Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Babes Debate Continues

The site of the former Babes Billiards in Tenleytown is the hot topic of discussion on the local listserv. While there have been different proposals, the current version features expanded retail and more housing atop and next to the existing structure, which is two very short blocks to the Metro. The most controversial aspect of the proposal is the relief sought through the PUD for parking. Specifically, the developer, Jamal, would like to have no parking included in this proposal. Instead, they have offered the possibility of seeking alternatives at local lots such as at Whole Foods or Best Buy.

Some have suggested that this PUD before the zoning commission is a proxy for the larger discussion on eliminating parking minimums, as proposed by the DC Office of Planning as part of the new zoning process. One commenter has suggested:

we're making it harder to live with a car in DC at the same time
it becomes increasingly difficult to live without a car in DC. And that's a
situation that, increasingly, both old and new residents will experience. We're
continually creating new entitlements to a good (public parking) that is
shrinking rather than growing. Rationing based on price is the logical next step
(already seen at meters) -- not the sort of grandfathering solutions people

To wit, the same commenter opined:

I agree that people pay more for the convenience of living near Metro and of
living within walking distance of retail and of public amenities like good
schools, libraries, rec centers, and parks. I think it's reasonable to assume
that such people drive less and own fewer cars than members of their demographic
cohort that don't live near transit. But the vast majority of households
willing and able to pay for the convenience of living in a neighborhood like
ours will own one car, if not two. So let's make sure most of them have a place
to park at home when they're walking or taking Metro. It's not in their
interests for this project to be built without any parking. It's not in our
interest for it to be built without parking

On the one hand, theories around induced demand suggest that creating more or easier parking simply draws more vehicles to a destination. On the other, is it necessary to have some parking?

Another contributer offers this commentary:

What I don't understand is how ANY new residential building,
regardless of the proximity to a metro, can't have a minimum for required if buyers don't have cars? Sure! Some people will walk to metro and
use it to go to work or elsewhere. Sure! Some people can walk here and there ...
But who would allow a NEW building WITHOUT parking? What if the people who
actually wanted to buy a place owned a car! Where do you park if you live
there? Clearly not on the street where all these people are saying there already
is no parking! I admit I don't live exactly right there but I also admit I truly
don't understand how people could think having NO parking for a new building is
acceptable. The area clearly needs developments and full-time residents. The
area clearly needs good development. But people own cars. And people need to
park cars.

The idea, for some local residents, to contemplate that there are individuals and households in the city, and around the world who exist without cars seems unfathomable.

The underlying question here is whether a developer can create a new residential structure that will have minimal, to no impact on the current residents ability to park near their homes. Further, for whatever retail might come in to these spaces, will they be able to attract and retain employees who may also need a car-less form of mobility, saying nothing about the potential customer base.

Certainly in a perfect world, one can envision new retail opportunities with housing atop that are completely viable. After all, there are cities around the world that are walkable and vibrant with little to no vehicular amenity. The question is, will demand be sufficient for renters without cars and will retailers and restauranteurs remain viable in such an environment?

Who is right here, or is that even the right question?

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