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Parking garage not the answer for Cleveland Park

Election season must be getting underway. Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3), normally a strong proponent of Smart Growth, has proposed spending public money to build a parking garage in Cleveland Park.

Photo by Mr. T in DC (no relation to Mr. Thielen).

Despite having a Metro station in the middle of its commercial corridor, some local merchants and visitors want to see a parking garage built in this walkable section of Connecticut Avenue.

According to the Current (huge PDF), "Cheh initially thought a garage could go next to Ireland's Four Fields, a bar at 3412 Connecticut Ave., where a small parking lot fronts Connecticut, with businesses in the rear."

This is a spectacularly bad idea. With an operating deficit of nearly a half-billion dollars, the District should not use scarce public funds to subsidize driving. According to a study for the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the cost for above-ground structured parking is $26,000 per space.

In recent years, including under the leadership of current DDOT Director Gabe Klein, the District has prioritized investments such as the Circulator bus routes, streetcars, and SmartBike, which give residents and visitors in the region an alternative to driving. These steps are more appropriate uses of public funds to draw customers to Cleveland Park than the more expensive and traffic-inducing proposition of building a parking garage.

Instead of the circuitous approach of attempting to alleviate parking issues by subdizing driving and creating more auto congestion, DDOT and Ward 3 residents should look at demand-management strategies instead that will avoid a costly and permanent dead-zone on Connecticut Avenue.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen.
Cleveland Park was recently excluded from the areas categorized as "premium demand zones" for parking meters. As a result, while parking rates have increased to $2 per hour in Tenleytown, curbside parking is priced well below the actual demand in Cleveland Park.

In the article, ANC Commissioner Leila Afzal suggests another way to address Cleveland Park's parking problems: make the Residential Parking Permit (RPP) privileges only apply to actual residents of the area, rather than residents from as far away as the Maryland border. The original intent of RPP was to stop people from driving to a Metro station and parking on nearby neighborhood streets, but in Cleveland Park and Woodley Park, that's still endemic.

As area ANC Commissioners have often suggested and David Alpert discussed last year, creating sub-zones in certain areas like Cleveland Park could reserve more of the area's parking for residents and shoppers instead of distant drivers looking for free commuter parking.

Better alternatives than using taxpayer money to subsidize driving include extending the Circulator bus to Cleveland Park. Currently, the Circulator ends at Woodley Park. Assuming the proposed parking garage contains 30 spots built at DDOT's estimate of $26,000 per spot, this would cost the District $7,800,000 $780,000, plus ongoing maintenance costs which parking fees might not cover.

Similarly, another alternative that deserves consideration is extending the proposed streetcar from Woodley Park to Cleveland Park. It is only 0.8 miles between the two Metro stations. At the estimated cost of $40 million per mile for the streetcar, this extension would cost $32 million. The amount saved from not building a parking garage and revenue gained from a performance parking district in Cleveland Park can be used to fund this potential extension.

Finally, the District could help struggling businesses in Cleveland Park's commercial corridor by allowing greater density in that section. Moderate-sized residential buildings line Connecticut Avenue to the north and south of Cleveland Park, but the main commercial strip, especially the Park and Shop, is almost entirely just one and two story buildings. Building 2-3 levels of new residential units above these retail establishments and restaurants would bring new residents to this area, immediately next to the Metro station, and adding more built-in customers for the restaurants and shops of Cleveland Park.

Ben Thielen is the founder and spokesperson of the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition.


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I like your last idea, but this will NEVER come to pass in Cleveland Park, a neighborhood full of powerful and influential NIMBYs who want to maintain its quiet, suburban charm.

by Log on Feb 16, 2010 1:35 pm • linkreport

What problem is the parking garage supposed to solve? The troubles of retail in this area? If so, I think those troubles stem from much broader issues than just parking. No discussion of the zoning restrictions on retail uses?

Also, if Cheh is envisioning a multi-level parking garage on that small surface parking lot next to Four Fields, it's going to be really expensive. By my count, that lot currently has 14 spaces. If you want more, you need to go up or down, which of course requires more space for the ramps to get the cars up and down, decreasing the total number of spaces per level (and increasing the cost per space).

by Alex B. on Feb 16, 2010 1:36 pm • linkreport

Log-- two parcels that immediately come to mind for potential redevelopment are the library and Post Office in Cleveland Park. These buildings are being redeveloped elsewhere in the District ( to provide residents with new facilities, while adding to the supply of scarce housing in desirable areas (West End and Georgetown, respectively). You're correct, however, that any potential to provide additional housing within walking distance of a metro station would quickly result in howls of protest from the likes of the Alliance for Rational Development

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

These Stupid Growth proposals never stop. Put out one fire and another one pops up. I wouldn't care what Cleveland Park residents wanted to do if their proposals didn't have such large budgetary ramifications for everyone else.

by Cavan on Feb 16, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

First, Cheh knows a parking garage will never be built in Cleveland Park. Her "idea" is simply a softball to area businesses who complain that business is down b/c parking is such a pain, showing them that she's "doing something." She is up for reelection this fall.

Second, I doubt we will see a Connecticut Avenue streetcar in the foreseeable future because of concerns over traffic on that road, as well as the reversible lanes for commuters.

Third, anyone who suggests building on top of the retail businesses in that stretch of area really has no idea what the local neighborhood is like.

Fourth, anyone who suggests a more limited RPP also really has little idea how residents feel about it.

by Fritz on Feb 16, 2010 1:55 pm • linkreport

30 spots or 300 spots?

by Michael on Feb 16, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

Michael-- mea culpa, I added one too many zeros. It is 30 spots, as the hypothetical parking garage would most likely be 3-4 levels.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 2:01 pm • linkreport

If it's 30 spots, the amount would be $780,000, not $7.8 million, correct?

by Michael on Feb 16, 2010 2:03 pm • linkreport

No, 7.8 is in the ballpark for a garage.

Ben, it's not the ARD to fear on this side of Reno Road, it's the Cleveland Park Citizens' Association.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 16, 2010 2:04 pm • linkreport

Neil- you're probably correct but Sue/Cassie/Z would jump into this also.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 2:06 pm • linkreport

The neighborhood should institute market-rate parking first, before spending millions on a garage that will increase traffic and may not even be needed. Market-rate parking raises prices until 15% of spaces are always open and available. Market rate parking can pay for itself and merchants may support it if a portion of revenues are dedicated to improving and maintaining the streetscape design. It can dramatically reduce congestion caused by cruising for spaces (which can constitute a surprisingly large fraction of total traffic). New computerized meters are very flexible and can accommodate different pricing at different times of day, and on different streets and different block faces.

I am not sure if computerized meters have ever been used with residential parking permits and subzone permits, but it seems to be technically possible. The politics are another matter.

by Laurence Aurbach on Feb 16, 2010 2:07 pm • linkreport

Limited RFP zones need to happen. I notice weird parking zone numbers/letters in Chicago, which are much smaller than the vast parking zones by ward in DC. I suppose you could split it up by ANC district.

Once when looking in a condo building in Logan Circle, the agent, who owned in the building and a parking spot that he used to park his car bragged that he also had a RFP sticker for sole purpose of being able to park for free in Georgetown, which clearly isn't the purpose of the RFP program.

by Mony on Feb 16, 2010 2:24 pm • linkreport

I'll expand on Laurence Aurbach's idea by suggesting that before any public funds are invested in a parking structure, the neighborhood should have to prove that market-rate pricing does not solve the problem by trying it for at least a year. That will turn parking into a revenue stream instead of an expense for the DC government. I have no problem using the revenue for improvements in the same area.

And, of course, if the parking in the area is priced at a market rate, that may generate private solutions to the perceived shortage. DC government doesn't manage parking well now. The solution is not to give them more to manage.

by Stanton Park on Feb 16, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

I'm skeptical that Cheh really embraces this idea. I agree the first steps are: 1) something with RFP's-especially expanding the restriction to weekends b/c the side streets fill up with zoo visitors who don't want to pay for parking to go to the free zoo, maybe expanding RFP into evenings too; 2)performance parking and 3)changing the frackin' zoning to allow more commercial enterprise. Also agreed there is a vocal don't-change-anything-ever-super-stubborn contingent but i think they'r just a loud mouthed minority and if other neighbors stepped up zoning changes could happen. Not without a fight though (see wisconsin Ave Giant project)

Finally, improving pedestrian access to both sides of the street (Conn. Ave) would benefit business too, i.e. a pedestrian activated stop light and cross-walk midway from Macomb to Ordway.

by Bianchi on Feb 16, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

The study you cite for that $26,000 per spot figure addresses the costs of constructing parking for TOUR BUSES - not cars.

Unless Cheh is proposing a tour bus garage, you need a different figure.

by Mike on Feb 16, 2010 3:12 pm • linkreport

Mike, I understand this but it was the only figure I could find from DDOT. The estimates from structured parking generally range from $25K - $50K, so if anything, the cost would probably be more. There was a posting on GGW about the cost of building a parking garage at the University of Maryland and I think that was $8M.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

Mike-- here's the article U. of Maryland's 288-car garage cost $9.3M, or more than $32K per spot.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

I'm going to go ahead and say what everyone wants to say, but won't:

That photo of a cyclist on a warm summer morning is INCREDIBLY DEPRESSING right now.

Besides that, she's not serious. Pandering at its best. It's a lot easier to make promises like this than to explain to every business owner why a parking garage is actually the opposite way to add cash to CP.

by JTS on Feb 16, 2010 3:20 pm • linkreport

There is something fishy about the numbers:


$780K seems way too cheap, and 30 spots would not be that much of an improvement. It is possible that the cost per space decreases with additional spaces because of construction and labor efficiencies, but that can't last if you're building up.

The numbers need to be clarified.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 16, 2010 3:23 pm • linkreport

Ben, thanks for the piece. I'm so glad you've addressed this terrible idea.

by ccort on Feb 16, 2010 3:33 pm • linkreport

Cost per space generally increases as you build more, because you build the easiest spaces (ground level, one floor up or down with minimal ramps) first, and you build the harder spaces (multiple floors of excavation, elevator systems, complicated fire supression and ventilation systems, enhanced strucutral strength and stability) last. Construction of underground parking spaces can run $50,000 per space easy.

If you try to amortize just the construction cost of $26,000 per space over 20 years at a reasonable discount rate (4%), you have to collect $8 per day per space per weekday. Add in maintenance, administration and operating cost, and the fact that spaces won't be 100% used every day, and you could easily need $15-20 per day per car to keep the garage operating.

And that doesn't account for externality costs like congestion and local pollution, collision risks with other vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians, and the opportunity cost of having a parking garage there instead of another use.

There's a place for off-street parking garages. But part of that bargain needs to be that drivers pay for the lion's share of the cost of constructing and maintaining that space. I doubt that's what's being proposed here.

by Michael Perkins on Feb 16, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

Forget all about how backwards the idea is. What about what an EYESORE this would be in such a beautiful and HISTORIC neighborhood. Furthermore and I hate to admit this. But I do occasionally drive from MTP to Cleveland Park and its not that hard to find a street spot. It's never taken me more than 5 minutes of looking. I was just saying the other day they should also do away with the cut out and extra parking along conn ave and return it to its historic wide sidewalks. This would give abundant outdoor seating to the restaurants along that side.

by John on Feb 16, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

Fourth, anyone who suggests a more limited RPP also really has little idea how residents feel about it.

Why's that? I would think CP residents (and any in an area with net-commuting-in) would be in favor of more limited zones (whether ANC, or ANC SMDs, or some sort of "neighborhood" concept). The people who will oppose it are the ones living way up Conn. (Chevy Chase DC, Barnaby Woods, and others not near Metro) who can use their RPP to park for Metro or to drive in for dinner, etc.

Right now, doing it by Ward makes little sense--it's pretty random where you are allowed to park without limits and it even changes when wards get relined. Whatever other way it's done it surely makes more sense than by ward.

by ah on Feb 16, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

Michael -- is $15-20/day unreasonable to expect there, however? Putting aside the other issues, at current meter rates of $2/hour, and meter operation hours that are at least 10 hours long, if not 15, you quickly get to that in meter-equivalent cost. You could even do it like Bethesda, with meters in the garage or better one of the payment machines and a ticket on the dashboard. So it seems that under your cost/revenue ideas this actually could be a profitable (or not money-losing) proposition.

by ah on Feb 16, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

ah-- one of the problems with Cleveland Park is that DDOT didn't include it as one of the premium demand zones and curbside parking is still $1 per hour. I would think that more spaces would be available if this neighborhood had $2/hr rates. This would eliminate the disparity between the $2 rates in Tenley and the cheaper parking here for people taking metro elsewhere in the region.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

The UMD construction costs of $50k per space do not include acquisition of property I presume. Does the City own any of the property that might be turned into the garage? If not, then that would have to be calculated in, too.

And even if so, then the opportunity cost of the land would need to be calculated. My admittedly biased brain tends to believe that there is no lower value use for land than parking.

by Steve O on Feb 16, 2010 4:40 pm • linkreport

Oops. I meant $32k for UMD

by Steve O on Feb 16, 2010 4:41 pm • linkreport

Even so, the proposed lot for this parking structure is so small that half of the footprint of each level would be devoted to circulation, not parking - meaning that each level would only actually house 10 spaces - meaning that you'd need a lot of levels to house even a small number of cars, which would definitely put this thing at the very expensive end of the spectrum for price-per-space numbers.

by Alex B. on Feb 16, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

@ alex b -unless maybe its one of those Japanese style stacked parkers...even though that would be cool to see in DC i wouldn't want it in CP, where I lived for 7 years and still own property - and YES as a former/quasi/future CP resident I am in favor of more restrictive parking stickers, especially expanded to weekends!

by Bianchi on Feb 16, 2010 5:30 pm • linkreport

Fair point, Ben -- When I was there last month I figured the meters weren't going on Saturday and were still "cheap" because DC just hadn't gotten there yet. Of all the places that needs saturday meters . . .

by ah on Feb 16, 2010 5:39 pm • linkreport

ah-- that is exactly one of the problems. Areas such as Cleveland Park or U Street have limited jobs compared to other sections of the DC region and are the busiest, most congested, in the evenings and the weekends. Even with the extension to 10 PM in the premium demand zones, parkign is still cheapest in these neighborhoods when the demand is highest, especially on Sundays in Cleveland Park with the zoo.

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 5:51 pm • linkreport

Developers are just salivating over the two 1 & 2 story buildings that flank the Metro stop in Cleveland Park. In an historic district those buildings are sacred. The Park & Shop is the first collection of shops built with a parking area on the east coast and only the second such commercial building in the U.S. The shops on the north side of the street were originally built as residences. After a few years one resident moved his family to the top floors and opened a shop on the ground floor. Within a few years the ground floor of every residence was converted into a shop. Those of us who like the livable scale of our neighborhood do not appreciate these continued attempts to tear it all down and rebuild it more densely. We are not Van Ness, we are not Friendship Hts.

by E. Oliver on Feb 16, 2010 10:22 pm • linkreport

I'm not necessarily saying a parking garage is a better idea, but what makes you think bringing the Circulator up to Cleveland Park would help that much? First, there's already pretty decent Metro bus service there, both going towards Woodley Park as well as Columbia Heights, and second of all I'd really guess most of the people parking around Cleveland Park would be coming from the north or west.

And the proposal to extend the possible streetcar line makes even less sense to me. Why do that in an area that already has good Metro rail and bus service? I'd much rather see things line a street car line on Wisconsin from Tenleytown (though, I realize that would be expensive). And again, that doesn't really help that much if the demand for parking is really coming from the north and west.

The rezoning option seems like a no-brainer. I'm very, very skeptical about being able to attract car-less people to live in places like the proposed White Flint redevelopment, but I think that can and would work in Cleveland Park. I already know several people that don't own cars in that area and they get along just fine because of the excellent public transit options in that area.

by Andy R on Feb 16, 2010 10:32 pm • linkreport

Developers are just salivating over the two 1 & 2 story buildings that flank the Metro stop

I know! They want them so much we could actually demand human scale and finely designed buildings that would meet all of the criteria.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 16, 2010 10:44 pm • linkreport

Isn't Ward 3 mostly missing from the streetcar and Circulator plan? Rather than extending either to Cleveland Park, what about extending the Circulator up to Tenleytown from Glover Park and the streetcar up to National Cathedral at Wisconsin/Massachusetts/Garfield? Or run a Ward 3 loop bus around Wisconsin, Western, Connecticut, Calvert,Cleveland, Garfield? Either would help connect Ward 3 and also reduce those of us who live west of Cleveland and Woodley Park but who sometimes park there.

by Graham S on Feb 16, 2010 10:48 pm • linkreport

Graham S-- correct, except for a short extension to Woodley Park from Adams Morgan, streetcars are completely lacking from Ward 3. This is despite the fact that the District of Columbia Transit Improvements Alternatives Analysis report from October 2005 found that a streetcar route from Friendship Heights to Georgetown would have the highest ridership of the nine routes studied. I created the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition to advocate for a streetcar in this corridor: .

by Ben on Feb 16, 2010 11:42 pm • linkreport

In an historic district those buildings are sacred.

Why is the parking lot sacred? Without touching the sacred buildings, you could build something on the parking lot.

(And don't tell me it's the historic vista. If it is supposed to retain its historic appearance, parking needs to be restricted to cars built before 1940. And at Colesville & Georgia in Silver Spring, the historic parking lot was defaced with a modern structure - a big sign - in front of it without a peep of protest from the preservationists.)

by tt on Feb 17, 2010 12:37 am • linkreport

+1 to the suggestion of extending Circulator service to Cleveland Park -- I could never figure out why they didn't extend it that far anyway in order to pass by the zoo. (admittedly, I don't know where it could easily turn around at the end of the line)
When my friend drives me to Cleveland Park we never have a problem finding free street parking on residential streets. While it's annoying to have to go down several streets to find a spot, we always find one eventually, so somehow I doubt that there is huge demand for a garage.

by grumpy on Feb 17, 2010 8:37 am • linkreport

The large RPP zones are a problem all over town, not just in Cleveland Park and Woodley Park: Georgetown, Capitol Hill, Logan Circle, Shaw. The people who like it the way it is now are the people who take advantage and use is to park all day for free at their office, the Metro station or their kids' private school. Those of us who can never park on the street because of those folks would welcome the change.

by urbanette on Feb 17, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport

It is really annoying when people completely unqualified to discuss things, pass themselves off as the resident experts.

First of all...your math is way off. 30 spaces at 26K a space, is not 7.8 million. Making such a ridiculous mistake to start off with should disqualify you from using the internet at all, let alone for trying to shape some form of transportation policy.

Secondly, to criticize the city spending 8 million dollars, by recommending they spend 32 million dollars instead has to be the most ridiculous, humor inducing thing I've read all day.

Thirdly, garages don't get more expensive per space, as their number increases. Please tell me you've heard of economies of scale?

There are plenty examples of local parking garages in the past couple of years. Above ground goes for anywhere between 20K-30K on average, underground from 25K to 50K.

The most expensive underground lot I've ever heard of just opened in Chinatown adjacent to the metro tunnels and next to the movie theater and cost 58K per space and has 4 levels below ground.

Assuming for a second the city spends $60K per space for an above ground or above/below hybrid lot of 200 spaces, then we are all in at 6 million. A far cry from the minimum 32 million to extend a street car to CP.

Folks, sometimes you have to admit that the utopian idea of reducing cars and adding public transport isn't going to work in every situation.

CP has its own Metro stop centrally located in the strip. It has high density residential lining Connecticut Ave for a mile in both directs, as well as the local side streets.

We have 5 bus lines that run north/south along Connecticut through CP, and another 5 that run east-west through CP at Porter Street, half a block from the metro. All of this and you still want to add bus lines, or spend 32 million on a street car that is going to run up the same street as the metro does below?

Not to mention that Connecticut Ave itself is a primary artery and sees 38,000 cars per day that drive through CP, and the area still has problems. Why? Because there is no where to park.

There are a ton of ideas that would add parking to CP, some of them cheap, others not, but to blindly condemn additional parking when it is obvious the multilayerd public transportation options already there aren't working, is pretty ridiculous.

by nookie on Feb 17, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport


Given the historic district and associated landmarked structures, what would be a good location for a parking garage in Cleveland Park? Factoring land costs, what is the threshold for a good value proposition on this proposal?

Given the growth projections for the region, wouldn't adding an alternative and redundant transportation option to the corridor be a good thing? Particularly when said option is more environmentally responsible than the alternatives (other than walking or biking)?

If given the choice between a parking garage and 1/5 of a streetcar line, I would opt for the latter every time.

by William on Feb 17, 2010 11:57 am • linkreport

Thirdly, garages don't get more expensive per space, as their number increases. Please tell me you've heard of economies of scale?

I mentioned economies of scale in one of my posts, but I'm not sure economies of scale hold after a certain size because verticality costs money. Truth is, I don't know because I'm not a professional cost estimator, and unless you are, I don't think you can shoot down Ben's arguments.

I that's irrelevant here, as Alex pointed out, the amount of circulation and support facilities would be disproportionately high.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 17, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport


If you look above, I readily admit that the $7.8M figure is a miscalculation. The correct figure should be $780,000. The cost of the U. of Maryland parking garage for 288 spaces is $32K per space. It highly likely that the cost of land per square foot is far more in the commercial district at Cleveland Park, right next to the metro than it is at the University of Maryland campus, raising the cost per space.

Second, have you ever heard of diseconomies of scale? Beyond a certain point, a larger firm or producing at a higher level of output is increasingly inefficient. I am not a civil engineer but this is very likely the case for structured parking because the concrete and the structural frame of the garage needs to be much stronger for each addition level added to the garage. Additionally, you have to add more ramps for each additional level you add.

Third, based on DDOTÂ’s estimate of $40M per mile, a streetcar will cost $32M to extend to Woodley Park. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route should get priority over this extension but this should be an alternative to explore before building a parking garage that will cost several million dollars. Unlike a parking garage, this streetcar extension will reduce vehicle congestion and thereby reduce travel times. Over the 40-50 year lifespan of a streetcar route, this will be a significant economic benefit. Additionally, this will encourage the redevelopment of the 1-2 story buildings right in the center of the Cleveland Park commercial district. The new sales and income tax revenue over a 40 year lifespan of the streetcar extension is also likely be several million dollars.

I certainly am not committed to the idea of extending the streetcar from Woodley Park to Cleveland Park but just offered it as an alternative investment. Unlike Wisconsin Avenue, which is without a metro station south of Tenley, extending the Circulator service and improving east-west bus service would be more prudent investments.

Finally, to have a full-page rant without discussing pricing parking like any other good or service in our economy, ignores basic tenets of supply and demand. Parking in Cleveland Park is now only $1 per hour and does not extend to the peak evening and weekend periods when demand in this neighborhood is likely highest. If curbside parking was priced to reflect the scarce good it is, you would see more people walk/bike here and take metro rail and bus.

by Ben on Feb 17, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

"With an operating deficit of nearly a half-billion dollars, the District should not use scarce public funds to subsidize driving."

I don't like the idea of a parking garage, but it should be noted that construction funds almost always come out of the city's capital budget, not general operating revenue.

by Adam L on Feb 17, 2010 12:22 pm • linkreport


Really now. You are either armed to discuss something intelligently or not. All I've seen above is subjective opinion. Attempting to pass off "responsible" transit policy as shielded bias doesn't work.

Pricing Parking- Fine, we could try it. There are examples in the city already that work marginally at best. This forum has already discussed them in perpetuity. It should also however be mentioned that CP has been in this state for more than a decade, and parking solutions been discussed longer than that. CP may not have the most expensive parking in the city now, but it has for years long stretches before and it did nothing to "free-up" parking. Also, Connecticut ave is one of those rush hour corridors, where you aren't even allowed to park on the street from 4:30 to 6:30, so parking pricing isn't going to do anything for the prime time of the day when people are leaving work and looking for a place to go or park to go.

To look a metro stop and 10 converging bus lines in the face and say (we need more buses) or (we need a street car to run the same alignment as the metro 80 feet below) is just plain childishness.

We aren't talking about building a 500 space lot folks. The fact that you took Chehs words of discussing parking and automatically assumed the city was going to had~1000 space lot, without doing any research into the voluminous related discussions over the years was lazy.

There is a USPS owned 20 car lot behind the Uptown, out of sight and not burden by historical significance. Going one level below and one level above, 3 levels of 20 spaces would add 40 spaces. This could happen with or without a redevelopment of that USPS spot (which USPS is dying to close).

Buying the underground rights from the Broodmore co-op. They have just under an acre of nice undeveloped lawn area at the intersection of Connecticut and Porter. The city buries a 2 level parking lot there and restores the lawn to its current condition. Typical underground parking produces 80 cars per acre of land. Two levels is 160 spaces. This alone would probably solve all of CP's problems. Out of sight, out of mind.

Turing the parallel parking in front of the strip of shops opposite the Uptown into angled parking. There is enough ROW there already without taking up more of the businesses sidewalks or bothering Connecticut. There is currently enough spaces for 30 cars along that strip. Simply stripping it to be angled would add another 20 spaces.

Redeveloping the CP Library lot. Below ground parking, new, first floor city library and a couple levels of apartments above. Net gain for business parking may only be 20 spots, but well worth it.

As you can see, and you would have known had anyone bothered to do 5 seconds of research rather than having a knee jerk reaction to something in a neighborhood its obvious none of you live in, there are a variety of ways to solve the problem, and none of them involve building a 2000 car parking garage.

by nookie on Feb 17, 2010 12:38 pm • linkreport

I could go on all day.

Adas Israel Congregation has a 120 space above ground parking lot behind them. Enter into an agreement with them to let the city add a level above or below, or both. The congregation gets additional free parking out of the deal which they would love and CP gets an additional 120 spaces.

The Sams Park and Shop has a ~55 space privately owned lot right on Connecticut. Have the city go one or two levels below.

Every single option I've given for building structured parking is out of the historical district or completely out of sight to begin with.

by Nookie on Feb 17, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

We seem to have touched a nerve.

The solutions you offered don't work out much better. How would you access the postal parking lot? It exits onto a residential street. The Broadmoor? People who drive to Cleveland park don't want to walk that far. There are already free street spaces over there that are never taken because it's too far from Ardeo to justify driving at all. Sam's Park and shop is a landmark.

Ultimately, the garage would not make a difference. Traffic would stay the same or get worse, while the garage would still fill up. The only way these businesses will do better is if a slight increase in the number of residents in the neighborhood occurs.

I'd be OK with the angled parking and redeveloping the library. These options seem to work elsewhere, and the library is mediocre.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 17, 2010 12:53 pm • linkreport


No need to take a condescending tone. Some of us have actually lived here for years/decades.

USPS lot - all rock below it, difficult engineering and you don't think the residents of Newark, 29th and Ordway won't go batsh!t over it?

Broadmoore -- I have actually spoken to residents there and floated that idea - it is a non-starter, at least it was a few years ago;

DDOT has already rejected the idea of parallel parking, too dangerous for the arterial route that is Connecticut Avenue;

Redeveloping the CP library - great idea, but again, you don't think the residents of Newark and Macomb won't pull a Giant in terms of confrontation and delay? The Tenley Library/Janney PPP was a great opportunity that the city executed poorly. No reason to believe such a proposal in Cleveland Park would fare any better. Also, this is a very small lot, smaller, I believe, than the Tenley Library.

Sam's Park N Shop is ground zero for Cleveland Park activism where the historic district is concerned. Good luck touching that holy grail. Plus, there is a metro stop right there. I am not sure of the engineering ability to sink parking below the surface lot.

Adas Isreal: security probably kills any possibility there.

Any other great ideas?

by William on Feb 17, 2010 1:01 pm • linkreport

Nookie wrote:

There are a ton of ideas that would add parking to CP, some of them cheap, others not, but to blindly condemn additional parking when it is obvious the multilayerd public transportation options already there aren't working, is pretty ridiculous.

I asked in my first comment what problem Cheh is trying to solve here. Well, what problem is she trying to solve, and why has she determined that more parking the the answer?

No one's told me what the problem is. Is it the lack of retail vitality? If so, I'd argue that the root cause of that is the lack of mixed use in the area (primarily residential) and the zoning restriction that limits bars and restaurants to only 25% of the linear retail footage.

If the problem is parking turnover, adding more capacity is not the right answer, either. Price the parking properly, etc.

I also think your estimates about going just one or two levels below ground on these small parcels to add more parking won't fly. Circulation ramps take up a lot of space. Your 80 spaces per acre figure (about 550 sq feet per space) isn't going to apply with small parcels, as your ramps and vertical circulation will take up far more space. You'll pay the same price for adding each additional level to the structure, but each level will lose 1/3 or 1/4 of the spaces you have now to accommodate the ramps - all of which dramatically increases the cost per space. I think with such small ramps you'd find massive diseconomies of scale, to be honest. You'd be paying huge amounts of money for only a modest increase in parking spaces. Regardless of what the problem is, this isn't a good solution.

Again, what is the problem this parking is supposed to solve?

by Alex B. on Feb 17, 2010 1:09 pm • linkreport


Look at my comment from yesterday:

“two parcels that immediately come to mind for potential redevelopment are the library and Post Office in Cleveland Park. These buildings are being redeveloped elsewhere in the District ( to provide residents with new facilities, while adding to the supply of scarce housing in desirable areas (West End and Georgetown, respectively).”

I would be glad to see developers build 2-3 floors of new residential above these facilities and to see the Park & Shop similarly redeveloped Since the people who choose to pay a premium to live next to rail stations have significantly different travel patterns and much lower car ownership rates, any subterranean parking here could be publically available through shared-parking agreements that have worked successfully elsewhere. The crucial difference between this and Councilmember ChehÂ’s proposal, however, is that it would be private developers and not taxpayer subsidies that would pay for the expanded parking. This parking would also be underground and not, as I noted in my post, create a dead-zone right in the middle of the Cleveland Park commercial district.

As with properly priced parking, shared parking arrangements are an important part of successful transportation demand management programs.

Finally, I never said the proposal was to add 1,000 spaces. You are simply making this up. Admittedly, I made an error with my math but I said the small parcel next to the IrelandÂ’s Four Fields would have approximately 30 spaces.

“Assuming the proposed parking garage contains 30 spots built at DDOT's estimate of $26,000 per spot, this would cost the District $780,000, plus ongoing maintenance costs which parking fees might not cover.”

by Ben on Feb 17, 2010 1:41 pm • linkreport

Is the Business Corridor of Cleveland Park really performing that badly? I know there has been some recent turnover but the spaces that go out of business seem to get snatched up pretty quick. Last I heard the long vacant McDonalds space is becoming a diner. Palena is expanding into Magruders. Wallgreens may expand into 711. A Cereal place into starbucks and a tanning place into consignment store. In fact every time I go to Cleveland Park it seems to be bustling. But If they want more patrons I think the clear answer is residential units. Have the broadmore build a new wing over the lawn. The Kennedy Warren was able to do this. I'm sure just about any developer in DC would jump at the chance to build in Cleveland Park.

by John on Feb 17, 2010 2:32 pm • linkreport

By my estimate, it's an even bet as to which will happen first: a parking garage in Cleveland Park or residential housing above the retail stores south of Ordway.

And +1 for nookie for his/her ideas. If only the utopian ideas usually floated here were also subject to the instant "not gonna work" analysis by the commentariat... e

by Fritz on Feb 17, 2010 4:23 pm • linkreport

Having 10 bus lines would be great if they weren't really variants of 3 or 4 bus lines that only sometimes go where you want to go. The H variants duplicate, for Ward 3, the red line Metro, though they're great for getting out of Ward 3 to Columbia Heights. Ditto for the Ls, in terms of duplicating the Metrorail line, though they go up to Chevy Chase which is good.

What we lack (and I do live near Wisconsin Ave in Ward3) is transit that stitche the transit-oriented places like Cleveland Park with residential neighborhoods that might like to get there without driving -- on an evening or a weekend, for example. We have decent options for rush hour commuting, but few for that thing called life some of us try to have in between work and posting comments on blog.

Thanks to everyone who Is trying to make our city better, whether pro or con on this issue.

by Graham S on Feb 17, 2010 6:39 pm • linkreport

I've about had it with Cheh. It just takes one of her friends to give her a call, and she's flip flopping.

by Disappointed on Feb 17, 2010 10:41 pm • linkreport

Sadly, the real issue is about the retail. But you're all talking about the parking garage proposal. As I pointed out on this blog about 17th Street a year or two ago when parking-retail was discussed, the real issue is the nature of the retail district and the retail trade area and then how people get to the RTA.

But I wrote about the Cleveland Park retail issue too:

#1 --

#2 --

Obviously, 17th Street/Dupont Circle is different from Cleveland Park. As a "regional" retail district in mid-nw, probably a bunch of people drive to Cleveland Park (it may function comparable to how Bethesda functions for Montgomery County as a major specialty retail and primary restaurant destination), but you need to do a market study/commercial district revitalization framework plan to figure stuff out. It can be reasonable from a commercial district revitalization standpoint to add parking (EVEN THOUGH I HATE TO SAY IT). However, again, I recommend the creation of transportation management districts and the management of all modes rather than a focus on parking.

And this thread also proves that I am making no headway at all in explaining the difference between what people call "Circulators" the DC Circulator service and what I call tertiary transit network service potential within DC:

DC Tertiary Transit Network: intra-neighborhood bus services; private shuttle services (i.e., Washington Hospital Center to/from Brookland Metro, university shuttle services, etc.). This proposed tier of service would be comprised of an intra-neighborhood transit service that could be free (depending on monies provided separately by DC), and oriented to getting people to and from within a neighborhood, to main transit lines and stations without having to drive, and including delivery of goods and services from local commercial districts. The Tempe Orbit bus system in Tempe, Arizona is one model for this type of mobility option.

A circulator in mid-nw could support the Woodley Park and Cleveland Park commercial districts (maybe the stuff by the Cathedral too), but it should stay up in mid-nw and never ever ever go south of Calvert Street.

It should be a "neighborhood" circulator. It would probably be best to run it only certain times of the day, and it could be used "RideOn" style to get people to the subway stations in the morning and back home from the subway stations in the evening.

But as long as you focus on the pretty red buses without thinking through the service profile, you're missing the point.

by Richard Layman on Feb 21, 2010 8:00 pm • linkreport

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