By Rod Kuckro
Alexandria residents should be very wary of a proposal working its way through city hall that would deny neighborhoods the ability to require that new businesses and developments of up to 10,000 square feet provide parking for customers and residents.
The process was set in motion in January when, in my capacity as president of the Del Ray
Citizens Association, I received an innocuous email touting the “city’s review and update of
our commercial parking standards.”
It is not innocuous.
The task force on “Parking Standards for New Development Projects” is effectively working to justify adding more development and density to our city’s neighborhoods while absolving projects of a certain size of providing the parking now required in the city’s zoning code.
That is radical change in development policy.
And it is extremely unfair to existing developments and commercial uses that have for decades had to meet parking standards, often at considerable expense such as building parking or leasing of off-site parking capacity.
The task force is examining a range of square-foot measurements for the exemption with an upper limit of 10,000 square feet. That is very large. Also under review is exempting the first 10,000 square feet of larger new developments.
As your newspaper reported in the story, “Where to park?” in your August 17 edition, “there was no consideration of leaving parking requirements as they currently stand.” Really? If so, that would confirm that the task force exists to support squeezing in more developments in neighborhoods regardless of the impact.
And that’s where every civic group should be concerned.
Del Ray has repeatedly supported reasonable, partial parking reductions for new businesses that conform to the master plan for our community.
But every time we do, that pushes patrons of restaurants, for example, on to side streets, competing with residents for precious on-street parking.
In fact, the city in 2016 conducted a parking study of Del Ray and found that conditions had become worse since a 2010 parking study.
One thing it did not recommend was to abandon parking requirements.
The Citizens Association voted in November to support a number of options the city’s own staff recommended to better manage parking. But eight months later, not a single recommendation has been implemented.
And none of those options for better parking management – whether applied in Del Ray or in other parts of the city — have been a central focus of the task force.
There also is an aspect of the task force’s work that smacks of social engineering insofar as some city officials would prefer that people did not own cars and chose mass transit or rode bikes.
I’ve done both. But try getting your children to soccer practice, band practice or an elderly person to the doctor without a car.
The city has added more than 10,000 residents in the last decade. A good number of them have settled in Del Ray. And I can attest that they have cars, usually more than one.
This task force raises a question that is uncomfortable to contemplate answering about development. It’s a question that our city leaders in recent years have denied is even worth considering.
As it affects certain neighborhoods, when is enough enough?
The writer is president of the Del Ray Citizens’ Association.