Parking task force finalizes recommendations

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Parking task force finalizes recommendations
(File photo)
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By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]

Members of the city’s parking standards task force agreed on final recommendations for minimum and maximum parking at their Nov. 29 meeting. Their plans to cap allowed parking and allow shared parking to count toward minimum requirements were opposed by
a representative of a regional restaurant association.

If approved by city council, these new requirements would significantly reduce the amount of parking that developers and business owners would need to provide in new construction or when existing buildings are redeveloped for more intensive uses.

The new standards would apply to hotels, office buildings, retail businesses and restaurants. New businesses would be required to provide less parking in Alexandria’s main commercial districts, which also include the residential neighborhoods of Old
Town and Del Ray, though existing code already exempts most retail and restaurant parking requirements in Old Town.

The proposed cap on the amount of parking businesses, including restaurants, can provide provoked backlash from some meeting attendees.

Eden Jenkins, member services director of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, said capping allowed parking would harm restaurants.

“We are concerned about having a maximum parking cap. It’s a big issue for our restaurants,” Eden said during the public comment period.

Task force member Melissa McMahon defended the maximum parking cap, explaining that their rationale was data-based.

“We created the minimums and maximums based on what we see and think. We support less parking where … there are other options to get there,” McMahon said. Eden disagreed that alternatives to driving were equal options.

“You may not incentivize people to Uber,” Jenkins said. “They might just not go.”

Shared parking was also discussed at length during the meeting. Task force members recommended that shared parking up to ¼ mile away count toward a percentage of an establishment’s parking requirement.

Eden took issue with the premise that patrons of restaurants would be willing to walk a quarter mile to dine.

“If something is not convenient to diners, they’re just not going to eat there,” she said.

Task force members repeatedly championed the data-driven aspect of their recommendations, which stemmed from a parking study commissioned by the city. The final report, including details of the point-in-time study, has not yet been made public.
In addition, conflicting data was cited by two city staff members during the meeting. Katye North, principal planner in the Department of Transportation Environmental Services, said
the commissioned parking study found that only 2.1 spaces per 1,000 square feet were used in the parking lot for the Alexandria Professional Center, located at 4660 Kenmore Ave. She said the building was 84 percent parked when examined during the parking study.

However, Alex Dambach of the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning, said that parking usage for the Alexandria Professional Center building is double the amount cited in the parking study, at 4 to 4.5 spaces per 1,000 square feet.

Dambach said the building’s management is looking to rent additional parking to supplement its garage.

Nate Macek, chair of the task force, said data in the “clinics, medical and dental” category of parking requirements is not conclusive and that further study is needed before revised parking minimums are applied and parking is capped.

“I don’t think we’ve got the data to make this call,” Macek said. “Hotels, retail, restaurants, we got there in a very data-driven way. I would say to preserve the integrity of our recommendations, let’s stick with what we’ve got for now [in the medical and dental category]. We can come back to these later with more detail.”

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