Greater Greater Washington

Parking


Is caving on parking minimums a smart move?

On Friday, DC planning director Harriet Tregoning announced she's giving into yet another demand from zoning update opponents: to reduce rather than eliminate minimum parking requirements in transit-rich areas outside downtown. Will this smooth the path forward for the remaining provisions, or only put other progressive changes at risk?


Photo by Blue Mountains Local Studies on Flickr.

Until last week, the Office of Planning (OP)'s plan was to eliminate parking minimums downtown and along corridors with Metro, streetcar, or high-frequency bus lines. Low-density neighborhoods of detached houses, and even moderate density neighborhoods of smaller row houses, would have retained minimums, though not for buildings of 10 units and fewer.

Now, only the highest density "downtown" neighborhoods, including developing centers like NoMA and the ballpark area, would have no parking minimums. Elsewhere, the minimums for multifamily residential will be 1 space per 3 units away from transit, and half that near transit, Tregoning explained.

Instead of exempting buildings up to 10 units, the new proposal only exempts buildings up to 4 units, and in "single-family" neighborhoods, even a single-family home will require a parking space unless it has no alley access. That means that nobody will have to put in a driveway curb cut for a single-family house, but might have to pave over a backyard even where street parking is plentiful.

In addition, property owners will be able to apply for an easier "special exception" to further reduce or waive parking minimums, rather than the tougher variance standard in effect now.

There is one significant step forward: OP had previously said that parking minimum changes (outside downtown) wouldn't go into effect if and when the zoning update won approval. Instead, there would be another, subsequent process to "map" the transit zones in each neighborhood. That would likely have led to years more of acrimony.

Instead, Tregoning said, OP now proposes to simply write rules so that the half-as-strict parking minimum rule automatically kicks in for properties within ½ mile of a Metro station or ¼ mile of a streetcar line or designated WMATA priority bus corridor. (I forgot to ask, but hopefully Circulator lines will also qualify.)

That means that if the Zoning Commission approves the plan, property owners near transit could see less onerous requirements more quickly than when there was going to be a mapping phase. While this is a step forward, OP could always have used this formula to define areas with no parking minimums at all. This didn't have to go hand in hand with retaining minimums.

This change isn't the right policy; it's just a political choice

There's no doubt the zoning update has engendered fierce debate. It's a constant topic of heated argument on neighborhood listservs, particularly in neighborhoods like Tenleytown, Chevy Chase, and Cleveland Park. A small group of opponents, almost all from west of Rock Creek Park, have shown up at hearings over 5 years to object to nearly every change of any kind.

From Tregoning's statements to the press, it's clear she's made the change in order to appease opponents, not because she's actually convinced keeping parking minimums is the better policy. She told Aaron Wiener at the Washington City Paper that abolishing requirements "was really wigging people out," and Mike Debonis at the Post quoted her saying, "A lot of people were very, very concerned with the concept of no parking minimums."

She also told DeBonis, "I'm not an ideologue. I'm very practical. The practical effect is not very different." That may be true in most cases, though it still means some owners will build garages they know aren't necessary, simply to avoid asking for zoning relief.

But the practical effect will be very different if the DC Zoning Commission further waters down the proposal before giving it final approval. Tregoning and associate director Jennifer Steingasser promised to transmit proposal to the commission by July 29. The commission, a hybrid federal-local body, has the final say on the plans, and can change them or ask OP to revise them in any way.

Opponents will pressure the Zoning Commission to scale back any changes, and there will be a strong temptation at least in the minds of some commissioners to shrink any proposal that meets substantial opposition. Had OP continued to propose eliminating minimums, the commission might have decided to keep some but reduce them. Now that OP set a new baseline of only reducing minimums, the commission may well decide to reduce them somewhat less.

Tregoning says she thinks the most recent change will appease some opponents, though some are blasting the new plan almost as vehemently. Chevy Chase resident and stalwart zoning update foe Sue Hemberger called the new proposal "repackaging [the] same anti-car policy." Alma Gates told Mike Debonis she's "not sure [the change] goes far enough," and DeBonis paraphrased Juliet Six saying she thinks the move "was calibrated to create an illusion of consensus."


The Office of Planning and director Harriet Tregoning have caved once again on parking minimums.

Retreat after retreat, and for what?

Why would this change engender any greater harmony, when OP has watered down its proposals several times in the last 5 years, never to any effect? Intransigence has paid off for those who opposed the zoning update since day one. They have managed to delay the update by at least a year, and bully the Office of Planning into successive rounds of scaling back.

OP has cut the fat, then the muscle, and now the bone from its plans. In 2008, the zoning update team was talking about eliminating all parking minimums and even establishing maximums. Travis Parker, the head of the update at the time, decided to leave in some minimums only in commercial corridors far from transit, because opponents say parking is most needed in those areas. Later, OP decided not to push forward on maximums.

When Parker moved to Colorado and Deputy Director Jennifer Steingasser took over, she backed off further by promising to delay lower minimums around transit until after a further "mapping" process. It looked like Steingasser hoped that promise would quiet the small group of furious critics; it did not. Will this latest change be different?

Ironically, earlier last week, Matt Yglesias wrote in Slate that it's a bad idea to reduce rather than eliminate minimums. Among other reasons, he said,

On a concrete level, this is a form of compromise that really fails in its goal of de-mobilizing opposition. If you are a street parker and your priority in parking policy is to defend your access to cheap street parking, then any reduction in parking mandates should spark opposition. Watering the reform down doesn't lead to any genuine reconciliation of interests.
Maybe Tregoning has the pulse of the Zoning Commissionafter all, her agency works with the commissioners day week after week, on hundreds of Planned Unit Developments and map amendments every year. Maybe by making this particular change, as opposed to all of the other changes they've made to appease opposition over the last 5 years, maybe zoning commissioners will say, ah, it's clear OP has listened to public input, and we will therefore pass their proposal.

I hope so, but I think it's much more likely that opponents will use this concession to try to get another concession, and zoning commissioners will still cut something back even more. Everyone wants to strike a compromise. But when one zoning update head compromises, then he leaves, his boss takes over, and she compromises, then the agency director compromises, and finally zoning commissioners compromise, we're left with is a weak set of changes that do little to truly position the city for the future.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Well, I think we can all agree that that is a horrible photoshopped visual pun.

by Gray on Jul 15, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

"Now, only the highest density "downtown" neighborhoods, including developing centers like NoMA and the ballpark area, would have no parking minimums."

are you sure of that? If so, thats good. No minimums in Cap Riverfront and NoMa (and I assume SW ecodistrict) are important.

As for further compromise, again its up to the smart growth people now to put pressure on the zoning commission.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

Given the comments of the zoning rewrite opponents thus far, it is clear they will continue to push for the status quo, or worse, more parking. It is really a shame the Office of Planning has watered down the impact of a 21st century zoning code to the point that it looks like my fathers Chevrolet (parking).

by William on Jul 15, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

It's good to know that feelings about the future of parking is what really drives policy than anything else. All you have to do is feel that the changes will be significant and then decide it's "anti-car" and voila! Status Quo! Where driving and parking in DC is free and easy.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

And yeah, I get it. Politics is the art of the possible. But its still amazing to me that all of this is predicated on a an actual celebration of not having anything concrete to back up the reason to back either the current or newly proposed numbers.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

Why do people consider this a cave-in or a loss?

Admittedly, I have only read the Washington Post article and not the latest Office of Planning documents about the zoning code but it proposes to eliminate minimum parking requirements for at least SW Waterfront and NOMA (two of the fastest growing areas in DC), it will reduce parking minumums from .5 per unit to .33, and it will atill allow special exceptions (i.e. Babe's Billards) from the parking minumums. Additionally, hopefully it will include the other progressive changes (green roofs, accessory dwelling units).

Any time in politics you get 80% of what you are seeking, it should be considered a victory.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 15, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for using a false email address in violation of the comment policy.]

by Ron on Jul 15, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

"Who really is in power to make decisions? The people who showed up that night? Is that democracy? The 16 people who self-activated through the Internet? Is that democracy? No. That’s called a mob. That’s called a little mob" - Andres Duany

by Craig on Jul 15, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

Since this is a political process does not mean that we are stuck with the soon-to-be revised zoning code forever. In 10 years or 15 years, when both phases of the Silver line are completed. the Purple line is completed, the H Street streetcar is completed (just joking!!), and the Capital Bikeshare system and bike lanes continue to expand, Office of Planning can then propose extending the abolition of parking minimums to transit-zones city-wide. These aren't sacred texts. They can be changed and amended as changing travel and development patterns justify doing so.

by 202_cyclist on Jul 15, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

202

i think IF the current proposal passes, most folks here will be pleased for the reasons you mention. I guess the context is A. even the previous OP proposal had lots of compromises - many limits on ADU's and on corner stores - and even the parking minimum thing excluded most of the city (it didnt match what Yglesias called for in the linked article) Now with a further compromise - there is still opposition being voiced. So it sounds like some people are afraid this will only lead to further watering down by the zoning commision. One can only hope OP knows the politics of the ZC well enough to know if this was politically wise.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:07 am • linkreport

202

Big zoning code rewrites don't come that often, and with good reason - the whole argument FOR zoning is to make things predictable for those who buy and build in an area. The logic for this rewrite is that the old code is SO obsolete.

Thats not to say there won't be further incremental change possible, but its not going to be that easy. The changes in infrastructure and demographics over time will be offset by the logical resistance to regular revisits to the zoning code.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

The commission, a hybrid federal-local body, has the final say on the plans, and can change them or ask OP to revise them in any way.

Maybe by making this particular change...zoning commissioners will say, ah, it's clear OP has listened to public input, and we will therefore pass their proposal.

The original 2008 proposal would have been defeated; to suggest this as a tenable position is not realistic. Given that, the whole premise that OP is sliding down a slippery slope does not ring true -- especially since what they are doing is bending to public pressure!

The alternative is that the commission rejects the entire proposal, and the 1958 zoning rules continue.

by goldfish on Jul 15, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

The commission ... has the final say on the plans, and can change them or ask OP to revise them in any way. Opponents will pressure the Zoning Commission to scale back any changes ...
Seems to me like we also could pressure the Zoning Commission to scape up the changes. Then the pressure won't all be on one side.

by Gavin on Jul 15, 2013 11:13 am • linkreport

Maybe we should concentrate our efforts at looking at the cost of curbside parking for registered vehicles. If that goes up, or RPP weren't so easily available attainable then the zoning issue would be easier to address. After all, isn't that what all the opposition was all about? "If you eliminate parking mins then they'll take my space on the street!" It's a huge subsidy that has to be reexamined.

by dc denizen on Jul 15, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

"Why do people consider this a cave-in or a loss?"

It's considered a "loss" because some people did not get exactly what they wanted.

However, the truth is that the pro-parking folks did not get exactly what they wanted either. Both sides had to cave a little -- otherwise known as a 'compromise'.

The zoning code has actually been tweaked many times in the last 10-15 years. I would not be surprised if the parking minimums were scaled back again or gone entirely within 10 years.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

Well part of it was that it was understood that minimum parking free zoning would only apply in certain transit zones was the compromise. But just because a compromise was reached means one has to be happy or at least stop pointing out that flaws still persist. It just means that we can move on for the mean time.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

1. the debonis article mentions NoMa and SW waterfront. No mention of the near southEAST. Any source on that?

2. Scoot - again, the previous proposal was NOT exactly what the 'smart growth' people wanted. It already represented a compromise. And the fear is that there will be further compromises - in the direction of strenthening the parking mins further

3. Dc denizen is on point I think - what will influnce the future more than any single transit project or bike lane, is change in RPP policy, so that RPP's are less of an "externality"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

The rhetorical excesses of opposite polls on this issue are not surprising. They are mostly positioning and unfortunately are IMHO not going in a constructive direction. FWIW

by Tom M on Jul 15, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

dc denizen:

"Maybe we should concentrate our efforts at looking at the cost of curbside parking for registered vehicles."

Exactly! We should also focus on doing everything we can to increase the supply of curbside parking (such as moving street signs, consolidating bus stops, allowing parking on both sides of the street where it is currently allowed on only one-side and the street is wide enough to accommodate this). Most of the development battles are about the amount of parking and if there is more curbside parking, this will help to reduce opposition.

As has been noted many times, structured parking is really expensive ($40,000 per spot) and leads to higher housing costs. It is far more efficient to using existing infrastructure (curbside spaces) than to build more parking at $40,000 per space.

Finally, the new curbside space that is created can be metered or zoned for RPP. Either way, the District collects more revenue (which hopefully can be reinvested in improved transit).

by 202_cyclist on Jul 15, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

"The alternative is that the commission rejects the entire proposal, and the 1958 zoning rules continue."

In which case a new rewrite will be done, and presented in say 2016 or 2017. When the Silver Line and H Street streetcar will be operating, when "myopiclittletwits" will be a larger percentage of voters, etc. That shouldnt be ruled out as a strategy.

I leave it to others to discuss how realistic a significant rewrite in 5 years AFTER passing this would be.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Heres what I dont understand. The people who demand forced parking (parking minimums) presumably already own a home with off-street parking, right? It would be extremely hypocritical of them to demand everyone pay for off-street parking except themselves.

So why do they care if new residents have to "battle" for limited on street space? Theyre comfortably parked in their reserved spot, why do they give a damn?

by JJJJJ on Jul 15, 2013 11:31 am • linkreport

Here is OP's map of where the expanded downtown will be. I think this is the same as the no-minimum zone:

This includes the SW Ecodistrict and part of Near SE north of M Street but actually doesn't appear to include SW Waterfront, if you define SW Waterfront as the part of SW between the freeway and Buzzard Point, which is how I would define it.

by David Alpert on Jul 15, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

202 hit it on the head.

"Any time in politics you get 80% of what you are seeking, it should be considered a victory"

This is what is called compromise folks, and the urbanists got far more out of the rewrite than did their opponents. You would think this would be reason for everyone to go celebrate, but Tregoning is getting lambasted for it. C'mon folks!

by Huh on Jul 15, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Parking minimums are bad but that photoshop montage is "so bad it's good"! It's the 'Sharknado' of DC zoning illustrations! I hope this is the start of a trend!

by renegade09 on Jul 15, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

goldfish: I disagree the 2008 proposal would have been defeated. That's because the 2008 proposal got passed by the Zoning Commission. OP brought conceptual policies to the ZC, which ruled on them. They scaled a few back but agreed with most.

This 2nd phase was just supposed to be OP writing text that codified what had been agreed to. Instead, OP (under pressure) instead retreated on some of the ideas entirely.

by David Alpert on Jul 15, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

"This is what is called compromise folks, and the urbanists got far more out of the rewrite than did their opponents. "

Er, it hasn't been passed yet. "don't count your chickens before they are hatched"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity:

"the debonis article mentions NoMa and SW waterfront. No mention of the near southEAST. Any source on that?"

The article says 'such as' these two neighborhoods. These means SouthEAST waterfront, GA Ave, and other places could be included as the locations with no parking minumums.

"In a subsequent interview, Tregoning said the planning office still intended to pursue elimination of parking minimums downtown and in fast-growing, close-in neighborhoods such as the Southwest Waterfront and NoMa."

by 202_cyclist on Jul 15, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

JJJJ

many people own homes WITHOUT off street parking - older homes built before 1958. Anything that makes it more difficult or more costly to park on street - whether its new buildings without parking (but with RPPs) or higher charges for RPP's = effects the value of their properties.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

And the fear is that there will be further compromises - in the direction of strenthening the parking mins further

Maybe, but I think the direction from here on out is a weakening of the force of parking minimums. I don't really see that tone or direction making a significant reversal in favor of more parking minimums, but I guess some people do.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

202: No, they specifically are only planning to eliminate minimums in the "expanded downtown," not on the neighborhood corridors like GA Ave.

by David Alpert on Jul 15, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

JJJJ,

Many people don't have dedicated parking. Others do but choose to avail themselves of it for a variety of reasons. Others like driving and parking to other neighborhoods in a certain area where parking is tight. That said, while their fears may be justified the only way to fix the problem of street parking is to manage street parking directly. Parking minimums can only hope to at best preserve the status quo, though we've seen that they don't.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

@David:

Mea culpa-- I posted this before seeing the map above and having only read the WP article which said parking minimums would be eliminated in neighborhoods "such as..."

by 202_cyclist on Jul 15, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

Edit: Choose NOT to avail themselves of it (off street parking) for a variety of reasons.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 12:09 pm • linkreport

What are some of the reasons that people don't avail themselves of off-street parking?

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity, then if theyre so concerned that parking will become difficult, they need to strap on their bootstraps and build their own parking.

Im tired of subsidizing these people with extreme senses of entitlement.

by JJJJJ on Jul 15, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

Scoot-

I live on the Hill. I don't have off-street parking but some friends do. Garages, at least half of them, often become used for storage. A family with 3 kids often exceeds the storage capacity within the home and the garage becomes the spillover area.

Another motive is mere profit. People like a dedicated spot and will pay for it. I know a number of people on the Hill who rent their space.

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

What are some of the reasons that people don't avail themselves of off-street parking?

There are lots of reasons.

Cost

Let's say you're renting an apartment with off-street parking. You're also eligbible for an RPP sticker. Off-street garage parking will cost upwards of $250/mo and even that is not going to cover the developer's cost. On-street RPP parking is available for less than $3/mo. It's not surprising to see why RPP would be the choice.

Opportunity Cost

Let's say you own a rowhouse and you have a garage. You can use it for your car and avoid parking on-street, but that means you can't use that garage for storage. It also means you can't rent it out to someone else (and pocket the cash) while you park on-street.

This also works if you have a rowhouse without a garage, but with alley access. The owner could use that space for lots of things (a patio, yardspace, a garden, a granny flat) that they might want more than off-street parking, because the cost of on-street parking is so cheap.

Benefits

RPP in DC isn't just about the ability to park on your street, it's about the ability to park in other places in the city. Say you live in the suburban part of Ward 3, and you want a zone 3 sticker so that you can drive to Metro and park on the street in a zone 3 RPP area without paying a meter or getting a ticket. RPP as currently constituted allows this, despite having nothing to do with "residential" parking. Once you have that RPP sticker, you could start parking on your own street all the time and make use of your garage in any of the ways shown above.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

People who use their garages for storage really should not be complaining about parking.

by alurin on Jul 15, 2013 1:23 pm • linkreport

With the amount of crap that a family with 2 kids accumulates, and the relative lack of storage space the housing in many DC areas, I can't blame many for using a garage as storage.

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

On the plus side, the more off-street parking there is, the less of an argument there should be about removing street parking for the construction of bike lanes. I mean, if we're going to be tagged with that charge anyway . . .

by Crickey7 on Jul 15, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

I think the fact that they have a garage that can be used to store their stuff is part of the reason that they accumulate so much stuff.

Without that extra space they might think twice about buying or keeping something they don't need?

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 1:48 pm • linkreport

That's partly true, but having a lot of stuff is the nature of the beast. If you plan on having other children, throwing everything out isn't always economically wise.

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Most of the vocal opponents do not live in the so-called transit zones. They just want to maintain the status quo of being able to park in them for free. That is not how a zoning rewrite should be guided, but sadly that is exactly what has happened.

by William on Jul 15, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

Andy,

Feel free to put whatever you want in your garage. But if you (speaking generally) decide to park your car on the street for that reason you must also acknowledge that you're doing so because its the gov't providing a service for you and you don't have the right for it to be free or necessarily cheap in perpetuity. They could decide that a parking lane would be better off as a travel lane or wider sidewalk and it'd be the same case.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

I believe that this will create pressure for smaller RPP zones, which make sense on so many levels. What will be interesting to watch is whether neighborhoods try to carve 'priority transit areas' into their own RPP areas, to reduce the spillover from additional street parking demand. It probably won't make much difference to the priority transit corridor areas, since so few of the residents in new projects with reduced/no parking will have cars.

by James on Jul 15, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

I didn't say throw out everything.

But these days we seem to tell ourselves we need more space to store all the stuff we've accumulated, and then once we get that space, we just use it to accumulate more. Then after filling the new space, we tell ourselves we need more space because we don't have enough anymore.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

Did I claim domain over city streets without realizing it?

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

re smaller RPP zones. Well, as I said, many of the opponents of the ZRR also do not live in the highly affected areas. So the logical conclusion is, if you thought the ZRR was a fight, the parking reform will be a war.

by William on Jul 15, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

Scoot-

Sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you said toss out everything. I think you've put your finger on a natural reaction for some. At the same time, limited storage in the old homes that dot the city often complicate matters for even the most frugal families.

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know how 'priority bus corridors' were designated? Also, what level of review is there, to ensure that such corridors actually provide the level of service needed such that residents can reasonably go car free?

I ask because it appears that Wisconsin Avenue below Tenleytown is designated as such a corridor, despite the 30s line historically poor operating record. In fact, within the last few months Glover Park's ANC opposed making RPP zones smaller, citing the poor level of bus service in that 'hood, which apparently means that Glover Park denizens need to be able to drive and park in Woodley, to take Metro. Which way is it??

by James on Jul 15, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

A tax-paying resident parking on the street is earns that privilege by being a resident, not by buying a RPP sticker. The cost of the sticker is to pay to administer the program -- the cost of the signs, etc. The privilege is grant by residency, nothing else.

by goldfish on Jul 15, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

A tax-paying resident parking on the street is earns that privilege by being a resident, not by buying a RPP sticker. The cost of the sticker is to pay to administer the program -- the cost of the signs, etc. The privilege is grant by residency, nothing else.

No. Some residents are not allowed the privledge.

All residents are equal, but some residents are more equal than others.

And, as noted ad nauseum, beware status quo bias: just because DC's RPP system is the way it is does not make it good policy.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

Granting it free by resideny results in an incentive to limit the number of residents, as well as incentives to use the spaces directly or indirectly for storage, incentives to oppose bike and transit lanes, etc. Its within the right of voters and their elected representatives to change that policy.

Imagine if bus rides were provided free as a privilege of being a resident, or bike share memberships. One can well imagine that creating shortages, and it causing residents in areas of shortage to try to stop new developments.

But thats not done, but parking permits are free, for reasons of historical accident. If the combination of carfree people, and those who own cars but who decide that the value of RPPs below market price are more than offset by the value of more revenue to the city, becomes large enough, the policy will change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 2:32 pm • linkreport

As I discussed here, it is a violation of the zoning ordinance to use a required parking space for storage. We may now see people who have trouble finding parking spaces due to violations of the ordinance by neighbors (or, in DC, by people who live in other parts of the ward where they want to park) start to file complaints.

by Ben Ross on Jul 15, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

Andy, I meant "you" in a general sense, meaning everybody in that situation.

Goldfish,

Sure all you have to do is be a resident but that doesn't mean the terms can't change. Sometimes they may change by a parking lane being repurposed for something else, it may be changed by having a higher rate charged to manage demand since as you note, right now the only cost is to simply run the program. Or it may change by having the zones redefined.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

"but some residents are more equal than others."

Wow, Animal Farm quoted without apparent irony. Orwell would be proud.

by goldfish on Jul 15, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Ben Ross- is that simply in Montgomery County? It would be interesting, to say the least, if it is the ordinance in DC as well and citations are issued.

by Andy on Jul 15, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

A tax-paying resident parking on the street is earns that privilege by being a resident, not by buying a RPP sticker. The cost of the sticker is to pay to administer the program -- the cost of the signs, etc. The privilege is grant by residency, nothing else.

Oh, so I can just buy an RPP pass? Like for use when I get a zipcar? Or when someone comes to visit I can just put the RPP sticker on their car for their visit? Or for my moving truck for a few days? After all, if only residency is required then I don't see why this would be an issue.

Amazing that it costs $50+ for a five day permit for a moving POD but $35 and you can stick your car on the street all year!

by MLD on Jul 15, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

At the same time, limited storage in the old homes that dot the city often complicate matters for even the most frugal families.

You're right. I think many American families are not used to parting with their material goods. I think that is because we have been accustomed to having (and storing) lot of material goods for a few generations now.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

If the combination of carfree people, and those who own cars but who decide that the value of RPPs below market price are more than offset by the value of more revenue to the city, becomes large enough, the policy will change.

It's very unlikely that the cost of an RPP will ever approach the market price for a private space.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

there are many ways the policy could change short of raising the RPP price to market price for a private space (which is still a more valuable thing anyway).

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Andy - I believe the rule is the same in DC. I was similarly informed, when I researched that post, that no complaint has ever been filed in DC.

by Ben Ross on Jul 15, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

I think before raising the price (which wouldn't have to go to full value, though if that were pursued I'd rather see it as an auction rather than a set price) you could try to constrict the zones and try and weed out those using it as a all you can park pass for their ward. Then you could look at it again and see which zones were still having trouble and adjust (by increasing RPP hours, reserving a side of the street, etc.).

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

It is a mistake to tie the success of the new zoning rules to whatever happens to the residential parking program.

And I regret that the policy rationale behind the RPP is nakedly egalitarian based strictly on residency (what the "R" Stands for); but it is what it is.

by goldfish on Jul 15, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

"It is a mistake to tie the success of the new zoning rules to whatever happens to the residential parking program. "

I dont understand that sentence. Clearly the IMPACT of any change in off street parking requirements will differ depending on what the RPP rules and prices are. Assuming the new zoning rules pass it will be useful to pass something like the Wells bill - because while IIUC that would not apply to the transit zone buildings (which will have parking, albeit only 1 space per 6 units) and will not apply to downtown (where RPP already does not apply because those are commercial zones?) it will apply to the buildings that take advantage of the special exception process. And to buildings of 4 units or less.

There are rationales for further changes to the RPP program apart from any further changes to zoning. However IF RPP is changed, that will ease further changes to zoning (and changes to RPP will be opposed by some for precisely that reason)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 15, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

To those who are taking the long view, I agree. But I don't think using RPP as a negative incentive to bring about change is any type of a solution whatsoever. You build consensus by emphasizing the good and the positive. Bury the impatience.

For those who want fewer cars, focus on the alternatives. Continue to expand bike lanes and mass transit. The rest will follow. It will take years. Consider that it takes an average of 30 years for a new technological change gain mass adoption.

by kob on Jul 15, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

That's the thing, changing RPP in any number of ways should make it easier to find a parking space near your door. That's very positive in my mind. Sure let's improve transit and make it easier to bike. Those are great things but as tautological as it is, the only way to reform RPP is to reform RPP.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

@drumz

No disagreement, unless you proposed, for instance, spiking the RPPs fees sharply. What's one person's positive, may be another's negative.

by kob on Jul 15, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

Any proposal I'd ever do re: price would be very gradual for current holders to alleviate that problem.

Again, I get why some are opposed. But if your main problem is that its hard for you to find street parking then you should (in theory) support programs that are aimed to increase availability of street parking.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

Most such theories are aimed to increase availability of street parking for a smaller number of people - those with the ability/willingness to pay, those who meet certain conditions, those who have gotten off a waiting list, etc.

The addendum of "for a smaller number of people" is usually left out to give the impression that the programs are egalitarian.

Yet ironically one of the only ways to make parking more available is to make it harder to obtain.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

No fret, this will still be worth 100's of millions to developers and they will return plenty to the Gray re-election campaign. That's all this is about anyway.

IF it were an honest government we would be talking swaps like other cities. Two spots waived for each carshare spot, or for a bike corral. Or more waived for a bus shelter, etc.

This is just about getting $ to contributors.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 15, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

Minimums create more off street spaces sure but that's not what people get mad about when they can't find a spot near their house/restaurant/store.

I don't know how we make street parking more physically available unless you have a plan to add more streets in DC.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 4:57 pm • linkreport

Besides, its not egalitarian right now either. It still costs a lot in time (finding a spot then walking back to your destination) to get to where you're going in the current regime. If someone is fine with that then its natural to expect them to resist changes. But since most people express frustration at the amount of time it takes to find a spot and its distance from where you're going then what is someone supposed to suggest other than figuring out a different way to price street parking (this time, with dollars instead of time)?

Wishing that more street parking magically appear isn't going to cut it.

/then they say that "we" are the wishful thinkers by expecting people to make different but still rational choices about mobility when considering the relative costs of each mode.

by drumz on Jul 15, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

Tom, It's about fairness and good use of government power too. Forcing developers to build parking spaces that they can't sell and that no one will use is both unfair and stupid. We could force every developer to add a barn on to their building, but that would be foolish. Parking minimums can lead to the same kind of foolishness.

by David C on Jul 15, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

The zoning variance does not really require a developer to prove that the number of parking spaces is wants to supply is directly balanced with the demand for those spaces.

A developer will often seek a variance to avoid having to provide more spaces even if there is a lot of evidence that the spaces would be demanded (the BZA does not deny or approve the variances based on demand anyway).

So in some cases we're talking about parking spaces that developers can't sell and no one will use, and in other cases we're talking about spaces that developers just don't feel like building.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 6:33 pm • linkreport

The zoning variance does not really require a developer to prove that the number of parking spaces is wants to supply is directly balanced with the demand for those spaces.

Parking demand has nothing to do with it. The criteria for a variance is "exceptional practical difficulties or exceptional and undue hardship."

A developer will often seek a variance to avoid having to provide more spaces even if there is a lot of evidence that the spaces would be demanded (the BZA does not deny or approve the variances based on demand anyway).

Correct. An example would be a plan that requires, say, 50 parking spaces. The architect can get 40 on a single level of below-grade parking. Getting the remaining 10 spaces would require another level of underground excavation. Perhaps the water table at this site means that it isn't feasible to do so (e.g. an exceptional practical difficulty) and thus they can request a variance from that requirement.

So in some cases we're talking about parking spaces that developers can't sell and no one will use, and in other cases we're talking about spaces that developers just don't feel like building.

This is a false choice.

It all stems from the false assumption that there is one single number of spaces that should be required for any type of development. This assumption is not justified by any research.

It's not like developers "don't feel like building" spaces for no reason; they have reasons! Perhaps the site isn't feasible; perhaps the market is not there; perhaps the specific market product they're building doesn't need as much parking; perhaps what's required is simply not cost-effective to provide on-site.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 6:46 pm • linkreport

I didn't say that developers don't feel like building spaces for no reason.

What I said (which you apparently agree with) is that the BZA does not require that a developer show that the spaces required under the existing law would go unused if they were built, nor does it require that the developer build enough spaces to meet demand.

Since the BZA does not impose those requirements, it's tough to say if a development is seeking a variance because it doesn't believe demand will be met, or for any of the other valid reasons you mentioned. It doesn't really have to provide any reason at all.

So the city has little control to determine whether a development is building enough parking to meet demand, while it must also regulate the supply of on-street parking. As you might be able to see, that presents a conundrum.

Ideally a middle ground would be achieved - developers build enough parking to meet demand, not much more and not much less.

If the minimum requirement exceeds demand and spaces go unused or unsold, then that creates a problem which may ultimately be solved by repealing the minimum.

But if the polar opposite occurs - developers don't build enough parking to meet demand - that creates its own set of problems.

by Scoot on Jul 15, 2013 9:14 pm • linkreport

One thing that I think divides people here is this question: Do you see cheap, available parking as a public good or as a personal good for those who own cars (or worse as a detriment to the public good)? I think your answer to that question drives your opinion on this issue.

I also think that if you parking as a public good, then you're wrong.

by David C on Jul 15, 2013 9:29 pm • linkreport

But if the polar opposite occurs - developers don't build enough parking to meet demand - that creates its own set of problems.

How would you define 'building enough parking to meet demand?'

The whole point about why parking requirements are bad is that they are not cost-effective. Both in terms of absolute cost and opportunity cost. The requirements themselves cannot be accurately pegged to 'demand' unless the requirement is zero. Meeting demand means settling on a market price, and the market price depends on the cost.

This is not the kind of thing that the BZA rules on, thus it's not going to be the kind of thing a developer will request relief for. But that doesn't mean it's not a problem.

by Alex B. on Jul 15, 2013 9:58 pm • linkreport

@Mr Alpert: I disagree the 2008 proposal would have been defeated. That's because the 2008 proposal got passed by the Zoning Commission. OP brought conceptual policies to the ZC, which ruled on them. They scaled a few back but agreed with most.

This 2nd phase was just supposed to be OP writing text that codified what had been agreed to. Instead, OP (under pressure) instead retreated on some of the ideas entirely.

Not sure, but I sense that you are complaining about the success of your blog...?

I imagine that if you had asked me or most people that read this blog, back in 2008, about abolishing the parking minimums in a new zoning code passed by the zoning commission, I would have said "huh? What is the zoning commission? What are parking minimums?"

The process is in place for a reason. The daily business of the ZC is with landholders with a working knowledge of the rules trying to get around them. The ZC is far removed from public opinion on what are for most part very obscure regulations. Moreover, it takes time for Joe Public to get informed about such changes, then then to develop opinions. These latter two functions have been improved by blogs such as this, where people like me can read up and get experience about crucial planning issues that affect our urban life.

Since since 2008, I and many of my neighbors have learned about the policy changes under consideration, on forums such as this, and have grown to oppose changes in the parking minimum. The Office of Planning holds lots of meetings to discuss the changes, and watches these opinions form and harden before their eyes, and reports back to the ZC about them. The make some changes that are more attuned to public opinion. This is a good thing -- it is democracy in action.

Not to mention that the people that make up the ZC has probably changed somewhat since 2008, so there is no reason to expect that the blank check they wrote 5 years ago would still be redeemable.

So while the ZC *suggested* an unformed policy without public backing 5 years ago, this does not mean that the details of that policy turned out to be the best land-use rules that have the backing of the now better informed public.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2013 12:18 am • linkreport

@MLD Amazing that it costs $50+ for a five day permit for a moving POD but $35 and you can stick your car on the street all year!

Regarding parking, is a moving POD = car? Sure seem pretty different to me.

But I think you have a point, that the POD permit is not justified by the its inconvenience to other residents. It is a "let's stick it to people that are moving" that the city gets away with because movers usually don't vote in DC.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2013 1:13 am • linkreport

For those who think parking minimums are a good idea please consider that most of the highly sought after neighborhoods in DC, in Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo etc were build before there were cars. Yet somehow these remain relatively car free, walkable places, with enough amenity to reduce the need for car ownership or possession.

Yes, there are neighborhoods in DC that aren't well connected via transit or alternatives to cars, but those aren't the neighborhoods where this policy was being envisioned. If you live near Rock Creek Park, no one is saying there shouldn't be parking minimums there.

On the other hand, if you are on Georgia Avenue or maybe upper Wisconsin, where streetcar and metro are proposed or in place, then it is a different matter.

by Andrew on Jul 16, 2013 7:37 am • linkreport

Is there anyone that comments on this blog who thinks parking minimums are a good idea?

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 10:29 am • linkreport

@Scoot: I do.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2013 10:35 am • linkreport

I think parking minimums are a good idea also, except perhaps in the downtown core.

by Alf on Jul 19, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

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

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

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

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC