City parking study irregularity raises redevelopment concerns in Old Town

City parking study irregularity raises redevelopment concerns in Old Town

To the editor:

I was pleased to see your editorial (“Old Town must be protected from consequences of redevelopment,” March 21) urging the city council to address the concerns of Alexandria residents as waterfront redevelopment projects take shape in the wake of the March 16 vote. As a resident of Captain’s Row, I can tell you that parking is a huge concern, and I agree with the recommendations made in the editorial.

A few weeks ago, I was surprised when my husband received a parking ticket on the corner of Prince and South Lee streets. He was parked 4 feet from the crosswalk and was within a foot parallel to the curb, so I wasn’t sure why he received the ticket. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the city code cited on the ticket and found that in Alexandria, it is illegal to park within 15 feet of an intersection.

There are several problems with this ordinance, the least being that it is randomly enforced (after all the time we have lived in Old Town and parked in similar spots, this is the first and only time we have been ticketed). There are no signs advertising the ordinance, so how are visitors to know about this law, particularly when you see cars parked up to crosswalks on nearly every corner in Old Town?

Also, there are numerous locations with “No parking from here to corner” signs throughout Old Town that are within 15 feet of an intersection, which mislead residents and visitors. They think that, absent a sign, it is OK to park up to the crosswalk line.

Troubled by this issue, I decided to look at the Old Town area parking study to see if it took this city law into account when it surveyed the number of parking spaces (and subsequently concluded there is sufficient parking in Old Town for residents). No methodology was outlined in the final report of the study, so I reached out to the city’s transportation planning division for a clarification.

After a couple of rounds of emails, the city essentially confirmed that the study included “illegal” parking spaces in inventory counts (the email response indicated that unless there was a “No parking from here to corner” sign, parking spaces were counted up to intersections).

So for the purposes of ticketing residents and visitors, you cannot park within 15 feet of an intersection in Old Town, but for putting together a parking study, it is acceptable to park within 15 feet of an intersection unless there is a sign posted to the contrary. Does anyone else see a huge problem with this?

I hate to say it, but this does not give me a lot of faith in the city as we embark upon waterfront redevelopment projects. Parking is a huge problem in Old Town, and it will only get worse as redevelopment moves forward. I hope the city council and parking planners do the right thing, and I encourage Old Town residents to join me in urging them to do so.

– Katherine Viar