Letter to the Editor: Politics and Parking

Letter to the Editor: Politics and Parking

Alexandrians who do not reside in the city's-designated historic district zone of Old Town (Oronoco Street south to Duke Street - 6 blocks - and from Saint Asaph Street to the river - 6 blocks) likely do not appreciate the difficulties and frustrations residents in this zone experience when trying to park near their homes. On page 123 of Alexandria's Waterfront Plan the city states, "New residential parking controls, such as restricting parking to permit holders after 6:00 p.m., should be considered an implementation priority."

If you're from Del Ray or the west end or the north end of Alexandria, you might say to yourself, "those OT folks need to stop being NIMBYs and stop complaining about how tough it is to park near their homes." That is until you discover that just in this small historic zone, since 2010 and within one and one-half blocks of King Street:

  • At least 17 retail shops/spaces have been converted to restaurants or food-service establishments due to the city's benevolent CD zoning without 1 new public parking space being created (think Virtue Restaurant vice Olsen's Book Store, Sonoma Cellars vice Winterthur, Khalsa Jewelers vice Hi-Tide Lounge and the list goes on).

  • Over 400 individual public parking parking spaces have been eliminated from King Street, the side streets within two blocks of King Street and along the riverfront in this zone. That equates to more than 20 blocks of on-street residential parking being removed.

These lost 400-plus spaces include:

  • 4 public pay parking lots (3 across from Chadwick's) and 2 city parking lots of 106 spaces (one is now Brightleaf & Cooper townhomes and, the other, a 24-hour pay lot at Cameron/St Asaph streets).

  • Over 100 spaces have been replaced by bike stands, trolley stops, "no parking from here to corner," expanded loading zones, expanded bus zones, taxi, valet, Sheriff's Department reserved spaces, tour bus only loading/unloading in front of city hall and increased Saturday's Market Square hours.

  • The city's Planning and Zoning staff/City Council's rubber-stamping approval to developer's requests for reductions-in-parking to develop a project with less than the required number of parking spaces required by code (think Hotel Indigo and Robinson Terminal South).

  • This year City Council approved converting a retail space located on the 100 block of King Street to a 163-seat Mexican restaurant while refusing to address the additional 75 standing patrons and 350-person person capacity of the restaurant during the public discussion. City staffers stated there were no significant impacts to residential parking or to nearby residents located only 120 feet away.

  • Not one new public parking space has been created to offset the torrent of parking reductions or restaurant explosions since 2010.

  • Over 3 million tourists visited Alexandria last year. The vast majority come to Old Town and dramatically impact the residents' quality of life and their right to some quiet enjoyment.

  • The city states that people come by bike, Metro and trolley and, thus, parking is no issue for residents. If 50 percent of such statements were true there would still be 1.5 million visitors looking for a public parking space during the year within this small 6-block by 6-block historic zone.

If you are a true and visionary Alexandria political candidate, you take care of your residents and insist city staff implements resident-only parking on residential streets from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. in this historic zone. Such a policy benefits patrons of small businesses during the day while requiring evening entertainment goers to park in nearby parking garages which are 75 percent vacant after 6 p.m. as noted in the city's own parking studies!

It's time for new faces to be elected to City Council later this year. Go vote in new blood.

Philip G. Matyas

Philip G. Matyas is a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer, an associate real estate broker in Historic Old Town, Member of the Old Town Civic Association board and two-decade long resident/property owner in Historic Old Town Alexandria.