The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Testify on car and bike parking rules Monday

On Monday, November 15th, we need your help to testify before the DC Zoning Commission. They are holding the public hearing to decide on parking requirements for cars and bikes in DC's new zoning code. Detailed information on how to sign up to testify in person or submit written testimony can be found at the end of this article.

Photo by jgrimm on Flickr.

In the summer of 2008, we advocated for removing minimum off-street parking requirements from DC's zoning regulations. The Zoning Commission approved general principles around removing most minimums for car parking, requiring bike parking and car sharing spaces, landscaping and more.

Now is the second phase. The DC Office of Planning has written more specific zoning language for review, including specific minimums, maximums, and location of parking.

Parking minimums would disappear in most cases. In neighborhood commercial corridors or low-density residential areas without good transit, commercial, institutional, or multi-family residential buildings would still need to provide some parking. But any area with good transit service, or high-density areas, would have no requirements.

For bicycle parking, new buildings over a certain size would have to include some outdoor visitor bicycle parking (like bike racks), and for non-residential buildings, also a certain amount of indoor, secure bicycle parking along with shower facilities. Access to parking and showers is one of the most significant obstacles to people being able to choose to bike to work.

The parking location proposal would disallow parking between buildings and a street, such as in strip malls like the H Street Connection. This would have ensured that Walgreens designed the somewhat more pedestrian-oriented store they ultimately built at Van Ness instead of the very suburban style one they originally pushed for.

Surface parking lots would need to have 10% of the lot landscaped and trees that at maturity would cover 30% of the lot in tree canopy.

The requirements will also serve to limit on-street loading zones and require more off-street loading docks and berths, while ensuring minimal impacts on urban design, public space, and the pedestrian environment. This will be a boon for all users of the street, including automobile drivers, cyclists, and transit riders, as trucks parked on the street cause congestion, block bicycle lanes, and negatively impact the efficiency of bus routes.

Currently, there is no upper limit to the amount of parking that can be built in either surface lots or parking garages in the city. The Office of Planning and DDOT have both recommended setting a maximum for the amount of parking that could be included with a new building or development.

OP's original recommendation was more conservative, setting the following limits:

  • 100,000 square feet of land area
  • 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area
  • A total of 1,000 spaces for any single parking facility
  • There could be lower limits in Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) areas, based on DDOT input
DDOT recommended more stringent maxima, and a separate standard for TOD and non-TOD areas.
  • 100,000 square feet of land area
  • For retail uses, 2.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building area in TOD areas, and 4.5 spaces in non-TOD areas
  • For non-retail uses, 1 space per 1,000 square feet in TOD areas, 3 in non-TOD areas
  • A total of 500 spaces in TOD areas, 750 in non-TOD areas
In either option, the Board of Zoning Adjustment would have the latitude to increase caps under the relatively light special exception rules.

As an example, DDOT took a look at planned development in the NoMa neighborhood. They found that, at full build-out, 20 million square feet of development is expected. There are currently 7,400 parking spaces in the neighborhood, and 16,500 would be expected under current plans.

This could potentially lead to 12,000 new trips during peak hours. The street network would be unable to handle the additional traffic. Streets in adjacent neighborhoods would see increased use due to spillover, and arterial roads leading to the neighborhood, such as New York Avenue, would see significant increases in delays due to demand.

Since we can't widen the streets and won't be building freeways through the neighborhood, the city needs to find ways to encourage less automobile traffic and more utilization of the investments we've made in transit.

DC USA, the oft-cited example of building too much parking, is only 15 spaces too much for the less stringent OP standard, though twice as big as allowed under the DDOT proposal. Except for that total cap, at 2.1 spaces per 1,000 square feet, it comes in well within the parking ratios in both, meaning that a shopping center half the size of DC USA with just under half as much parking would still be permissible.

Meanwhile, the 9-acre, 860-space Home Depot and Giant parking lot near Rhode Island Avenue Metro would far exceed the 100,000 square foot land area limit, but has neither too many spaces in total nor too many compared to the building size for the OP standard. It would exceed both under DDOT's standard for a TOD area, but not the per square foot limit and not the total by much if it had been built in a non-TOD area. Worth noting, also, is the proposed shopping center at New York Avenue and South Dakota Avenue NE that would have over 3,000 parking spaces.

Please set aside time on next Monday evening to head down to Judiciary Square and testify in favor of parking regulations that will help shape a better and greater Washington, DC in the years to come. The hearing begins at 6:30 pm in Suite 220 at One Judiciary Square (441 4th Street NW). Call ahead (202-727-6311) to get on the list and say you are a "proponent" of the parking regulations, Case No. 08-06. You can also sign up to testify if you arrive on time to the Zoning Commission hearing room.

If you can't make it to the hearing, you can submit comments to the Zoning Commission by fax or email. You can email comments, but only if you sign your comments and send as a PDF of not more than 10 pages. Email your signed PDF to: Written testimony must be received on or before November 15th.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 


Add a comment »

I just called and left a message for Donna to reserve a seat. Thanks for the info.

by Mike on Nov 10, 2010 9:23 am • linkreport

Playing Devil's Advocate, it is also important, however, particularly in the retail context, to consider that the types of businesses the city wants (some might argue needs) to attract demand a certain amount of parking. Failing to permit that amount simply encourages them to walk away, and we're left with declining grocery stores, empty storefronts, and tax dollars and jobs moving to MD and VA. (Not to mention DC residents driving to MD and VA to patronize those stores.)

A really good policy/program would also consider the market forces and retailer preferences/needs/demands, which OP and DDOT have failed to do here. There are opportunities for compromise and creativity. To use one example:

The large amounts of parking demanded by the retailers/grocers are based on their peak demand day, which is typically the day after Thanksgiving (for retail) and day before Thanksgiving (for grocers). This means that for much of the year, the supply is (predictably) way too much. Perhaps the way to solve this is to let them build their parking, and own and manage it, but require that they put creative parking sharing in place to allow other businesses/residents to use portions of their parking during off-peak times. Or have them co-locate near other uses (schools, etc) that could use the parking when they aren't using it.

Rigid bright-line rules are the wrong way to tackle complex problems. I'd hope that the final set of regulations recognizes this.

by Dave on Nov 10, 2010 9:56 am • linkreport

Dave: You've hit on a great point, and the regulations, as proposed address this exact point. I'd encourage you to click through and read them, there are a lot of progressive solutions to little things like this we can do to make this a better place.

by IMGoph on Nov 10, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

If parking minimums will be reduced or even eliminated, we need to think about the impact on adjacent residential streets. Much as we all want to believe that Washington, DC will become just like Holland with everyone using bicycles, the result will likely be a fiercer competition for more scarce on-street parking. The eventual result may be a shift in parking restrictions from the current 2 hours without a ward-based RPP sticker, to smaller zones centered on ANC districts or neighborhoods with more restrictive parking restrictions. This is what Bethesda has done on residential streets that abut commercial areas. Personally, I think this is a forward-looking trend, but it may not be everyone's preference.

by Bob on Nov 10, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

If a building is approved with reduced parking minimums, would the residents of that building be allowed to apply for RPP permits?

In Arlington, when a building is approved under site plan (usually this involves reducing parking minimums as well as other things), the residents are not allowed to join a resident permit parking zone.

Parking minimums were intended to reduce spillover. If we get rid of minimums we have to address spillover either by resident permit parking or performance based meters or some other means.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 10, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

New H St Development to have 250 parking spaces, in spite of being within spitting distance of Union Station, the Streetcar, and several crosstown bus lines.

(Side-comment: Now that DDOT has set a firm-ish date for the streetcar launch, there's been a ton of activity regarding development on the west end of H St. We've had 2 or 3 big announcements just this week.)

by andrew on Nov 10, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

I haven't run through the proposed regulations yet, but based on the tidbits given above-

- Any mention of contributions toward CaBi stations? It'd be great if a mix of public & private investment could gradually increase coverage, perhaps to a station at each corner in downtown; or to within ~1000-2000' or less in the more distant areas.

- With on-site (un)loading bays- at what scale is that for? At first glance, it feels like it'd be required to have a curb cut or wider alleys for every business... I'd wager that's not actually the intent; but based on the synopsis above it's what came to mind.

- Consideration of mixed uses, reducing net parking requirements. I'd wager this is already in the proposal, though, now that it's become a near-standard for many urban cities.

- Greater consideration of shared parking lots. Just an example, there are a couple church lots near me (Logan Circle area) which are vacant 6 days a week; or AutoZone on H Street... I'd wager all of those could probably get some decent revenue if they'd price their spaces & offer permits for others to park there. Granted, for all I know they might *already* be able to do this; perhaps they just don't want to.

by Bossi on Nov 10, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

I'd like to sumbit written testimony, but I'm a little confused as to what I should tell them I'm favoring. Do the requirements have a name? Should I specify that I support either the OP or DDOT recommendation on maximums?

I guess what I'm really asking is for someone to supply my topic sentence, and then I'll write the rest ...

by Liz on Nov 10, 2010 6:02 pm • linkreport

@Geoff, IMGoph, et al,

I am trying, I really am, but so far not making much progress in figuring out what happened here. Last night, ANC 6B, in particular Chair David Garrison and de-elected Vice Chair Kenan Jarboe, basically did a victory dance and all but high-fived, stating that their testimony "was listened to" and they'd convinced OP to reinstate parking minimums, without which Eastern Market area was dooooooomed, I tell you, dooooooooomed!

The 2008 article you linked made mention of the fact that two dozen citizens testified against parking minimums, including a representative from CM Wells's office, but Garrison and Jarboe testified in favor of them.

But near as I can tell, OP did stick to their guns in terms of reducing or eliminating excessive parking minimums in areas with excellent public transportation, of which there are few better than the Eastern Market area. (My home, for example, gets a sterling 97% walkability rating!)

I cannot reconcile all this in my little mind.

So which is it? When ANC 6B voted to endorse the revised OP amendment proposals, were they correct in saying OP was following their advice specifically as it relates to the Eastern Market neighborhood, or were they pulling the wool over these old eyes by pretending they'd won a victory that they did not?

I am so confused. I'll go back to trudging through Geoff's article, the links and the OP recommendations, but if you could set me straight as to what the current OP recommendation means for Eastern Market area and the Hine development, I'd take your counsel on this as good counsel.

by Trulee Pist on Nov 10, 2010 7:57 pm • linkreport

Liz: Start out by stating that you're a proponent of, and you support, Case No. 08-06. That way it'll be clear to what your comments are being directed.

The OP recommendations are the base here. DDOT's are more stringent when it comes to maximums. If you feel that they aren't strong enough, you're free to state something like "I believe we should implement DDOT's proposals, though I believe they're conservative and the city could go even further"

A good starting line is "I would like to express my strong support for the proposed changes to the DC Zoning code regarding vehicle and bicycle parking."

If you'd like, I could send you more information via email. You can go to my contributor page to send me an email.

by IMGoph on Nov 11, 2010 8:56 am • linkreport

TP: I'm trying to figure that out myself. I'm of the understanding that minimums will be removed in residential zones that are well served by transit, so 6B's statements are curious. I'm trying to find out more from people who are more well-versed in the language than I, and I'll get back to you when I learn more.

by IMGoph on Nov 11, 2010 8:58 am • linkreport

TP: Parking minimums will be eliminated except in low density residential areas, zones R-1 through R-4. In these zones, non-residential uses will still have parking requirements. Thus if you want to build a church in a residential zone in Capitol Hill, the use will have parking requirements. Look at the map on page 20 of the Office of Planning's Nov. 5 report to the Zoning Commission. This shows the "TOD" (transit-oriented development" areas. Most of the city is not designated because most of the city's land area is in R-1 through R-4. However, most of the city's new development is likely to occur in higher density zones. OP report link:

by ccort on Nov 11, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

I definitely support the more stringent standard. The last thing we need East of the River is another development with a large empty parking lot.

by Veronica O. Davis (MIss V) on Nov 11, 2010 11:54 am • linkreport

Ensure that bike parking minimums and quantities are not determined by a ratio with car parking minimums and quantities. If not, then you may end up with 0 bike parking spaces at a new development that was either 1) not required to provide car parking, or 2) received an exemption.

This happened in Chicago when the new Apple Store Lincoln Park opened and ≥11 days, neither the store nor the train station Apple paid to upgrade had bike parking. Now there is bike parking, but only near the train station.

This is not the only situation in Chicago because of zoning code confusion.

You should also ensure that it's clear where the bike parking needs to go: does it go on the public way (without a permit as a donation to the City), or must it go on the property?

by Steven Vance on Nov 12, 2010 5:14 am • linkreport

Has anybody (e.g. CSG) done a form-letter action alert? This seems huge -- one of the biggest issues this year.

by Gavin on Nov 14, 2010 5:07 am • linkreport

And are you serious about having to send your comments as a PDF? Because, what kind of stupid...

by Gavin on Nov 14, 2010 5:13 am • linkreport

Gavin: I have seen correspondence from CSG, but no form-letter.

by IMGoph on Nov 14, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

Is their any information on what kind of timeline we can expect as to when these changes would actually become part of the zoning?

by Kent on Nov 15, 2010 3:44 pm • linkreport

Kent: I will add a comment after the hearing tonight if there's anything concrete to share.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Nov 15, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

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

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

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


Support Us