When people living in Buzzard Point and other nearby neighborhoods in southwest DC found out that DC United was moving in, there were mixed emotions—fear of displacement, excitement over the possibility of neighborhood amenities, and concern over more traffic. The neighborhood is about to change in some big ways, but I'd like to focus on one aspect of this transformation: Traffic.
On Monday, April 29 a proposal came before ANC6D to add 125 parking spaces in the middle of the neighborhood. With the start of the development still more than a year out, DC United is looking to make use of both time and space by adding “temporary” parking on a gravel lot for people attending events for Audi Field in the interim. The parking proposal (case number 16-02b) is supposed to head to the Zoning Commission soon, though no date has been set.
Residents reject more parking spaces in their neighborhood
The area that would host the parking spots is known as Parcel B. It's a 1.6-acre lot located between Half, R, and S streets SW. Eventually it's supposed to be a mixed-use building with the standard combination of retail and restaurants on the first floor, and a hotel, office, and event space on the higher floors. On May 2, PN Hoffman was chosen to develop this parcel.
ANC6D05 Commissioner Anthony Dale, whose district covers this area, sent out a survey to see how residents felt about the project. Other residents took to social media to express their opinions (and filled my inbox with concerns). Residents in Southwest are known for speaking out—and they did, loudly saying “no” to more cars traveling through our neighborhood.
On April 29, ANC6D voted to send a letter to the Zoning Commission against the project by a vote of 6-0-1. As of publication, no date has been posted for the hearing.
People in Buzzard Point already suffer from pollution
Buzzard Point is unique to this city. It is a peninsula jutting into the point where the Washington Chanel and Anacostia River meet. It encompasses the area where George Washington and Pierre L’Enfant envisioned a military district, with Fort McNair being established in 1791. But otherwise, the area has mainly been ignored by the rest of the city.
Buzzard Point remained largely rural up to the early 20th Century. In 1920, a new set of zoning laws brought industry to Buzzard Point, including a concrete mixing plant and the Pepco powerplant in 1933 (it was retired in 2012). Many other DC residents know this area as industrial, but few realize that a neighborhood exists here, and has existed here for a long time.
As a peninsula, the neighborhood has very few streets in and out, and the streets that do exist are narrow. They're designed for what they have been used for decades: the coming and going of residents who call Buzzard Point home. The streets leading to Audi Field are not designed for the plethora of cars for a stadium of 20,000 people. Adding 125 more cars also means more cars that could make streets less accessible to emergency vehicles.
It is truly hard to imagine a proposal that prioritizes parking over neighborhood benefits like parks or gardens would get so far in neighborhoods like Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, or Woodley Park. It's disappointing that DC United prefers to put 125 more cars on the road instead of working to provide better public transportation access for residents and patrons.
More cars means not just more traffic, but poorer air quality, more pollution, and the sad possibility of more crashes and pedestrian deaths. Residents' health has already been put at risk through the numerous construction projects, and encouraging more vehicles to drive through the neighborhood would only exacerbate those risks.