Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, March 04, 2013

More on parking entitlement: Capitol Hill DC edition

Here's a blog entry from Capitol Hill Corner, "Zoning Regulations Revision Proposes Major Parking Changes for Capitol Hill – City Proposes Shifting Parking Costs From Developers to Residents," reporting on the consideration of the provisions of the Zoning Rewrite in terms of changes to parking requirements.

Interestingly, it terms the proposal as an imposition on residents and a boon to developers (not unlike how residents in Chevy Chase, Maryland in letters to the Gazette kept likening the Purple Line light rail system project not as something that would benefit the tens of thousands of transit users in the corridor to be served by the line, but as a giveaway to developers) who wouldn't have to build as much parking.

Despite the fact that Capitol Hill enjoys some of the best transit service in the U.S.--not just 7 subway stations, but commuter and inter-city railroad passenger service via Union Station, inter-city bus services via Union Station, and local bus services (Metrobus and the DC Circulator), the entry derides a focus on sustainable transportation as "a trend." From the entry:

The proposed revisions would have the effect of increasing density near Metro and bus stops and reducing parking in an attempt to further the currently in-vogue city planning concept of creating a livable, walkable city under the rubric of “new urbanism.”

Jesus H. Christ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DC is quintessential "OLD URBANISM."
L'Enfant Plan, Washington, DC
New urbanists learned from cities like DC (if you don't believe me, ask Andres Duany, a father of the movement--I once said nice things to him about Kentlands in Gaithersburg, which he designed, and he replied that I was better off appreciating what we already have in the city, that it's a lot better and always will be). And the reality is that New Urbanism is mostly a suburban land use planning movement. (Some of the people who deride it call it "New Suburbanism.")

I write so much about DC and Walking City (1800-1890) and Streetcar City (1890-1920) eras and the urban design precepts and spatial patterns that resulted that I even bore myself.  The city was designed to optimize walking first, and then biking and transit as those transportation modes were developed.

See Adams, J.S. “Residential structure of Midwestern cities.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 60: 1, pp. 37-62 (1970). Melosi, M.V. “ The Automobile Shapes the City: From ‘Walking Cities’ to ‘Automobile Cities.’ and Muller, P.O. “Transportation and urban form: Stages in the spatial evolution of the American metropolis,” in Susan Hanson and Genevieve Giuliano, eds., The Geography of Urban Transportation (New York: Guilford Press, 3rd rev. ed., 2004), pp. 59-85.

I guess it's absolutely true that it is bad when people have no grounding in history, especially the history of their own communities. 

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At 8:59 AM, Blogger washcycle said...

The idea of pitting "developers" vs residents is appealing. But since, in many cases, the parking minimums are for apartments and condos, and since those residents will pay the added costs for the parking (whether they will use it or not), we're really pitting some residents - mostly wealthy homeowners - against others - mostly less wealthy condo owners and renters. Which sort of changes the greedy/victim dynamic.

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous rg said...

As I always ask, is parking a problem on Capitol Hill? If it is , that's funny, because I have lived on the Hill for nearly 20 years and I have yet to notice a parking problem. Indeed, the parking space behind my house sits empty 99 percent of the time. I am thinking of ripping it out and adding more garden. (For those about to get into a lather about selfishly using street space: we don't have a car.)

Actually, perhaps I could invite Larry Janezich, the board of CHRS, the Committee of 100 and all the other reactionaries to the groundbreaking. It would drive them crazy -- a Capitol Hill homeowner removing his precious parking space!!

I especially love this baiting and reactionary comment in the comments:

“What bothers me the most about the “new urbanism” is the transitory nature of the proponents who have neither history nor future in the neighborhoods of this city.”

As I wrote, I have lived on the Hill for 20 years. I plan to live out my life here. I know many others with similar (or longer) histories on the Hill who agree with me re: transportation and urbanism. So, that theory is debunked. Really, though, I don’t think it is a theory. It is more reactionary hyperbole than anything else. It is typical of the drive everywhere for everything, I have mine and I don't want any newcomers crowd.

As for history, as you wrote, the bulk of Capitol Hill was built long before the era of mass car ownership, when almost all transportation was by foot, bicycle or streetcar. There is nothing transitory about new urbanism (or many of its local proponents). If anything, the name is wrong. It should just be called urbanism. And Capitol Hill, which was built without minimum parking requirements, is a perfect example of good urbanism, old or new. The only thing that mars the great urbanism of the Hill is all the damn cars and the elaborate infrastructure we have imposed on a beautiful historic neighborhood to accommodate them.

I also love how the car crowd ignores the externalities that their cars produce. Have they taken a look at DC's child asthma rates? At what dependence on imported oil has done to our nation and it's economy? At the cost to our Treasury and our troops to maintain access to that oil? At how the drive everywhere for everything culture has helped create a national health crisis with obesity? At how noisy there cars are? (Much noisier than the electric streetcars they hate so much.)

Maybe I have not lived on the Hill long enough for my voice to count, but at least my time on the Hill has not had the same environmental, health and economic impacts that the drive everywhere for everything crowd has had.

As you can see, I share your frustration with these people!!!

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I remember this charming scece on P st a few months pack; a new family -- in the sense of a new baby -- is outside their hose, and the youngish dad is checking out the out of state new (luxury) SUV with a great deal of interest.

There are certainly places that could use less parking facilities. Rowhouse condo conversions that just dump the parking onto the street (i.e. residental with less than 9 units)? Probably not.

FWIW, I've decided to accelerate my registraton schedule; my ($50,000) parking spot is so damn tight I might as well park on the street.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Alex B. said...

There are certainly places that could use less parking facilities. Rowhouse condo conversions that just dump the parking onto the street (i.e. residental with less than 9 units)? Probably not.

I would disagree, Charlie.

But that's not really the question. We're talking about a requirement. And requiring that parking is a poor choice of DC's land use regulatory authority.

The assumption that removing these requirements would just dump parking on to the street assumes that the parking demand is static. We know it is not. The assumption is laughable, so why should we encode it into law?

At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RG , as usual, is spot on. The CHRS , comittee of 100, and Janzenich are all backwards car centric types. My family is from the Hill- and we once had super streetcars- and ironically- it was the streetcars that BUILT capitol hill- despite the propaganda the CHRS blasts out against them all of the time. Truth is- the CHRS , comittee of 1000 and mr janzenich are old people who do not want to change. Most of the people in my family lived without cars- my dad told me when he was a kid before WW2 you never had to leave the neighborhood for anything- corner stores, streetcars, density- and now these idiots want it all to be easy for their 3 car lifestyles. I cannoy think of ONE CHRS member who was actually BORN in DC. These people need to leave the city and move to Phoenix or Atlanta where they belong.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capitol Hill is over run with these paranoid car addicted maniacs that seem to belive that they must have free parking in front of every building or the world is going to disintegrate or worse. It really puzzles the mind as to why people like this wish to live in a city at all.Once I tried to pose a comment on the eastern market news sit Janzenich edits and he censored my comment [ I was pointing out why more density is a good thing around metro stations and that only backwards NIMBYs would not see the wisdom of this approach] Mr J basically was offended with the term "NIMBY" and bounced my comment. What a jerk. And we have to live near these fools...


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