As an ANC Commissioner I spend most of my time on parking. Parking passes, parking enforcement, parking signs, parking this, parking that …
So it is not a surprise to me to see that the recent 6B committee votes in support of the Office of Planning’s draft proposal to remove minimum off site parking requirements in certain zoning categories has caused a storm of protest. Some of it is quite understandable because residents have come to depend on public space to park their cars. But some of it is off the mark based on a misunderstanding of the proposals. Some of it is a bit elitist: I’m inside; now shut the door and don’t let anyone else in.
These new zoning proposals, of which parking is just one of many issues, are intended to set the stage for the next 40 years of development in DC. We have trouble predicting what technology will be available years ahead to facilitate the movement of people and goods but we do know that we can’t continue to add vehicles to our roads. Two really good related reasons why: increasing congestion and increasing pollution. Plus climate change. So, yes, an objective of some of the proposals is to reduce the impact of vehicles on all of us now and in the future and one way is to make parking them less attractive.
So, the proposals simply remove existing minimums for new developments, be they one house or multiple units in an apartment building. A large portion of 6B is in the Capitol Hill Historic District. Nothing changes for this large area under these new parking proposals because historic district residential zones are already exempt from the off site requirement. In any case, removing minimums does not mean developers won’t provide any off street parking.
But, changing zoning is not enough. City officials need to do more. The current Residential Permit Parking system is sorely in need of an overhall. Why do we let an unlimited number of vehicles per household pay $35 per year for permits to park curbside? This, when renting an offsite private space might cost $100 or more per month?
We also need to build more attractive, efficient, reliable transit systems. Under the MoveDC initiative to plan DC transportation 30 years out, maybe we will do that.
Some think I am “anti-auto” because I don’t own a car and, thus, don’t fully understand the frustration of seeking a parking space. Not true. I haven’t owned an automobile for over 40 years. I sold my beloved racing green TR-4 back when I lived at the base of Russian Hill in San Francisco. One day I realized that I wasn’t moving my car but, rather electing to walk or take transit to where ever I wanted to go because I didn’t want to have to search for a parking space when I returned home. When I factored in the cost of that car that mainly sat curbside, I sold it. And, have been car-less since. I understand frustration. What I don’t understand is why frustrated DC “parkers” don’t do what I did. And, I did it long before people dreamed up neat alternatives like Zipcar, Car2Go, Uber, and so on.
I know that everyone can’t give up their automobiles. But, more could.