Photo by David Boyle in DC on Flickr.
Shaw residents will soon not be able to enjoy resident parking privileges in Logan Circle, while far more distant residents of neighborhoods like Georgetown and Kalorama will get special entitlements. That’s the consequence of the recent redistricting and Evans’ successful fight 2 weeks ago against a bill that would have kept parking zones from changing.
Shaw moved from Ward 2 to Ward 6 in the recent redistricting. A line in the redistricting committee report proposed keeping parking zones fixed as ward boundaries change, and the Gray administration sent the Council legislation to do just that. But Evans successfully blocked the bill on July 10, which means that Shaw residents will soon lose Ward 2 parking stickers and gain Ward 6 stickers.
Meanwhile, Logan Circle will soon get a pilot program reserving one side of every street for Ward 2 residents only. This will make it far easier for Ward 2 residents to park in Logan, even if they live at the other end of the ward in Georgetown or Kalorama, but harder for residents of other wards to park there, including the people of newly-6 Shaw.
DC parking zones are fundamentally unfair
Unlike almost all other cities, DC sets zones for its resident permit parking (RPP) program based on political ward boundaries, rather than a some objective and geographic standard. Our zones are also very large, larger than many other cities; instead of only helping residents park in their own neighborhoods, people get special rights to park in other people’s neighborhoods so long as they are in the same ward.
Some people really like that. When redistricting moved the Palisades from Ward 2, which spans downtown, to upper Northwest’s Ward 3 in 2002, residents objected. They were not upset because they didn’t want the Ward 3 councilmember to represent them, but because they liked having a special privilege to drive to places like Foggy Bottom or Logan Circle and park with special resident privileges.
However, this is unfair to residents of the more desirable parking areas. At a recent parking hearing, Anne-Marie Bairstow of Woodley Park argued for smaller zones. She said that many people drive from other neighborhoods to Woodley Park, use their resident privileges to park, and take Metro. This deprives actual Woodley residents of the benefits of the RPP system.
It’s also unfair to people who happen to live over a line. Palisades residents suddenly lost a privilege. Adams Morgan residents, who are in Ward 1, or Bloomingdale residents in Ward 5 never had that privilege in the first place.
This isn’t the purpose of RPP. DC has a program to favor residents of an area in the competition for on-street parking spaces. It could limit that to only the immediate neighborhood, which would be fair, or perhaps it could instead give the privilege to anyone in the District, but giving it to an arbitrary set of alternative neighborhoods is not.
There’s reason to be extra sensitive to this issue because redistricting moved Shaw out of Ward 2 and into Ward 6. Shaw happened to be the lowest-income and most-minority section of the ward, which has now gotten even richer and whiter. That gives this policy action an added economic and racial effect, whether or not that was the intent.
When Kingman Park moved from Ward 6 to 7, it stayed in Zone 6, so there is precedent already for keeping neighborhoods in zones other than their ward.
Upcoming Logan restriction will further discriminate against Shaw
Evans’ office also recently proposed setting aside one side of every street in Logan Circle for Zone 2 parking only. Normally, most residential streets allow people with the right zone sticker to park all day, and people without it can still park during the day for 2 hours and nights and weekends without limit. But a few years ago, parts of Wards 1 and 6 started having one side of each street restricted so that people without the right zone sticker couldn’t
ever park there at all park there at all during RPP enforcement hours.
Evans decided to suggest this for Logan as well. However, his staff and the Logan ANC turned down a suggestion to limit the special privilege to people actually in Logan. If they had done that, this would have put equal limits on the people of Shaw and people of Georgetown (and Dupont, where I live). If this bill had passed, then Shaw would have still gotten the privilege, though people of Bloomingdale, the Palisades, or Columbia Heights would not.
Instead, we have an even less fair outcome than either of those.
Shaw doesn’t only lose out; they do gain the ability to park with resident privileges in Ward 6, including H Street, Barracks Row, and around the ballpark. That includes a lot of streets that only allow Ward 6 parkers on one side. However, while there hasn’t been any kind of ward-wide poll, at least some Shaw leaders had specifically asked to stay in Zone 2, suggesting that residents preferred 2. Most of 2 is closer to Shaw than most of 6.
The best solution is to let DDOT, or some sort of independent commission, set parking zone boundaries based on neighborhoods and geographically-similar regions instead of political wards, as most other cities do. Or the zones could correspond to ANCs, with a provision that people right near an edge can still park in an adjacent zone.
But taking privileges from Shaw without taking them from other neighborhoods to the west isn’t the right answer and isn’t fair.