Some neighbors and nearby businesses are fed up with drivers illegally parking near the Penrose Square Starbucks.
They say improperly parked cars are leading to traffic jams and a loss of business, while blocking a public space and causing safety hazards.
Recent posts on social media have highlighted traffic jams near the intersection of S. Barton Street and 9th Road S., along Columbia Pike. The posts show several parked cars with hazard lights on, partially blocking traffic on the pedestrian-oriented roadway that connects the Pike and a parking garage for the retail center.
— Arlington Anti Pickleball League (@ARLINGTONAF) July 25, 2023
There are currently only a couple legal parking spots along S. Barton Street due to a number being replaced by a Capital Bikeshare docking station a few years back. But a public parking garage is just around the corner.
Cars running stop signs and pulling unsafe driving maneuvers are also common along that short stretch of road, according to the pseudonymous Twitter account.
— Arlington Anti Pickleball League (@ARLINGTONAF) July 27, 2023
— Arlington Anti Pickleball League (@ARLINGTONAF) May 7, 2023
Neighbor and president of the advocacy group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County Chris Slatt agrees that this has become a problem at Penrose Square.
Slatt told ARLnow that illegally parked cars have become an “extremely common” thing ever since Starbucks opened at that location in 2015. Drivers who park illegally can restrict traffic flow, block pedestrian access, and get in the way of bike lanes.
“We didn’t see these issues much with the previous tenant,” he wrote in an email.
Starbucks’ next-door neighbor also some complaints. Zak Mancini, the owner of Mancini de Paris Salon, told ARLnow that he sometimes sees three or four cars lined up in the middle of the street with no one in them. All the drivers, he said, are in Starbucks, picking up orders.
Mancini said cars are sometimes blocked from turning onto S. Barton Street from the Pike by those illegally parked in the middle of the street. When that happens, the honking starts.
“It’s a big mess, especially on weekends,” he said. “[Customers] come to me pissed off, saying they are going to find a new salon because of the noise and honking.”
Mancini said he’s seen disputes nearly turn into fistfights and has had to call the police a few times. Slatt believes that the county needs to do something about this.
“Arlington should also strongly consider increasing the fine for illegal parking,” said Slatt, who also chairs the Arlington County Transportation Commission.
What also really concerns him is the persistent running of a stop sign and unsafe driving seen at the intersection of S. Barton Street and 9th Road S., particularly due to the proximity to a splash pad.
“This is dangerous, especially in large vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs which tend to pitch struck pedestrians under the vehicle rather than onto the hood, which tends to happen with sedans,” Slatt said.
“This is especially egregious given the direct adjacency to a park filled with happy but unpredictable children,” he continued. “We desperately need Arlington County PD to prioritize enforcing laws that are supposed to prevent unsafe behavior like this.”
The Arlington County Police Department confirmed to ARLnow that the section of S. Barton Street in question is indeed a public roadway and, therefore, enforcement is the responsibility of ACPD. Spokesperson Ashley Savage said that police patrol the area and ask the community to report any transportation safety issues.
“ACPD has previously conducted parking enforcement in the area and educated the businesses and patrons along S. Barton about the parking restrictions,” Savage wrote. “As time and resources permit, ACPD will continue to conduct random rotating enforcement and education in the area with the goal of compliance even when police are not present. Community members can report ongoing transportation safety concerns to police using our online form.”
ARLnow has reached out to Starbucks media relations staff for comment but has yet to hear back as of publication.
Residents will have to wait until May to apply for a permit to use on-street parking in their neighborhood.
Two weeks ago Monday, Arlington County opened up applications for its Residential Permit Parking program. RPP restricts parking in certain residential areas near commercial corridors, typically allowing residents and their guests to park during the day while those without permits have to look elsewhere.
Some one hundred applications were processed, but within hours some residents began experiencing issues.
A few reached out to ARLnow, frustrated about the platform timing out and otherwise not handling their requests.
The county informed RPP households on Wednesday, April 5 that it would be pushing back the start of the application season to the week of April 10, which was last week. Yesterday (Monday), the county told ARLnow it now aims to resume the online application process on the first of May.
“We are still working with our vendor to resolve technical issues with the online permit application system,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said. “Due to these unresolved issues, we are now targeting the week of May 1 to have our RPP renewal applications available online.”
The vendor is Conduent, she said. The New Jersey-based company was previously a unit of Xerox.
“We apologize for the continued delay but want to make sure that the system functions correctly for our customers,” O’Brien said, noting that customers will be receiving an update as well.
Normally, the county would begin checking for updated parking permit stickers for the 2023-24 season on July 1. With the delays, enforcement will be pushed back to Aug. 1 “to ensure that RPP materials will get to customers well ahead of when they’re needed.”
Last year, some residents reported not getting their materials ahead of the start of enforcement. They were worried they would be ticketed for not having documentation, though they said they had applied and paid for the stickers. Arlington County issued some temporary tags that people could use until their materials came.
Residents need to apply in advance to allow for enough time for the materials to be printed and sent out, but some were impacted by a delayed printing order, ARLnow was told at the time. Last year, the application process was also delayed, to allow extra time to fine tune what was then new software.
For those wishing to place orders immediately, in-person application and renewal services are available in Room 214 at the county government headquarters, located at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, O’Brien said. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They are installing traffic sensors in and marking some 4,500 parking spots in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors.
The spots and hardware are the foundation for a three-year, $5.4 million state-funded pilot project testing out a new way to manage parking availability and pricing, dubbed “performance parking,” which kicked off earlier this year.
Currently, parking is at a fixed rate and people have to find spots once they arrive at their destination, which can lead to double-parking or going somewhere else to, for instance, grab a meal.
Using existing meters and keeping the Parkmobile payment platform, the pilot intends to smooth out competition for convenient spots by directing people to cheaper options farther away. Prices would also vary based on time of day.
Arlington County will have a phone-friendly website with real-time availability and pricing data, which may also be accessible from some third-party apps. This information could help people plan where to park ahead of time, decreasing cruising time.
The pilot “is data-driven, using technology to better understand existing park utilization,” Melissa McMahon, the parking and curb space manager for Arlington County, told the Planning Commission this week. “We are actively managing parking supply to make parking more convenient and to reduce the negative impacts of hard-to-find parking.”
To get started, the county has to understand how people use on-street parking right now. Crews are delineating discrete spaces where, currently, it is a free-for-all between two signs, and installing one sensor per space.
Later this year, these wireless, battery-operated, in-ground sensors will start sensing when and for how long a car occupies a space. They will communicate that to “wireless gateways” located on traffic signal poles, which will relay that data to a central network server. That data is converted into a dashboard that county staff will use to make parking decisions.
Once it has enough “existing conditions” data this fall, the Dept. of Environmental Services will pick a range of prices, which it aims to bring to the Arlington County Board for approval this December. After that, for the next two years of the pilot, DES will request permission to change prices once per quarter to see the impact on driver behavior.
“This project does not create dynamically or fast-changing metered pricing,” McMahon said. “It won’t be uncertain on a day to day basis. If you’re going into a neighborhood routinely you’ll have a sense of where the lower price spots are and where the higher priced spots are.”
She said the goal is not to increase overall meter revenue, and blocks with lower rates may cancel out those with higher rates.
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County is delaying the Residential Permit Parking online application process until next week due to “unexpected technical issues.”
“Despite testing in advance, our vendor’s Residential Permit Parking online application system is currently down to resolve these technical issues to our satisfaction,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said this morning (Wednesday).
She added that the website is expected to relaunch the week of April 10, which is next Monday.
Annually, people who live in residential areas near commercial corridors pay for permits for street parking in Residential Permit Parking zones. The process typically begins in April and by July, the county begins issuing tickets to people parked in these zones without the new fiscal year’s permit.
The county changed its permitting system last year and had to delay the application window one month to finish making tweaks to the new software. Then, many residents experienced issues obtaining permits in time for enforcement in July, so, to account for late-summer travel, the county delayed ticketing until September.
In a March letter to RPP zone residents, alerting them to the forthcoming application window, the county thanked residents for their patience last year “as we worked through a tricky software transition.”
“We expect this season’s process to be smoother and look forward to serving you again,” said the letter, a copy of which was shared with ARLnow.
But resident David Remus immediately encountered problems when he accessed the system on Monday, the software’s launch day.
The system would not let him add any short-term visitor passes to the order, he told ARLnow. He noticed the system went down that afternoon, perhaps for attempted bug fixes. After it went back online, he said he could not apply for the number of permits he selected.
“When I tried to isolate one type of permit at a time, the system timed out after a few minutes, with an error message stating that the system is not online,” he said. “This is nothing but gross incompetence on the part of the county government.”
Resident Carol Burnett, meanwhile, logged on for the first time while the system was down Monday afternoon.
“Last year the Arlington County residential parking permit program was a mess with lost applications, late arrival of permits and general confusion. They had all sorts of excuses,” she said. “Looks like we’re in for another messy year this year.”
An anonymous tipster opined “It is SUCH a cluster. SUCH a cluster.”
The county processed more than 100 RPP applications on Monday before encountering problems and deciding to take the system offline, O’Brien said.
Residents can either wait for the online system to be re-opened or apply for a permit in-person at the county headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Suite 214. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m., O’Brien said.
Residents who need support in the interim can email [email protected] or calling 703-228-3344.
“The seasonal application process will continue for the next several months and we will make sure everyone receives their permits and passes in a timely manner and with no issues involving FY 2024 enforcement, which begins in July,” O’Brien said.
Arlington County made several changes to the program two years ago, reducing available permits for households with driveways, raising fees for additional vehicles and visitor permits, while lowering prices for low-income residents. It also allowed residents in some multifamily buildings to join the program.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) An emerging local group is looking to corral the “Wild West” of e-scooter parking in Arlington County.
The embryonic organization, which is calling itself “Purge,” will employ drivers to pile micro-mobility devices parked illegally on private property into vans and — essentially — hold them hostage until the operators of the offending devices pay a $50 invoice fee for their release.
“This is a huge opportunity and issue,” says Will, the founder, who requested to have his last name withheld until the official company launch. “We don’t want to interact with them at all: just pay it and it’ll go back on the street. They’re going to hate that but there’s nothing to say we can’t do that.”
If the business model sounds familiar, that’s because it is quite similar to how controversial Ballston-based trespass towing company Advanced Towing operates. Advanced, however, works within an established state and local regulatory framework, frequent accusations of skirting such laws by those on the undesirable end of their tows notwithstanding.
Arlington County has authorized a number of operators, including Bird, Spin and Lime, to operate some 350 e-bikes and 2,000 e-scooters within its borders. Some locals have long complained that scooter parking blocks pedestrian and, at times, vehicle traffic.
In response, the county has rolled out “corrals” to give people more legal options for parking their scooters, paid for by the cost for operators to do business in Arlington.
“Arlington has made decent strides with the corrals, but they’re a suggestion no one has forced them to operate better or develop incentivization for users to engage in better rider behavior,” Will says.
Billing operators could, he theorizes.
Something similar is happening in San Diego, where a duo impounds scooters in a lot using a flatbed truck. Scooter operators fought back with a lawsuit and later, cease-and-desist letters to private property owners using the impound service. The city has since filed its own lawsuit alleging the way these scooters are parked is a safety hazard.
“We’re trying to offer a balance here. The outcomes are they’re either forced to incentivize better behavior, or the [county] is forced to contract with us,” Will says. “We are working with local attorneys — there’s nothing in place to force them to operate legally. We think we have a low-tech solution that doesn’t require a huge investment.”
When it launches, Purge will only service private property. It doesn’t need impound authorization from private property owners, Will claims, while adding that several local private property managers, including some hotels and apartment buildings, have given the company the thumbs-up to haul away scooters.
Scooters abandoned in public right-of-way, however, could remain tripping hazards and nuisances — for now. Purge would skip mis-parked scooters on public property, at least initially.
For recourse, people can report mis-parked or abandoned devices via Arlington County’s Report a Problem tool, or via the helplines the companies operate. Operators are required to remove improperly parked devices within two hours of a report of mis-parking, according to the county’s website.
The other option is to just step around them, which can be dangerous for people who are blind or in a wheelchair or have another disability that impairs their mobility.
“Mobility only works if it works for everyone,” says Will, pointing out that these companies have raised hundreds of millions and — in some cases — billions of dollars, but in his view have not sufficiently invested in ways to incentivize proper parking.
The Thanksgiving holiday will mean closures of county facilities.
Arlington courts, libraries, community centers, vaccine clinics and government offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday. Thursday will also be a rare weekday off day for hard-working trash collection crews, who will resume collections a day delayed on Friday and Saturday.
Additionally, parking meters will not be enforced during the holiday.
From the county website:
Arlington County Government offices and services are operating on modified schedules for the Thanksgiving holiday, Thur., Nov 24, and Fri., Nov. 25, 2022.
Trash/Recycling/Yard Waste Curbside Routes – No collection Thursday. Thursday routes run on Friday, Nov. 25; Friday routes run on Saturday, Nov. 26.
Parking – Permit parking is always in effect unless specifically noted on the sign. Meters are not enforced on holidays.
All Arlington Public Library locations will be closed early at 6 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 23, and will be closed Nov. 24-25 for Thanksgiving.https://t.co/FD9DRa62eL
— Arlington VA Pub Lib (@ArlingtonVALib) November 23, 2022
Citing an “ongoing issue,” Arlington County has ticketed Advanced Towing multiple times in recent weeks for blocking “the most famous fire hydrant in Arlington County.”
Trucks from the Ballston-based towing company have received multiple tickets, including one as recently as last week, for parking and blocking a fire hydrant near the corner of 5th Road N. and N. Quincy Street, a county official has confirmed to ARLnow. They were not able to provide the exact number of tickets, however.
That particular hydrant, dubbed “the most famous fire hydrant in Arlington County” by former local news reporter Dave Statter, is in the alleyway next to the company’s lot. A Twitter account is devoted to documenting illegal parking in front of the hydrant.
The county says that they have “received social media complaints and emails from an anonymous account holder” about the issue.
— Matthew Young (@matthewyoung31) October 29, 2022
On Saturday afternoon, the fire marshal was sent to talk with Advanced Towing about the “ongoing issue,” per scanner audio posted on social media by Statter.
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) October 29, 2022
The result of the ensuing conversation between the fire marshal and Advanced Towing appears to have rectified the problem for now. A spokesperson for Advanced Towing tells ARLnow via email that they’ve stopped parking in front of that hydrant.
However, the company also argued that the fire hydrant is inactive, on their property, and other cars are parking illegally in the alleyway but are not being ticketed.
“I feel the tow trucks are the only ones with attention, tickets and complaints when the entire area is constantly full of illegally parked vehicles because there’s is no parking,” the spokesperson said, while also providing photos of supposedly illegally parked cars. “No tickets have been issued.”
County spokesperson Ben Aiken did confirm that the specific hydrant is “redundant for fire purposes” with another hydrant only a few feet away, but did say it is operational and maintained “for other reasons as part of the water system.” There are also no plans to remove it.
The issue of Advanced Towing trucks parking in front of that particular hydrant apparently has been ongoing since at least 2017 per Twitter user Advanced Towing Fire Hydrant.
— Advanced Towing Fire Hydrant (@AdvTowHydrant) November 3, 2022
While the company says the hydrant is on their property, the county noted that doesn’t give Advanced Towing — or any property owner — the right to park in front of a hydrant.
“The hydrant is located within 5th Rd. North right-of-way and parking is restricted within 15 feet of a fire hydrant,” Aiken wrote in an email.
Advanced Towing also complained about the lack of parking in the area, leaving their trucks often struggling to find spots near their lot, where vehicles towed for trespassing on private property are stored (and scene of a famous incident involving a television personality).
The company cited the move from free street parking to metered spots as well as the presence of the county-owned Mosaic Park as two main reasons for why parking is hard to come by in that corridor.
“This causes huge congestion on 5th Road and surrounding areas, therefore cars are parked illegally all day long. We will also be reporting every illegally parked vehicle we see,” they said via email. “This morning alone, there were 6 at one time, and not one was ticketed.”
Residential Permit Parking enforcement is in full swing — but some residents say they’re still waiting for their renewed permits to arrive and are concerned they will be unfairly ticketed until then.
Enforcement began yesterday (Tuesday) in Residential Permit Parking zones: residential areas near commercial corridors where residents pay for permits to ensure they have a spot on their street.
Customers have to renew their permits annually, a process that typically begins in April. Otherwise, they risk getting ticketed when the county begins looking for the new fiscal year’s permit.
But some residents took to Nextdoor to say they were still waiting on their permits when enforcement began yesterday.
“[A]ll I got was a receipt. I don’t even have temporary parking passes and they ticket in my zone,” said one commenter.
Others reported trouble reaching county staff to track down their permit.
“I finally received my stickers after much difficulty, multiple emails, and several phone calls,” another Nextdoor user said. “What used to take minutes each year has taken me hours this year, the price has almost doubled over the past few years, and I’m penalized for having a driveway, which now makes me eligible for one less permit.”
For a handful of registrants, that was due to a delayed printing order, but for others, it’s par for the course, according to Peter Golkin, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.
“We tell residents to expect the process to take a month from application to shipping to receipt of permit materials,” he said. “Every year a number of orders are lost or damaged in the mail or are returned as undeliverable even though the address is correct on the envelope. Those orders have to be investigated and put back into a queue.”
The concerns arose despite the county delaying and extending the permit renewal period.
“The new software system for parking permits was not ready for the usual renewal season start of April 1,” Golkin said. “The software had to be fine-tuned and tested and was finally ready in May.”
The county delayed enforcement until September to account for late-summer travel.
For those without their permanent 2022-23 tags, the county is emailing 45-day, temporary passes to customers who report that their permit materials were lost or not delivered, as well as those who placed their orders after mid-August.
There are a few measures residents can take to avoid a ticket during this period.
“Most RPP residents have off-street parking available in addition to their temporary passes. We encourage those residents with off-street parking to use it if possible, and for all customers to use valid temporary passes while they wait for permit materials to arrive in the mail,” Golkin said.
Those who are worried their temporary passes will expire soon can email [email protected], call 703-228-3344 or visit the Treasurer’s Office in-person at county government headquarters in Courthouse for assistance, he said.
“If a resident is concerned that a temporary pass is about to expire before an order arrives, email [email protected] and the situation will be investigated and a new temporary pass issued if necessary,” he said.
This is the latest blip for the permit parking program. The county reported technical difficulties with its software last year, when a handful of residents with newly constructed homes risked getting ticketed because the system did not recognize their newly created addresses.
The county modified the program in February 2021, reducing available permits for households with driveways, raising fees for additional vehicles and visitor permits while lowering prices for low-income residents, and allowing some multi-family buildings to join the program.
An idea to institute paid, two-hour parking in RPP zones was nixed after pushback from residents and some members of the Planning Commission.
Arlington County is set to essentially shut down on America’s birthday.
County government offices, courts, community centers, and county libraries are all closed on Monday, July 4 in observance of the holiday. The Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center will also be shuttered. Covid-19 testing sites and vaccine clinics are taking a break that day as well.
Arlington County schools are closed for employees on Independence Day, with summer school starting the next day on July 5.
America’s birthday also means free parking. Meters will not be enforced on the holiday, though permit parking is still in effect.
Trash, recycling, yard waste, and special pick-up collection, however, will be on its regular schedule.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) June 30, 2022
The monthly free paper shredding, scrap metal, and inert material drop-off event at the Shirlington facility that would have been scheduled for this Saturday shifts back a week, to July 9.
For those looking to check out the fireworks, Metrorail’s holiday schedule may be the impetus to stay in Arlington this year. Earlier this week, Metro announced service will be significantly reduced this Independence Day, relative to past holidays.
“Due to the reduced number of railcars available for service, capacity on Metrorail will be less than previous Independence Days,” said Metro’s press release. “That means customers should be prepared for longer lines to enter stations near the Mall after the fireworks, up to 60 minutes, and for crowding to occur.”
Metrorail will be operating until midnight, with trains every 20 minutes on the Blue and Orange lines and every 15 minutes on the Yellow Line. Trains will arrive every 7 minutes at the downtown stations serviced by several lines. Expect lines of up to an hour to catch a train after the fireworks, Metro says.
Metrobus and Arlington Transit (ART) buses will both be operating on a Sunday schedule. For ART, that means only a few of the busiest routes will be running.
There will also be an abundance of road closures in Arlington related to the fireworks show downtown.
An Arlington man is facing charges after allegedly shoving and threatening a county parking aide.
The incident happened Thursday afternoon along S. Lowell Street in the Green Valley neighborhood.
“At approximately 3:52 p.m. on May 19, police were dispatched to a report of an assault,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect’s vehicle was in the process of being towed when he confronted the Public Safety Aide (PSA). During the confrontation, the suspect allegedly threatened the PSA before physically pushing him. Responding officers took the suspect into custody without incident.”
The 20-year-old suspect was charged with Assault and Battery and released on an unsecured bond, police said.
Earlier Thursday, yet another series of auto crimes was reported, this time in the Ashton Heights neighborhood. Officers found nine vehicles with windows smashed along the 800 block of N. Lincoln Street, according to the crime report.
“At approximately 8:34 a.m. on May 19, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property,” said ACPD. “Upon arrival, it was determined that between 11:00 p.m. on May 18 and 6:00 a.m. on May 19, the unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows to nine vehicles and stolen items of value from two of the involved vehicles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.”
Dozens of vehicle thefts, break-ins and other such crimes have been reported across Arlington over the past few weeks.
Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.
With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.
Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.
Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.
But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.
This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.
Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.
Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.
This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.
“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.
Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.
Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.
At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.
“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”
Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.
But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.