A plan by Goerge Washington University to set up a parking lot 1 1/2 blocks from a Metro station drew fire from neighborhood residents and from the D.C. Department of Transportation at a Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing last week.
"We're asking the Board of Zoning Adjustment to put developers - and George Washington University - on notice that they can't expect to tear down houses and get approval for parking lots on the sites," said Cecilia Aptaker, who lives at 2000 F St. NW, across the street from another university-owned parking lot.
James Clark, assistant director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said his department was "unalterably opposed" to the proposed parking lot because it would be inconsistent with the city's transportation policy, which calls for reduced traffic in the city, encouragement of mass transportation, and reduction of air pollution.
"How can we rationalize a new commuter parking lot 1 1/2 blocks from a Metro station? The time has come to stabilize parking," said Clark.
Clark said later, in a telephone interview, that the department would oppose zoning exceptions for commuter parking lots near Metro stations "98 percent of the time."
The controversial lot would be on a site in the 2100 block of I St. NW, where the university tore down three buildings, last fall. According to university assistant treasurer Robert Dickman, the university plans a new academic cluster in that block in the near future.
"We can't afford to let the land lie fallow until we start construction," said Dickman. He said the buildings - one of which contained apartments and two of which housed university offices - were razed because they were structurally unstable. He said it has been university practice, as property becomes available and as buildings are razed, to use the space for university parking or to lease it to a commercial parking lot company. Dickman said the new parking lot, which would contain about 22 spaces, is necessary because the university's heaviest class schedule is at night when the subway doesn't run.
The university's campus plan, written in 1970, calls for 2,700 to 3,000 parking spaces. According to Dickman, the university now has 2,747 parking spaces.
Karen Gordon, representing the Foggy Bottom-West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the university's parking requirements should be reassessed, taking into consideration the opening of the Foggy Bottom Metro station in July 1976. She urged the board to cut back on such interim-use parking lots in order to "help preserve the existing residential area and take away the incentive for developers - and the university - to raze existing residential structures, cover the land with parking lots and, as the area becomes an increasingly unattractive place in which to live, petition the Zoning Commission for a change in zoning on the basis that the charactre of the area has changed."
Gordon told the BZA that the university presently was demolishing three buildings on 20th Street and predicted that university officials would soon request permission to set up another parking lot on that site. Dickman said the university was razing the building, which had been used as rooming houses, because they were "uneconomic to operate." He said he did not know if the university would try to set up an interim parking lot on the site. In the university's campus plan, the site is stated for an office building which the university would lease for income purposes.
At the same hearing, the university requested permission to continue use of two temporary parking lots - a 50-space university facility in the 700 block of 24th Street NW and a 220-space commercial lot sandwiched between fraternity houses and other buildings in the 2000 block of G Street and the 2000 block of F Street. The latter lot, run by Parking Management Incorporated, is owned by the university but not used for university parking.
"If you have such a dire need for additional parking spaces, you should consider taking some spaces in the commercial lot instead of creating a new parking lot," said BZA chairman Leonard McCants.
The BZA is expected to decide the fate of the parking lots at a meeting Aprils 5.