Who is complaining to Evans? Photo by mdanys on Flickr.

Councilmember Jack Evans says he wants to roll back parking meter rates and hours of enforcement in commercial corridors, including Georgetown, because of complaints from businesses and residents in his ward. But after speaking to organizations representing residents and businesses in Georgetown, I found no support for Evans’ proposal.

The proposal passed out of Evans’ Committee on Finance and Revenue by a 3-2 vote, and he frequently points to these complaints in defending the $5.2 million measure. He told the Examiner, “I get consistent complaints about the parking meters everywhere I go in my ward from residents.  I can’t go into a restaurant without the owner coming out to complain about the cost of the parking meters.”

Despite this, neither the Georgetown BID nor the manager of the largest group of Georgetown restaurants support the proposal.

The Georgetown ANC and Citizens Association have passed no resolutions and sent no letters to Evans requesting reductions in either meter rates or enforcement hours.  In fact, the ANC has been working with DDOT for a couple years to put in place a performance parking pilot that would increase parking turnover and availability by charging market rates at meters. 

Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG), told the Current (large PDF) in supporting a parking pilot that “We need to see more spaces open up in a timely fashion.”

The change would induce more visitors to drive and to park for longer periods, which means more drivers seeking fewer available spaces and circling the residential blocks for free parking spots where CAG’s members live.

Many have assumed that businesses are behind the plan, but the opposite appears to be the case, at least in Georgetown.  The Georgetown BID has passed no resolution and sent no letter to Evans asking for the reductions.  In fact, the Executive Director of the BID, Jim Bracco, told us, “We remain a proponent of performance parking and having rates and meter hours that can make garages more competitive.”

The manager of the largest restaurant group in Georgetown, Paul J Cohn, has also not asked Evans for the reductions.  Cohn runs Capital Restaurant Concepts, which includes J Pauls, Paolo’s, Old Glory, Neyla and Third Edition, among other restaurants.

Cohn told us that “enforcement should not end at 6:30pm, because enforcement leads to turnover of spots.”  He does support reducing meter rates, but only if enforcement is stepped up to ensure that turnover goes up and doesn’t go down as a result.  Turnover, for Cohn as for all organizations representing Georgetown, is the goal.

While Evans is citing the complaints and requests of his constituents in defending the rollback of meter rates and enforcement, whoever is asking for this appears to be talking to Evans and no one else.

I asked Evans on Monday to meet with Topher Mathews, David Alpert, and myself (all constituents) to discuss his proposal, but have yet received no reply.

Some constituents are starting to complain that Evans, in his handling of Hardy Middle School and meter rates, is basing public policy on the complaints of a small number of vocal residents who don’t well represent his constituency. 

Evans introduced legislation in March appointing Patrick Pope as principal of Hardy based on complaints he received from parents upset that Michelle Rhee transferred him. 

The complaints of a minority should obviously be heard and addressed.  But sometimes that requires affirming the goal sought by constituents while meeting that goal through different means.

That’s what Council Chair Kwame Brown did with regard to Hardy Middle School in telling the Current that “Regardless of parent opinions on Mr. Pope, DC Public Schools has a process for principal selection” and that “the result will be a stakeholder-driven selection of a candidate who will bring the community together and work to propel Hardy Middle School to new levels of achievement.”

Evans should affirm the goals of whoever is complaining to him in Ward 2 that it shouldn’t be so hard to find a parking spot and to avoid a fine.  However, he should address those complaints through a policy that will actually achieve these goals. 

One of the best solutions for Georgetown is one we have advocated for a long time: market-rate performance parking using pay-by-cell and multi-space meters that make it easy to avoid fines.  This is the best system to increases turnover and availability of parking spots in the District. It will help both residents and businesses in Georgetown, unlike Evans’ misguided proposal.