THE CITY WON IN several ways last week when the D.C. Court of Appeals unheld the local government's 1974 rezoning of the Georgetown waterfront. The Georgetown Citizens Association and others had maintained that the city had to conform to a National Capital Planning Commission plan that called for lower-density redevelopment. The court found, however, that the home rule charter did empower the District to act more independently. We think this reading of the law, as expanded on by chief Judge Theodore R. Newman Jr., was correct.
The practical result of the rezoning also strikes us as reasonable, on the whole. The projects being built or planned between M and K streets are not outrageously large. They will certainly boost the city's revenues and, among other things, enhance the C & O Canal. Moreover, a blend of shops, offices, apartments and townhouses will certainly be more lively - and more in keeping with the commercial traditions of the waterfront - than an attempt to clone, as it were, the residential enclave up the hill.
It's true that any development will add to Georgetown's traffic and parking problems, which are already immense. The streets and curbs would be much less congested if people could get to Georgetown on the subway. But they can't - because way back in 1962 or so, the area's civic guardians killed any possibility of a Georgetown Metro stop. Their aim, as always, was to discourage crowds and keep their enclave relatively serene. Their attitude, as summed up a few years ago by Mrs. Eva Hinton, one of Georgetown's most dogged protectors, was, "Leave us the hell alone."
As it's turned out, the vigilantes' shortsighted "victory" over Metro is far more harmful to the area than their loss in the zoning case. The crowds are already choking Georgetown and they get there, mostly, by car. Without Metro, the traffic problems may well be insoluble. That doesn't mean that nothing should be tried. For instance, Metro's small "downtowner" buses might be used as "Georgetowners" to shuttle shoppers from the Foggy Bottom and Rosslyn Metro stops on Saturdays. But the big opportunity to unclutter the area is gone.
Ironically, efforts to ease the parking jams are also getting in the way of one waterfront improvement that everyone supports. No matter what is finally done with the privately-owned acreage between K Street and the Potomac, there is general agreement that at least the publicly-held riverside strip ought to become a park. The District, however, is using much of that land as a handy lot for trash trucks and cars impounded for illegal parking on nearby streets. City officials say the lot is temporary. But Georgetown's parking problems, sadly, are likely to be permanent. If there is ever going to be a riverside park, the next mayor will have to start by relocating the impoundment lot. And the citizens' association, which is so outraged by outsiders' parking, ought to help.