Park­ing rules for a 21st-cen­tury D.C.

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS - The writ­ers are the direc­tors, re­spec­tively, the D.C. Of­fice of Plan­ning and the D.C. De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

Few pro­pos­als in the com­pre­hen­sive over­haul be­ing con­sid­ered for the District’s 50-year-old zon­ing code have gen­er­ated more pub­lic in­ter­est than pro­posed changes to park­ing re­quire­ments.

Let’s con­sider what’s been pro­posed and why. Cur­rent zon­ing reg­u­la­tions in­clude a laun­dry list of park­ing min­i­mums (the min­i­mum num­ber of spa­ces that must be pro­vided) for each land use. But the same use is treated dif­fer­ently in dif­fer­ent zones, and re­quire­ments are cal­cu­lated on the ba­sis of dif­fer­ent cri­te­ria — such as the length of a church pew, the num­ber of em­ploy­ees or dwelling units, or whether a fast-food build­ing has a side yard. Th­ese use-based park­ing stan­dards in­ter­fere with the adap­tive re­use of build­ings and make no dis­tinc­tion be­tween a devel­op­ment with great ac­cess to mass tran­sit and one along an au­to­mo­bile-ori­ented com­muter cor­ri­dor.

In the draft zon­ing code, we have pro­posed dra­mat­i­cally sim­pli­fy­ing th­ese re­quire­ments. And, yes, we have sug­gested that, in lim­ited ar­eas of the city, in­clud­ing down­town and other higher-den­sity, mixed-use set­tings with plen­ti­ful ac­cess to mass tran­sit, the min­i­mum-park­ing re­quire­ments should be lifted. The draft changes also in­clude al­low­ing shared park­ing be­tween build­ings and re­quir­ing set-asides for car-share spa­ces. We view this as a highly tai­lored, “go slow” ap­proach to sim­pli­fy­ing and right-siz­ing park­ing re­quire­ments af­ter decades of as­sum­ing a car-cen­tered city very dif­fer­ent from the one we now plan for.

If the cur­rent re­quire­ments had no ad­verse im­pact, we could sim­ply say “no harm, no foul” and con­tinue to main­tain th­ese cum­ber­some reg­u­la­tions to ease the fears of some res­i­dents. Un­for­tu­nately, the reg­u­la­tions have a real cost. A des­ig­nated park­ing space can add as much as $50,000 to the price of a res­i­den­tial unit. At a time when our city is strug­gling to pro­vide enough af­ford­able hous­ing to meet the needs of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, we are duty-bound to ex­plore ways to re­duce those costs.

In­deed, the cost of liv­ing is ex­tra­or­di­nary for many District res­i­dents. AAA’s 2012 edi­tion of “Your Driv­ing Costs” es­ti­mates the an­nual cost of driv­ing 15,000 miles at $8,946 for an av­er­age sedan and $9,504 for a mini­van, and con­se­quently many house­holds have elected to live car-free. The Cen­sus Bureau es­ti­mates that more than 38 per­cent of D.C. house­holds do not own cars. Min­i­miz­ing the costs of driv­ing and park­ing can al­low for many res­i­dents to live in a city where they might oth­er­wise be priced out.

While we’re in­ter­ested in re­duc­ing hous­ing costs, al­le­vi­at­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion and pro­vid­ing more trans­porta­tion op­tions, we cer­tainly have no in­ten­tion of mak­ing park­ing scarce or driv­ing dif­fi­cult. Those who want to drive in the city will con­tinue to have that op­tion, while those in­ter­ested in alternative, and typ­i­cally less ex­pen­sive, modes of trans­porta­tion will have that choice as well. While the flex­i­bil­ity pro­vided un­der our pro­posal may re­sult in an apart­ment build­ing here or a shop­ping cen­ter there with fewer park­ing spa­ces, we ex­pect the over­all im­pact on the park­ing sup­ply to be in­cre­men­tal.

Con­cerns about com­pe­ti­tion for curb­side spa­ces are un­der­stand­able, but this is pre­cisely why the D.C. De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DDOT) has em­barked on a vig­or­ous ef­fort to ex­am­ine and up­date its own reg­u­la­tions, cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from the res­i­den­tial park­ing per­mit sys­tem to the pric­ing and man­age­ment of park­ing me­ters. DDOT has also re­cently launched the MoveDC ef­fort, a par­tic­i­pa­tory, long-range plan that will guide fu­ture trans­porta­tion in­vest­ments to make it eas­ier for ev­ery­one to get around.

The District’s tran­sit rid­er­ship is among the high­est in the coun­try; we cur­rently have the largest bike-share sys­tem in the United States; our car-shar­ing pro­grams have more than 65,000 mem­bers; and neigh­bor­hoods are gain­ing more walk­a­ble ameni­ties ev­ery month. We are lit­er­ally cre­at­ing the model for how to grow a 21st-cen­tury Amer­i­can city that in­cludes all trans­porta­tion modes — in­clud­ing cars! — ev­ery day. To ig­nore the changes oc­cur­ring in our city and to base rules for fu­ture devel­op­ment on au­to­mo­bile-only plan­ning would be ir­re­spon­si­ble.

One of the more du­bi­ous claims ad­vanced is that min­i­mum park­ing re­quire­ments “keep down­town pedes­trian-friendly” and pre­vent streetscapes from be­ing “in­ter­rupted by sur­face lots and park­ing struc­tures.” We find this idea par­tic­u­larly odd, since down­town D.C. has the low­est park­ing re­quire­ments of any part of the city. In fact, a re­cent study pub­lished by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut found that higher lev­els of park­ing down­town are neg­a­tively cor­re­lated with eco­nomic growth. What makes our city pedes­trian-friendly is a com­bi­na­tion of a wellplanned street grid, good build­ing rules, a mix of con­ve­nient goods and ser­vices, and an em­pha­sis of the pub­lic realm and safety. If min­i­mum-park­ing re­quire­ments gen­er­ated pedes­trian-friendly streetscapes, then ev­ery sub­ur­ban ju­ris­dic­tion in Amer­ica would be a walker’s par­adise.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.