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Lyon Villagers Press County Officials On Parking, Traffic Issues

by ARLnow.com April 12, 2011 at 4:57 pm 4,188 66 Comments

Residents of the quiet neighborhoods that surround Arlington’s urban villages have a very peculiar relationship with the automobile. At least, that’s the conclusion one could draw based on citizen input at a Lyon Village community meeting that focused on parking and street-related issues.

Residents are quite opposed to the county taking away parking on one side of narrow neighborhood streets to allow fire engines and garbage trucks to operate safely. But they also want more zone parking to keep outsiders from parking on the same streets. And at least one gentleman wanted folks who rent houses to have their street parking limited to just two cars.

Residents expressed indignation that their streets weren’t plowed during snow storms, making navigation treacherous. Then some asked if there was any way streets could be closed to through traffic. One man earnestly suggested quadrupling the number of speed humps and lowering the speed limit to 15 miles per hour.

In short, when it comes to cars, some residents want things their way and want others to stay on the highway.

Lucky for them, Arlington County seems perfectly willing to listen and respond to their requests.

Last night Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach and Traffic Engineering and Operations Chief Wayne Wentz sat down for a 90 minutes discussion with about 30 residents at the Lyon Village Community House. Although the meeting was ostensibly about street parking, all manner of street-related issues were brought up. The meeting was attended by Lyon Village residents and by representatives of other local civic associations, who are worried about the county’s recent move to restrict street parking on certain narrow streets.

Wentz and Leach explained that while the county is not actively looking for narrow streets, one complaint about a street’s width — from the fire department, a garbage contractor or an anonymous resident — is all it takes for county staff to be sent out with measuring tapes. They will visit a street several times, on different days and at different times, to study parking utilization. If the street is less than 28 feet wide and heavily parked on both sides, parking restrictions will likely be recommended — although first the county will notify residents and initiate a neighborhood discussion about the changes.

There have only been five complaints so far this year, Wentz said. In response, the county has studied part of Edgewood Street in Lyon Park and parts of 18th, 20th and 21st, Harvard and Hancock Streets in Lyon Village. Wentz revealed that of those, some parking restrictions will be implemented on Edgewood Street — which has been the subject of extensive debate — and on the curvy stretch of 21st, Harvard and Hancock Streets north of 20th Street. The others will not be changed.

But this is not to say that Arlington discourages narrow streets. To the contrary, Wentz said that it’s county policy to encourage “yield streets” — streets that are so narrow that only one car can get by at a time.

“We really support narrow streets in neighborhoods,” he said. “The more parking we have on them the better… It’s a cheap method of neighborhood traffic calming.”

But that policy only goes so far, Wentz said. The road still needs to be wide enough for fire trucks to respond to emergencies.

“The question really comes down to the basic functionality of these streets,” he said.

Wentz was pressed several times to say how many times fire trucks have responded to emergencies on the particular streets his staff measured.

“You’d have to ask the fire department,” he finally said.

In lieu of permanent parking restrictions, is there any way to put up temporary no parking signs during leaf collection and snow emergencies, Wentz was asked.

“There’s no way county staff could accomplish that” countywide, he said.

Another resident asked: Why are parking restrictions just being put in place now, when the streets have remained the same width for decades?

“Car ownership patterns have changed overtime,” Wentz said. “Car ownership has gone way up,” and the more people parking on a narrow street, the worse the problem.

To address that problem, county administrators adopted a set of “Residential Street Width Guidelines” in March 2008. Those guidelines — which specify that 20 foot or narrower streets should have no parking, streets between 22 and 27 feet should have parking on one side, and streets greater than 28 feet can have parking on both sides — have only recently started to be enforced.

Some residents expressed surprise that only one complaint could trigger a street width investigation when numerous complaints were not able to summon snow plows over the winter.

“I had no idea you could get that kind of action with only one complaint,” one man said.

“There are lots of parts of the county government that are structured to respond to resident concerns,” Leach explained.

But between the anonymous complaints and the unquantified number of fire responses that require wider streets, Lyon Village Citizens Association President H.K. Park was unconvinced of the wisdom of restricting parking.

“This is more about one person complaining and less about fire trucks,” he said. “Unless I heard a better rationale about why they’re doing it, I’m not going to support it.”

Lyon Park Citizens Association President Natalie Roy agreed.

“It is important to emphasize this is not just a Lyon Park or Lyon Village issue, it is a County wide issue,” she said. “Arlington needs to address this issue in a much more uniform and equitable manner. It is bad public policy to selectively investigate only those narrow streets that meet the criteria of receiving a complaint from anybody including trash collectors (as was the case on Edgewood) and residents (as was the case with two of the three Lyon Village streets that were recently investigated).”

“It is just a matter of time before more complaints are being made about narrow streets all across the County,” she added.

  • Sweet. I’m going to lodge complaints for all the streets around Clarendon. I don’t live there, so screw the residents parking concerns.

    • brendan

      Stay classy, Arlington.

  • MC 703

    I often go out in Clarendon and never park in the neighborhoods. Only on the street at meters or in the garage. You can save a few bucks by circling the neighborhoods searching for parking but why waste precious drinking time?

    • V Dizzle

      I have had the opposite experience. Most of the time I can’t find parking at meters without crusing around, so I opt for the neighborhoods. My observation is that there are normally spaces available, though I guess at other times that might not be the case…

      • MC 703

        Maybe I’m just rushing to get to Hunan Numba 1 before the suspiciously cheap sushi gets too warm

  • outoftowner

    TURN MY PUBLIC STREET PRIVATE…or face my incessent complaining towards outsiders!

    • South Arlington


    • MC 703

      Do Arlington County or VDOT maintain private roads?

      • mr. Ed


    • 5OClock

      Sadly, your comment reflects the thinking of way too many folks in Arlington. There are many streets that have signs posted restricting access during the hours that outsiders would want to drive on those streets, in effect turning them into private roads. But those same folks want the county to maintain those private roads and want to be able to drive through every other neighborhood.

      My favorite one is the two block stretch of N. Edison Street between Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls road. The residents there have a park which bisects a fairly major road, namely George Mason Drive. That park isn’t of much interest to anyone in the county except those local residents, but they also got the county to restrict access to the next street over (N. Edison) which is the most obvious road to use if you need to continue on George Mason Drive.

      Arlington….please stop yielding to these irrational people. If they want a private road, make them pay for it themselves.

      • jan


      • R.Griffon

        > There are many streets that have signs posted restricting access during the hours that
        > outsiders would want to *PARK* on those streets, in effect turning them into private roads.

        Fixed that for you. This discussion is about parking. If there are any public streets that prohibit non-residents from DRIVING on them, I’ve yet to see them. Please do point them out if you are aware of any.

        And zoned parking is nothing new people. Welcome to urban life.

        • Clarendon Dweller

          Coming up from Lee Highway towards Clarendon there is a sign saying you can’t turn left from Highland onto either Edgewood or Fillmore during certain hours. I can’t remember which street but it’s where they’re building that ridiculous monstrosity of a house right now. Lyon Villagers are seeming more and more obnoxious and I think they need a welcoming to urban life and everything that comes with it – low income housing, traffic, loud noise and people coming through their neighborhood at all hours.

          • LyonSteve

            Filmore. That house is giant and out of place. Likely by-right, and if so, they can and should be able to build whatever they want.

            To keep this on-topic, all of those streets are narrow and should only allow one side of parking.

        • david

          Did you see above? During certain hours of the day you can’t drive down N. Edison unless you’re a resident.

          • R.Griffon

            I saw it, I just didn’t believe it. I’ve never seen a sign that says “through traffic for residents only” or any such on a public road. Is that really what it says? Someone should post a pic.

            If it does, then I’d agree it’s wrong. I’ve only seen these types of messages before on temporary signs while roadwork was being done and they really did need to eliminate non-essential traffic.

          • WR

            The sign just limits cars from turning from Highland onto Fillmore during morning rush. There is no restriction from driving on the street for non-residents.

  • MC 703

    Haha +1 South Arl

  • Andy

    Then let the residents start a trust fund with the increased values of their homes over the last 15 years to cover the cost of all these changes. If they want 1996 traffic patterns, then they can have 1996 home values.

    • Sue

      The majority of us are new to the neighborhood…look at the statistics. Very few people were here prior to 2003 and many have newly arrived in the last year or so.

  • MB

    Love this kind of reporting, ARLnow. Thanks.

  • LyonSteve

    Maybe the county should have thought of this before approving all the density between Courthouse and Clarendon?

    It’s unreasonable to expect people who live North of Clarendon/Courthouse to use the few arterial streets to get to shops and restaurants in Clarendon.

    At the same time, its also unreasonable to expect people who live between Courthouse and Clarendon to drive to either end, on the already congested roads just to leave.

    • Dan


  • g_clifford_prout

    I LOVE it. I purposely drive through Lyon Village streets at like 7 mph. Slower if I see a person coming out of a cross street or driveway. I stop at every stop sign like for 30 seconds. And come to almost a complete stop at every hump. My new street to slow down folks is Mt. Vernon Ave.

    Everyone has to make sure the “children” are safe.

    I say all Arl Co streets, 10 mph. no if ands or buts. “Who will think of the children?”

    PS gotta love ACPD speed trap near rt 27 and Col Pike. A freeway interchange marked at 25 mph. Give me a break.

    Sorry for the bad grammar.

    • Don’t forget to turn the radio to 11

    • Manifesto

      Ironically, as a LV resident I DO drive at 10 mph to slow down the short-cutters that blow through the neighborhood at 35mph.

      I have to agree that some of the LV streets are super narrow and that life would be improved for the FD and Garbage collectors if parking were restricted on one side. HOWEVER, I LIKE the fact that the narrow streets slow down traffic- turning Danville into one-side-only will turn it into a commuter freeway.

  • 4Arl

    One bothersome aspect of this issue is the arbitrary process where there is no recourse when someone plays the safety card. If the 14? ft width is required for fire trucks, how can it not be required on all streets? By doing a prudent risk judgment, but then you should see some rationale on what makes Edgewood critical, not just a complaint. You don’t see a ban on high rises because ladder trucks can’t reach that high. Instead you have measures that manage the risk.

    • Thes

      4Arl: I agree. Furthermore, there is “safety” from emergency vehicle access vs. “safety” from slower driving speeds. No one has yet provided statistics to show when one is more important than the other. We should not assume the answer.

    • Arltwo

      High rise apartment buildings have sprinkler systems. That is their “measure to manage the risk.” All Arlington streets should strive to be wide enough for emergency vehicles/snowplows/garbage trucks.

  • EveryoneLovesMyCar

    The first paragraph of this article is correct about the attitude about cars. In a way, cars and children engender the same attitude. People love their own, and want everyone else to accept them, yet want others to keep theirs well behaved and the hell away from them.

  • charlie

    i can’t decide if Wayne Wentz or Malinda Artman should be run out of town. Actually, not who, but who should be first.

    • mr. Ed

      I take it you are a traffic expert? I drive through your the neighborhood, just because…

  • Curioser and Curioser

    Why don’t they just build a 30 foot fence around Lyon Village so they can keep out all those terrible interlopers. They want proximity to everything (and the property values that accompany that proximity), but they’re unwilling to except the other stuff that comes with proximity.

    I always try to drive through Lyon Village, to avoid the Wilson/Clarendon traffic– mainly because I found the No Right Turn sign coming out of the old county garage on Highland so utterly obnoxious.

    • CrystalMikey

      Ditto on that sign…

    • SteveB

      That sign is ridiculous. I usually just ignored it or did the legal method of driving around the church to get back to highland st.

    • Singularity

      How about making all streets in Lyon Village One-Way in an inward direction that all converge to a point in the center of the neighborhood? You could enter but never leave.

    • MC 703

      Wow I always thought that stupid sign had a safety reason behind it. Is it really there because people in the neighborhood didn’t want people coming from the garage to drive through their neighborhood? I live in SoArl but have friends in Cherrydale and often drove the long way to not chance a stupid ticket for turning right out of that garage. Now I’m gonna drive NB up Highland.

    • Isn’t that sign gone now?

      • MC 703

        Haven’t been in that garage in a few months. I’ve been parking in LV driveways.

        • Sue

          We actually had a drunk driver pull into our driveway at 2am and shut off his lights trying to allude the police. Didn’t work. He was thrown in the back of the police car. His friends were crying and had their parents or other friends come pick them up…and the driver’s car was towed away.

          I found it highly entertaining…watching the whole thing from my window.

          • Southeast Jerome

            Sadly once WMATA reduces train service for weekends you will see more of this. People should just suck it up and get a cab home.

    • SoCo Resident

      There actually was talk about putting up a fence and dead ending streets at 13th. I am a veteran of Lyon village’s initial traffic committee, the only one who would actually walk the few blocks to the meetings. It was interesting how they turned on one another, street versus street. Believe me they don’t miss a trick or an opportunity for another sign. (At the time, one LV officials regularly trapped squirrels and escorted them right out of Lyon Village. Hilarious!)

    • Bob

      Those “no right turn” signs were actually put up in part to keep the “undesirable” clients of the then-DHS (social services) headquarters from driving thru LV upon exiting the garage. If only there were a way to eminent domain the whole neighborhood(!)…

      • Cherrydaler


  • e

    Restricting through traffic is actually counterproductive–it encourages property crime and increases traffic on thorougfares. I heard a good interview this moring that our country is actually TOO democratic and politicians too responsive to parochial interests at the expense of general welfare. This seems like a good example….of course I could always leave Arlington, but I’m too lazy to move.

  • mr. Ed

    Who you going to blame when your house burns down, because the firetrucks can’t reach you because of all the cars parked on both sides?

    • Dan

      Why I’ll blame the horse of course !!!

  • ArlingtonNative

    Yeah – wait until one of the “no restrictions on my street” prophets actually needs a fire truck to respond to their residence and see how quickly they change their tune after the truck can’t make it through the street.

    They are the same folks who harp to have the traffic slow down in their neighborhood, but they go blasting down other streets with little regard for the residents of those areas.
    Totally agree with the comment “that our country is actually TOO democratic and politicians too responsive to parochial interests at the expense of general welfare.”
    The squeaky wheels get all the attention because the County managers/board don’t have the backbone to tell the complainers to get over themselves.

  • Ann of Tan Gables

    I don’t understand why LVer are asking how often emergency vehicles HAVE passed down the streets. We’re not regulating time travel here. If you get stopped for not having your kid in a car seat, they don’t ask how many accidents you’ve been in before.

    • BackyardiganFC

      Exactly. The propensity for my house to burn down has nothing to do with the propensity for someone else’s on my block to go up in flames.

    • Clarendude

      One reason to ask how many times emergency vehicles have successfully passed down the street is that would seem to indicate that emergency vehicles can pass down the street.

  • Val

    It would seemingly only take one time for a fire truck to be blocked. I’m sure they can measure that easily. And why shouldn’t the garbage trucks have an easy time of getting through?
    What I don’t get is why so many people–those that have driveways–park on the street.
    I follow the speed limit–and I wish Arlington Heights could get all of those speed bumps and traffic circles.

    • Sue

      We park on the street so when my kids’ grandparents come to visit or our own friends they have a place to park. If we don’t pull out of driveway and park on the street every single street spot in a 5 block radius is filled with out of zone cars. Thankfully, I was just notified that our street passed 3 parking surveys and will qualify for new zone restrictions. I can now begin parking in my driveway again.

      • Val

        That makes sense. I think it does validate the county’s efforts to encourage less driving, because while I do not think parking in neighborhoods should be totally restricted, it should also not be the primary parking spot for shoppers or diners or anyone else.

  • Shane

    Does Lyon Village even DESERVE a say in what the County does with the streets? After the stunt they pulled with the Views at Clarendon, filing lawsuit after lawsuit to waste County resources? It seems to me that the County should tell the Village to pound sand, and refuse to seek ANY input from them. A lot of us would stand up and cheer such a move.

    • CW

      +1. Enough with the favoritism.

    • Lyon Village Resident

      FYI- Lyon Villlage as a neighborhood did not sue on behalf of The Views project. Some residents joined together to support the suit, and the rest of us were either not bothered by it or did not want to rack up the county’s already big bill.

      Also, we are not allowed to make those turns, either, which annoys me just as much as they annoy the rest of you!

  • GOB

    I live in Clarendon and even though I drive my car a total of 30 miles a week, I couldn’t imagine not being able to park it in a garage. I walk around my neighborhood and scope out areas I’d park if paying $70 a month got to be too much–there’s nothing!

    I’m not even sure why people whose cars are parked in garages even have to pay for a ****ing sticker for there car. It’s not like we’d even be able to use it if we were one of the 3 or 4 people who manage to find street parking.

    • R.Griffon

      > I’m not even sure why people whose cars are parked in garages even have to pay for
      > a ****ing sticker for there [sic] car.

      Simple – they don’t. Resident parking stickers (placed on the rear driver’s side bumper) and associated fees are voluntary, and only required if you want to park on a zoned street where you live.

      • GOB

        So why did I get a letter from the county stating my car is garaged in Arlington, so I have to get a sticker for my car? I thought it was ridiculous, but I complied.

        • R.Griffon

          This is for your county property tax, and it goes on your windshield next to your inspection. It’s charged more or less in lieu of a local income tax, and is required of every car-owning county resident. It doesn’t entitle you to park on zone-restricted streets.

        • cew

          That’s a tax sticker. A zone sticker is where you can only park on zone restricted streets. They are different, and perhaps not surprisingly, have totally different times you have to buy/renew them.

  • ArlGuy

    I attended the meeting. The issue is that the County has not provided evidence that fire trucks have had difficulty operating on narrow streets in the past 50 years.

    This issue impact all neighborhoods, not just Lyon Park and Lyon Village which are more vocal. Below is a list of streets all over the County that have already been identified as “too narrow.”

    Street Name Block Width (ft)Parking

    South 13th Rd 3500 13 No
    North 22nd St 4007 13 No

    North 25th St 2700 13 No

    North Edgewood St 2400 13 No

    South 6th St 5600 18 One

    North Beechwood St 2800 18 No

    North 19th St 4400-4500 23 Both

    North 21st St 3100 23 Both

    South Harrison St 300 23 Both

    North Stafford St 2900 24 Both

    North 22nd St 3200, 3500 25 Both

    North 23rd St 4100 25 Both

    North 3rd St 2800-2900 25 Both

    North Colonial Terr 1600 25 Both

    South Lincoln St 2100 25 Both

    North Lynbrook Dr 1300 25 Both

    North Nelson 2200 25 Both

    North Pollard St 2100 25 Both

    North Quebec St 2120 25 Both

    North Quinn St 1200 25 Both

    North Upton St 2200 25 Both

    • SoCo Resident

      I drove down N. Edgewood in a little CRV and could barely make it because a landscaper’s trailer was parked there. A fire truck, abulance,emergency gas co. truck, etc, etc. could not make it. Thanks for listing the narrow streets, now we can let the insurance companies know so they can start canceling home owners insurance policies on those blocks. No insurance company wants to cover homes where fire equipment would have difficulty maneuvering.

  • SoCo Resident

    Again, NO concern or respect voiced for our fire marshal, fire officials and firefighters. None whatsoever. Restricted access to equipment can take precious time – the time a small fire can turn into an killing inferno endangering not only the residents but the firefighters. Will Natalie Roy be happy when someone is killed in a fire? Time for THE LYONS to grow up and see that Arlington streets are wide enough to “easily” accomodate emergency vehicles!


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