- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 3, 2002

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz said at a hearing on the District's parking problems yesterday she understands the plight of motorists, while residents complained about the privileges that allow Mrs. Schwartz and her colleagues to park almost anywhere.
"Parking in this densely populated city remains a struggle for all," said Mrs. Schwartz, at-large Republican and chairman of the Committee on Public Works.
"I must tell you I often lay awake nights trying to solve the parking problems of our city," she said during the hearing at City Hall, which was attended by about 50 people.
Council members have been able to park in any available curb space except for loading zones, streets restricted at rush hour, or near firehouses or fire hydrants since July, under a measure proposed by Mrs. Schwartz and passed that month at the end of the council's session.
Yesterday, residents decried the double standard for parking.
"They should park like we park. I know we're paying them," said Whaley Savage, 63, a Northeast resident who sat for three hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles Adjudication Office yesterday, waiting to be helped.
"Just because they have a title under their name doesn't mean they have the right to park anywhere they want to," said Juanito Talastas, 34, of Fort Washington, who works in the District.
At the hearing, D.C. residents detailed the magnitude of the city's parking problems to Mrs. Schwartz and committee members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, also attended the hearing.
Several residents complained about not being able to find parking outside their own homes because of commuters, restaurant and bar patrons, embassies, churches and mosques, and even hotel valets who park cars on residential streets when their garages fill up.
"As much as I understand the complexities of this issue, I also fully realize that finding parking in this city is a monumental feat, making the juggling act this council forever finds itself in all the more difficult," said Mrs. Schwartz, who is running for mayor.
She introduced a proposal earlier this year to create more parking spaces. The measure, which the council passed, allows motorists to park within 25 feet of an intersection, in loading zones except at hotels, and in entrance areas except in front of hospitals from 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
But the people at yesterday's hearing have found little relief and still struggle to find a place to park.
"It is about the quality of life. I am like a Peeping Tom looking out of my window for a parking spot, and then I am like a savage when I get outside fighting for a spot," said Shareen Berkeley, 31, who works downtown and lives in Northwest, two blocks from the new convention center going up on New York Avenue.
"I am going to move back to my little island and ride a donkey around," said the Trinidad neighborhood native, who estimated she has received $350 in tickets in the last three months, all while paying $15 a day for parking at work.
Residents also spoke out on the council's plans to raise parking-ticket fines. Under the budget passed by the council Tuesday, penalties for several violations will go up.
Fines will increase from $20 to $30 for parking in an alley, disobeying an official sign, parking in a no-parking zone and parking for more than two hours in a residential parking area without a permit. An expired-meter ticket will increase from $15 to $25.
Ami Schreiber, a computer programmer who lives in Northwest, said he received $700 in fines in August while he was trying to renew his tags.
"I've got gripes about them being ticket happy to begin with, and then no matter what happens, you're going to have to pay," said Mr. Schreiber, 25. "Now they're hiking up fines. It's become unreasonable.
"The irony of all this is that I'm sitting in a hearing on parking and I'm going to get a ticket because my meter's about to run out," he said.
Mr. Graham said that he sympathized with his constituents, and that action must be taken.
"It's becoming increasingly impossible to find a parking space," he said. "Getting a parking ticket is like shooting a fish in a barrel. It's the easiest thing in the world."


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