On Friday, D.C. planning director Harriet Tregoning announced she’s giving into yet another demand from zoning update opponents: to reduce rather than eliminate minimum parking requirements in transit-rich areas outside downtown Will this smooth the path forward for the remaining provisions, or only put other progressive changes at risk?
Until last week, the plan from the Office of Planning (OP) was to eliminate parking minimums downtown and along corridors with Metro, streetcar or high-frequency bus lines. Low-density neighborhoods of detached houses, and even moderate-density neighborhoods of smaller row houses, would have retained minimums, though not for buildings of 10 units or fewer.
Now, only the highest density “downtown” neighborhoods, including developing centers like NoMA and the ballpark area, would have no parking minimums. Elsewhere, the minimums for multifamily residential will be one space per three units away from transit, and half that near transit, Tregoning explained.
Instead of exempting buildings up to 10 units, the new proposal only exempts buildings up to four units, and in “single-family” neighborhoods, even a single-family home will require a parking space unless it has no alley access. That means that nobody will have to put in a driveway curb cut for a single-family house but might have to pave over a backyard even where street parking is plentiful.
In addition, property owners will be able to apply for an easier “special exception” to further reduce or waive parking minimums, rather than the tougher variance standard in effect now.
There is one significant step forward: OP had previously said that parking minimum changes (outside downtown) wouldn’t go into effect if and when the zoning update won approval. Instead, there would be another, subsequent process to “map” the transit zones in each neighborhood. That probably would have led to years more of acrimony.
Instead, Tregoning said, OP now proposes to simply write rules so that the half-as-strict parking minimum rule automatically kicks in for properties a half mile of a Metro station or a quarter of a mile of a streetcar line or designated Metro priority bus corridor.
That means that if the Zoning Commission approves the plan, property owners near transit could see less onerous requirements more quickly than when there was going to be a mapping phase. While this is a step forward, OP could have used this formula to define areas with no parking minimums at all. This didn’t have to go hand in hand with retaining minimums.
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.