From the Forum – Parking Space vs Yard – opinions wanted!

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Parking Space vs Yard – opinions wanted!

“I bought a townhouse in NW that has a very small backyard, which is concreted over for a parking space. Street parking is relatively easy here. In practice, given the tight alley way and awkward access, only the smallest of cars will fit back there. At the moment, there is no gate whatsoever, and for security reasons I would like to put up a fence or gate separating the space from the alley. I think I’d prefer to just put up a privacy fence and then landscape the parking space with planters, shrubbery and a bench etc (though the house already has a 2nd floor deck off the kitchen so doesn’t need more outdoor space necessarily). I thought I’d solicit your opinions on what this would do to the value of the house – is taking away what could easily be sold as a parking space to buyers going to drastically reduce the house value? Thanks in advance!”

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36 Comment

  • I’ve been wanting to do a parallel space, giving myself a little square yard, and a parking space as well. But I don’t know if it’s feasible. Specifically, given the width of my lot, will I have enough to parallel park? And if I put up a retaining wall to create said yard, will it interfere with my small-space parking (when I’m backing in… you don’t usually parallel park up against a wall– the rear fender of the car passes over the curb).
    Anyway, I’m also trying to figure out how to have the best of both worlds.

    • Unless you live in the spite house, if your lot is wide enough to fit a house, it has to be wide enough to parallel park a car there.

  • put in a pool; problem solved

    • Serious question: Does anyone know what the process would be and or if it’s even possible getting permits to install a pool in back of a rowhouse?

      • if this can be done, I’d totally take the smallest of small pools.. I’ve wanted one my whole life

        • I so want to do it and have the space–Just haven’t been able to find anything in regards to regulations/permit process. I’d love to install a 10×25 pool which I have plenty of room leftover length wise.

        • Pools require upkeep, increase insurance liability, etc. You’d really have to want one badly and use it all the time to make it pay. I swim regularly but wouldn’t want one, esp. in a climate like this where it’s only really usable part of the year.

          • Yeah I know ow all the above…still want like one. May-Sept is good enough for me being I travel to warm places in winter.

      • I don’t know the process but it’s definitely possible. I’ve seen a few behind Capitol Hill rowhouses.

        • When we were recently house hunting, we saw a Georgetown rowhouse that had a pool for its _entire_ backyard, which was tiny. The pool was a huge put-off for me and our agent, but my husband LOVED it.

  • It’s 2014 – down with cars!

  • What you are considering is NOT a permanent structure so– I’d say go ahead and use the space how you want to and then convert it back if you feel it will add value.

  • Knowing where the house is makes a big deal. When I bought my place near the Petworth metro stop, street parking was plentiful. It’s getting increasingly tighter, apartment inventory is increasing, and on street sweeping days it can be a pretty big challenge to find a spot within several blocks. So in 2009 I might have felt more strongly about giving up the space – not sure I would now.

  • Parking generally increases the value of an urban property, more so than a garden unfortunately. Your situation sounds pretty marginal though – easy street parking, challenging route to the parking space, etc. I suggest you do what makes you happy. If the property value is diminished, it won’t be pronounced. As someone who lived for many years without a yard and then got one, I can attest that having a piece of land to garden has boosted my quality of life significantly.

    Look into the DC Dept. of the Environment. It gives grants for removing impervious surfaces.

  • I’d look at open space pavers and a gate for the back yard. Open space pavers (think cinder blocks on their ends, but much more decorative in any color or pattern you can imagine, with space inside each for soil and plants), combined with various types of moss or other greenery, will give you the green space you seek but will also be very forgiving of the occasional car being parked there for a day or two if you need it. That way, you have a yard, and, if needed, parking.

    • +1. Was going to suggest exactly this. There are also a variety of similar options out there, such as a patio made up of pavers that can double as a parking space – you can landscape around the edges or do a green wall on a fence to give it more of a “yard” feel.

      • Also, I believe that there are a number of credits available for converting concrete into a permeable surface, so you should look into that.

    • DC’s DOE runs the RiverSmart Homes program, the maximum for permeable pavers used to be $1000.

  • KSB

    When we installed our fence last year, the builders put the portion that ran along the back of the yard on a special type of hinge so the panels can be lifted up and removed (if we ever had to back a truck up to the yard or something.) They’re heavy so it would take two strong people to lift and move the panels, so I don’t view it as much of a safety issue. Perhaps you could install the fence with a similar feature so it could be opened up by future occupants if parking ever got too tight to rely on street spaces?

  • I would double check and make sure you can even make it a “parking pad” – just bc it is concreted over does not mean you can call it a “parking pad.” That said, I can’t imagine the city actually coming in and ticketing/towing from the space. I agree with another comment – when I bought my house in the Kingman Park/Atlas area 9 years ago, no issues with parking. Now all these ppl have bought homes with multiple cars, etc and parking is tighter. I don’t have the option to park in the back “yard” but I kinda wish I did. That said, I’d be really nervous about driving a car down my alley regularly – it is so narrow, full of glass, etc. I’d be worried about the damage to the car!

    • Are you implying that MPD could tow you from your own property?

      What constitutes a legit “parking pad”?

      Can I have my ghetto neighbors, who occasionally park on their lawn, towed? (Note: I wouldn’t really do this, but it’s fun to think about)

      Honest questions, just asking.

  • Why not have both? Use gravel to give yourself enough space to park a car (if need be). You can have planters for greenery. I say keep it multipurpose in case you sell (as noted a parking spot if worth more than green space) but you also never know when you’re gonna wanna park a car or put some toys behind a fence. Gravel will also cut down on your potential water bill to keep a lawn green.

    Also put a staircase connecting the 2nd floor deck to the back yard, effectively doubling your space.

  • it doesn’t sound like you’re removing the parking spot, just sprucing up for your needs… I too had a concrete parking spot with an open back in my alley. I closed it up with a barnyard gate type of fence, replaced the concrete with brick and do use as a parking space. I also park on the street, put a long table where the car would have been and have marvelous outdoor dinner parties….. I think you can have your cake and eat it too

    • +1
      This is what I meant in my comment below. I think this is a great solution, and really attractive to any potential buyer.

      If a barnyard door won’t fit in your alley, my neighbor has a gate that sort of accordians open, in order to fill this exact need.

  • Could you put a big gate instead of a small one, so the space could still be used as a parking spot?

  • justinbc

    If your concern is solely economic then yes you would lose value by eliminating the parking space. But as others have noted there are ways to give you the green space you want without destroying the parking pad for future resale.

  • My small backyard was entirely concrete and I removed it to put in a garden. I am very happy with the decision and I figure if it makes a huge difference when I sell way down the road, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to add a parking space back again. It looks significantly nicer too!

    • jim_ed

      Any chance you’re willing to share the cost of the conversion? Our scenario is nearly identical to the OPs – we can’t get our car back there unless we pull the mirrors in and have a second person direct it in – so this is an idea I always play around with, but not clue as to costs.

      • I installed a 9×13 brick paver patio last week for about $800 materials and labor.

        • jim_ed

          Did that include concrete removal as well?

          • Not OP, but I highly doubt it. Removing/hauling the concrete takes a lot of work.

          • No- there wasn’t any concrete there. But I’d imagine for the concrete removal all you need to do is hire someone with a backhoe

          • No- there wasn’t any concrete there. But I’d imagine for the concrete removal all you need to do is rent or hire someone with a backhoe for a few hours to dig up the concrete. Then get someone with a truck to haul it away.

  • I have a similar backyard, except it’s brick not concrete. The previous owners put up a fence with a wide gate, so you could use it for parking if you wanted to, but we much preferred the backyard space. We have a front patio as well, so like you it’s not our only outdoor space, but the backyard is quieter and better for entertaining. I’d do what they did and get a fence with a gate put in so it doesn’t discourage some car-lover from wanting to buy your house in the future, but I agree that street parking is much less of a hassle.

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