Update to D.C.’s 1958 Zoning Code for Parking Offers Better Choices for Residents and Commuters

For Immediate Release:
July 31, 2008

Cheryl Cort, CSG: 202-244-4408 ext. 112
Ralph Garboushian, Sierra Club: 202-674-3027
Eric Gilliland, WABA: 202-518-0524


Update to D.C.’s 1958 Zoning Code for Parking Offers Better Choices for Residents and Commuters

Office of Planning’s proposal preserves historic neighborhoods and supports climate-friendly commutes

Washington, DC — The location, amount and pricing of parking directly affects driving habits, traffic congestion, air quality, and the urban fabric of our city.  Tonight’s public hearing before the D.C. Zoning Commission provides the opportunity to voice support for the Office of Planning’s proposed comprehensive reform of parking regulations.  The proposed changes protect walkable historic neighborhoods, promote transit-oriented development, help make new housing more affordable, and help improve commuting conditions for all.

“In an era of escalating gas prices, people want more affordable transportation and housing choices. The proposed changes to our 1958 parking regulations support this.  Too much parking generates unnecessary traffic congestion affecting city residents and suburban commuters alike.  We are diverting private and public resources that could be used to improve transit, walking and bicycling and offer greater relief to those who need to drive,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Minimum parking requirements, as currently mandated by D.C.’s zoning code, can be a significant obstacle to revitalizing neighborhoods.  The Office of Planning proposes to eliminate parking requirements for all new housing and for commercial development in higher density zones. The change would also set a maximum limit on parking for new developments in order to protect public investments in transit service and better bicycling and walking environments. This proposal reflects a national trend among urban planners and environmental advocates as a fundamental tool in smart, sustainable development and urban revitalization.

“Under the District’s current parking regulations, new development in our city is forced to mimic suburban places like Atlanta, Tysons Corner and Rockville Pike.  Indeed, under the District’s current parking regulations, construction of some of our city’s beloved historic neighborhoods — Dupont, Capitol Hill, Georgetown — would be illegal.  People can have the freedom to save money and protect the environment by driving less and opting for climate-friendly commutes if we don’t require unnecessary parking. These new regulations are an important step in the right direction,” said Damon Luciano, chair of the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club.

For the first time the zoning code will also include requirements for bicycle parking in all new development.

“These zoning reforms are part of the trend that is making D.C. a great city for bicycling and helping people rely less on driving,” said Eric Gilliland, Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.  “The new zoning code would work with, rather than against, the city’s natural advantages – compact, walkable neighborhoods, a street grid that makes bicycling and walking convenient, and improving bicycling conditions as we better accommodate bicycling in street designs,” he said.

Supporters say the proposed changes will allow D.C. to grow as a vibrant, walkable, bikeable and green community.  The proposal, based on national expert recommendations, will:

  • Make our city more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly by avoiding unneeded new parking lots and additional driveways;
  • Reduce traffic generated from too much parking and help redirect resources into transit, walking and bicycling, offering better transportation options for all;
  • Establish standards for bicycle parking in all development;
  • Require car-sharing spaces for larger buildings;
  • Stop resources from being diverted to unnecessary parking – underground spots can cost $40,000 each;
  • Allow for shared parking to more efficiently use existing or new spaces;
  • Make housing more affordable – by not requiring developers to build a certain amount of parking, the cost of parking won’t automatically be rolled into the price of each home.

The hearing takes place on July 31 at the D.C. Zoning Commission, 441 4th Street, NW at Judiciary Square at 6:30 pm.