A world without minimums. Photo by StevenM_61 on Flickr.

The hearing is tomorrow! Please sign up to testify by calling (202) 727-6311. A brief statement about what you like about your non-overwhelmed-by-parking neighborhood is enough, or feel free to say more.

This is the ninth 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.


Today’s topic: Neighborhoods without minimums that are closer at hand than you might think.

What will our city look like without parking requirements? Will the world come to an end? Are we embarking on an experiment unheard-of among American cities? If only we had an example of a successful urban neighborhood designed without minimums.

Oh wait—we do. We need not look west to Seattle or Pasadena for examples. Nor need we look north, or south. We have examples right here in our historic neighborhoods, such as Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street, and Capitol Hill.

These neighborhoods have not only thrived, but have become DC’s most desirable. Somehow, “spillover” seems not to deter people from living there. In fact, so many people want to live in neighborhoods without minimums that housing is becoming unaffordable. Shouldn’t we let other neighborhoods develop some of the same qualities that attract people to the neighborhoods without excessive parking?

Sadly, while these neighborhoods were originally built before minimum parking requirements, our 1958 zoning is gradually nibbling away at their historic fabric by forcing infill with surface parking or driveway curb cuts that are incompatible with the existing historic character.

Commenter VC, one of the five wise souls to put a red dot on copious underground parking at the Hine redevelopment meeting, wrote this:

Someone asked me, “Don’t you think Dupont or Adams Morgan wish they would’ve put in parking 50 years ago?” ... It doesn’t make much sense to point to the two most vibrant parts of town and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

It’s easy to think your neighborhood would be great if it were just the same except with some more parking. The problem is, that’s never the case. More parking feeds a cycle that saps patrons from local retail, increases traffic and pedestrian danger, and gradually transforms a neighborhood into a suburb. Parking doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but as part of a greater fabric.

That greater fabric is illegal under current zoning. If a hurricane flattened Capitol Hill tomorrow, we’d need special Zoning Commission approval just to put the same thing back. That just seems intuitively wrong. Let’s legalize our historic neighborhoods and enable new areas to become as great. Come testify in favor of the changes. If we get it passed, I won’t have to keep posting about this every day! :)

If you can’t attend (or even if you can), you can submit written comments here.

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.