“It almost always comes down to parking,” said D.C. Council member Tommy Wells at a hearing last week on D.C.’s zoning update, and he’s right. Wells tried to explain a tricky point to opponents of the zoning update: how higher parking minimums don’t make it easier to park on the street.
Wells agrees with many residents that parking on neighborhood streets has become more difficult, and he wants to do something to ease that task for existing residents. However, he doesn’t believe that requiring new apartment buildings to build more parking, or preventing them from building less, is going to really have any effect.
“In Ward 6 we’ve had substantial infill development,” he said, “and the way we’ve managed parking is through regulation” — such as adding meters and limiting parking on one side of many streets to Ward 6 residents. Residents of some new buildings also can’t get residential permit parking (RPP) stickers. And, Wells argued, it’s worked.
On the other hand, minimum-parking requirements along with the existing cheap, easy-to-get RPP stickers won’t dissuade people from parking on the street, said Wells:
If you put in minimum parking and they get RPP, two things will happen. The first is, almost every building charges for the parking.. If they get RPP, which are the residents going to pay for: a $100- to $200-a-month space, or $35 [a year] for the RPP sticker? You know exactly what they’re going to do: It’ll be $35 for the RPP sticker, and they won’t buy the parking inside.”
Wells wants to solve this problem with his legislation (which Chairman Phil Mendelson opposed last year) to let developers opt out of RPP eligibility. Before a specific building has anyone living there, its developer can agree that future residents, in perpetuity, won’t be able to get residential stickers.
David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.