Developer Asks for Relief from Parking Requirement on 81 Unit Pennsylvania Ave Building
Seeks to Provide 30 Spaces Instead of the City-Required 41
by Larry Janezich
NOVO Development, headquartered on Capitol Hill, is asking ANC6B and the Zoning Commission to allow them to provide 30 parking spaces instead of the required 41 in the proposed 81 unit apartment complex at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. In addition, the developer will “unbundle” the parking spaces provided from the units, meaning that residents will not be required to purchase or rent spaces along with the unit. Some residents and commissioners are in favor, but some are reluctant to require the neighbors to shoulder the burden of competing for street parking.
The developer says that in order to provide the 41 required spaces, the company would have to reduce the number of units in the building by 22, given the proposed height and mass of the building. NOVO also cited the problematical shape of the lot, and higher ground water on the lot’s east end as being factors contributing to the request for relief.
As ameliorating factors, the developer will provide 28 plus bike spaces and pursue locating Zip Cars on site as well as continue efforts to work with DDOT to create additional parking spaces in the neighborhood. In addition, the developer claims that the units – mostly efficiencies and one bedrooms – are meant to appeal to young professionals between the ages of 25 and 34 who are not heavy car users.
Some 18 nearby residents showed up at the ANC’s Planning and Zoning Committee meeting last Wednesday, all but two of them to express concern about the impact of the building on the neighborhood. Most welcomed the development, which would replace a used car lot currently occupying the site, and agree with the developer that the building would contribute to a safer community and encourage additional retail. But many are concerned about increased demands for street parking which they see coming with the new building. One neighbor said the project would make the neighborhood less safe by providing more targets for crimes of opportunity.
When questioned by Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, the developer said that they had not considered the possibility of restricting new residents from eligibility for Resident Parking Permits. Commissioners Frishberg and Pate urged the developer to consider this option. Commissioner Oldenburg said that she “fully disagreed” and opposed creating the resulting two classes of residents. Commissioner Peisch said he tended to agree with Oldenburg.
At the end of the discussion at the meeting last week, Commissioner Brian Flahaven, in whose Single Member District the proposed development lies, moved that the ANC Planning and Zoning Committee take no position on the requested parking variance pending receipt of additional information on parking before the April 9 meeting of the full ANC which will consider and vote on the issue. He pledged to work with residents and the developer to reach an accommodation. That motion was adopted 8 – 0.
Currently, the DC Office of Planning is considering zoning regulation changes to eliminate the requirement that developers provide any parking in those areas of the city in close proximity to public transportation. ANC6B voted to send a letter to the Office of Planning endorsing that change – and others – at its regular March meeting. However, in that letter, ANC6B suggested 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 suggested 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
One question that could be asked of the developer at the ANC meeting is, if the 81 unit building is delayed or if the proposed zoning regulations change becomes effective before the plans for the building are complete, how would that fact affect the plan for providing onsite parking, and would the developer be inclined to eliminate the parking spaces in favor of more units in that event.
The full ANC will meet Tuesday, April 9, at 7:00pm in Hill Center.