Board Approves Parking Restrictions

Board Approves Parking Restrictions

Columbia Forest, Douglas Park neighborhoods get nighttime permit status.

Cars often line Quebeck Street outside Ginny Delgado-Loving?s house. It?s a situation that has frustrated her, but she?s due for some relief.

Delgado-Loving lives in the Douglas Park neighborhood, which along with Columbia Forest, got approval this weekend for residential parking permits. The new restrictions aren?t just about convenience, and they aren?t the result of demonizing nearby apartment residents. ?I am Hispanic,? she said. ?This is not an us-versus-them thing.?

Staff in the Traffic Engineering division of the Department of Public Works have received requests for parking restrictions in Douglas Park and Columbia Forest for the last three years.

Residents of single-family homes have complained that overflow parking from nearby apartment complexes have blocked driveways, overcrowded residential streets and have caused problems with crime, litter, abandoned cars and pedestrian and traffic safety.

?It is a problem,? said Kenneth Price, a resident of the area. ?It has been a problem for quite some time.?

Board members took action Saturday, May 17, to improve those problems by establishing residential zone parking restrictions in Columbia Forest and Douglas Park. Under the new plan, on-street parking will be restricted to permit-holding residents between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m.

EACH HOUSEHOLD in the affected area will receive three permits for on-street parking. Barbara Favola, a member of the board, said that number seemed generous and questioned whether there would be space for that many cars.

The new zones will have 943 restricted spaces, enough for just over 314 houses. Another 635 spaces will remain unrestricted along South Four Mile Run Drive.

Administrative costs associated with the new ordinance will run about $18,000. Board members considered charging residents for extra permits, to help make up those expenses. It was an idea some residents were desperate enough to support. ?I?m willing to pay at this point for the privilege of parking in front of my own house,? said Thomas Schaad, a 25-year Douglas Park resident.

But others urged the board to reconsider the fees. ?I strongly object to paying anything to be able to park in my own neighborhood,? said John McMacken, who lives on Randolph Street.

For the time being, residents will not be charged fees for permits, and administrative costs associated with the parking restrictions will come from current operating budgets. Violators of the parking restrictions will be assessed a fine of $40 or $100, depending on the infraction.

ALMOST ALL of the 35 residents who spoke about the ordinance at Saturday?s meeting supported the plan. But there was some controversy. Blanca Hernandez, a tenant in an apartment building on Quebeck Street, spoke through a translator, urging board members to reject the ordinance.

At least one speaker criticized county officials for not reaching out to tenants like Hernandez, who could have difficulty finding parking under the new ordinance. County staff pledged Saturday to mail information directly to tenants in the affected areas to inform them of the changes.

Rohan Samaraweera, speaking on behalf of the Ballston/Virginia Square Civic Association, said residents in his neighborhood have been keeping an eye on the problems of their neighbors to the south.

?Our parking problems in our neighborhood are much, much worse,? he said. ?What alarmed us about this proposal was that it was being used as a pilot and that it was being used as a model for extending this around the county,? said Samaraweera.

PARKING RESTRICTIONS did begin as a pilot program in Douglas Park, one that neighbors said was helping improve the parking problems recently.

But Samaraweera, a former county planning commissioner, said it?s just a quick-fix and doesn?t address the real problem, which is a shortage of parking spaces in heavily-developed areas.

?The better solution is for the county, at the front-end of development, to put in at least one parking space per bedroom,? along with extra on-site visitor spaces, said Samaraweera. He stressed that was his own opinion: His civic association has not yet voted on an alternate proposal to the zone parking.

Stephanie Britt, who lives on South Frederick Street, said the new ordinance in her neighborhood would help. Like Samaraweera, though, she doesn?t think it?s a complete solution. Owners of apartment complexes aren?t going to provide enough parking for their tenants, because they have no incentive to do so, she said.

In her neighborhood, she said overflow from the Columbia Grove Apartments has created problems for years because owners won?t spend the money to provide more parking. But when the non-profit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing acquired the property, things started to look up. APAH has already promised to provide an additional 60 spaces.

Carlee said at least five apartment owners have agreed to meet with county officials to discuss the impact of the new ordinance and ways of alleviating parking problems.