Photo by katmeresin on Flickr.

ANC 6B, which covers the southern portion of Capitol Hill, is likely to endorse the DC zoning update after a majority of its members voted in favor at a committee meeting. It would join Glover Park’s ANC 3B, which endorsed the proposals about 2 weeks ago.

In a post on his blog, Capitol Hill Corner, resident Larry Janezich (who clearly doesn’t agree with the zoning update) reports that chairman Brian Flahaven, vice-chairman Ivan Frishberg, commissioners Nichole Opkins, Kirsten Oldenburg, Brian Pate, and Phil Peisch all voted for the proposals, along with 3 resident (non-commissioner) members.

According to Janezich, commissioners cited the value of encouraging more affordable housing and reducing car pollution, among other reasons, for supporting proposals to reduce parking minimums and allow accessory dwellings in single-family areas. Another part of the zoning update, allowing more corner stores in residential areas, appeared less controversial.

A majority of the ANC voted for the changes at the meeting, making it very likely they will fully approve these recommendations at their full meeting on Tuesday.

Not everyone supported the changes. Francis Campbell, Chander Jayaraman, and Dave Garrison voted no. It also got opposition from Ken Jarboe, a former commissioner defeated by Pate in 2010; Jarboe spoke against reducing parking minimums back in 2008 during the first round of Zoning Commission hearings. Janezich writes:

Former ANC commissioner Ken Jarboe, who worked on the ANC’s Regulation Review Task Force, said he opposed the OP proposals because no alternative to taking away the parking had been presented.  He pointed to the problems likely to ensue from the plan to put multiple small units in the Medlink building (7th and Constitution, NE) with no onsite parking.  He said he was frustrated by people trying to use the Zoning Code to fix a problem that you can’t solve by using the Zoning Code, likening the effort to using a hatchet where a scalpel was needed.


It’s funny Jarboe makes that last point, because that statement is a perfect argument for removing the minimums, not against them. Much of the opposition to removing parking minimums has nothing to do with parking minimums at all, but on-street parking. People are afraid that the change will mean more cars competing for limited space on the street, but that’s already a problem, minimums or no minimums.

At a recent debate, Elissa Silverman expressed some trepidation about removing parking minimums entirely. I had a very productive conversation with her on the phone, and we were able to explore the issues more deeply. I pointed out the analogy to why the government doesn’t require, say, rooftop pools on every building. That would certainly make buildings more expensive, though it’s something many residents would benefit from.

One difference, Silverman noted, is that omitting rooftop pools has no detrimental impact on other neighbors. And this is what she had been most concerned about: new development significantly upsetting existing residents’ ability to park on a street near their home.

Many zoning update opponents keep claiming that no parking minimums means no parking, but that’s fallacious. The Park Van Ness project, for instance, is building 226 parking spaces, far more than zoning requires, even though it is a matter-of-right proejct and 2 blocks from a Metro station.

People are also already parking on the street even when buildings have a lot of parking. Often they park on the street and spaces in the building go empty, because on-street spaces are cheaper and more convenient. In short, we have a problem that parking minimums aren’t solving today. The solution, therefore, is not to keep things as they are, but to actually solve the problem directly.

Silverman also said that she wants to see housing near Metro stations accommodate everyone from singles to larger families, but a lot of buildings in places like H Street and 14th Street are just providing studios and one bedrooms. I agree we should have housing for families. Again, though, parking minimums are doing nothing today to ensure family housing near Metro stations.

There are definite problems with our parking policies today. We don’t effectively manage on-street parking spaces. That causes problems. Jarboe is, therefore, right to be “frustrated by people trying to use the Zoning Code to fix a problem that you can’t solve by using the Zoning Code.” People are trying to use the zoning code to protect some residents’ ability to park on the street, a problem you can’t solve by using the zoning code.

Our current parking minimums don’t fix on-street parking; if they did, it wouldn’t be a problem today. They don’t ensure family housing; if they did, we’d have more being built. It’s wrong to oppose reducing parking minimums because of other problems which our parking minimums aren’t preventing anyway.