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Small Business Parking Permit Proposed. Release the Hounds!

by Prince Of Petworth February 24, 2017 at 12:30 pm 40 Comments

release the hounds
Photo by PoPville flickr user Clif Burns

“Dear PoPville,

Two days ago, Councilmembers R. White, Nadeau, and Todd introduced the Small Business Parking Permit Act of 2017, which allows “Any small business that abuts a block the Director has designated for residential permit parking . . . to obtain small business parking permits. . . . The rights and restrictions of a small business parking permit shall be the same as the rights and restrictions applied to a residential parking permit except that holders of a small business parking permit shall not be allowed to obtain temporary or visitor permits.” Businesses with up to ten employees are eligible, and can apply for a permit for every employee. The full text of the bill is here.

I don’t drive, so more competition for parking does not affect me personally, but I suspect a number of readers may have opinions on this bill.

  • textdoc

    “Businesses with up to ten employees are eligible, and can apply for a permit for every employee.”
    I foresee alllll kinds of abuse here — maybe even more than with the VPP program.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Definitely might lead to abuse, but overall, I don’t have a problem with it. This biggest issue is at night (so restaurants and bars), but in many places you can park at 630 (2 free hours takes you to 830) already. Otherwise, most residential areas are pretty easy to park during the day.

      • Ward One Resident

        Years ago the Adams Morgan ANC tried to flip the RPP hours for AM. So you could park wherever/whenever during the day, but at night you had to have a permit if you wanted to park for more than 3 hours (they extended the time to three hours too). The ward boss didn’t like it, but I think it was a pretty good idea.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          Yeah, I think it makes much more sense to have residents only at night than during the day. 5pm to 7am or something as residents only would be great.

      • ah

        Sure – my small business shall consist of a tiny basement office with lots of part time employees (who perhaps also have jobs nearby for other employers).

  • Anonymous

    Another band aid on the RPP program that doesn’t get at the actual problems. Permits are too cheap and set at one price for the entire city. Zones are too big and tied to political boundaries instead of neighborhood boundaries. The VPP program is rife with abuse. Enforcement is basically non-existent. Fix these issues first and then let’s deal with commercial parking on residential streets.

    • flieswithhoney

      Or DC could stop incentivizing new residential construction without parking garages. Also, Chicago residential permit parking is $25, NYC doesn’t have an RPP program but lots of street parking is free (unmetered), Boston is $0…so how high should DC be then?

      • Anonymous

        Toronto charges up to $600 per year if you also have private off-street parking. We can all cherry pick data.

        I will agree though that permits could be cheaper or free in some parts of town, but $3/month for a parking permit in Dupont or Adams Morgan, for example, is ridiculous.

        • flieswithhoney

          Uh, it starts at $130 USD/year in Toronto so talk about cherry picking (non-US) data…either way, people are going to have cars and raising the cost of RPP isn’t going to change that unless it’s absurdly high. I’d rather more attention be given to enforcement of parking, including RPP, and providing more off-street parking, than raising the rates.

          • Anonymous

            Unless things have changed since two years ago, it’s about $50/month if you also have off street parking. Like I said, I was cherry picking, just like you were with Boston (Which has much more restrictive resident only zones, with only a few visitor spots per street closest to commercial commercial districts). But the fact remains the RPP system as it’s set up is broken. Part of that is one price for the entire city broken up into only eight zones is part of the the problem (I’d guess about 80%+ of the residential parking zone should have free permits, if those zones were limited to their neighborhood and not ward-based). But of course none of this matters because there’s so little enforcement in most of the city.

          • flieswithhoney

            So then what amount do you propose? And why would raising the RPP fee be a deterrent when many people in DC can afford to pay a high cost for parking and hopefully those that could not would pay a reduced fee? Instead there will be more competition for non-RPP spots. Why not make meter parking crazy expensive in neighborhoods to incentivize public transit to bars and restaurants (e.g. see the new Chinatown rates). Also, it’s not cherry picking when you choose places you lived that happen to be major US cities, it’s laziness, thank you very much.

          • JoDa

            I’m with Anon that it needs to absurdly expensive to get an RPP if you have off-street parking. The primary cause of parking congestion in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in over the last ~9 years is people with off-street parking using the street instead. If their off-street parking is inconvenient for loading and unloading, they’d still have the 2 hours to park out front for those purposes. As others have noted here, RPP is fundamentally flawed in that it is a one-size solution for the whole city. Maybe in my neighborhood, it would only take $200-300 to force people into their off-street spots. In other neighborhoods where residents would have to pay for off-street parking in their building, it would have to be more expensive to outweigh the cost of the off-street spot.
            I also agree with the oft-floated idea of making the permits more expensive as a household has more of them. Maybe the first one remains $35 (if you don’t have off-street parking), but the second is $100, the third $150, etc. It discourages people from having cars they don’t drive just eating up curb space (I can cite 3 neighbors that have cars (in excess of the one they do drive regularly) they basically never use, but park on the street…one in particular has 3 cars in a one-driver household, and 2 off-street spots they refuse to use).
            I don’t have a car, but I do have service people come to my house from time-to-time. It sucks when my plumber has to park 2 blocks away because the street is unnecessarily full. These same people watch like hawks, and leave nasty-grams on Car2Go’s, Zipcars, and any other car that doesn’t have an RPP/local RPP (someone gets a rental for a few days, weekend visitors who don’t bother with the VPP because they’re only staying Friday night-Sunday afternoon, etc.). FTR, Car2Go’s almost never stay in the neighborhood for more than an hour except overnight (and are gone by early morning when someone scoops it up), and Zipcars are *never* around long as they’re returned within a short time (we don’t have any official spots right here).

      • anon

        How does DC incentivize new residential construction without parking garages? As it stands, there are mandatory minimum parking requirements based on occupancy, so if anything they’re disallowing parking-free buildings from being built entirely. And because parking is expensive to build or set aside, that’s just increasing the cost of real estate for people who may not have any interest in owning a car.

        • flieswithhoney

          My understanding is that developers promise RPP bans for the residents in exchange for zoning relief regarding onsite parking requirements, thereby saving the developers money. The problem is that the City lacks the authority to enforce the RPP bans. Urban Turf has quite a few articles about this topic.

          • jonah

            Both are true. Mixed Use or higher density residential zoning can prevent development on odd lot sizes due to in ability to build a parking garage without variances (see 3701 New Hampshire, the old Sweet Mango space). On the other hand developers do attempt to write into condo association rules that residents can’t apply for RPP permits and there is speculation that it is potentially illegal at a minimum, and unenforceable by the District if it stands.

          • textdoc

            There’s also the factor that the city doesn’t require developers to make these in-building parking spaces available to residents for free or at nominal cost. So then we end up with a lose-lose situation whereby new buildings (like Park Place) contain parking garages that are underused, and meanwhile their residents can get RPPs and add to the pressure on street parking.

    • James W.

      Permits are too cheap? Considering anyone with a RPP already pays at least rent/mortgage and District income tax, I don’t see how you start charging residents exorbitant fees to use the public roadway for parking. You hit on the actual problem – a huge lack of enforcement. I watch every morning as throngs of MD/VA plated vehicles descend on my neighborhood and park there all day, every day. I have never – not once – seen a parking ticket on my street.

  • AnonV2

    “The fee charged to each individual for a small business parking permit shall not exceed the fee for a residential parking permit”.
    If business owners want to subsidize employee parking (that is all that this is), they should be paying close to market rate (many, many multiples of the residential permit fee). Up to them if they want to pass that cost on to their employees or share in the cost burden. Is there any evidence that the current parking situation is an serious impediment to operating a small business, or is this just owners finding an ear on the council that listens to complaints that they get tickets for parking all day in residential zones?

  • The bill as written requires that the business “abut” an RPP block, which seems like a big constraint. That probably precludes it from applying to several Mount Pleasant businesses, where employees have a hard time parking during the day even though we have plentiful residential daytime parking. I’d be happy to see fewer constraints on location and more on time of day (there are none on time of day, as far as I can tell).


  • Anonymous

    I’m having a hard time understanding why employees of small businesses can’t take public transportation like the vast majority of workers in District. I can also envision that many will abuse this by registering the small business at a location where they don’t have an actual physical presence (i.e., physical office is in Dupont Circle commercial area but registering the business at a residence in Dupont neighborhood to collect up to ten Zone 1 permits). I already know of multiple people who work in upper NW DC or Bethesda who work in Dupont and have their cars registered at friend’s addresses in Dupont so they can attain a residential parking permit and avoid paying $300/month for private garage parking in Dupont. These same folks could easily take the bus or Metro, but they choose not to.

    • Anonymous

      “I’m having a hard time understanding why employees of small businesses can’t take public transportation like the vast majority of workers in District.”
      The vast majority of people in the District don’t take public transportation according to the latest numbers I saw. (Will post a link if I can find it – PoP had a post recently about a new DDOT site that showed commuting statistics.) IIRC about 40% drive to work and 39% take public transit.

      • Anonymous

        I think this is the one: https://districtmobility.org/

      • DC resident who drives to work in Virginia

        The DDOT site is of District residents, not people who work in the District. Most District employees don’t live in the District, and about 25% of employed District residents work outside of the District.

        • Anon

          Only 25% of us work outside the District? Seems like everyone I know in DC has to go to VA for work. It’s a good thing Arlington is a big jobs center or else we’d all be driving.

          • DC resident who drives to work in Virginia

            I could be wrong about the 25%, but I remember reading it recently. Higher-paid people are more likely to work outside the District than in it, so it makes sense that your friends/peers would have similar job locations as you do (vs., say, DC residents who work in the service industry, who very likely will work in DC).

            Funny enough, I drive to my job in Arlington. I metro-ed there for years, but Safetrack was the last straw. (And now my commute has been cut in half.)

      • Anonymous

        39.5% of District residents drive/carpool to work. 37.4% use public transit, 12.9% walk, 4% bike, 1.2% taxi/motorcycle/other means, 5% work at home.

        51.6% of employees in the District drive/carpool, 37.8% public transit, 5.4% walked, 3.1% bike/taxi/other means, 2% worked at home.

        Source: 2015 ACS 5-Year estimates

        • Anon

          Unfortunately, even for commutes that start in DC, driving is the fastest and cheapest way to get to work.

          • Anon Spock

            +1 to this. I’d love to take public transit, but it requires 2 buses or a bus and walking at a minimum. I can drive in half the time or less and stop off to get groceries on my way home.

          • Anonymous

            Not cheapest if you have to pay for parking!

    • siz

      this would have been a big help when i used to work near eastern market, there are a lot of resident only blocks and i had to move my car every two hours on non-resident blocks. my company had about 9 employees so we would have qualified. yes – there is a metro at eastern market, but i live in north bloomingdale, a solid 20 minute walk from the nearest metro stations, neither of which are green or blue line. the 90 buses do go to capitol hill, but it’s a long ride and again, a 10 minute walk to the bus stop. or i could just drive in a total of 10-15 minutes. parking enforcement was alive and well over there, because i used to get a lot of tickets on the two-hour rule.
      of course, there were plenty of spaces available over there during the workday, and i left around 5:30 when residents were getting home. so i agree with those who’ve argued that resident parking should really just apply to the evening/overnight hours.

      • siz

        i meant orange or blue line!

      • Anonymous

        You balanced the longer commute with the annoyance of moving your car and the cost of the occasional ticket. You decided driving was still worth it; others might not. Not sure this is a reason to implement this change, though. Also, were there pay garages/lots, you could have used?

        • siz

          @anonymous oh yeah of course that’s true, but it still holds that driving was the fastest/easiest hence why i didn’t just take public transport even though my commute was starting and ending in DC. no, no garages/lots around – my office was in a townhouse a few blocks from the eastern market station. entirely residential block (as were the blocks surrounding it).

      • textdoc

        The two-hour limit for visitors in zoned parking isn’t a two-hour limit for a particular spot — it’s a two-hour limit within that entire parking zone.
        Moving your car every two hours would make it less noticeable that you were exceeding the two-hour limit, but you could still be ticketed.
        I agree that in many neighborhoods. the time blocks for RPP enforcement don’t actually match up with what would be beneficial for residents.

    • eva

      I used to work for a small business in Georgetown (small office in what was once a house). I lived in Columbia Heights at the time. My home was super for transit–I was 2 blocks from the metro and had numerous excellent bus lines within a block or two (I was within spitting distance of all the H buses).

      There was no transit route that would bring me to work in less than an hour. So I either drove and moved my (boyfriend’s) car every two hours (which my boss didn’t like) or I walked the entire way there and back. Walking was still faster than transit and this was 15 years ago when there was both less traffic volume getting in the way of buses and when the metro was actually significantly more efficient than it is today.

      A parking permit that allowed me to park for the entire day would have been amazing.

  • Repeal and Replace

    Once I read that Nadeau was part of it I could skip the details. Of course it wasn’t well thought out and will have to be replaced later with something that actually works.

  • H Street NE Nightmare

    As someone who lives right off of H Street NE, I can say even absent abuse, this is going to be a nightmare for my neighborhood. Parking is already tight, with many blocks being RPP only until midnight and pretty rigorous enforcement. Add in all the small business employees (hint: most 2nd and 3rd floor H Street businesses will probably qualify for permits), and it is going to be an even more endless stream of cars circling the neighborhood looking for parking.

    Considering all the new large buildings with parking garages going up on H Street, I wouldn’t object to a subsidy for small businesses to give them below market rate garage parking, but on-street RPP is just going to be a disaster. Or if they restricted it to daytime hours only or something.

  • “Any small business that abuts a block the Director has designated for residential permit parking” is so restrictive that this bill will accomplish little. Actually, the people who would really like a daytime parking permit program are teachers and staff at our neighborhood schools. I would like to help them, and came very close to getting such a program established here in Mount Pleasant. A key feature of the program was that the proceeds of the program — parking would cost perhaps $5 a day, to avoid undercutting buses and Metro — would be used for the benefit of the neighborhood, a benefit to compensate for their allowing daytime parking on our neighborhood streets. But the program crashed and burned, in 2010, because the very people who were to benefit from the program objected vehemently to paying anything for daytime parking.

  • Dylan

    I thought, she was going after airbnb.???
    Why support small business that is almost nonexistent since she and the counsel regulate everything but do nothing to bring innovation in to the city.
    Great, some small business can park but there ain’t that many coming to D.C. And if you don’t believe me, just drive down Georgia ave and tell me why it looks the same it looked for part twenty years.
    The action may be a good pr move but it doesn’t help anything.

  • Pforr

    It’s clear that those who think this is a good idea likely don’t live in a residential area adjacent to many small businesses. I do, and I don’t have off street parking in the U street corridors. Clearly the Metro safe track and financial issues have affected employees of small businesses getting to and from work. How about dealing with that issue Brianne! So many new buildings with variances approved by ou council without enforcement of the no street parking agreement day and nighttime activity leaves it extremely difficult to get parking, even with RPP. If businesses are having a problem with parking for their employees, then they should work out deals with unused parking spaces in these new apartments or parking garages near heir businesses. We as city residents shouldn’t have to be burdened with their problem.

    I think it’s long due we look for a council representative that actually repe
    Resents our ward!


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