A contributor comments on a Northwest Current article (PDF) in the Greater Greater Washington blog regarding the trial balloon Councilmember Mary Cheh has floated regarding a new municipal parking garage in Cleveland Park.
Notwithstanding the budgetary implications or issues regarding placement, this proposal raises several issues. Parking has long been a concern for Cleveland Park merchants, particularly given the recent spat of vacancies. However, one has to better analyze the problems to arrive at appropriate solutions.
On the issue of vacancies, many neighborhood activists would suggest that this was a result of broader economic issues surrounding national chains (Blockbuster, 7-11) while others blame the lack of parking. The Commercial Zoning Overlay, which limits to 25% certain food establishments, is blamed for many of the problems. Either way, in the short term, it appears that vacancy rates are not an issue in this upscale neighborhood.
Instead, the problem is the high demand for a limited number of parking spaces, by residents, retail employees and commuters. The RPP zone system was implemented, in part, to address the issue of Maryland Commuters parking for free on residential streets during the workday. Now, however, commuters with legal zone stickers are taking those precious spots.
It seems as if a hybrid parking system which encourages the use of meters and a sub-zone system should be piloted in Cleveland Park. Certainly the market based system employed in the ballpark district of Southeast and Southwest could be tried as well.
Either way, the idea of spending millions of dollars for a parking structure in one of the most transit-rich communities in the region is absurd and certainly not an environmentally responsible solution normally supported by Councilmember Cheh.