David Roffman has known the thrill of finding a parking space in the heart of Georgetown.
In fact, for months Roffman, 36, the editor and publisher of the Georgetowner, a neighborhood newspaper,has had his own free space right on N Street, inches to the east of busy wisconsin Avenue. He's claimed it every workday at 6 a.m., glorying in parking only steps from his third-floor walkup office.
But now Roffman's free space is gone, another victim of the D.C. Department of Transportation's drive to make city streets produce more money. d
About a month ago, Roffman -- whose paper has crusaded against strict residential parking bans -- complained that his car was getting ticketed even though there were no signs posted there. A DOT supervisor was sent out for a look.
Roffman hasn't heard back from the supervisor, but about two weeks ago two signs popped up by his spot, limiting parking to one hour.
"That blew my mind," the portly Roffman said last week. Curious, he said he called DOT only to be told that Wisconsin and N -- the heart of the Georgetown shopping district -- has been determined to be "a budding commercial area."
"Hell," he fumed, "it's been commercial for a hundred years."
Roffman said he has received 20 tickets in his spot, and has been booted three times because he hasn't paid them. "I live in Arlington. Although I'm owner of The Georgetowner, I can't afford to live here," he said in his cluttered office above 1259 Wisconsin Ave.
Roffman now has found another on-street space in Georgetown that's still free.
"I defy them [DOT] to find it," he said. "They know me, my license plate, everything. Let them find me. I know this town better than any DOT vulture will ever know it."
To push his battle, the current issueof The Georgetowner has begun a full-page comic entitled "Car Wars," and hails Roffman's new space as "the first victory in a battle with the powerful D.O.T starfleet."
John Brophy, head of the DOT Parking Enforcement Bureau, is only slightly amused at Roffman's tale.
"There's absolutely zero effort to harass him. Matter of fact, he's a nice guy," Brophy said. "But he's a commuter just like an employe of DOT would be. If we find a space on the street -- like Roffman's -- the DOT is going to make it revenue-producing."
Brophy said Roffman's space was not singled out. "We have two fulltime people, traffic analysts, looking for spaces just like that." Brophy said if a space isn't regulated, then it's a prime candidate for either a parking meter or a no-parking sign, whichever is best for traffic. He said about 180 meters have been installed in Georgetown recently.
Meters are money in the bank for the financially strapped District government. "You know what the ratio is [to costs of meters]?" Brophy asked. "It's 1 to 10. It [the meter system] costs us a half-million.But it brings in $5 million."
Brophy said it was "just a coincidence" that the signs went up after Roffman complained, because they involve different sections of DOT. He also said he could not believe that an employe would say Georgetown was a new commercial area.
As Roffman's challenge to DOT to find his new space, Brophy laughed, "We just might. We just might."