, this is the issue I rail about concerning choice vs. optimality. Most people will make individual choices that aren't optimal at the community scale.)

The thing is that what many people think are "necessity/extenuating circumstances" aren't, they are choices. People can say that they can't do X or Y, but often they can.

Just having a bike for that horrid 20 minute walk to the Metro (you say 5 minutes is acceptable) knocks that trip down to 5 minutes. Or you bike to and from the grocery and a trip that is onerous on foot becomes simple. (except maybe as I get older, we'll see in 15 years or so, then maybe it's Peapod).

That being said, we are members of car2go and Zipcar and rent cars to do various things (go on vacation, do a bunch of stuff for a weekend, etc.). I don't think it means I am a heinous person.

It does mean that I can live 5 miles from the core of the city, 0.8 miles to the Metro, 4 blocks to a bus line, 0.75 miles to a decent commercial district (Takoma), and 1.25 miles to either a Giant or a Safeway without owning a car, and using a car less than once/week on average.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Well said, Richard.

by MLD on Jul 9, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

^ That's Richard's idea of a "wee point" :)

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Scoot -- good point (I tend to write very detailed because I don't want people to be able to savage my arguments).

Note that I refer to this generally as "car heroin". I am straight edge wrt drug use because I am a control freak. Cars can be like drugs. Very very easy to use (and very expensive). We choose to construct our lives to be able to get around without owning one.

(And I didn't mention the health issue. The biggest reason I bike other than mobility is for health reasons. My father and his brother both died at 54 from heart disease. I am not organized enough to join a gym. But I have biked for transportation since 1990. We'll see next year if I live past 54...)

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

@Sidewalk, car-free households are a minority in the District, but a much larger one than you seem to think. The 2011 ACS estimated that 28.9% of DC residents 16 and older live in households without a car, 43.8% live in households with one car, and 27.3% live in households with more than one car. In other words, no-car households, while accounting for under a third of District adults, are nevertheless more common than two-car households.

by cminus on Jul 9, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

In Wards 1 & 2 the figure is above 40%.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Wow - almost 100 comments! Nothing like an article about parking to generate comments. Based on how heated some of these comments are, I can only conclude that it must be quite a burden to spend so much of your life worrying about car storage, never mind gas prices, insurance costs, repairs, etc. Based on this comments thread, it is clear that foregoing car ownership is not only saving me a ton of money, it is also saving me from a lot of angst.

by rg on Jul 9, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

@ Sidewalk "Umm…yes, and then the for-profit developer makes the obvious next choice which is to simply not build the parking and pocket the difference."

Logically, what you are saying here is that building parking has a cost, and that if builders don't have to incur that cost they will not.

You then also must be saying that a developer that is building a building is unlikely to recoup the cost by charging an appropriate value for parking in that building. So if the cost is $100K, they won't get back the $100K plus the profit margin they are accustomed to getting.

If they cannot get back that cost, this means there is insufficient demand for the space. The insufficient demand is caused by either the fact that those who move in don't have cars and don't need the space, or that they can get a space for cheaper elsewhere.

If the former, that means no need for parking minimums. If the latter that means we need to limit the on-street options they might have and price them at or near market prices. And once that happens, the developer would logically decide to build more parking because it they then can get paid for the resident having the convenience of doing so.

If Tommy's bill passes, this will also mean that the developer can discover if he can get back his $100K plus profit or whether people without cars will rent or buy in that building.

by fongfong on Jul 9, 2013 3:36 pm • linkreport

RG-

It also suggests that creating/encouraging discussion about parking is a sound business model.

by Andy on Jul 9, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

I can find you several hundred, maybe even several thousand spaces in the city right now.

Get rid of the restriction on parking in front of building "entrances." I am not talking about blocking driveways. I am talking about the three or four spaces in the middle of the block in front of the doors of some, but not all buildings. Some have them, some don't. Not surprisingly, most churches have them. These are not loading zones, or cab stands (those are already marked off), they simply exist for the sake of existing, taking up valuable spaces for no reason. Even better, in a few cases I have seen, even when the building is closed, or totally vacant, the no parking spaces remain.

By the way, while we're at it, how about Councilmember Wells gets DDOT to get rid of the reserved curbside parking space for the Southeastern University shuttle bus on 6th St SW. SEU hasn't been open for several years, yet they still have reserved street parking for the non-existent shuttle bus or a non-existent university. Sure its just one spot, but its a start.

by dcdriver on Jul 9, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

The real problems concerning congestion, pollution, traffic hazards to pedestrians and bikes, etc. come mainly from off-street parking by DC residents. It gives them the ability to live a suburban life style and drive to work, drive a couple blocks to the store, etc. and be guaranteed a spot when they return. On-street parkers can't do this in many neighborhoods and on-street parkers contribute a small amount to any of the above problems. We should be discouraging car ownership in better ways than dumping on street parkers.

There is plenty of market for apartments with no internal parking available and no RPP rights (and lower rent). We should be after those new residents. The fallacy that new buildings with no internal parking for rent (but with RPP rights) will attract fewer car owners is where people are missing the reality. Newcomers are better off than typical residents and have a higher percentage of car ownership than the 64% norm in DC. My own experience, Portland's experience, and what I've heard from developer friends all confirms this.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 9, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

@fongfong

If Tommy's bill passes...

If the RPP restricted property is a condo, the first wave of buyers may be aware of the RPP restriction but the subsequent waves of buyers may or not know about it.

The RPP restriction will not be advertised as a "feature" in the property sale. The RPP restriction will be an insert somewhere in the 100 or 200 pages-plus of condo docs and may either be missed, or not understood. This is reality in condo sales today. I know this from my own experience on a condo board. Key issues are often missed or not understood in the rush to buy. People who argue that buyers will be buying RPP restricted properties "eyes open" are completely wrong on this point. The reality will be different.

The developer that cut the deal with the District will be long gone. Mayor Wells' office will get calls. He may or may not respond. His office has never responded to my emails (a sum total of two).

by kob on Jul 9, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman,

I think it is great you can live your preferred car free lifestyle. Really. I don’t know much about you other than you seem to be able to work from home full time which certainly makes things easier in the need or lack thereof for a car.

I don’t know if you have kids, or a partner but those things tend to complicate the car free lifestyle. A single person can easily shop for himself via bike, shopping for 3 or 4 becomes an issue. Regardless, congrats, but just by virtue of you being a full time work from home-er sets you apart from the majority of the population.
“The point of changing the various parking planning requirements is to attract more people to the city who behave in ways that are in concert with a car light lifestyle”
Well, ok fair enough. We are 13 years into the DC’s renaissance, its full fledged “once a century” moment. DC has become “the” place to be and nearly displaced NYC in that regard. More than 60,000 people have moved to the District in the past 12 years after losing population for ~50 years. The 60,000 who have moved in are younger, more likely (or so we are told) to be carless, more educated and wealthier than anywhere else in the nation. And do you know what? Despite all of this, they all have cars, or more specifically more people in DC now have cars than had them before. Below is the number of carless people in DC.
1990: 37.4%
2000: 36.9&
2010: 35.7%
(the 38% figure thrown around recently on GGW comes from a 2011 1-year estimate with a high margin of error).
How is this possible? Why are the people moving to DC via the trainloads have cars?

@MLD, “Why on earth would you want to buy in one of these buildings if you have a car?”.

Who knows, why do people buy in any building. They like the neighborhood, the building amenities, the price is right. People buy or rent in buildings all the time today that don’t have parking. The result is they simply park on the street. There isn’t anything that can be done about the buildings without parking now. Letting a developer pocket an extra few million by not building parking in his new building blows the opportunity for ~50-75 years to ameliorate the issue because as we discussed above, it isn't like fewer people moving to DC have cars. You would think getting them off the street would be a good thing.

@Drumz, “Why should developers or the city government be beholden to you or anyone else's extenuating circumstances?

Why should developers be forced to pay for bikeshare stations ( a super popular idea on GGW), give up onsite parking for Zipcars? It seems fine for developers to “be beholden” to something as long as it fits your personal preference.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

@Sidwealk, because sharing modes of transportation, whether it is mass transit, cars or bikes, is much more efficient than car owners storing their cars at the expense of non-car owners.

by Andrew on Jul 9, 2013 4:13 pm • linkreport

Why should developers be forced to pay for bikeshare stations ( a super popular idea on GGW), give up onsite parking for Zipcars? It seems fine for developers to “be beholden” to something as long as it fits your personal preference.

Two things:
1: I've already explained that I just rather have a well defined zoning/transportation plan that negotiate back and forth about what a developer should and shouldn't provide. This obviously extends to parking but could also count towards something like a bikeshare station. You're putting words in my mouth.

2: Again, cars are dangerous and mostly harmful to the environment. Why should the city mandate something that encourages more cars? It's already been outlined that plenty of people who have off street options choose to park on the street. Why is the answer then more off street parking when people aren't utilizing what's there?

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

In-house rental parking is often a wash for developers. It doesn't bring the income that other portions of a new building do. Some underground structure is required for a building over 7 stories, but developers don't want to go past that amount if they can because they are, legitimately, about maximizing profits.

Now that DC is allowing new buildings in commercial zones to have RPP on adjoining residential streets the developers feel tricked. If a tenant can park virtually for free on the street, why will they pay $225/mo for indoor parking.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 9, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

Who knows, why do people buy in any building. They like the neighborhood, the building amenities, the price is right. People buy or rent in buildings all the time today that don’t have parking. The result is they simply park on the street. There isn’t anything that can be done about the buildings without parking now. Letting a developer pocket an extra few million by not building parking in his new building blows the opportunity for ~50-75 years to ameliorate the issue because as we discussed above, it isn't like fewer people moving to DC have cars. You would think getting them off the street would be a good thing.

Forcing buildings to be built with too much parking blows the opportunity for ~50-75 years to ameliorate the issue of too much auto-centricity by encouraging newcomers to DC to bring their cars along with them.

Richard laid it out pretty clearly: for a whole host of reasons (spatial, environmental, etc) the current way of doing things re: cars is untenable if we want to grow this city's population by 25+%. The way to get people to move to DC and not add more cars is to build living arrangements that make having a car difficult - then people will self-select to live there.

by MLD on Jul 9, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@kob
If Tommy’s bill passes, and the ZRR goes into effect as currently proposed,

We don’t need to think about whether future renters or purchasers will be aware of the RPP restrictions. There would be no minimum parking requirement for apartments and condominiums built as a matter of right in transit zones, which would include all the apartment and mixed use zones near neighborhoods which have RPP zones. These developers will not be requesting a waiver of future RPP rights, and none of these residents would face a restriction.

It is, however, correct that it is unlikely that future residents will be aware of the restriction, until they try to obtain an RPP. In fact, in some condominiums built as PUDs with RPP restrictions, agents in the sales office would tell prospective buyers that they could park on neighborhood streets, and these were in buildings that included parking in excess of the minimum parking requirement of 0.25 to 0.5 spaces per unit.

by Mike on Jul 9, 2013 4:24 pm • linkreport

@MLD,

There is a lot of room between "no" parking and a realistic parking minimum.

No one is demanding a developer build 3 spaces per unit, but as it stands, no profit driven enterprise will reduce their ROI by spending millions building parking if they don't have to by law. You could convince me the current minimums are too high, but as I said, there is a lot of space between "none" and some.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

"How is this possible? Why are the people moving to DC via the trainloads have cars?"

The people moving in have substantially higher incomes than the existing residents, on average. In the USA people with higher incomes are, ceteris paribis, more likely to have cars. Even if you toss out the 38% and say the rate is roughly stable, thats a big change, as with higher incomes we would expect a signifant decline in car free households. Also using the decenial census numbers masks the changes that started to occur around 2006, and that have continued since 2010.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

"In fact, in some condominiums built as PUDs with RPP restrictions, agents in the sales office would tell prospective buyers that they could park on neighborhood streets, "

I would think they would be opening themselves up to a lawsuit in that case. Its always possible sales people will lie - we have a number of legal remedies for that.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

There is a lot of room between "no" parking and a realistic parking minimum.

Yes there is, that's why the proposal is to remove an arbitrary mandate and instead build what's needed in a certain area. Where did you get the idea that this would ban parking?

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

You'd be surprised, but I don't believe that everyone's situation is exactly like mine. But it is possible to live that way. Instead you focus on why it isn't. Sure it isn't, for many people, but again, the point is to focus on the "killer app" of the city, which is sustainable transportation enabled living, not to makeover the city for a mobility mode it can never be good at.

When I have jobs that aren't at home, I endeavor to apply for jobs that are accessible via sustainable means. (If I would have ended up working in Baltimore County permanently, it might have meant moving and/or buying a car. The economic downturn prevented me from needing to make that decision. Instead I biked and used MARC.)

Yes, if we had a child or more than one, we'd be less likely to be car free (fwiw, I wrote about that in 2005, http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/update-six-reasons-why-people-dont.html). But many people prove it's possible to have kids and not rely on a car.

I know a couple with two kids living a couple blocks from Lincoln Park who carshare some but mostly use tarnsit. It still boggles my mind that ANC Commissioner and DCG employee Tony Goodman bikes with his very precious cargo--his young son--in a front mounted bike seat.

cf. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7210635252/

It is about making choices that take transportation and mobility into consideration at the outset. Yes there are constraints. They are just different from the constraints you work under.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

I would think they would be opening themselves up to a lawsuit in that case. Its always possible sales people will lie - we have a number of legal remedies for that.

Of course they would.

But noting exposure, and winning a suit, are two very different things.

by goldfish on Jul 9, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

"You could convince me the current minimums are too high, but as I said, there is a lot of space between "none" and some."

Around the region localities are looking at lowering minimums but leaving a minimum in place. In Tysons, Fairfax is examining a parking maximum (because road capacity is so scarce there). The proposed DC code for transit served areas and small buildings, would be zero minimum, but also no maximum. That too could be seen as a compromise.

Note that there are presumably some economies of scale in building a parking garage, so requiring say an 80 unit building to have 16 spaces could be the worst of both worlds - adding a significant cost, but not providing that much off street parking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 9, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Sidewalk

Why do you assume that no parking minimums = no parking?

I have cited to current cases where the developer is proposing more parking than is required. This trend will continue despite the absence of minimums. Do you know why? Because there are a lot of people who will be willing to pay for it.

by Andrew on Jul 9, 2013 4:43 pm • linkreport

No one is demanding a developer build 3 spaces per unit, but as it stands, no profit driven enterprise will reduce their ROI by spending millions building parking if they don't have to by law.

Many development projects already build more parking than is required by the minimum. Why do they do that if you insist that this would be reducing their ROI?

by MLD on Jul 9, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

There is a lot of room between "no" parking and a realistic parking minimum.

Clever phrasing.

Again, no parking minimum does not mean no parking. It simply means no requirement.

The reason why a minimum of zero is a good policy is that any minimum requirement must apply across the board within that zone.

There is lots of evidence that the market for housing (or office space) is far more sophisticated than that. There are sub-markets within the larger markets. Any minimum requirement means that developers cannot meet the needs of those sub-markets; they must instead meet the requirement first.

Just as some developers opt for luxury finishes, some opt for open-concept living rooms, some opt for modern design while others prefer a more classical look - there is a diversity in what people want. The same is true of parking. A minimum of zero means that parking can be provided more flexibly. Developers can build on-site when feasible, they can arrange for off-site parking if that is easier (and that might better enable redevelopment of small, urban infill lots), or they can opt to build no parking at all. The point is that this flexibility is a good thing, and we should grant it to devleopers by right. They should not need to ask for permission to meet the wide range of sub-markets out there, nor could any one single number in a zoning code ever hope to meet the needs of such a complex marketplace.

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

many other good comments.

e.g., Andrew's point about sharing, my response is that why should car owners be more privileged about using and paying for on street parking space than car users.

It f*ing pisses me off that I pay far more to use Zipcar and Car2Go because of the costs they pay for using public space to the city than do DC residents who own cars. When DC changed to an auction, Zipcar's prices went up about $2 minimum on avg. (although part of it likely had to do with other cost increases as well).

WRT AWITC's point about income and car ownership, while it's true, I think it is significant as mentioned earlier in the thread that DC households have fewer cars than national averages. I am sure more cars/hh than in NYC or SF, but over time this will change.

And yes wrt drumz (and others) who already made the point, the thing that is going on is "transportation demand management" and promoting optimal mobility.

Sidewalk argues that promoting transit or bike sharing or car sharing as part of a development approval is preferencing particular modes that "we like", it's not. It's about preferencing particular and optimal modes in the context of transportation demand management in the urban context.

I have written about this so much that I am bored with the topic, this entry is as good as any:
http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-i-would-approach-organizing-dc.html

wrt Mike's point about "due diligence" and transportation (not how he termed it), I am not sure exactly how it works in realtor disclosures wrt historic preservation requirements. It would be possible and reasonable to require similar disclosures with regard to parking and other forms of mobility, and the creation of a standard form that could be printed up and displayed for each dwelling unit by a real estate outfit.

E.g., a form for me would indicate that my block doesn't have RPP, you can have a garage/off street parking on the lot because we have alley access, is 4 blocks from the 62/63 line and X blocks from a line going to Ft. Totten (I never use it), is 0.75 mile from Takoma Station (red) and 1.4 miles from Fort Totten (red, green--and yes, sometimes we walk there instead of Takoma, but rarely), currently there are car share vehicles at x, y, z locations, + car2go, it is 1.25 mile to a full line grocery, 0.75 mile to a pharmacy and to a hardware store, 0.25 and 0.75 mile to a post office, etc. (Like walkscore).

It would be interesting to come up with a standard nice printout, based on GIS and these kinds of criteria.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

I forgot bike sharing stations and bike lanes/trails/cycletracks...

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

Note that I think it's wacked that WMATA thinks that listing supermarkets, traditional commercial districts, pharmacies, etc. on their maps is a form of 'promoting private business' so they don't do it.

... but that showing a shopping center (but not a traditional commercial district, e.g., the posted maps in Takoma Station do not label the Old Town Takoma commercial district) on Rockville Pike isn't promoting private business. (But this is a different issue, sorry.)

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

While parking is certainly related to the density it's also related to travel patterns. Not everyone needs to drive. Many many developed cities around the world get by fine with the majority of trips on foot, bike, or transit.

by Alan B. on Jul 9, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

When it comes to carrot-and-stick methods, I think the high number of people with cars moving into street-parking-saturated areas indicates sticks don't work.

If anything street parking, especially in commercial zones, needs to slowly be changed to dedicated-lane rapid transit. Once we get a decent transit in DC, and not until then, you'll see peoples' reliance on cars change.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 9, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

@Alex,

What is the reluctance to mandate a base minimum?

And YES, no parking minimums will result in the developer building zero parking spots. People seem to forget that it was the ENTIRE reason parking minimums were create.

We aren't asking the city to mandate Viking ranges over GE ranges.

Why do we (District Government) mandate minimum charges for organizations who want to have a street festival, additional monies for cleanup and police? Because they won't provide it or clean up on their own

Why do we mandate minimum open space requirements from developers? Because left to their own devices, they would choose to maximize density(i.e. profit) and build more offices/condos at the expense of the open space.

I could go on, but you see the point.

@Richard Layman,

First off, Zipcars spots that were lost in auction were in prime commerical districts, and were (what used to be) metered spots. Hardly the same thing as some non-commerical neighborhood street spot in Takoma Park in front of someones house.

Secondly, Zipcar is a for profit enterprise whose pricing structure was based on getting those 84 street spots for free. Then it had to pay a paltry $200 a year for them. Their business model was/is highly flawed.

Lastly, Zipcar lost 68 of their 84 public parking spots, leaving them to pay what you call "market price" for 16 spots. Furthermore Zipcar had nearly 900 vehicles in the DC Metro at the time. Paying more for 16 of them (1.7% of their local fleet) was a convenient excuse for them to raise fares region wide, but in truth had nothing to do with it.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 5:15 pm • linkreport

Why should developers be forced to pay for bikeshare stations ( a super popular idea on GGW), give up onsite parking for Zipcars?

I don't think anyone on GGW has ever stated that developers should be "forced" to pay for Bikeshare -- you can argue semantics but the word "forced" was used purposefully to elicit emotional response.

Developers sometimes offer bikeshare stations in exchange for something -- a blessing from the ANC, for instance. But no one - certainly not the HPRB nor the ZC, is forcing them to.

The truth is that developers are going to file for variances to the parking minimum regardless of whether some people feel the need to own a car.

In the past few years, applications for variances have skyrocketed. There were 29 such applications between 2010 and 2012, and that number is even higher this year. And eventually the minimums are going to be repealed. I'm guessing it will happen within the next mayoral term.

If you don't want to live in those developments, you don't have to. But that doesn't seem to be your concern. Your concern seems to be that your plentiful parking will disappear.

I can assure you that repealing the parking minimums will have little or no effect on the availability of on-street parking in high demand neighborhoods.

In those neighborhoods, demand already far outstrips supply. In order to reduce demand you have to come up with far more creative options than additional off-site parking.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

And YES, no parking minimums will result in the developer building zero parking spots.
Except of course, the examples that have been provided that counter this claim. You're ignoring those.

People seem to forget that it was the ENTIRE reason parking minimums were create.

So it's your contention that no parking lots were available before 1958 or that no parking would have been built otherwise? That's a bold claim as well, and again we have evidence to the contrary.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 5:19 pm • linkreport

Sidewalk,
And all of your claims on predicated on the assumption that the current mandate is working well. I don't think that's the case since it's apparently still hard to park in many areas of DC.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

Sidewalk -- wrt Zipcar and profits that's immaterial. The costs flow through to the users, who are DC residents. I wouldn't care so much if the RPP was something like $200. Then it would be somewhat equal.

Why should resident car owners be privileged price-wise in using the space compared to resident car users as we are both DC residents. The thing is that because Zipcar can't use spots in residential areas they pay for off-street use spaces, and this still ends up increasing the price. So even if I am off on numbers, it still matters. (Plus car2go pays $2K per year per car...)

Tom C -- it would be interesting to study new residents and see how their car use behavior changes over time. Do you ever watch House Hunters International and see some of the people and how they ship their cars from the US to Spain or Germany... I wonder how their behavior changes. The shows I've seen they end up living in center cities.

2. and your point about street space and parking vs. transit (or biking) is something I think about a lot. It's why I am actually more in favor of off street parking provision more than I used to be. The amount of street space we have is scarce, there are better uses than parking.

E.g., on M St. in Georgetown both widening sidewalks and bike lanes justify removing a lane of parking.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

@Richard - I think Car2Go pays the $2k in part to exempt itself from parking tickets.

by Scoot on Jul 9, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

What is the reluctance to mandate a base minimum?

Two reasons:

First, because there is no single correct answer to the question "what is the right amount of parking?" The answer to that question will depend on the project; it will depend on the specific sub-market the developer is targeting, it will depend on the constructability on the site, it will depend on the geometry, it will depend on construction costs, etc. You can ask what the right amount of parking to require in any given zone is, and the answer will be "it depends." This is not the basis for a strict regulation.

Second, in many cases (again, because each case is different, the answer will not always be the same), the answer to that question ("what is the right amount of parking to require on this site?") will be zero parking spaces. How many parking spaces should we build here? The right answer might often be zero. We know this is true in DC, as we have lots of zero-parking buildings that prove the market is there for those products. We do not want a regulation that prevents these projects from being built, therefore the minimum requirement should not interfere with these projects.

To recap: we don't know what the 'right' number of spaces is, but we do know that the 'right' number will vary from project to project, and we also know that the 'right' number will sometimes be zero. Therefore, the code should require zero spaces; people would of course be free to build more than the requirement, just as they often do now. This policy is the only one that enables any given project to build the 'right' number of parking spaces.

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

@Richard,

If I as a private residents and car owner could pay for 24/7 parking onstreet parking in a metered spot in the center of dense commercial corridor, then you would have a point. As it stands, you are equating the value of guaranteed 24/7 onstreet parking on say, U street, with non-dedicated parking in a residential neighborhood. Completely different.

@Drumz, and getting harder by the day. Thinking the tens of thousands of new DC arrivals with cars won't park on the street is short sighted at best.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

So why is it better to keep the minimum and keep encouraging people to bring cars rather than fix the current problem including a requirement that all buildings require parking regardless of whether that building needs it?

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 5:46 pm • linkreport

"Arlington zones are smaller. Their hours can include night-time restrictions."

And both of these Arlington ideas make sense for Washington. The current ward-based system of zone parking defeats the purpose of RPP since it enables someone from Spring Valley (or what OP calls the "enhanced transit zone" of Glover Park) to park all day for free in Woodley Park, while they take Metro. Good for them, but not so good for the old lady in Woodley, or Georgetown, who gets no benefit out of RPP as a result.

Night-time restrictions also make sense. Back when the commercial districts of Chevy Chase DC or Cleveland Park were characterized by more stores with daytime patronage, the present RPP system worked ok. It allowed 2 hour parking on nearby residential streets, while ensuring that DC residents coming home in the evening could find parking reasonably close to where they live. But as those commercial areas have become restaurant and entertainment destinations, the present RPP doesn't work so well, since the period of peak commercial demand for street parking co-incides with when residents of those neighborhoods are coming home from work for the day. The solution is for DC to follow the Arlington and Bethesda models in such areas to extend RPP into the evening to keep up with the shift in commercial demand. Plus, won't that encourage more restaurant patrons to take transit, rather than drive? :)

by Axel on Jul 9, 2013 5:50 pm • linkreport

@Alex,

"The answer to that question will depend on the project; it will depend on the specific sub-market the developer is targeting"

Submarket? Every condo and apartment (non public dollars) built in DC the past 13 years has been a "luxury" condo or apartment built for those with lots of disposable wealth. The "submarket" is pretty clear, and that "submarket" has more vehicles than do the residents of the District did 20 years ago.

Ok, how do we mandate open space requirements then? How do we mandate loading dock requirements? How do we mandate required setbacks?

You are taking something that is pretty simple, and works very well in a lot of places far more transit friendly and urbanist than DC (Arlington, I am looking at you)and trying to add needless complexity to it to try to prove a point. You assign a base number of spots per unit. Done. Full stop.

There is plenty of room for discussion as to where that number falls. 1 per unit, .20 spots per unit, doesn't matter but the Developers project will introduce cars into the neighborhood, and by the looks of it, more per capita than before.

If a developer can' proforma the project to include parking, they will do something different. Just because a Developer can't "afford" to build to base LEED requirements in the District, doesn't mean he gets a pass.

@Drumz

"Encourage". DC has been doing everything it could the past decade to "encourage" people to lose their cars.

The result, 60,000 people moved in and more (per capita) of them have cars then the ones living here did before.

DC wants to encourage smart, wealthy people to move to town. Thats a good thing. The issue many here seem to want to ignore is the young and wealthy like their cars and are bringing them into DC in greater numbers. Some of them could do without, most couldn't, not convenietly anyway (or they would have) If those people can't park in the building they live in, they will park on the streets.

This has been brought up before but if there was no need for parking in transit centric neighbohoods, why are their garages filled? Condo and apartment projects in Columbia Heights have parking and their garages (two I've been in) are full or nearly so at various times of the day.

How do you encourage these people to lose their cars? Get metro to function in a way that isn't an embarrasment for one, but even if you do that, you have to realize not EVERYONE who lives in DC has a life that allows them to be car free.

by Sidewalk on Jul 9, 2013 6:02 pm • linkreport

Sidewalk -- I don't think it's different. It's not like you are ever really denied of the ability to park in your RPP district, because of lack of inventory. Or do you end up resorting to using commercial parking. I just don't see any difference between car users and car owners in terms of privileged cheap access to car storage space on the street. Again, I have no problem with keeping my current Zipcar + car2go rates so long as residents with RPPs start paying more. Why should you have privileged use of this scarce resource?

Scoot -- yes, u r right about what the car2go payment covers.

Axel -- DC does have differentiated RPP in addition to the "performance parking" program, but apparently not much in the core of the city (wards 2 and 6 specifically) so most people think it isn't possible. Outside of the core, in Ward 4, the districts are coded to ANC. So there are four different subzones. I presume it has to do with the subway mostly. (Takoma, Fort Totten, Petworth) I don't know how it's set up in W5. I know there had been a lot of outer W5 residents driving in and parking on the street around the Brookland Metro. Or in W3. Next time I'm over there, I'll look at the signs.

... and yes, there should be different policies at night (and weekends) where needed. DPW does have a night shift of parking enforcement officers.

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 6:07 pm • linkreport

“And all of your claims on predicated on the assumption that the current mandate is working well. I don't think that's the case since it's apparently still hard to park in many areas of DC.”

I have read here many times how 38% of DC households are car-free, meaning that 62% of DC households have one or more cars. So, it isn’t surprising to see that it is still hard to park in many areas of DC when there a large pre-1958 housing stock including many apartments with inadequate parking and minimum parking requirements for apartment and condominium s that range from one space for every two units to one space for every four units (i.e., a space for 25-50% of the households, less than the average share of households with at least one car).

As noted above, there is a lot of room between no minimum parking requirement and a realistic parking minimum, and it might be that the realistic parking minimum is closer to Arlington’s minimum, where there is a minimum parking requirement in excess of one space per unit, even near transit and smaller RPP zones, than DC’s minimum parking requirement of one space per two units or less.

by Mike on Jul 9, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

Sidewalk -- submarket in RE terms (as opposed to market segment) means a specific geographical area, e.g., Columbia Heights vs. Capitol Hill vs. Mount Vernon Triangle vs. U Street vs. Georgetown vs. Friendship Heights vs. Petworth, etc.

As far as the market segment goes, yes, all of the housing pretty much targets high income demographics. Unless it is subsidized. One that's where the money is. Two, developable envelope is smaller in DC because of the height limit, so it's higher cost and therefore there is less of an incentive to offer different types of housing targeting lower income segments (cf WC Smith East of the River). (E.g. garden apartments can be cheaper to build but the land values in DC make it cost ineffective to offer this particular "product" etc.)

also check out the websites of Comstock Homes (a new development on NH Ave.) or EYA. These are SFH detached and attached homes, reasonably "expensive" and with limited lots (basically zero lot houses).

by Richard Layman on Jul 9, 2013 6:14 pm • linkreport

Nope. You've got an increasingly affluent population and modest growth in car free households. This is concurrent this is concurrent with an increase of spaces. Meanwhile this story and many others point out that people aren't utilizing off street spaces. This counters your claim and shows that the minimum doesn't work in terms of making street parking easier. Meanwhile other buildings are require more parking than what's required, this proves Alex correct that yes, each building and location is unique even if you declare all new buildings as "luxury".

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 6:26 pm • linkreport

Mike,

I don't see why it's expected that required levels of future parking will fix today's problems. Indeed it's been shown that reliance on minimums have exacerbated the problem. It's better to just figure out a different way to manage street parking.

Moreover, if you choose to live in a house without parking I don't see why that means others who wish to build must require it for their tenants. That's just rent seeking at that point. Even if your building was built pre-zoning code.

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 6:37 pm • linkreport

@drumz, The minimums are in place, and clearly inadequate, to address the impact of new development. The new development should not exacerbate the existing parking problems. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we require the developer to solve existing shortages, simply not to make them worse.

As you have pointed out earlier, the current minimum parking requirements in DC are inadequate to serve that purpose. If the current parking requirements are inadequate, the solution clearly isn’t their elimination. The minimum parking requirement is far below the vehicle ownership rates, one space for 25-50% of the units, when, on average, residents of 62% of the units own cars, and there are regulations in place that allow developers to provide less parking when justified.

If a developer fails to provide adequate underground parking when constructing the building, this can only be corrected later with more surface or structural parking, or with deeper underground garages in subsequent development. None of these solutions is superior, from an environmental perspective, to building adequate parking underground when the building was constructed.

BTW, I do have off-street parking, but the impact of spillover parking does change the quality of life in the neighborhood, and the impact is hardest on those neighbors who do not have off-street parking and are unable to add it.

by Mike on Jul 9, 2013 6:59 pm • linkreport

Mike,

So it's your contention that parking minimums need to increase? I don't think that's in the cards. Regardless that's a bad idea because it'll drive up the cost of housing in an expensive market, and it will barely alleviate the existing problem because of so many buildings with a non existent or low parking ratio.

Why not let developers figure it out case by case since this regulation isn't working?

by drumz on Jul 9, 2013 8:54 pm • linkreport

Submarket? Every condo and apartment (non public dollars) built in DC the past 13 years has been a "luxury" condo or apartment built for those with lots of disposable wealth. The "submarket" is pretty clear, and that "submarket" has more vehicles than do the residents of the District did 20 years ago.

The term submarket can be a little vague - as Richard notes, it usually means different sections of the city. But it also means different segments of the market you are selling to: singles? DINKs? Families? One bedrooms? Three bedrooms? There is a whole lot of variety out there to market to - size, location, quality of finishes, amenities, price points, etc.

As far as new development serving 'luxury' market segments, I think you miss the variety within those developments. There's also the fact that most new market-rate development will appear to be 'luxury', just as (all else being equal) newer cars are more expensive than older ones.

The reason not to fear this is that today's luxury units are tomorrow's affordable units - if we allow supply to meet demand.

Conversely, the research shows that when you have legal requirements that drive up the cost of construction (such as on-site parking requirements), those costs must be passed on to the buyers. And that means that developers have little choice but to target the luxury buyers - that is the only way to cover the increased costs from things like on-site parking requirements.

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

You are taking something that is pretty simple, and works very well in a lot of places far more transit friendly and urbanist than DC (Arlington, I am looking at you)and trying to add needless complexity to it to try to prove a point. You assign a base number of spots per unit. Done. Full stop.

I'm absolutely in favor of simplicity. My really simple solution is that the on-site parking requirement should be zero. Nice and simple.

On-site parking requirements do not work well. Don Shoup wrote a great book about it: http://www.amazon.com/High-Cost-Parking-Updated-Edition/dp/193236496X

by Alex B. on Jul 9, 2013 9:25 pm • linkreport

1) I'm really offended by city residents who own or rent older housing stock and have determined that they are the first class citizens who can park for free on the city's streets and everyone else can go poop in their beds. Yeah, take the city's streets and use them as a private parking lot and then the politicians are afraid to challenge you. Good use of democracy. This is just about one large and vocal group overpowering smaller and poorly defined groups - future residents, RPP-free residents, etc. I hope all kinds of buildings like this are built and then someone challenges this in court and it's all thrown out and then all the people in these formerly RPP-free buidings all buy SUVs and park them. Just park them. Drive them only to get them inspected. And otherwise keep them parked so much that ruts develop under their wheels. I'm not against people parking for free on the public street; I'm offended by people appropriating public land for person gain and then blocking development until someone legitimizes that appropriation. There cannot be a plainer example of converting the public interest into a private interest. I think from now on the group holding this position should be called, "parking thieves" because they want to take public land without paying a fair price for it.

2) Perhaps AAA thinks all garage spaces should be free and publicly available. Why not? Since we're all about appropriating city property when it comes to parking let's also steal some private property for our own personal use .... I'm going to park my car in your condo building tonight and then park it in your office's parking garage tomorrow morning. That would, of course, help make on-street and off-street parking more similar from the standpoint of those in need of parking (although you'd need to post the number of vacant spaces in garages or drivers wont want to go circulating...) and it would also be in line the past precedent of people in need of parking taking land that does not belong to them for their own private use. So, why not?

by Solution Giver on Jul 10, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

Frankly, I find it difficult to understand how OP's proposal to eliminate parking minimums for new development can be squared with the D.C. Comprehensive Plan, which is enacted by the D.C. Council, not the Zoning Commission, and has the force of law. If one takes the NW quadrant, for example, the Comprehensive Plan (Rock Creek West Element) requires what if refers to as "parking problems" and the need for "improved parking" along the Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenue corridors be addressed, particularly in connection with new development. The Comp Plan also requires that existing low density residential areas in the vicinity of such corridors be "protect[ed] and preserve[d]...from the adverse effects of development."

Under OP's proposal, both Conn. and Wisconsin Avenues for their entire lengths are considered "enhanced tranit corridors" (regular riders of the 30s buses might disagree!)in which off-street parking minimums for new development would be waived. But that contravenes the governing law of the Comp Plan, which requires that existing parking issues be addresssed and the parking impact of new development be mitigated -- not compounded and made worse.

by Axel on Jul 10, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

@Axel

I don't believe that is accurate. I understood the draft maps to suggest that Wisconsin Avenue, from Cleveland Park to Western Ave to be a transit zone (30's buses and metro), and CT Ave from Woodley Park to Van Ness to be a transit zone (L Buses and Metro).

@Mike Residents claim today that traffic is insufferable and parking is difficult. If traffic is already insufferable, then why do we want to have a policy that encourages more cars into the city?

by William on Jul 10, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Axel -- the Comp Plan doesn't have the same force of law that the Zoning Maps and the Zoning regulations do. The Comp Plan is "precatory" not absolute. (A lawyer can explain this better than I.)

This is an online definition.

precatory adj. referring to a wish or advisory suggestion which does not have the force of a demand or a request which under the law must be obeyed. Thus "precatory words" in a will or trust would express a "hope that my daughter will keep the house in the family," but do not absolutely prevent her from selling it.

Anyway, the Comp. Plan is "vision" and can be read and argued in many ways.

WRT specifics, the Comp. Plan said that the 5900 block of GA Ave. where Walmart would go should be a mixed use including residential anchor of that node. The zoning code says that the minimum requirement includes single use retail.

The Comp. Plan has no authority to force the developer to do what it suggests. Read the Large Tract Review report on that project to see how this worked in practice.

http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/Across+the+City/Zoning/Citywide+Development+Review+and+Zoning+Reports/Large+Tract+Review/WARD4+2011-03+5929+GEORGIA+AVENUE+NW+LARGE+TRACT+REVIEW+REPORT

by Richard Layman on Jul 10, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

another way to think about this is "may" vs. "shall". May is a suggestion. Shall is required.

by Richard Layman on Jul 10, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Seems to me that there is no way to have dense development and have enough street parking for everyone who wants to park on the street. We can't really expect to change the mistakes of the past where multi-unit buildings were constructed without sufficient parking and the residents were allowed to get RPP. We can plan more intelligently going forward. Multi-unit buildings going forward are not eligible for RPP, and the developer can decide how much parking they want to put in, and on what terms for residents. They must disclose to renters or buyers that they will not get RPP, and the buyer or renter can decide whether the parking cost, or the lack of parking is acceptable. Allowing developers to build buildings without sufficient parking for residents, and those residents get RPPs is externalizing a cost on existing residents. Remember we are talking about projects where developers are getting new higher density zoning. This increases the value of the property. The units they build will have greater value if they include parking. If you allow them to get the large increase in value from the upzoning, AND externalize the cost of parking onto existing residents they are getting a huge benefit.

I agree with those who see the very large zones as a problem. I know people who have applied to get their street zoned, not because they have problems parking near their home, but because they want to drive to park in front of my house near the metro.

by Mary M M Melchior on Jul 10, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

the Comprehensive Plan (Rock Creek West Element) requires what if refers to as "parking problems" and the need for "improved parking" along the Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenue corridors be addressed, particularly in connection with new development.

And removing the zoning requirement for parking is not inconsistent with those goals.

On-site parking requirements will not solve issues of on-street parking management. Solving "parking problems" and providing "improved parking" will require a mechanism other than the zoning code.

by Alex B. on Jul 10, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

All of this talk about zoning regs re-write may be just that. A friend who is involved with commercial real estate told me yesterday that Harriet Tregoning at OP is on her way out. Whether or not you think it's about time (I do), OP is probably in store for a period of reorganization and retrenchment.

by Bob on Jul 10, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

One more thing about carsharing spaces... I can't believe I forgot to write about this earlier. Another and the best way to think about the provision of such spaces to "for profit" providers (and how would you treat nonprofit carshare providers, which exist in other jurisdictions?) is in terms of how carsharing provision becomes a method for managing parking demand.

Many households that do carshare make decisions to not own a car or to own fewer cars, compared to what they would do without access to carshare. This helps reduce the number of cars overall, which helps to ease parking demand problems.

Hoboken NJ probably is the best example of a jurisdiction using carshare to reduce in dense neighborhoods the number of cars owned by residents.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/03/nyregion/car-sharing-gamble-in-hoboken-has-mixed-reactions.html?_r=0

They say the reaction is mixed. Of 3000 member households, 25% said they had given up a car/not bought one. And the number of residential permits issued dropped from 16,000 to 15,000.

I'd say those are pretty significant numbers.

by Richard Layman on Jul 11, 2013 6:44 am • linkreport

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