Permit parking changes approved by city council

Permit parking changes approved by city council
(Photo/Missy Schrott)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

City council approved a staff-recommended change to amend the city’s residential permit parking program during its public hearing on Saturday.

While city staff removed the most contentious provision – eliminating three- hour parking – from the recommendations, some speakers still opposed the remaining changes.

The RPP program regulates on-street parking for residents block-by-block and allows neighbors to determine restrictions for their block, with approval from the Traffic and Parking Board and city council.

The changes to the program were designed to protect residents and improve enforcement efforts, according to city staff. Two major changes include removing the 9 p.m. end time for parking restrictions and requiring drivers to move off of a block entirely after they exceed the restrictions on that block.

“Early on in the process we had identified, in direction from council, from Commission on Aging, from parking enforcement, that having more consistent restrictions would be beneficial to many groups,” Megan Oleynik, a transportation planner, said.

The most controversial change, which staff removed from its list of recommended changes prior to the hearing on Saturday, would have eliminated the three-hour parking option for non-permit holders in RPP districts. As of now, those without permits can park for three hours on some blocks and two hours on others, before having to move their cars. The proposed change would have made all three-hour zones into two-hour zones.

Despite the change, some residents and business owners said they were still worried about the impact certain other RPP adjustments could have on their communities.

Steve Milone, president of the Old Town Civic Association, voiced concern that the changes in the permit parking program would negatively affect Old Town residents.

The requirement for drivers to move their vehicle off a block entirely, instead of being able to move to an adjacent spot on the same block, could impact contractors, family and friends, Milone said.

Members from the Little Theatre of Alexandria, who have voiced opposition to the changes for months, said staff’s decision to eliminate the 9 p.m. end time for parking restrictions could impact the theater’s patrons and volunteers.

“I believe the proposed changes to parking in Old Town in the area of LTA … are a threat to this institution’s existence as well as a threat to the economic vitality of this part of Old Town,” Susan Boyd, a member of the LTA’s board of governors, said.

Prior to council’s approval, restrictions for non-resident parking in RPP districts could end at 5 p.m., 9 p.m., 11 p.m. or 2 a.m. Staff proposed removing the 9 p.m. option, as part of an effort to make enforcement more consistent. As part of the change, all zones that previously ended at 9 p.m. will now change to 11 p.m., meaning drivers – and LTA patrons – will have to worry about moving their cars for longer.

“Most of our shows are longer than two hours. Rushing out to move cars at intermission is unworkable, nor is it possible for show crew to leave the theater to do this,” Boyd said.

The decision to eliminate 9 p.m. end times was made based on the results of a community survey. Out of 500 RPP blocks, only 17 have a 9 p.m. end time and none of them are adjacent to the LTA, Oleynik said.

“If we were to remove 9 p.m. and go to 11 p.m., it simply provides additional protection for residents that live on those blocks because the parking restrictions would be in place for two hours longer,” Director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services Yon Lambert said.

Mobility divisions chief Katye North clarified in November that the city will work with blocks that have a 9 p.m. end time to determine whether they would like to change to a 5 or 11 p.m. end time.

Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Park made a motion, seconded by Councilor Del Pepper, to approve the amendment. Council unanimously approved the amendment.

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