Greater Greater Washington

When condo bylaws prohibit bike parking

The bylaws of older condominium associations often hinder the ability for communities to evolve as the needs of residents change. Some condo associations grapple with this issue as more residents start to ride bicycles.


Photo by Jeffrey Beall on Flickr.

Matt Johnson rents a condo in Greenbelt. His condo association's rules prohibit storing bikes on balconies. But there's nowhere else to store them outside; there are no bike racks outside anywhere.

They do have a "bike room" in the basement. It is completely unmarked; Matt just assumed it was an electrical closet for the first 3 years he lived there. After the building captain mentioned it to Matt, he went and looked inside.

There are no bike racks or any other elements to which it is possible to lock a bike. It's a big square room with cinderblock walls. Most of the room is full of junk from other residents, just stacked in there, no organization whatsoever. It looks like the only thing not stored in that room are bikes.

Instead, Matt keeps his bike in the dining nook during the warmer months. Whenever he and Ryan have guests over or during the winter, he moves it to their storage locker (also in the basement). It barely fits inside.

Even if they had a bike room, Matt probably wouldn't use it, because having to carry it up and down a bunch of stairs and going through 2 locked doors (for which each unit gets only 1 key) would inhibit daily use of his bike.

Veronica finds high hurdles to change her condo bylaws

When Veronica was president of her condo board in Fairfax Village, in DC's Ward 7, she looked into adding bike racks in their parking lot. However, the association's bylaws, written in 1974, prevent storing bikes outside:

Co-owner shall not place or cause to be placed in the public hallways, walkway, driveways, parking areas or other Common Elements any bicycles, furniture, packages or objects of any kind. The public hallways, walkways and driveways shall be used for no purpose other than for normal transit through them.
Once that was a no-go, she looked at the possibility of converting a basement space into a bike room. However, the same provision includes "other Common Elements." Another section of the bylaws has a half page definition of "Common Elements," which includes basements.

Amending the association's bylaws would require approval by two-thirds of owners at a meeting called specifically for that purpose. That's not an insurmountable task, but it would take a significant effort to get that percentage of owners at a meeting.

Given all of their other projects such as the community garden, bike parking fell to the bottom of the list. Fortunately, unlike with Matt's condo, most (if not all) of the residents that have bikes either own a garage unit or store them in a neighbor's garage unit.

DC's proposed new bike parking regulations might trump the bylaws, at least for some condos in the District. It's unclear if they would affect Veronica's condo, since the regulations only apply to buildings of 8 units or more, and Veronica's is 3 separate structures of 6 units, all connected together with plumbing. We emailed DDOT yesterday to find out, but hadn't heard a definitive answer by posting time.

Veronica O. Davis, PE, has experience in planning transportation, urban areas, civil infrastructure, and communities. She co-owns Nspiregreen, LLC, an environmental consulting company in DC. She is also the co-founder of Black Women Bike DC, which strives to increase the number of Black women and girls biking for fun, health, wellness, and transportation. 
Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Another reason why digging underground for condo buildings is useful.

by charlie on Mar 26, 2014 11:05 am • linkreport

Well, I think the condo board can re-think the intent of this particular provision and find an exception. The intent of this rule is to prevent random bike placement in common areas, not an organized, rule-based approach to providing parking for bikes.

Our building is putting in a bike rack. We don't have any interior room, and the parking spaces are all used, but we found an area on the property that was acceptable to residents. The only thing residents wanted to avoid was having the rack near the basement unit windows, which was completely reasonable.

All the condo board has to do is take an informal poll, put it up for discussion, and invite feedback. If the experience of our building tells anything, the support will be very strong for bike parking. If the board feels it really needs to bring this up an annual meeting, it's a headache but by no means an a major obstacle. In any event, it's a board is unlikely to go ahead and put in bike parking, and spend the money to do so, unless it has a clear go-ahead from residents.

by kob on Mar 26, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

River Place, a set of four co-ops in Rosslyn with over 1,400 apartments, has insufficient bike parking. In fact, River Place provides only covered spaces for about 100 bikes for the 1,400 apartments. This means bikes are parked outside and are often destroyed by the elements and vandals. It is remarkable that in 2014, we cannot secure enough bike parking...

by Gabriel on Mar 26, 2014 11:19 am • linkreport

Otions depend on whether the majority of residents support bike parking.

Along the lines of what kob wrote, if the majority supports bike parking, then the board should install bike racks at an appropriate location. Once installed, the bike racks are clearly not part of the parking lot or walkway so the rule against storing bikes would not apply. The rule is intended to limit the actions of individual residents, not the board.

If the majority is against bike parking, then it might take a local ordinance to void the convenant as contrary to public policy. That certainly has happened with no-pets covenants.

Temporary storage on balconies should be feasible with the right camouflage, though that might be more trouble than moving the bike.

by JimT on Mar 26, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

Not to let detail get in the way here, but Matt RENTS his condo. He doesn't own it, nor does he have any right, perceived or otherwise to encourage or demand any concessions for anything from the association. If his landlord, the unit owner wants to make an issue of it, thats one thing, but I have a hard time getting wrapped around the axel when someone freely entered into a lease with someone that didn't have bike storage included, then decides after the fact that it is too bothersome to store the bike in the unit.

And the law, like the related law for commercial office properties is going to have so many (necessary) loopholes to make it worthless.

Perhaps you can add something to the residental DC building code for new construction, but I can't imagine most existing multifamily housing stock over~ 10 years old has the in building space to accomodate secured bike parking after the fact. I know the two older condo buildings I've lived in certainly didn't.

by FrancisD on Mar 26, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

I prefer to store my bike in my unit anyway. I lived in a condo that had shared commercial parking and the bike storage area was behind a chain link fence with multiple racks. It only took 2 weeks for my first bike to get stolen and then only another 4 weeks for my second (replacement) bike to get taken. Ideally there would be an active (or even dummy) camera monitoring the area but that's just another expense that the association doesn't want to take on.

by Sam on Mar 26, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

Wondering whether Arlington could change its site plan amendment process to allow buildings to add a secure bicycle parking facility if one wasn't included in the original approved site plan.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 26, 2014 12:01 pm • linkreport

Ideally buildings would be constructed to have secure bike storage on the ground level. One apartment I lived in had done that. The bike storage room was adjunct to a general purpose storage room and assemble from both the main lobby and a rear entrance.

The room was well lit and clean and secured by fobs and cameras. It was also directly across from the buildings gym. The entire time I lived there no bike was ever stolen and I even left my pump beside my locked bike for convenience.

Then I moved into a condo where the "bike Room" was just space on the P1 level of the garage that the developer couldn't sell as parking. In this case it was under the entrance ramp. No fobs or cameras - just a chain link fence that wasn't locked. Predictably enough everybody's bikes were stolen in short order. The floor was littered with cut locks left by the thieves.

So they put a lock on the door to the "bike room". Now in order to get your bike you have to first go to the front desk and sign out a key. Take the elevator down to P1 to get your bike and then back up to return the key. If the desk clerk is busy you have to wait.

This still didn't stop the thieves. They just climbed over the fence as it didn't reach all the way to the ceiling. And the room is dirty. The ventilation fans blow constantly and the result is a thick muck that settles on the bikes within a week. So bad that nobody would ride such a bike without first throughly hosing it down.

The result is that everybody in my building is actually rides keeps their bike in their apartment. The only bikes now in the bike room are those in more or less permanent storage.

by jeffb on Mar 26, 2014 12:03 pm • linkreport

Can't condo by-laws be changed or amended??

by Tina on Mar 26, 2014 12:10 pm • linkreport

I grew up in NYC in a coop building that was built in the 1950s, and we had a bike storage room in the basement that was elevator accessible, and had wooden racks to store bikes in that were heavily used. This of course was back when it was assumed that families with kids would live in such a building, and every kid had a bike.

It was also, I guess, built with a full basement, and the underground parking garage was relatively small and had only I guess 1 space for every 3 units or so. The rest of the basement had the bike room, laundry room, party room, and storage areas.

by ExNYer on Mar 26, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

I have to say I'm a little confused about the question posed here re by-laws and the actual law. I recall our condo association's lawyer telling us that our by-laws and rules cannot contradict DC and federal law. If DC has a law in place and all condos must abide by it; it does not matter what a particular condo's by-laws say. My condo used to ban anyone under 18. That was removed from the by-laws years ago when the Fair Housing Act was enacted. (And the change did not require a majority of ownership share approval like another by-law change would.)

Now, that doesn't mean the law can be easily accommodated by every condo. And that's what this column is really about I think. Now if only I could get our condo to remove all the abandoned bikes on our racks and in our bike room.

by RDHD on Mar 26, 2014 12:21 pm • linkreport

@FrancisD:
And it would be different if I owned the condo?

The reason this post got started was because I tweeted about the false dichotomy of the association, which is a pretty common (in my experience) dichotomy in residential developments.

Namely, if you store a bicycle where it is visible from the exterior of the unit, you can be fined because we don't want bikes to cause the value of the complex to decrease.

However, automobiles MUST be stored outside. They don't cause any problems whatsoever.

I personally wouldn't store my bike on the balcony anyway. I am perfectly happy to keep it in my dining nook. But I do think it's telling that the condo board thinks the mere sight of a well-maintained, clean bicycle is to be abhored, but there's no problem with parking a beat up, falling apart, non-working car (with Virginia plates) in the parking lot. (And yes, there is a car fitting that description in th parking lot right now. It belongs to my upstairs neighbor, who, as you might have gathered doesn't actually live in Virginia (since the unit above mine is also in Maryland)).

by Matt' Johnson on Mar 26, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

@Tina, yes they can be changed. But they usually require such a huge % of residents or ownership shares that it can be very difficult just getting enough people to vote. Our annual meetings for Board positions typically draws <30% of ownership shares even voting. We need >50% in favor to change our by-laws. Sounds like Veronica's might be even tougher.

by RDHD on Mar 26, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

It's tough to do bicycle storage well in an area of a building that's not designed for it. Security, access, liability, maintenance, 'common area' usage, expense are all real-life issues in a condo-- and you can't just brush them aside and announce that bike parking has to be set up immediately for a minority of condo unit owners. Note also that even under favorable circumstances, setting up things tend to take a long time in a condo. I'm not against bike parking-- I'm just saying it's a harder problem than you may realize.

by Matt on Mar 26, 2014 12:29 pm • linkreport

River Place, a set of four co-ops in Rosslyn with over 1,400 apartments, has insufficient bike parking. In fact, River Place provides only covered spaces for about 100 bikes for the 1,400 apartments.

Where would you put additional indoor bike parking at River Place? The only place I can think of is the space in the South building that's rented out to commercial users but that's an important source of income for the co-op. For that matter, I don't even know where you put it outdoors unless you want to pave over green space.

I can't imagine most existing multifamily housing stock over~ 10 years old has the in building space to accomodate secured bike parking after the fact.

Totally agree although I wouldn't go so far to say "most". A lot of existing condos, for sure. It would be awesome to provide the additional amenity but short of acquiring additional land and building a purpose-built structure, I don't see how it's possible.

Not to let detail get in the way here, but Matt RENTS his condo. He doesn't own it, nor does he have any right, perceived or otherwise to encourage or demand any concessions for anything from the association.

Why not? The customer is king (or at least that's how any good business operates). I assure you that commercial tenants demand concessions from their landlords all the time.

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

I have a feeling that I live in the same condo complex as Matt Johnson. :-) I have been an owner there for nearly 15 years, but I have had issues with the condo president regarding how many flowerpots I put on my front patio, never mind bicycles. I live in a condo right by the main street, so yeah, appearances get scrutinized.

In my particular building, there is a bike rack in the storage room, but ever since I moved in (again, nearly 15 years ago) the rack has been filled to the brim with old, dusty bicycles that never seem to be used. There is no room for any other bicycles, and even if there were, we keep getting flyers from management saying that absolutely no personal belongings are supposed to be stored outside the individual storage bins, so I'm not sure I'd want to use the rack anyway.

I keep my bike inside my condo, but I wish I didn't have to. Then again, I grew up in the perfect little two-bedroom SFH with a basement and a garage, and I miss that terribly.

by Greenbelt Gal on Mar 26, 2014 12:48 pm • linkreport

This article from two days ago suggests there will be some recourse soon in DC. http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/breaking_ground/2014/03/d-c-to-require-secure-bicycle-parking-in-some.html

"In existing buildings, the [bicycle storage] spaces — one for every three units — must be provided within 30 days after a written request is received from one or more tenants or property owners." Seems like it should apply to condos.

But there's nothing in the law to require any particular features of the bike storage, so I wouldn't expect to see well-designed bike storage until demand exceeds some kind of tipping point.

by Moira on Mar 26, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

Cages are better than nothing, but they MUST have a keyed deadbolt, or Jeffb's situation will be repeated. And I'm wondering how these these get access to the building? Can one simply walk down a ramp? Isn't that an overall security issue?

by Crickey7 on Mar 26, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

Greenbelt Gal, have you ever considered running for condo board president? If you win, a lot of your problems would be solved.

by Scoot on Mar 26, 2014 2:00 pm • linkreport

Moira beat me to it. The Bicycle Commuter and Parking Act of 2007, introduced by Tommy Wells, addressed this, and DDOT just finally issued new regulations that will require your condo to provide some bike parking, regardless of what the by-laws say.

http://www.thewashcycle.com/2014/03/ddot-tries-again-with-bicycle-parking-regulations.html

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 2:01 pm • linkreport

This is another reason I will never buy a condo.

by alurin on Mar 26, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

Is it clear that the regulation applies to people who own a single unit in a condo building? Questionable whether they are a "residential building owner" but I don't see where that term is defined. Btw, the condo association doesn't own the building (the building is jointly owned by the owners as "tenants in common") although in a co-op, the co-op does own the building.

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

"FrancisD:
And it would be different if I owned the condo?

"Why not? The customer is king (or at least that's how any good business operates). I assure you that commercial tenants demand concessions from their landlords all the time"

Yes, of course it would be different if you owned the condo. You would have ownership into the association

And condo association is not Matt's landlord, and Matt isn't their customer. Matt's monthly rent goes to the unit owner, who as I clearly said before is clearly able to ask for these things if he wants to, but this isn't a rental company, and Matt isn't paying the association for anything, hence...no influence, nor reason for to expect any influence on the HOA.

Matt, you want the authority to demand such things, either buy yourself a condo and become a member of the association, or rent in a apartment building that has your preferred amenity.

by FrancisD on Mar 26, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

I question whether the law or DDOT's proposed regulations would apply to condo or co-op associations, and would argue that they do not.

DC Code 50-1641.05(a) states that "A residential building owner shall provide secure bicycle parking spaces for all existing residential buildings with 8 or more units".

But a condo association does not own any units; each individual condo owner owns their unit. So unless a specific condo owner owns at least 8 units, it's not clear from a plain reading of the underlying statute that the DDOT regulations apply.

The underlying statute was not well drafted (it left off any mechanism for enforcement until that was added a few years later through an amendment) and it's not clear the statute was intended to apply to condo associations, rather than rental apartment buildings. If you read the Committee Report on the Council's website, it's not clear what the Council's intent was on this issue.

Instead of setting up a potential legal challenge, DDOT should clarify that these proposed regulations are applicable only to rental apartment buildings that are owned by the same person/entity and have at least 8 residential units.

Additionally, DC Code 50-1641.07(b) requires these proposed regulations to be submitted to Council for review and approval. But DDOT's proposed regulations don't make any mention of that. Was that an oversight?

by Lurker on Mar 26, 2014 2:21 pm • linkreport

""In existing buildings, the [bicycle storage] spaces — one for every three units — must be provided within 30 days after a written request is received from one or more tenants or property owners."

This wouldn't help Matt in any case. He isn't a property owner, and he is not a tenant of the association. Matt's landlord could ask for it, but not Matt.

And as it relates, this law will have so many waivers and loop holes (as does the commercial office regulation for bike rooms and showers)to make it next to useless. If I live in a 10 unit building that simply doesn't have extraneous empty rooms built into the first floor (I mean really, what average condo or apartment building does?), what is the HOA supposed to do? Spend tens of thousand of dollars, designing, permitting and building an add on room to the building for bike storage? Never happen.

by FrancisD on Mar 26, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

I imagine that a lot of buildings will have to seek waivers to this law. Our building has looked at the issue, and it's impossible to provide interior parking. There is no space.

There is always the possibility of installing outdoor container-type units, similar to what is at Metro stations, but these units are expensive. We are putting in an outdoor rack, but I don't think it meets the law. Even if an acceptable location could be found for bicycle storage units, the condo board (which i once served on) will be hard-pressed to spend the money to buy them.

Does the law require provisions for bicycle parking to be free? Because if storage containers were forced upon the building, I'm certain the board would insist, and rightly so, on charging enough rent to amortize purchase cost and maintenance.

The condo rule referenced in the story is about keeping bicycles out of the hallways, where they are potential hazard, and other common areas. They weren't written to prevent boards from creating common storage areas. The interpretation that they constitute a blanket ban on bicycle storage is just wrong.

I think Wells would have been better off requiring new building to provide for bicycle parking; he probably knows that most older buildings are space constrained, and every inch of most buildings is to put use already. The only thing this new does is impose a BS requirement on condo boards.

by kob on Mar 26, 2014 2:26 pm • linkreport

FrancisD:

I meant Matt has a right to demand concessions/bike parking from his landlord -- the unit owner -- not the association. There's nothing in the post or comments that indicates Matt was making demands directly to the HOA. Actually, I don't see where Matt is making demands of anyone. All I read was him pointing out the absurdity of the situation to GGW readers.

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 2:33 pm • linkreport

If a condo has no place to put bike parking, than banning keeping bikes on a balcony seems quite unreasonable, at least to me. Of course a condo association has the right to be unreasonable as long as they comply with the law (thus this will be different in DC than in Md or Va)

The recourse (aside from appealing to elected officials to change the law) is to ask the condo owner to get involved. In a bikeable place being unable to keep one's bike on a balcony (in a building without bike parking) may well diminish the rentability of that unit. Unfortunately many absentee owners of condos (and houses in HOAs) are not active in the condo assoc or HOA.

If the building/HOA is small and intimate enough, one might be able to appeal to neighborliness and common sense. In a larger one it might be feasible to make common cause with owners who have bikes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

FC +1

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:37 pm • linkreport

"This wouldn't help Matt in any case. He isn't a property owner, and he is not a tenant of the association. Matt's landlord could ask for it, but not Matt."

If Matt can find any owner in the assoc, whether a personal friend, a fellow cyclist, or whomever, willing to request it, the law would come into effect, IIUC. Even if his own landlord is not willing to.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:41 pm • linkreport

Matt lives in Greenbelt, and this law is just for DC.

by David Alpert on Mar 26, 2014 2:46 pm • linkreport

"That's not an insurmountable task, but it would take a significant effort to get that percentage of owners at a meeting. "

wait, its 18 units, and you need 2/3 - so 12? Veronica plus 11 others? Is there anything in the bylaws preventing a member from bringing food to a meeting? Because I think that for a modest expenditure (or effort in the kitchen) a turn out of eleven neighbors should be doable.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

Yes, DA, but the above discussion implied that even in DC (or if PG had a similar law) it would not help Matt, because he is renting from a condo owner.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

""In existing buildings, the [bicycle storage] spaces — one for every three units — must be provided within 30 days after a written request is received from one or more tenants or property owners."

This wouldn't help Matt in any case. He isn't a property owner, and he is not a tenant of the association. Matt's landlord could ask for it, but not Matt.

This opens up a whole can of worms. Can the written request come from a tenant in a condo building or does the request need to come from tenants in apartments and owners in condos? Who would the owner of a condo unit submit their request to? The HOA doesn't own anything and is a "building owner". Does the property owner making the request need to be a resident of the building?

@Lurker
Agree the intention is not clear but the fact the regulations stipulates a request can come from one or more property owners (plural), makes it seem like they wanted it to apply to condos. That's the main situation where there would be multiple property owners.

Also, what's crazy is that the regulation would apply differently to co-ops because a co-op is a corporation that owns the entire building and the shareholders (similar to unit holders) own shares in the corporation. So, in that case the corporation is clearly the residential building owner. However, the shareholders are neither tenants nor property owners so they could not submit a request according to the regulation.

Seems like this regulation is poorly though out and written. If it's meant to apply to condos, the main effect will be to cause them to go through a lot of paperwork to apply for a waiver because as others have noted, most buildings don't have extra indoor space lying around that can be used for bike parking.

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

I find it pretty funny that folks like AWINTC will wax poetic about the waste and injustice of forcing a developer/owner to eat the cost of vehicular parking.

But man o man, that "injustice" goes right out the window when its forcing developers/owners to eat the cost (tens of thosands)in building extra rooms, with cameras and security for your bike.

by DTR on Mar 26, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

Re: the term "residential building owner"

In a condo, each individual owner owns his or her unit and the common areas are owned jointly by all the unit owners. So by my understanding the residential building "owner" refers to all the unit owners as a whole. (Note that the law does not specify that a residential building owner must be a single individual, but rather merely an "owner".)

The Code probably doesn't require a condo association to carry out the law because the Code does not require that every condo building form an association. But most condos do have associations because that's the most practical way for a building's "owner" to manage or operate the property.

by Scoot on Mar 26, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

"I find it pretty funny that folks like AWINTC will wax poetic about the waste and injustice of forcing a developer/owner to eat the cost of vehicular parking. "

No where here have I addressed the desirability of a bike parking minimum vs allowing the market to decide.

I do think that by condo/HOA bylaws banning bike parking, are particularly unreasonable, as rescinding them costs the building nothing. Imagine an HOA where everyone had a paved pad next to their house, but storing a car there was banned because the HOA thought that cars did not look attactive. I would think that complaining about such an HOA would be in a different category from calling for parking minimums.

Note that Fairfax has no such minimum (AFAIK) and I am not calling for one. I will comment on DC's bike parking minimum only if a thread is started where that policy question becomes relevant.

BTW if you are truely concerned with congestion on the dulles toll road, and in Fairfax generally, and with solutions that are cheaper than more transit projects, you should certainly be encouraging more biking.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 2:56 pm • linkreport

But man o man, that "injustice" goes right out the window when its forcing developers/owners to eat the cost (tens of thosands)in building extra rooms, with cameras and security for your bike.

I haven't read it but I'm pretty sure the DC law has a grandfather clause meaning that for existing buildings its up to the owners to decided to add a bike room or not. Or, they could allow bikes to be stored on the balcony or somewhere else.

Also, most of us on this site (including AWITC because he/she has said so before) that don't like car parking minimums aren't doing it because we have a general anti-subsidy position. We don't like the policy because we think its bad or ineffective.

by drumz on Mar 26, 2014 2:59 pm • linkreport

AWITC,

You've been very vocal about how it is ridiculous to require developers to incorporate parking because the costs filter down to the tenant/ buyer. This is exactly the same.

How many people do, or would bike from Leesburg to their job in Tysons corner or DC every day.

HOA's disallow thing on their common area elements for numerous reasons, asthetics and liabilty being the biggest two, and I (as a one time condo owner) certainly don't fault them for it. The rules are there prior to move in, so if someone doesn't like it, one would wonder why they agreed to live there in the first place. Kinda like buying ahouse next to a fire station, then constantly complaining about the noise.

by DTR on Mar 26, 2014 3:01 pm • linkreport

DTR

Mostly though, I think the solution is not via legal minimums, but by organizing within communities. The solutions Matt requires (being allowed to keep his bike on his balcony when he chooses) and that veronica wants (bike racks in surface parking lot) are hardly very costly, and are quite feasible. Its hard to beleive that reasonable human beings would object - the problem is with certain institutional factors - in Veronica's case the difficulty in altering by laws - in Matts, the lack of influence of a renter on a condo assoc. I think both can be overcome without using a law requiring bike parking - and if the law does help (in veronicas case) it would do so in a way requiring no financial hardship on the assoc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

HOA laws ban the placement of bikes in hallways and other common areas. A condo can have the rule cited in the story above and still provide a storage room for bikes.

by kob on Mar 26, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

kob - While I agree of the intent, our by-laws have caused enough legal battles that we decided to leave it alone. For example, when I was president the board wanted to charge for parking in the lot. There was a legal battle for 2 years as to whether the board had the standing to charge for parking and if it was a violation of the by-laws. We argued that we weren't charging for a parking space, but an administrative fee for the parking permit. After two year legal battle over interpretation, the board won. It was expensive and time consuming.

AWalkerInTheCity - My condo association is 85 residential units + 36 garages (garages are considered a ownership unit). Each unit owner has a percentage ownership based on the size of their unit. For example, I am a 1.4% owner because I own a residential unit and a garage unit.

by Veronica O. Davis on Mar 26, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

"You've been very vocal about how it is ridiculous to require developers to incorporate parking because the costs filter down to the tenant/ buyer."

I have said they are undesirable for that reason - and that they fail a benefit cost test.

" This is exactly the same."

Maybe - I am not sure if they are the same from a cost benefit POV. Many jurisdictions want to encourage more biking - even those with parking minimums generally are not trying to encourage more biking. There may be exceptions though.

"How many people do, or would bike from Leesburg to their job in Tysons corner or DC every day."

How many would bike from Reston to Tysons? Vienna to Tysons? Vienna to North Arlington? Ashburn to Reston? Ashburn to Vienna?

"HOA's disallow thing on their common area elements for numerous reasons, asthetics and liabilty being the biggest two, and I (as a one time condo owner) certainly don't fault them for it."

I think seeing a bike on a balcony makes a building seem MORE desirable ;) I certainly can't see why a bike is less desirable than a grill (does Matts building allow those, or the many other things routinely found on balconies?)

"The rules are there prior to move in, so if someone doesn't like it, one would wonder why they agreed to live there in the first place. Kinda like buying ahouse next to a fire station, then constantly complaining about the noise."

If there is a cost free way to reduce fire station noise, and its rejected out of petulance, that would seem unreasonable to me. Caveat Emptor should not, IMO, preempt logic and reason. And certainly not neighborliness.

BTW - does Matts condo have parking? If matt were to keep his bike on a bike rack on a car, would that be allowed?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Lurker, the new regs can be found here.

http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/NoticeHome.aspx?NoticeID=4797734

And it starts "All existing residential buildings with eight (8) or more units shall provide secure bicycle parking spaces for the storage of bicycles in operable condition."

That includes condos.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

Matt is a tenant under the DC definition.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 3:12 pm • linkreport

veronica - okay, the article was confusing then. Im not sure 85 would be hard to organize (so youd be okay with 60 attending) if you have a bunch of cyclists who would help do the organizing. But it sounds like you don't?

Another argument for the benefits of a critical mass of cyclists.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:12 pm • linkreport

pardon

"even those with parking minimums generally are not trying to encourage more driving"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

@DavidC; that the NPRM though. No final rule yet?

by charlie on Mar 26, 2014 3:13 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

So by my understanding the residential building "owner" refers to all the unit owners as a whole. (Note that the law does not specify that a residential building owner must be a single individual, but rather merely an "owner".)

That's a reasonable interpretation. In that case, who would be responsible for the fines for non-compliance? All the owners in proportion to their ownership percentage including the owner who made the request? If the fine went unpaid, would the city place a lien on everyone's units and whoever's unit got sold next would end up paying the entire fine out of their sales price?

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

David A, Thanks. I stand corrected. Matt can not be helped by DDOT.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 3:15 pm • linkreport

NOte also

I have suggested parking minimums generally fail cost - benefit tests in locations with good transit. I have NOT said all parking minimums are undesirable. In places where high density uses are located far from transit, parking minimums are much more like to make sense. Personally I think locating such uses far from transit is a poor idea, but it does happen.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:17 pm • linkreport

Awalker in the City - It's garden style condos/townhouse complex. We have 3 building clusters (21 buildings total). My building is physically attached to two other buildings (i.e. shared plumbing and all) and there are a total of 7 buildings my cluster. Hope that clears it up

by Veronica O. Davis on Mar 26, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

No final rule yet?

Not yet. Also, I don't think you can be grandfathered in under these regs. Originally you could, but a law was passed to change that a few years ago. I could look it all up, but it's really confusing between the law, the zoning regs, the Sustainable DC plan etc... It gets kind of jumbled.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

And note I have not come out one way or the other WRT to parking maximums. To the extent that the argument against parking mins is made purely on free market/econ 101 principles, the same arguments apply to parking maximums, of course. But reducing or eliminating parking mins is often suggested in places where its public policy to encourage mode shift to non-auto modes. IN place with high congestion, a parking maximum (or a bike parking min) can serve a purpose that is also served by relaxing parking minimums. In each case the impact on rents and the external impacts need to be weighed.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

@David C & @Scoot - I have read the regulations.

However, regulations cannot go beyond what their enabling statute authorizes.

In this case, the enabling statute makes clear it is applicable to "a residential building owner" with 8 or more units. Note the singular description of owner.

Therefore, DDOT cannot issue regulations that go beyond what is authorized by the underlying statute - which is what I believe a requirement on condo and coop associations would be.

I would argue that if the statute was intended to apply to condos and coops, it would have used a phrase like "all residential buildings" and not focused on the ownership of the building. But that's not how the statute is written.

Because there is no grandfathering for this law or these proposed regulations, DDOT is likely going to get flooded with requests for exemptions. And, under its proposed regulations, DDOT provides no due process relief if it rejects an owner's request for an exemption or variance. Can an owner appeal? Where? How? None of those questions are answered.

Finally, assuming that these proposed regulations were deemed by DDOT to apply to condo associations, who would receive fines for noncompliance? The condo association? The condo board? The individual condo owner who can't act outside what's authorized by the condo association and its bylaws?

Again, it seems that the easiest way for DDOT to avoid causing a significant mess for many condo and coop associations is to simply limit these regulations to rental apartment buildings where the ownership structure is crystal clear and where there is no statutory confusion about the law's applicability.

by Lurker on Mar 26, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Lurker, I can assure you, these regulations were always intended to apply to condos. Condos are residential buildings. Condos have owners. Therefore "a residential building owner" applies to condos. Who owns the condo's common areas if not the condo unit owners? And who makes decisions about those areas if not the condo association? Whoever is responsible for addressing other regulations like ADA and fire codes in condos is responsible for addressing these regs. I think you're parsing the language to such a fine point that you're getting ridiculous. Perhaps the courts will side with you, but DDOT believes these regs apply to condos and until they are told otherwise, will enforce them as such.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

and, under its proposed regulations, DDOT provides no due process relief if it rejects an owner's request for an exemption or variance. Can an owner appeal? Where? How? None of those questions are answered.

The same way other exemptions, variances and appeals are dealt with. I assume that is zoning.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

In this case, the enabling statute makes clear it is applicable to "a residential building owner" with 8 or more units. Note the singular description of owner.

So you believe that the statute only applies to buildings with one individual person as an owner? I guess that releases rental buildings (which are usually owned by corporations) from responsibility to adhere to the law as well. Oops.

Or maybe you're simply reading the statute too narrowly. What prohibits the term "owner" from describing a plurality of individuals that share ownership of a property, just as they might share ownership of a car, a bank account, etc?

by Scoot on Mar 26, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

@ David C:

I'm not parsing the language at all; I'm simply reading the law as it is written in the DC Code, without the assurances by a online commentator of what an agency "really" meant when it promulgated regulations.

And the examples of fire codes and ADA compliance (which both have grandfathering provisions) simply buttresses my point: They are applicable to all residential buildings, regardless of the ownership of the building.

Rather than have a never-ending online comments merry-go-round of what the definition of "a residential building owner" is, it's far simpler and more productive for DDOT to publicly state whether they intend it to apply to condo and coop associations.

And, since the underlying law requires Council review and approval of the regulations, it would ultimately be up to Council to decide whether they agree with DDOT's interpretation.

by Lurker on Mar 26, 2014 4:13 pm • linkreport

Lurker is correct. Badly drafted law. Court would say overreach. Applies to an entity which owns a residental building. Condo association would not apply.

And it isn't as if there is a surfeit of lawyers in this town...

by charlie on Mar 26, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

@ David C - No, due process appeals arising under these proposed regulations aren't like zoning at all; there is no authorization for either the BZA or the Zoning Commission to hear any such appeal because it wouldn't arise under either the Construction Codes or the Zoning Regulations.

A civil infraction can be appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings (although it's not clear to whom a fine would be issued in a condo or coop association). But that's for a civil infraction, not for a rejection of an exemption/variance request.

DDOT needs to spend some more time working on these proposed regulations; they are not fully thought through, as demonstrated by the conundrum faced by Ms. Davis' condo association. They need to get more public input on its practical impacts.

by Lurker on Mar 26, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

Whoever is responsible for addressing other regulations like ADA and fire codes in condos is responsible for addressing these regs.

Condo associations are responsible for addressing ADA, etc. The bike regulation applies to building owners and the association is not the owner. Building owner is not defined.

If you want the regulation to apply to HOA's, you need a line such as:

"Under the Regulations, the Condominium Association, Cooperative or Mutual Housing Corporation, is for the most part considered to have the responsibilities of the “owner” as described in the Act, and is responsible for the registration of each building and for the correction of all cited violations."

DDOT believes these regs apply to condos and until they are told otherwise, will enforce them as such.

DDOT is going to be the agency enforcing this? What part of DDOT will be visiting all the residential buildings in the city to do inspections?

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 4:19 pm • linkreport

@Scoot - A rental building has a single owner; whether it is an individual or an LLC or an incorporated company, it is still a single owner. That single owner is easily found in the records of the Office of Tax and Revenue since it's the entity that pays the property taxes.

I am reading the statute as written; it refers to "a residential building owner." There is no "a" single residential building owner that owns more than 8 units in a condo association.

by Lurker on Mar 26, 2014 4:21 pm • linkreport

it's far simpler and more productive for DDOT to publicly state whether they intend it to apply to condo and coop associations.

They did. It's the first part of the regs...

"All existing residential buildings with eight (8) or more units shall provide secure bicycle parking spaces for the storage of bicycles in operable condition"

Unless a condo doesn't exist, is not residential or is not in a building, this applies to them. It's pretty straightforward.

And, since the underlying law requires Council review and approval of the regulations, it would ultimately be up to Council to decide whether they agree with DDOT's interpretation.

And I'm sure they will.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 4:23 pm • linkreport

Badly drafted law. Court would say overreach. Applies to an entity which owns a residental building. Condo association would not apply.

I'm pretty confident that the courts will agree with DDOT and that your assessment will be proven wrong.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

" What part of DDOT will be visiting all the residential buildings in the city to do inspections?"

The Fairfax County office of code compliance has recently stated that it only enforces maximum occupancy rules when someone complains. I imagine this will be similar (and say 10 unit condos where NO ONE wants bike parking will be effectively exempt) Of course you still need someone to enforce when there IS a complaint - but inspection of ALL buildings is hardly required.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

A civil infraction can be appealed to the Office of Administrative Hearings (although it's not clear to whom a fine would be issued in a condo or coop association). But that's for a civil infraction, not for a rejection of an exemption/variance request.

Ok, well we could just read the code:

"Where it can be demonstrated that providing sufficient bicycle parking spaces required under § 1214.2 or § 1214.4 is not physically practical, that undue economic hardship would result from strict compliance with the regulation, or that the nature of the building use is such that bicycle parking spaces would not be used, the District Department of Transportation Bicycle Program Office may grant, upon written application of the owner of the building, an appropriate exemption or reduced level of compliance. In such cases, the Bicycle Program Office shall issue to the building owner a written certificate documenting the exemption or reduced level of compliance"

It appears there is no appeal.

So there's your answer.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

it's far simpler and more productive for DDOT to publicly state whether they intend it to apply to condo and coop associations.

They did. It's the first part of the regs...

"All existing residential buildings with eight (8) or more units shall provide secure bicycle parking spaces for the storage of bicycles in operable condition"

Fine, a building has to provide parking. However, a building is not a legal entity that is subject to laws anymore than a dog can be taken to court. A corporation, person, or other similar entity is what is subject to laws (in the case of dogs, it's pretty clearly stated that the dog's owner is responsible for say a dog bite). So a building has to provide bike parking? Who or what is responsible for ensuring the building provides the parking? The "building owner". What constitutes a building owner? The reg doesn't say.

" What part of DDOT will be visiting all the residential buildings in the city to do inspections?"

The Fairfax County office of code compliance

Yeah, I hope it's DC's office of code compliance and not DDOT that will be doing enforcement.

by Falls Church on Mar 26, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

my point wasn't about who will be doing it, but merely that inspection of all buildings - or even any inspections in cases where there is no complaint - are not necessary.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 26, 2014 4:43 pm • linkreport

it's far simpler and more productive for DDOT to publicly state whether they intend it to apply to condo and coop associations.

Well, I doubt anyone from DDOT is reading these comments, so maybe the solution would be for you to reach out directly to someone with the authority to definitely answer your question. That way your confusion may be revolved once and for all.

I won't lose much sleep either way as my condo already provides bike storage.

by Scoot on Mar 26, 2014 4:55 pm • linkreport

FWIW, it's difficult retrofitting bike infrastructure into the sidewalk-roadway world too, which wasn't originally built to accommodate it.

The thing is to ensure the best possible parking when buildings are first constructed, because once a building moves to the delivered phase, getting a condo board to agree to (re)new parking and spending takes a long time. But some condo buildings are doing it.

My experience in trying to get developers to do the best possible parking in new buildings rather than meeting the minimum requirements is very very very very hard, even if the developers are seen as otherwise "enlightened."

There are other options for retrofitting if there is space on site, to include underground options as well as above-ground options.

But I agree that ideally space should be provided at the ground level. I got into an argument with someone from a real estate consulting firm at a conference when she talked about a project in Denver that she thought was really cool because it included a wall rack for a bike in every underground parking space. I said it was great for storing bikes but not for using bikes, depending on difficult it might be to get to the parking from outside.

LEED-ND is providing somewhat better guidelines than most cities in that it includes guidelines about convenient access.

I also think that in dense neighborhoods cities can do more. In the Netherlands they have higher quality bike corrals with protection in street "parking" spaces. I can see that in the city. As well, again, as shared underground parking.

by Richard Layman on Mar 26, 2014 5:05 pm • linkreport

While I appreciate all the interest in the DC regulations, those regulations will never cover communities that are not part of the District.

To be honest, there are lots of non-bicycle-related improvements I would like to see to bring my 50-year-old Greenbelt condo complex into the 21st century. A partial list: solar panels on south-facing roofs, a clothesline area for residents to hang laundry out on sunny days, a few parking spaces with charging stations for electric cars, and maybe even a Zipcar, so that people who can't or don't drive are not stranded at home on Sundays, when Greenbelt has no bus service. Oh, yeah, better insulation in the units too.

However, I'm realistic. The way our community is laid out, there's no good place to put a clothesline area without having it seen from someone's front door. And I haven't run the numbers on solar energy.

We aren't supposed to have grills on our balconies and patios either, but I believe the City of Greenbelt forbids open fires within 25 feet of a building, so there's not much the HOA can do about that.

Maybe someday I will run for the association board, but I need to find more gainful employment first. I can't be worrying over the condo association if I'm stressed out over my bills and my fluctuating income.

by Greenbelt Gal on Mar 26, 2014 5:30 pm • linkreport

Matt, I think the Mayor pro tem lives in your complex; maybe she can pull some weight for you on this issue.

by John on Mar 26, 2014 7:06 pm • linkreport

So a building has to provide bike parking?

Yes

Who or what is responsible for ensuring the building provides the parking?

The owner

What constitutes a building owner?

Ownership. Do you believe the ownership of residential buildings is in question?

What part of DDOT will be visiting all the residential buildings in the city to do inspections?

The District Department of Transportation Bicycle Program Office

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 9:05 pm • linkreport

The bike regulation applies to building owners and the association is not the owner.

My wife, who has defended Condo Associations many times, says that condo owners own the building with each owning a "divided share" of it. The building has bylaws to govern how the powers and obligations of that ownership are exectuted - usually through a condo board. They act as the owner and are considered as such.

So usually it is the condo board, for all legal purposes, the owner. But check your buildings by-laws.

BTW, if anyone really thinks that their 20 minute perusal of the regulations - which once adopted become law - are missing some critical point (despite all the public reviews and work done by city lawyers, DDOT and council staff as well as the office of the Mayor) we are still in the comment period. The link I gave above has a link for comments. They really want to hear all the ways that they don't understand about condo ownership.

And if you look at section 1216 it mentions the fines and refers you to other sections that deal with how they are given out and adjudicated, which may include appeals.

by David C on Mar 26, 2014 9:16 pm • linkreport

"I have had issues with the condo president regarding how many flowerpots I put on my front patio, never mind bicycles." Yeah, that's not unusual for condos.
If you've already tried politeness, if you got any legal basis you can cite meaning you can keep the bike on your patio, wave it at them. Otherwise, they probably will be mean to you. sorry.

by asffa on Mar 27, 2014 8:29 am • linkreport

@ David C - I'm sorry, but it is not legally accurate to say that a condo board is the owner of the condo association. The DC Condominium Law is quite clear on how ownership works: there is no *single* owner of a condo building.

But you are correct that people should submit comments to the proposed regulations. It would not be the first time that DDOT - or any other government agency - has promulgated regulations without understanding their full impact or unintended consequences. It's a shame, though, that DDOT doesn't list all received public comments to its proposed regulations on its website. That would be a very useful public service - and also save their FOIA officer a large amount of time.

by Lurker on Mar 27, 2014 9:08 am • linkreport

Lurker, I did not say that the condo board is the owner. I said that they act with the power of an owner (in cases where the by-laws say so). Why don't you show me the parts of the DC Condominium Law that is so clear that I am wrong.

by David C on Mar 27, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

@ Gabriel, @ Falls Church
River Place, a set of four co-ops in Rosslyn with over 1,400 apartments, has insufficient bike parking. In fact, River Place provides only covered spaces for about 100 bikes for the 1,400 apartments.

At River Place North, we recognized the need for more bike parking. With nowhere to expand as Falls Church notes, we went vertical in the existing bike room.

We consulted with bike room users, BikeArlington, and the Police on better room usage and security. Then we looked at potential solutions and got bids.

The room now accommodates almost double the bikes. The configuration has restored order and added maneuverability. It uses 'double decker' racks where some bikes are elevated. The elevated racks are more difficult to use for some and preferred by owners of nicer (and lighter) bikes who didn't like the chaos of the previous configuration.

We moved the old schoolyard style bike rack outside for visitors and quick stops. This required Owners Assoc. approval since it manages outdoor space and chains illegally parked bikes. While the bike room requires registration, the outside rack is open for all to use.

For security, bike room users currently need to get the bike room key from the office or front desk. Cameras cover both the bike room and the outdoor rack. We're moving to a key fob system next month so we'll try fob entry on the bike room - the system records each entry and we can sync entry time stamps with camera footage. We will add access restrictions only if necessary for security. If none of this works for residents, bikes can be transported on any elevator. We ask that bikes come in/out through the loading dock or one of the side entrances instead of through the lobby.

Gabriel - All RP buildings are interested in resident input, whether you are an owner or renter (both are welcome at board meetings). If you decide to request more storage from the management or board of your bldg, you/they are welcome to see what we've done at RPN if helpful.

by Rosslyner on Mar 27, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

sounds to me like Rosslyn Place addressed the problem with will, creativity, and, yes, neighborliness. So much can be achieved when people get together to problem solve in a spirit of good will.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

"Now if only I could get our condo to remove all the abandoned bikes on our racks and in our bike room.
by RDHD on Mar 26, 2014 12:21 pm"

I think this comments says it all. Abandoned bikes! My condo bldg. has a dedicated area in the garage and every year we have to go through the process of people identifying their bikes. If they aren't identified then they are removed. Bikes attached to lightposts and then abandoned. I sympathize with the problem of bikers, but I don't want to see someone's bike on their balcony and I don't like to see 2-3 stripped bikes attached to lightposts.

by Cattyfabric on Mar 27, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

"but I don't want to see someone's bike on their balcony "

why not? what is unaesthetic about a bicycle? I do not get this.

of course its proper to have a way to dispose of abandoned bikes, like any other abandoned property. I dont see how that says it all.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 27, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

Can condo owners choose not to have to see someone else's car in the yard of their building?

by David Alpert on Mar 27, 2014 12:17 pm • linkreport

Or buy a van, park it, store bicycles inside. Might even be able to share the cost with other bicycle owners. See if you can get insurance that is priced by the mile, so it won't cost much if you don't drive much. For example http://smd.craigslist.org/cto/4351195304.html
or perhaps http://baltimore.craigslist.org/ctd/4367179159.html .

I think we can all agree those are much prettier than an ugly bicycle :-). Or think of the lovely mural you could paint on the sides.

by dr2chase on Mar 27, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

@dr2chase

I love this suggestion, the spite van. I seem to recall someone brought this up a while ago as a way to abuse free street parking for personal storage as well.

by alex on Mar 27, 2014 12:30 pm • linkreport

I sometimes prefer to keep nicer bikes inside my apartment, mostly because the process of getting in/out of the bike room takes too long. (Bikes don't get garage door openers, but of course cars do.) Even though I double-checked the house rules beforehand to make sure it was OK, I've gotten shade from some of my neighbors for deigning to bring my bike onto the elevator. I'm always super courteous about it (I've never so much as brushed by anyone), and I keep my bike a lot cleaner than some neighbors keep their dogs...

by Payton Chung on Mar 27, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

If the reason why the rules can't be changed is an inability to get the correct number of people at the meeting....

...change the bylaws or constitution to reduce the number of people required at the meeting. It doesn't really matter whether you do this with the right number of people present at the meeting. The people present and voting simply vote to waive the quorum rules and to waive the attendance rules, and then start passing changes.

There's only one way for people to object to this: *enough people have to show up at the next meeting*. If that happens, it solves your problem.

by Nathanael on Mar 28, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

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