ANC6B Suggests City Up Cost of Street Parking More Than One Vehicle

ANC6B Suggests City Up Cost of Street Parking More Than One Vehicle

Says DDOT Policies Undermine Goals of More Housing and Less Traffic

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B suggests the way to increase housing and reduce traffic on Capitol Hill is to increase the cost of street parking for households with more than one vehicle.  ANC6b bluntly told the Office of Planning (OP) that liberal parking policies by DDOT undercuts OP’s goals of providing more housing in the city and as well as the “desired effect” of reducing the number of cars on the street.  The ANC suggests one remedy might be to increase the cost of a Residential Parking Permit for more than one vehicle per household.  It seems likely that the cost would have to be significant in order to be effective. 

At its March 12 meeting, ANC6B endorsed the Office of Planning’s proposed change in the Zoning Regulations to eliminate the requirement that developers build a minimum number of off street parking spaces in new small residential developments and for all those close to public transit.  The language regarding the effect of DDOT policy and suggestion about increasing parking fees was attached to the letter to Harriet Tregoning, Director of the Office of Planning supporting doing away with the minimum parking space requirements.  ANC6B urged OP to “use its authority under the city Comprehensive Plan to guide DDOT toward a revised Residential Parking Permit policy” including research on whether differential pricing of second or more permits would reduce demand. 

Other remedies are under consideration.  A DDOT comprehensive parking study underway will consider capping parking permits per household and zone based parking – parking by neighborhood rather than wards.  Whether any of these ideas is politically feasible is uncertain. 

At first glance, it would seem that the proposed parking changes gives a green light to developers.  But the ANC’s veiled warning appears to be that by shifting the burden of parking from the developer to the neighbors in areas where parking is already tight, any proposed new development runs the risk of significant opposition from the neighbors resulting in delay, red tape, lawyers, hearings, etc.

Such a case could be developing regarding the proposed 80-84 condo development at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.  The developer of the project, which is aimed at attracting young professionals rather than families, is seeking a variance from the parking requirement to provide a total of 31 parking spaces rather than the more than 40 required under current regulations.  Neighbors have expressed concern about the effects of parking on the neighborhood, as well as the target demographics.  The project is very close to the Potomac Metro stop. 

This case points up one possible effect of the elimination of the parking minimums.  It seems likely that units built without parking will most likely appeal to singles and couples without children which changes the character of the neighborhood and the types of retail and commercial establishments it would attract.  Again, removal of the minimum is no guarantee that developers won’t provide parking, depending on market pressure from potential buyers for guaranteed parking even at the increased cost per unit that would entail. 

The ANC Planning and Zoning Committee will consider the variance request at its April second  3 meeting at 7:00pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington.  The issue will come before the full ANC at its April 9th meeting.  The matter foes before the Bureau of Zoning Administration on April 30, and they will have the final word.

14 Comments

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14 responses to “ANC6B Suggests City Up Cost of Street Parking More Than One Vehicle

  1. Francis Campbell,SMD6B10

    Larry just a couple of things. The Planning & Zoning meeting has been rescheduled for Wednesday April 3, at 7:oopm at St Coletta’s in observation of Passover . Also to note that the proposal to increase the fees for the RPP permits was not unanimous by the Commission. I do not and did not agree with this proposal. There was one other Commissioner who did not agree but I’ll leave it to them to make their own comment. I dont agree with doing away with the parking requirement as I feel it will have a detrimental effect especially for those members of the community who find it necessary to have a vehicle but dont drive everyday. To do away with some type of minimum even near “metro zones” as proposed wont guarantee that people wont have cars.

    • Roger Tauss

      I must be missing something, but I don’t understand how charging more for a second residential parking permit would be effective in reducing cars/parking. I only have one car, but if I had a second, I wouldn’t buy an (expensive) second RPP for my second car. I’d park it on the street using the Visitor Parking Pass.

  2. Sheila Fleishell

    Suggesting that “singles and couples without children or young professionals” don’t have, need or use cars is simply untrue and won’t eliminate the parking problems. A better proposal may be to “charge” employees and patrons of local businesses/restaurants that park in the residential areas and take up all the residential street parking. Install
    parking meters that can be used by all but exempts those with Zone 6 permits. Or do these businesses and condo builders simply get a free pass? If the city wants to “increase housing”, then developers need to be required to provide adequate parking. The nature of this proposal punishes longtime residents whose families have grown and thrived in this area and not the transient short-term residents or the businesses who are simply out to “make a buck”.

  3. Sue

    A couple comments:

    First, if on-site parking requirements are eliminated near transit, then the risk (or efficacy) of neighborhood opposition to development projects goes down. Under the new rules 1550 PA Ave SE wouldn’t need zoning relief to decrease the amount of parking provided. Neighbors might still object but where, to whom, and with what effect? Developers would no longer be under any obligation to provide parking (for cars) as part of their project.

    Secondly, I think that the responses to the article lay out just where curbside parking management is headed. If RPPs become expensive or limited, then VPPs must as well (because otherwise RPP restrictions will have minimal impact in terms of getting cars off the streets). And if residents have to pay significantly more for on-street parking, then others should have to pay at least as much.

    DDOT’s recently released Parking Action Agenda already suggests how this process will start — they want to sell VPP to contractors. The Car2Go RPP deal is a model. And DDOT also wants to make more online parking services available. It wouldn’t be hard to turn the web into a virtual parking meter for RPP zones.

    Of course there are alternatives to exacerbating scarcity and then price-rationing public parking. By retain parking minimums, we can help ensure sure that off-street parking keeps pace with growth. If/where there are areas where minimums have over-produced parking, make it easier to satisfy the requirements through sharing of surplus spaces.

    • ” By retain parking minimums, we can help ensure sure that off-street parking keeps pace with growth.”

      Except that we’ve been doing that for the last 50+ years and it hasn’t worked – and it’s had some serious negative consequences, as well. Parking minimums do not ensure any such thing.

      If you want better management of on-street parking, there is no way around it – you must manage the parking. That means controlling access to it by some means, either through price or through queueing (e.g. circling around for a spot).

  4. Sue

    We’ve been managing on-street parking *and* imposing parking minimums for decades. It’s pure sophistry to look at the status quo, claim “it hasn’t worked,” and then conclude that this proves we should eliminate parking minimums, while simultaneously claiming we need more regulation.

    Arguably, in the areas where “it hasn’t worked” our problem isn’t insufficient regulation but that our minimums are too low. If the problem is true scarcity, then regulation isn’t the solution — increased supply is. At any rate, we can (and do, and should) both require the construction of off-street parking and regulate the use of on-street parking.

    Parking minimums have had some very positive effects in the District of Columbia. Unlike other US cities, our central business district has almost no land devoted to surface lots or above-ground garages. We have a much more pedestrian-friendly environment because parking has been undergrounded. We have more land available for other uses. And we’ve created a system where developers (rather than taxpayers) have paid to build most of our parking infrastructure.

    • How have we been managing on-street parking?

      We have one management program in effect – RPP. All RPP does is prevent all-day parkers (daytime only) on residential streets so they don’t park-and-ride on Metro for free. It is an extraordinarily limited form of management, and we get correspondingly limited results.

      Arguably, in the areas where “it hasn’t worked” our problem isn’t insufficient regulation but that our minimums are too low.

      I disagree, the problem is that our analysis assumes that the price must be zero. I’m making the case that using price would be a more efficient way to manage this scarce resource than trying to arbitrarily set minimums.

      • Sue

        Re managing on-street parking. Yes, we’ve been managing it. We have RPP, we have VPP, we have meters, we have loading zones, we have blocks near schools where parking rules change (in different ways) to accommodate pick up and drop off, we have curbside parking that disappears during rush hour to become an additional travel lane.

        You’re not making any case — you’re just asserting your preference. You’d like to see DC abandon parking minimums and limit government’s role to selling access to a finite (and shrinking) amount of public parking to the highest bidder.

        To me, it makes more sense to relieve scarcity by retaining (or, where necessary, increasing) off-street parking requirements while continuing to regulate public space. I’m fine with changes as to how we regulate public space and/or changes re how off-street parking requirements can be met. But the goal should be to relieve scarcity — not exacerbate and exploit it.

        FWIW, we don’t have to “abitrarily” set minimums. OP could collect actual data. For residential parking, we’ve got census data on car ownership that goes down to the block group level of geographic detail and that distinguishes between owners and renters.

      • Yes, we’ve been managing it.

        And all of those programs you list can and should be more effective in their management. RPP, for example, is not really a residential permit parking program, as it just stops daytime parking and does not limit overnight parking (which is presumably what residents are looking for). Meters are fine, but we’re not exactly on the cutting edge of parking meter policy yet. VPP is not a great case study in management, because it addresses the concern of residents (parking for visitors) while exacerbating the problem (Roger Tauss’ comment above is a perfect example of the kind of potential abuse of the VPP program – and that abuse will not lead to more abundant curbside parking spaces).

        I would challenge you to say that we can’t manage parking better.

        You’d like to see DC abandon parking minimums and limit government’s role to selling access to a finite (and shrinking) amount of public parking to the highest bidder.

        Absolutely not. I am arguing that we set prices (for meters or for RPP) at a rate that better manages demand.

        Ben and Jerry’s always has ridiculously long lines on free cone day, because then the price is zero, and demand is huge at such a low price. If we agree that the long lines (or, in this case, circling for parking) is a bad outcome, then the answer is to use price to better meter out that demand for who really wants or needs an ice cream cone.

        The profit-maximizing price and the price at which we achieve policy outcomes (say, 85% meter occupancy, or 85% RPP block parking occupancy) is completely different.

        To me, it makes more sense to relieve scarcity by retaining (or, where necessary, increasing) off-street parking requirements while continuing to regulate public space.

        I only disagree with two parts of this: one, that we cannot ever expect to accomplish this through regulatory parking minimums. Two, that the market is a far better determinant of what is necessary than the zoning code is.

        Also, if you want to encourage more off-street parking, I can’t think of a better motivator than better management of on-street parking resulting in higher prices!

        FWIW, we don’t have to “abitrarily” set minimums. OP could collect actual data.

        Have you read Dr. Shoup’s opus, the High Cost of Free Parking?

        If you do, you’ll find that the data used to create these minimums is spotty at best. And, when we do look at the data in urban areas, the trend should be much lower minimums, not higher ones!

        One example: http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/TruthInTransportationPlanning.pdf

        The other matter is that the problem isn’t with the idea of collecting data, but with the idea of a one-size-fits-all parking minimum. Some people won’t need as much parking as others, but the regulation does not accomodate that.

        We don’t regulate that high-end houses include Sub Zero appliances, for example. The government trying to pre-determine the market on that would be a fool’s errand. We aren’t going to be any better at it for parking.

        The only reason to do so would be spillover, but as we’ve already demonstrated above, the solution to spillover is better management of on-street parking. And we need to better manage our on-street parking with or without minimums. Considering the large negative consequences of those minimums, why aren’t we getting rid of them?

  5. Sue

    Neither analogy works and neither citation supports the point being made.

    In DC, where parking and housing have been unbundled for decades, it’s probably easier to opt out of garage space (and save the money it costs) than to opt out of granite countertops if the developer provides both. You can, I suppose, search for a granite-free building (or unit) to avoid paying for upscale countertops (though you probably sacrifice other things as well), but you needn’t search for a garage-free building to avoid paying for parking.
    That’s not true in every housing market, but where parking minimums are as low as ours (typically 1 space for every 2 to 4 apartments), parking is typically sold separately. DC also has lots of historic housing stock (apartments, condos, rowhouses, duplexes, single-family detached) that was built without on-site parking.

    As for the Ben & Jerry’s example, people don’t make an extra trip to consume parking simply because it’s free (as they might make an extra trip to consume ice cream on a day it is free). They consume parking if/because they own a car. They own cars because they want or need a car for use as transportation.

    Yes, holding location relatively constant, where people choose to park may be price-sensitive (depending on time/money/safety tradeoffs). And choice of travel mode may be price-sensitive (with the previously mentioned factors and a host of others – e.g. how many people (or things) you’re carrying, weather, how many trips you’re making – in the mix). But once you own a car, you have to park it somewhere whenever it’s not in use (which, of course, is most of the time). Especially when we’re talking residential parking, demand is pretty constant. So it makes sense to do what we can to ensure a supply of off-street parking for residents’ needs. That’s the function of parking minimums — they build off-street parking capacity.

    The Shoup essay doesn’t prove that parking minimums cannot or should not be based on accurate empirical data about car ownership rates (in the case of residential parking) or parking demand (in the case of workplace, institutional, and retail parking). It just says planners often rely on ITE trip generation stats that are garbage data. That’s an argument for using better data, not for eliminating parking minimums.

    Re Shoup’s work generally, his fanbase seems to forget that workplace parking has a very different logic than residential parking or retail parking. Residential is basically the opposite of workplace – it’s the case where incentivizing people to drive less actually increases parking demand (because when you take public transit or walk, your car spends more time at home). With respect to retail (unlike employment), people may be more likely to change destination rather than travel mode if destination parking becomes expensive/scarce/difficult.

    Re the Manville article – first, it’s a very specific case study about the repurposing of downtown LA’s historic commercial buildings for residential use, in a situation where parking minimums were much higher than ours (e.g. 2 space for each unit vs. 1 space for every four units), and where the law in question simultaneously removed other, more significant, development barriers (e.g. current earthquake safety requirements). So even if you accept the analysis that eliminating parking requirements (rather than, say, the simultaneous housing boom) contributed to an increase in residential development, it’s not clear how generalizable that claim is.

    More importantly, what the study shows is that it wasn’t eliminating requirements but loosening where off-street parking could be provided (e.g. nearby vs. on-site) that made the difference. So if there’s a moral to the story that has relevance to DC, it’s not “eliminate off-street residential parking requirements”; it’s “don’t require that off-street residential parking requirements be met on-site.”

    As I indicated in a previous post, I’m all for improvements in how we manage parking and in how we set minimums. My point is that we need both tools, because they perform different and complementary functions. Regulation is a system for allocating of scarce resources; minimums ar,e a strategy for reducing scarcity.

    It’s probably also important to add that, in both cases, we need standards for evaluating what constitutes an improvement (and those standards depend on goals). When we’ve got the Mayor submitting a budget that points out that parking meters “have become a major revenue source for the District of Columbia,” I’m not convinced that profit-maximization won’t become DDOT’s goal (rather than 85% occupancy of metered spaces). Similarly, the Office of Planning’s standard of what constitutes an improvement is very different from the Comprehensive Plan’s standard. OP wants to increase parking scarcity (because the city is “too accommodating of personal vehicle travel”), whereas the Comp Plan wants to minimize spillover and to locate parking in ways/places that don’t interfere with walkability.

    • I guess I’m left with nothing but an embrace of status quo bias in this comment. You can argue we should use better data in setting minimums, but I’m still left with the question of why bother using minimums at all? If the idea of better data would match minimums with demand, we already have a very good mechanism to match construction with demand – and that’s letting the market build what it can support.

      I also think your assumption that car ownership rates are static is a poor assumption, and I don’t think that’s grounded in either the data or in practice. Basing the idea of minimums (or setting a minimum level based on that assumption) is not the kind of good data you are aksing for.

  6. Sue

    “Why bother using minimums at all?” Because (a) In DC, they help keep parking a subordinate land use and incentivize its construction underground; (b) if we want to free up the street for other uses we need to have an adequate supply of on-site parking; and (c) they’re a strategy for privatizing more of the costs of parking provision.

    I don’t assume car ownership rates are static — I just assume they can and should be measured — and that understanding reality on the ground is an essential element of good policymaking.

    Re “status quo bias” — DC government has this pattern of looking at an issue, suggesting a really stupid policy, and then claiming that anyone who doesn’t embrace that policy is just afraid of change. It’s an approach designed to shut down criticism without ever addressing it or learning from it. And the result is stalemates, divisiveness, and bad policy.

    There are a series of intelligent discussions we could (and should) be having about alternatives to automobility and how to encourage mode shift but we aren’t having them. Because actual problem-solving takes time and thought, and costs money. Why bother — right?

    • “Why bother using minimums at all?”

      I’m not sure any of these arguments are persuasive. For a), land values in DC already ensure that parking will be a subordinate land use. Also, there’s nothing in the nature of a minimum requirement that ensures such subordination (as anyone can exceeed that minimum by right).

      I’m also not sure how undergrounding parking is influenced by a minimum requirement – Wouldn’t that same incentive exist absent any minimum requirement at all? Likewise, if the goal is to ensure parking that is built is done below grade, then why not just require that in plain language? We already have similar limitations in the code now.

      For b), yes, having off-street parking is of value. However, I’m still not convinced that a mandate via minumum requirements is the right way to determine what is ‘adequate,’ or that such a requirement properly factors in price.

      For c), I don’t find this convincing since those costs are simply pass-throughs to the general public and the eventual users of those spaces. Why not let an individual landowner decide if that provision is cost-effective?

      Re: Car-ownership rates. Even if you don’t assume they are static, the very nature of a zoning code requirement means it applies uniformly to an entire zone. The lesson from LA’s partial de-regulation of parking requirements is that the market is far more broad than that. Just as there is a wide variety for different housing products (finishes, appliances, sizes, types of housing, etc) there is a wide variety of market demands for parking even within a single zone or submarket. Any miniimum requirement will have the problem of flexibly adapting to this reality – the advantage of simply removing the requirement is that the flexibility is then a feature of the code, not a bug.

  7. Sue

    You can’t retrofit underground parking. Minimums require on-site parking to be provided as new construction comes online. Eliminate minimums and you’ll have developers who provide no parking. Once the residents of those new buildings absorb the available street parking, there’s demand for garages. Which then end up built above ground — a less desirable outcome from a land use perspective.

    Again, you can peg minimums (in residential contexts) to car ownership data. And our current minimums for multifamily housing (which are generally .25 to .5 spaces per unit, depending on zone) are typically lower than our car-ownership rates (citywide average is .6 cars/rental household and 1.3 cars/owner-occupied household, .9 cars/HH overall). As for price, that’s set by the developer. And it’s unbundled from rent in most case — in part because minimums require fewer parking spaces than apartments.

    Re flexibility. Actually, you don’t need to have parking minimums tied to zones. Other cities have overlays for specific neighborhoods. And zoning codes can allow for various forms of project-specific relief or alternative provision. DC cuts such deals all the time — and it can do so precisely because the minimum requirements exist. Developer has the burden of proof and an obligation to limit the impact his project can have on public space.

    “Why not let an individual developer decide what’s cost-effective?” Because what’s cost-effective for him may well be to offload as much of the problem as possible onto the public sphere. Externalities like this are classic examples of situations where markets fail and regulation is warranted. It’s fine if the developer passes costs along to the user of the spaces — that’s not the same as imposing the cost on the general public.

    Parking minimums (at least when, as in DC, there’s unbundling and when the requirements are less than one space per unit) don’t impose homogeneity on parking provision or housing types. They’re a floor not a ceiling and, in DC and other areas with historic housing stock, there are a wide variety of housing options with and without on-site parking.

    LA’s a really bad analogy for DC. Their minimums are much higher than ours (e.g. 2 spaces per condo) and they typically become an issue in the context of adaptive reuse rather than new construction.