Arlington, VA

Paid, two-hour parking will not be included in Arlington’s updated Residential Permit Parking program.

The County Board unanimously approved significant changes to the program during its meeting on Saturday.

The new program expands RPP program eligibility to multi-family buildings — excluding those approved via site plan — and grants permits to households based on how much off-street parking they have. Residents will be charged for some previously free permits, which according to the county, will end support for the program from general tax funding.

The Board ended up nixing a county staff recommendation to allow those from outside a neighborhood to pay for limited-time parking in zoned areas.

“Removing the two-hour [paid parking] is the big change that we have done,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “I was reading 196 pages of letters. We listened, and I think that is a big important step. Folks should hear that that is the biggest change.”

A county report and public letters indicate many residents pushed back on this specific proposal, which also divided members of the Planning Commission. County Board members cited enforcement challenges, given that vehicles without permits may actually be parked legally.

“Enforcement is too difficult right now,” Board member Libby Garvey said. Visitors will still be able to park in zoned parking if given a pass from an eligible resident.

While two-hour visitor parking was removed, Board members drew attention to the expansion of eligibility to multi-family buildings.

“One of the major reasons to reevaluate and reenact this program in Arlington [is] because it discriminates on the basis of housing types,” Board member Katie Cristol said. “I do feel confident that these amendments are going to make this program [fairer] and more consistent with our values in Arlington.”

She said the changes will leave the county better off than when the County Board repealed a RPP zone to put an end to a years-long dispute between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents, which pitted apartment dwellers over single-family home owners in an area with limited street parking.

The vote comes after a three year review of the program, during which new RPP applications were suspended. The program was originally established in 1972 to regulate parking in residential neighborhoods near Metro stations and commercial centers. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the program in 1977, the program has been criticized recently for excluding people who live in apartments and condos.

About 10% of Arlington households are in current RPP zones, according to the county.

Public forums set for last spring were canceled due to the pandemic. Rather than reschedule them virtually, county officials concluded the review, citing equity concerns. A new period of public engagement began as the county geared up to propose the changes to the County Board in January 2021.

In December, the County Board deferred a public hearing until February to allow residents more time to look at the proposal.

Under the newly adopted program, all housing types can petition. However, those who live in residential buildings approved via site plan — as well as certain other types of mixed-use developments, plus Form Based Code developments along Columbia Pike — will be ineligible to apply for permits or petition for the program.

The county will require 80% of neighbors on a block to support a RPP petition, up from 60%. The county no longer needs to find that at least one-quarter of on-street parking is occupied by people from outside the area. Instead, it would need to find that more than 85% of spots are occupied.

“It’s really hard to tell what is an out-of-area vehicle,” county transportation official Stephen Crim said. “This out-of-area test is what causes many petitions to fail.”

Households with off-street parking are eligible for two annual permits (down from four), and households without it can get four permits.

For one permit, households can stick with the annual permit or opt for a FlexPass — a dashboard placard that residents and their visitors can use. All households can get up to five short-term visitor passbooks, which provide up to 300 days of parking each year.

The county will be charging for the FlexPass and the first book of short-term visitor passes. The first vehicle-specific permit or FlexPass is $40. The second, third and fourth vehicle-specific permits will cost $55, $65, and $150 respectively.

Low-income households that qualify for state and federal assistance programs will receive a 50% discount on passes.

Photos via Arlington County

0 Comments

Proposed changes to Arlington’s Residential Permit Parking program, including a pay-to-park option for short-term visitors, will go before the County Board next week — with a caveat.

On Monday members of the Planning Commission hammered out the kinds of changes to the program that they want the County Board to consider. The matter is set to be taken up during the Board’s meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.

The commission recommended a case-by-case approach to paid, short-term parking in neighborhoods — currently not an option in places where parking is restricted to residents and their guests only during certain hours —  as members were divided on whether to include it at all. Some support it across all neighborhoods with RPP programs and others support the possibility of neighborhoods requesting it. A few oppose it full-stop.

“I can’t do this to my neighbors,” said Commissioner Denyse “Nia” Bagley, who opposes pay-to-park entirely.

Vice-Chair Daniel Weir said the two-hour parking meets “a whole host of needs” and unanticipated circumstances that “all fall under managing parking,” from when people go to nearby restaurants or visit friends. Short-term visitors would be able to legally park without a pass or permit and payments would be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device.

The RPP program was originally created as a response to commuters parking in residential neighborhoods near Arlington’s Metro stations and commercial centers. It survived a legal challenge that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and later expanded to numerous neighborhoods around the county. Neighborhoods must petition for RPP zones, but in many cases those who live in apartments and condos are excluded from receiving permits, raising equity concerns.

The commission also recommended allotting on-street parking permits to household units based on whether they have off-street parking, such as driveways or garages. Households with off-street options can get up to two permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass, a dashboard placard that can be used by residents or their visitors.

Residents without off-street parking are eligible for up to four on-street permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass.

According to a county staff report presented to the commission, the cap is higher than what was previously proposed, “in response to concerns that unrelated adults (who may have more vehicles than a family household) sharing a home without off-street parking in an RPP zone could face an unnecessary hardship.” Still, it’s lower for those with off-street parking than the current program.

“The current program allows for up to four (4) permits, one (1) FlexPass and three (3) vehicle specific permit decals,” a previous staff report said. “Many households already in the RPP program would not be able to obtain as many permits as they do today Lowering the cap encourages households with multiple vehicles to use their off-street parking, leaving space on the street for others.”

The commission did not tweak the expansion of parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes. In response to concerns about enforcing paid parking, commissioners unanimously voted to include language stipulating that parking enforcement should be on par with metered parking elsewhere in the county.

These potential changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. The review concluded last fall, kicking off a new period of public engagement as the changes wound through county processes.

The changes went before the County Board for the first time in December, when Board members decided to delay a public hearing to give the community more time to digest the changes.

At the time, the County Board approved an amendment allowing residents to buy a third or fourth parking pass at a higher cost, after hearing from families who suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, in addition to homeowners who said the program would force them to widen their driveways.

0 Comments

(Updated 02/08/21) The Arlington County Board has scheduled a public hearing on proposed changes to the Residential Parking Program for its regular meeting on Feb. 20.

But Board members are open to pushing off the hearing further to engage more people and give residents more time to digest the changes.

Board member Christian Dorsey said the Board is merely advertising a public hearing and the proposed changes to the program are not drastic.

“This is an evolutionary update, not a revolutionary one,” he said. “While it’s a complicated program, the degree of change is not as difficult.”

A delayed public hearing may mean implementation is deferred to the 2022-23 fiscal year, especially if the County staff is expected to do more public engagement, said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager.

“Some people will be unhappy no matter how we do this program,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “We are really trying to balance what is fair and what is right and provide flexibility.”

The proposed changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. Among the changes, County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in restricted residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

Staff also recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, and reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

During the meeting, the County Board approved an amendment that would allow residents to buy a third, or even a fourth, parking pass at a higher cost.

The added flexibility came after the board heard from families who have suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, along with renters, homeowners who rent out rooms and homeowners who said the program would force them to enlarge their driveways.

Another concern expressed by some: whether the county can effectively enforce the modified parking restrictions, with hourly parkers added to the mix.

With the public hearing pushed from January to February, the Board members asked residents to think about the program over the next two months.

“This is a very complex program,” Garvey said. “For anybody who is just now looking at it, they need more time to digest even what we’re doing right now.”

So far, the public engagement process has mostly drawn out homeowners who currently benefit from the parking program, but not the apartment- and condo-dwellers who are generally excluded from it, a few Board members pointed out.

“Aurora Highlands has been well-represented in the public comments,” Board member Matt de Ferranti said. “The people who might benefit from this in terms of apartment buildings aren’t here.”

0 Comments

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

These are two of the changes to the program staff are proposing that the County Board adopt. The changes will be reviewed and refined before the Board votes early next year, and come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted.

“We are attempting to make compromises between disparate viewpoints and disagreements about how the program should be structured,” said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager, who fielded questions from residents during a virtual Q&A session last week.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

The benefit of paid parking over free, time-limited parking in residential zones — as is in place in parts of D.C. — is that “we make the parking easier to enforce for the police and make it more likely to be enforced regularly,” Crim said.

Permit and pass fees would be raised to pay for 100% of the program’s costs, whereas 40% of the costs to administer and enforce the RPP program currently come from general tax funding. Discounts on permits and passes would be available to low-income households . 

Staff recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, as well as reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Staff propose to remove the “out-of-area” test from the permit process, which requires would-be RPP zones to have a preponderance of commuters, shoppers or other people from outside the neighborhood taking up street parking spaces. Crim said that change is a way of “shifting the program into a more general parking management program.” 

Currently, the county needs to see that a block has 75% of spaces are occupied, of which at least 25% are occupied by out-of-area vehicles.

The RPP program has sharply divided residents. According to a recently released report, some of these divisions occur along the lines of race and class, as permitted residential street parking is disproportionately available to white, affluent Arlingtonians.

Residents of most apartment buildings are currently not eligible to receive RPP permits. More will be eligible under the proposed changes, but many will still be shut out if their building was approved by the County Board via a site plan or certain types of use permits.

Residents can see if their address currently qualifies for a permit through this link.

Read More

0 Comments

If you live in the right type of home in the right place, Arlington County will reserve street parking for you and your neighbors for much of the day.

But the Residential Permit Parking program is under review and a county staff recommendation on whether it should continue as currently conceived is expected soon.

The review has dragged on since it was launched in 2017, when the county put a moratorium on approving new permit parking zones, and was further delayed by the pandemic. County officials, however, now say they’re going to skip holding more public engagement meetings on the topic, either virtual or in-person, and move forward with the aim of County Board action in January.

Meetings had been planned for the spring, but were cancelled due to health concerns. A county spokeswoman says county staff decided against additional meetings due to equity concerns.

“Staff looked into holding the dialogues online but decided that holding online dialogues would not be an adequate replacement,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien told ARLnow. “There are tools for holding the dialogues online, but there are challenges to bringing together a diverse group of Arlingtonians for a meeting of three hours or more online.”

“An inclusive group of participants at the dialogues would be especially necessary because residents are divided on the RPP program,” she continued. “The County could have waited until in-person public meetings resume but continuing to delay the RPP Review increases the chance that decision-makers will see the feedback currently captured as out-of-date. Delaying the review also continues the moratorium on petitions for new or modified restrictions.”

There are few issues that raise local passions like parking, and the RPP program has sharply divided residents.

The program started in the early 1970s, when Aurora Highlands residents successfully petitioned the Arlington County Board to approve restrictions that would keep Crystal City commuters from parking in the neighborhood. The county won a Supreme Court challenge to the restrictions and gradually expanded the program to other neighborhoods.

Eventually, residents of new apartment buildings and condos were excluded from the program, as access to street parking became a sticking point with neighbors of proposed new developments. And neighborhoods well away from Metro stations and office districts started getting approved for restrictions.

The tide started to turn against the program a few years ago, as more neighborhoods sought to add parking restrictions, raising questions about the fairness of reserving increasingly large portions of the public road network for the vehicles of certain residents.

Last year, the County Board repealed some RPP restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods, which apartment residents said made it difficult to park in the neighborhood for those who do not work a traditional 9-5 job. The decision was contentious, however.

A recently-released report on the RPP review process includes comments from surveys that further reflect the divide.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me who is eligible now. Higher density homes with less curb space should be eligible as single family homes,” said one resident quoted in the report.

“The County should NOT make apartment, condo, and townhouse residents eligible for parking permits because it will encourage more cars and further overcrowd parking resources,” said another.

The report notes that the population eligible for RPP skews whiter and more affluent than those who are not eligible. White residents are 84% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 76% of the population outside of RPP zones. Households making $200,000 or more are 32% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 19% in non-RPP zones.

Furthermore, only 25% of those enrolled in RPP live in multifamily buildings like apartments and condos; by comparison, 71% of Arlington’s overall population lives in multifamily housing.

Read More

0 Comments

Amid the pandemic, Arlington County is sifting through which planning processes are ready to continue moving forward and which ones are being delayed.

The County recently announced that it is still moving forward with plans for updating guidelines for development in Pentagon City, a relatively time-critical issue with Amazon’s permanent HQ2 under construction nearby.

The county’s Lee Highway planning process is also moving forward, with public workshops fortuitously wrapping up before the pandemic hit Arlington. Like the Pentagon City plan, the Lee Highway process is endeavoring to shape how new development takes place along the corridor. The central theme is, over time and through land use policies, replacing the car-focused strip malls along the corridor with clusters of mixed-use development that could bring in more housing, particularly affordable housing.

“Since the Plan Lee Highway public workshop in February, the County’s planning team synthesized what they heard and shared those results with the community late March,” Jessica Margarit, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development said. “Using that input, they have been busy developing the Neighborhood Character Report and the Cultural Resources Survey report. They anticipate publishing these by the end of July.”

Those closely following the Resident Permit Parking (RPP) Review project, though, might be disappointed to learn that project has hit some delays. The RPP restricts on-street parking near Metro corridors and other high-demand areas to residents and their guests during certain times of the day. The program has been criticized for favoring single-family homeowners over apartment dwellers, many of whom don’t have access to the same permits.

Staff had started planning for open houses and discussions early this year, but those plans were waylaid by the pandemic.

“The Residential Permit Parking Review project has been delayed due to the pandemic,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “The County had to postpone the deliberative dialogues and open house that were scheduled for early spring 2020. Staff is in discussion with leadership on how best to proceed given the current situation. An update will be posted on the project website once we have more information.”

Image via Arlington County

0 Comments

(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) The “How’s My Driving” cycling safety app is planning an event in Arlington tomorrow to collect data on bike lane violations.

App co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow that a team of about 40 people are gearing up to hit streets in Crystal City, Ballston, and Rosslyn on Thursday to count the number of times vehicles block bike lanes. The volunteers will track the bike lane violations on S. Crystal Drive, Fairfax Drive, and N. Lynn Street by reporting blockages through the app, which will share the data through a live dashboard.

“Crystal Drive and Lynn Street are just consistently blocked,” said Sussman. “The problem is that we don’t understand the size and the scope of the problem.”

Video recently posted to Twitter shows multiple stopped vehicles blocking the Crystal Drive bike lane. An Arlington County Police tweet from this summer showed a similar violation on Crystal Drive leading to a traffic ticket.

Sussman and his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer, are hoping data collected by volunteers tomorrow during the morning and evening rush hours and lunchtime can help fix that.

Currently, only app users in the District can report violations through the app and see how many other violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle — courtesy of a bot that fetches the DMV data. But Susan and Schep have been eyeing expansion into Arlington for months as the app gained popularity and people began reporting violations across the Potomac, too.

The pair say they’re hoping Thursday acts as a demonstration of what kind of real-time data officials could have access to if they contract with “How’s My Driving” in the future.

Volunteers are also out collecting bike lane blockage data today in Pittsburgh. Previously, people helped with a data collection day in D.C. which yielded 700 violations, and another one for bus lane blockages that tracked 300 violations.

“When you get that amount of data, patterns really start to emerge. You can use that data in aggregate both for enforcement purpose and transportation planning,” said Sussman.

However the app creator emphasized that these data collection days are not designed for enforcement purposes, and act as more of a proof of concept.

“No one is getting citations. No one is reporting to authorities,” said Sussman. “The data is only reported in aggregate in a presentation to the county. It would never be used to call out for specific vehicles.” 

“The overall effort is not to shame or expose particular violators,” he added. 

Photo by Sal Ferro

0 Comments

Even a large, electronic sign in Crystal City telling drivers there is “no stopping in bike or traffic lane” doesn’t seem to be deterring some from doing just that, right next to the sign.

But Arlington County Police are backing up the sign’s message with citations.

Photos posted by the police department on Wednesday show officers ticketing a driver stopped in a bike lane on Crystal Drive — as a cyclist pedaled by in the travel lane — near the Chick-fil-A restaurant.

The high-visibility enforcement in Crystal City has been happening for at least a week.

On social media, several people cheered word of the continued enforcement this week.

“As someone who bikes in Crystal City — YEAH!!” said one.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” said another.

https://twitter.com/Mr__Amac/status/1154186824048435202

0 Comments

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The co-creator of the popular car violation tracking app “How’s My Driving?” is eyeing an expansion across the Potomac.

Mark Sussman is the data scientist behind the app, along with his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer. Sussman told ARLnow today that he’s considering expanding the service from D.C. to Arlington because of the demand he’s seen over the past few months.

“It’s almost been an aggressive demand from some Arlington folks,” he said, laughing. “We obviously have folks who live in Arlington and work in D.C. and have been wanting to use it.”

https://twitter.com/hmdappio/status/1136690997252038657?s=20

Sussman and Schep built a Twitter bot last July that lets Twitter users tweet problems like vehicles parked in bike lanes or blocking sidewalks. If a user tweets a moving or parking violation at the bot with the vehicle’s license plate number, the bot fetches data from the D.C. DMV on how many outstanding citations or violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle.

The developers later announced they’d be beta-testing a smartphone app version of the service. Since then Sussman says about 1,200 people have volunteered to test it. The app automatically tweets the citation information that results from people’s reports to D.C. parking enforcement authorities in an effort to encourage enforcement.

Several Arlingtonians have joined the beta-testing group, despite the fact that “How’s My Driving?” isn’t yet connected to any Arlington database that could show the number of violations.

This summer, Sussman said he and Schep are planning to start talking to authorities in Arlington about whether the app can help with traffic enforcement in the county, and whether they can integrate it with the current record-keeping systems for citations. Parking citations are publicly available with license plate numbers in Arlington. But unlike D.C., Arlington app users need a citation number in order to look up moving violations, such as speeding.

The record amount for the most outstanding fines accrued by a single vehicle in D.C. flagged by the bot so far is $36,594. The majority of the fines for the Virginia-registered vehicle were from speeding violations.

“If that information was provided to officers on the front end instead of having them have to look it up, then they’d be much more likely to do the right thing,” said Sussman. “While it may seem like a benign to some [to report] standing in a bike lane, it’s a proxy for more dangerous behavior.”

So far, users have reported 74 parking and moving violations in Arlington, with the majority clustered in Clarendon and around Reagan National Airport.

The locations made sense to Sussman. “A third of these violations are for bike lane violations,” he said. “These are notoriously abused bike lanes.”

Due to a dedicated community of pedestrians and cyclists who report violations spotted around town, the bot has exploded in popularity since starting last year. “Currently, we’ve had a little over 7,000 submissions that represent over $2 million in the District of Columbia,” Sussman said, of the total fines reported.

In the future, Sussman said he and Schep are considering doing away with the Twitter bot altogether to avoid gaining a reputation as “vigilante social media shamers” and focus more on integration with government systems, to help with their main goal of improving enforcement.

Twitter users would, of course, still be able to tweet about what they find out from the app on their own.

“We just don’t want it to be the main vehicle that people use for enforcement,” he said.

Image via Marc Sussman/Twitter

0 Comments

Some experimental parking changes throughout the Four Mile Run valley are going into effect over the next few weeks, as county officials weigh the best strategies for improving conditions in the area for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The county started rolling out the changes Saturday (Feb. 23) and plans to have all of them in place by the second week of March. Officials previously held meetings about the contemplated changes in Nauck this fall, and the County Board approved the general approach toward parking in the area as part of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan it passed in November.

The following roads are set to see parking changes over the next few weeks:

  • S. Four Mile Run Drive between Walter Reed Drive and Shirlington Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive (service road) west of Shirlington Road
  • S. Oxford Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Oakland Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Nelson Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 27th Street S. between Shirlington Road to S. Nelson Street

Parking has been contested along parts of S. Four Mile Run Drive in particular, with neighbors frequently complaining about the bevy of commercial vehicles along the stretch of road. The debate over parking in the area was a particular flashpoint during the deliberations over the area plan, with some Nauck leaders arguing that their concerns went ignored by county officials.

Notably, the county will ban commercial vehicles from parking on either side of the “minor” service road section of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the section of the road that intersects with S. Oxford Street and is home to a variety of cul-de-sacs lined with duplexes and other small homes. Parking there will otherwise be unrestricted or available for up to 24 hours.

Along the main, “major” stretch of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the northern side of the road will be off-limits for overnight parking, from 1o p.m. to 7 a.m., between the road’s intersection with Shirlington Road and S. Oakland Street. Currently, parking is restricted there only between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

On the rest of the northern side of Four Mile Run Drive through the road’s intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive, parking will be available around the clock. It’s also currently restricted from 7-9 p.m. currently.

On the southern side of Four Mile Run Drive, people will be allowed to park for up to 10 hours at a time, outside of the block between S. Nelson and S. Oakland streets, which will be two-hour parking. Much of that side of the road is currently unrestricted or limited to two hours of parking.

The county is also changing up the rules on the south side of 27th Street S., which will now have a 10-hour limit. Much of the curb space in front of the area’s WETA facility is currently unrestricted.

Other changes will also impact some of the side streets running off Four Mile Run, where new two-hour parking limits are planned.

County police say they plan to strictly enforce these new restrictions to improve conditions in the neighborhood, though some residents are skeptical that the department’s staffing challenges will allow officers to make much of an impact in policing the area’s parking.

County officials also expect to eventually add new sections of sidewalk and a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions along S. Four Mile Run Drive. They could even move ahead with more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park or the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

But first, the county plans to spend the next year or studying the impact of these new parking changes. The evaluation of that work will move in tandem with the planned changes at Jennie Dean Park, approved as part of the Board’s planning work for the area last spring.

0 Comments

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) The Arlington County Board has done away with parking restrictions on a handful of streets in two South Arlington neighborhoods, putting to rest a contentious dispute that has dragged on for years between Forest Glen and Arlington Mill residents.

The Board voted unanimously Saturday (Jan. 26) to end zoned parking on eight streets in the area. As part of the county’s “Residential Parking Program,” the county previously barred anyone without a permit from parking on the roads from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day.

The following streets, once part of the county’s “Zone 24” and stretching into sections of both Forest Glen and Arlington Mill, are now open for parking around the clock:

  • 6th Place S.
  • 7th Street S.
  • 7th Road S.
  • S. Florida Street
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Harrison Street (north of 7th Street S.)
  • S. Illinois Street
  • S. Jefferson Street

Arlington officials first zoned the streets off in 2016, largely due to Forest Glen residents arguing that too many drivers from outside the area were occupying the neighborhood’s limited parking spots. But residents of Arlington Mill said they started to feel the squeeze instead once that change was made, as it cut off street parking near the many apartment complexes in the neighborhood.

“Street parking in Arlington Mill became so scarce that it was rare to find a parking spot anywhere after 7 p.m.,” Austin McNair, an Arlington Mill resident who fought for the change, told ARLnow via email. “Anyone not working a traditional 9 to 5 job was now faced with the extra task of finding parking more than a mile away from their home. I can promise that this is the story for many families.”

Ordinarily, the county likely wouldn’t have waded into such a dispute — the Board put a two-year moratorium on any parking zone changes as it reviews the efficacy of the entire program, a process that isn’t set to wrap up until sometime early next year.

Yet the Board subsequently determined that county staff didn’t follow their usual process for setting up the zoned parking in the area, convincing officials that the parking restrictions both weren’t working well and that they were likely set up improperly in the first place.

“This was not a decision that we take lightly or came to easily… but the status quo is not acceptable,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “What this is all about, for me, is the efficient allocation of a public resource, which is on-street parking. I’m sorry that this is the least objectionable of lots of other bad options.”

Board members stressed that they’d urged staff to work out some sort of compromise position between the two neighborhoods over the past few months, perhaps by putting restrictions on one side of each street but freeing up the other side. But they could never quite find an acceptable solution to all sides, or manage to find one that county lawyers thought would hold up in court — the county’s parking restrictions were challenged all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and officials have since been careful to limit the parking zones to the narrow intent of keeping commuters out of residential areas.

“While the neighborhood has grown in density, it has never been and is still not a destination for commercial customers or commuters who would be parking their cars to access public transportation,” McNair said.

The dispute has also turned a bit ugly in recent weeks. A community meeting the Board convened to discuss the matter drew plenty of raised voices, with some in Forest Glen arguing that the parking restrictions were necessary to prevent speeding, littering and other criminal activity in the neighborhood. Others in Arlington Mill, particularly some advocates for Latino residents, claimed those concerns were based in some deep-seated racial stereotypes.

That divide was evident at the Board’s gathering as well. Danny Cendejas, an activist on variety of local issues, told the Board that the current parking restriction “has discriminated against our neighbors,” while Forest Glen residents argued that reversing the restriction would harm their quality of life.

“I had to place trash cans in the middle of the street to slow down people who were racing to find parking while my three young children were riding their bicycles,” Brent Newton, a six-year resident of the neighborhood, told the Board. “When we were granted the [Residential Parking Program designation], our neighborhood became quiet, clean and tranquil. With utmost certainty, it will return to what it was before the RPP: speeding cars, trash and noise.”

While Board members sympathized with those concerns, they didn’t believe changing the parking restriction would make a difference on those fronts. Board member Libby Garvey suggested that they may be “related,” but she would rather see police step up enforcement in the area to address those worries.

Gutshall pointed out that his own neighborhood, near Clarendon, has parking restrictions in place, but still deals with its own share of littering issues as people flock to the area to reach nearby bars and restaurants. For him, and the rest of the Board, the parking staff’s missteps in evaluating the neighborhood for earning zone restrictions were more important to address.

Stephen Crim, the manager of the county’s parking program, told the Board that his staff discovered that they didn’t check license plates on the affected streets against records maintained by the county’s Commissioner of the Revenue, which tracks tax payments on property like vehicles. That means that staff didn’t necessarily have a full picture of how many people from outside the county were actually parking in the neighborhoods.

Read More

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list