Letter to the Editor: Parking in District 1

Letter to the Editor: Parking in District 1

To the Editor:

In his letter of Feb. 22, Nate Macek offers a questionable set of recommendations on parking in Old Town, which begins with the faulty assumption equating Old Town’s street grid with that of Clarendon and the District. Referencing a Google map of Old Town and Clarendon shows extremely different systems, and simply citing “the District” is like comparing Old Town to Nebraska.

Above all, the Parking study that Mr. Macek refers to was done to provide a specific look at the five distinct Districts in Old Town. The usage patterns of all five are different. The most impacted by waterfront development is District 1. Applying a standard of 85 percent usage before seriously considering a residents’ only parking rule is using opinion to rule. The evidence collected in the parking study show that in District 1, where significant waterfront build out will inevitably put greater pressure on the surrounding residents, street parking spaces are 82 percent occupied on weekdays between 5 p.m. and midnight. This is not only “peak time” but also, in a more human context — this is when people come home from work, want dinner with their families, and understandably resent circling the block for a place to park.

The study referenced was done two years ago with a recommendation to reassess every two years. Before advocating against guaranteed residents’ parking in District 1, on both or one sides of the street, this two-year reassessment needs to be done. In addition, the argument that merchants will suffer from a lack of on street parking does not stand up. The city’s own assessment of available garage parking, 3,000-plus, spaces defies that logic and has been used continuously by the city to demonstrate total parking spaces in Old Town.

Finally, the argument that developers must supply required levels of parking is not what happens. The Carr property parking requirement, based on zoning and recommended by the mayor’s Waterfront Advisory Group (Mr. Macek was co-author of that report) was much higher before the city’s radical downward revision in the latest DSUP. Engineering below-ground parking in a floodplain will always be an expensive and risky venture. The Planning Commission’s logic, which Mr. Macek and city staff worked on in advance of a critical meeting to approve this, used a comparative universe of other Old Town hotels, none of them on a floodplain or remotely threatened by even “nuisance flooding.”

When politically driven arguments are used to justify decisions that deeply impact the people who live, work, and maintain a neighborhood, it is time to question the methods, the numbers, and the sources. Guaranteed parking for District 1 residents is the position we should start from. The Parking Study, the city’s data on garage space, and consistent reports of scarce space from District 1 Old Town residents all support this. With 82 percent of on-street District 1 parking spaces, on weekdays from 5 p.m. to midnight, occupied — getting home to your family in time for a hot dinner can be a rare treat … and like residential parking space, guaranteed to grow rarer.

Kathryn Papp