Parking reform won’t cause this. Photo by on Flickr.

This is the eighth of ten daily posts about why the Zoning Commission should approve the Office of Planning recommendations on off-street parking, leading up to the hearing on Thursday, July 31 at 6:30 pm.

If you plan to attend, please call the Zoning Commission offices during business hours at (202) 727-6311 to sign up. The earlier you call, the earlier your turn to speak will come during the hearing.

If you haven’t yet sent in a letter of support, you can do so at the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s action alert.


Today’s topic: Why reports of imminent disaster are greatly exaggerated.

If the new zoning code removes parking requirements, the existing parking in the District of Columbia will not suddenly go up in smoke. Developers will continue to build parking in new projects. Even today, many build more parking than regulations require. In many cases, market conditions justify parking, and developers will provide it.

I spoke to a Current reporter yesterday, who asked me, “What about those who say developers want to build parking?” I responded, that’s a great argument for the changes. If developers are going to build parking, then we really don’t need minimums.

More often, developers overestimate demand for parking, or the zoning code forces construction of too much. I’ve already talked a lot about the Highland Park Apartments in Columbia Heights, where the developer put in one space per unit and only sold one per ten. In dense transit-oriented districts like that, we need maximums to stop this, because just removing minimums won’t change a lot.

Removing minimums will likely just reduce the number of variances needed, since most of the time when a developer wants less parking, he or she asks for it. Big projects are almost always PUDs anyway. The real win is in small infill development, where the owners don’t need parking but don’t have the time and resources for a lengthy BZA appeal.

Any cases where developers do build less parking are years away—at least two, and in many cases more. And since most buildings will keep having parking (or even too much), the ratio of spaces to residents will, at best, only gradually creep downward. For those who claim it’ll be too late to add parking if we need it, this very slow, gradual change gives plenty of time to turn things the other way if the world starts to end. But it won’t.

Remember how, leading up to the stadium opening, journalists and commentators couldn’t stop warning about the major chaos that would ensue? It didn’t. All that happened was Metro set an all-time ridership record on July 11th and seven other top-ten records in the preceding 30 days.

The most likely problem that would come from lowered minimums is greater transit ridership. That’s why we need to add bike lanes and express bus service and to start building streetcars now.

Every voice will matter on Thursday. Please call (202) 727-6311 to sign up to testify. The hearing is at 6:30 pm at 441 4th St (One Judiciary Square), suite 220 South.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.