In an effort to ease a critical scarcity of parking spaces in the Adams-Morgan area, city officials say they will introduce an angle parking plan by the end of November on 18th Street NW between Columbia and Kalorama roads.
If it works there, officials say they will extend it to other streets in Adams-Morgan and to other areas of the city where there is a shortage of parking spaces.
The plan, which will create 28 more parking spaces on 18th Street, has the endorsement of citizens groups in the area and the Eighteenth and Columbia Road Business Association, which has long complained that a shortage of available parking has hurt business in the area.
An ethnically and economically diverse neighborhood made up of blacks, whites and Hispanos, Adams-Morgan, like other sections of the city, has seen a surge of property values within the last five years.
After the riots of 1968, a number of businesses closed, but since the mid-1970s the area has seen an influx of young affluent residents and a resurgence of business activity.
These developments have only aggravated the parking situation, however.
"It's been a problem for a long time," says Jack Littlejohn, the proprietor of Furniture and Antiques at 2461 18th St. NW.
"Our customers have to double park. Some of the police officers know us and they'll just ask them to move their cars. But sometimes they get a ticket and then they get angry with us. The next time they drive by out to the suburbs."
Joseph Laskin, vice president of the Eighteenth and Columbia Road Business Association and the owner of Cosmo Wine & Liquor Shop, 1771 Columbia Rd. NW, said, "It's been incredible. It's absolutely stifled business in the area."
Laskin said merchants in the area will be watching the angular parking -- parking with the front end of the car at the curb -- carefully to see how it works.
"There is some risk involved," he said. "When you back out of an angular parking place into traffic, you do take a chance."
John Brophy, the city's public parking administrator, said the angular parking on 18th Street would probably go into effect by late November. Although it is used widely in other cities, angular parking is being used in Washington only at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill and in front of the Municipal Center on Indiana Avenue NW.
The 18th Street experiment, Brophy said, will determine whether and how extensively angular parking will be used in other areas of the city and elsewhere in Adams-Morgan. As a general rule, he said, angular parking can increase the number of available parking spaces by one-third, but the figure will be less in Adams-Morgan because of the necessity to set aside space for loading zones.
"The problem in Adams-Morgan now is that there are just too many automobiles for too little space. The businesses and the residents suffer," Brophy said.
In addition to the angular parking plan, merchants in the Adams-Morgan area are also looking to a bill pending before the City Council to authorize neighborhood parking facilities as another solution to their parking problems.
That bill, sponsored by council members John Ray, Nadine Winter and David Clarke, would permit the city to acquire vacant parcels of land for use as metered neighborhood parking lots. A 1962 amendment sponsored by the late House District Committee chairman John L. McMillan (D-S.C.) prohibited the city from making such acquisitions. The Ray-Winter-Clarke bill would strike the McMillan amendment from the books.
A spokesman in Ray's office said the cost of building such neighborhood lots -- most of which would accommodate no more than 20 or 30 cars -- would be minimal. "All you're talking about is a little asphalt, some meters and some lighting. And there's a chance federal grants might be available to cover the acquisition costs," she said.
Ray said he has several neighborhoods in mind for the neighborhood parking lots including H Street NE, 14th and Park Road NW and Washington Highlands in Far Southeast Washington. But he said that Adams-Morgan, where 66 percent of the businesses are minority owned, stands out.
"I think this is a perfect example of testing our commitment to promoting and developing minority businesses," Ray said in a prepared statement. The neighborhood lots, he stressed, would not be for commuters but instead would make short term parking available for shoppers.
Laskin said there are several vacant parcels of land on Champlain Street NW, which runs parallel to 18th Street between Columbia Road and Kalorama Road, that would make good possibilities for neighborhood parking lots.