- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2007

D.C. officials aim to alleviate a parking shortage in one of the city’s most well-to-do neighborhoods by allowing residents to park cars in front of their driveways — for a fee.

The District Department of Transportation is planning a pilot project that would allow Georgetown residents to purchase a special permit and block their own access.

The six-month project is scheduled to begin in midsummer and is part of legislation passed by the D.C. Council last year. Karyn LeBlanc, a transportation department spokeswoman, said officials have not yet determined how much the permits will cost, but she said the revenue raised will be deposited into the District’s general fund.

Miss LeBlanc said the fee is required for the labor, materials and signs that will help mark the new spaces.

Al Wheeler, vice president of the Georgetown Kiwanis Club, which spearheaded the drive for a parking-alleviation program, said transportation department staff members have told him the permits could cost about $180.

Mr. Wheeler said the program will finally bring parking relief to Georgetown but that transportation officials should not charge a permit fee because doing so would generate revenue for the District at Georgetown’s expense.

“We said to them, ‘The larger you charge people, the less use will be made of it,’ ” Mr. Wheeler said. He said about 350 driveways in the area meet width requirements to be eligible for the pilot program.

William Skelsey, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Georgetown, said his commission has concerns about the plan.

“It’s well-intentioned in that there just isn’t enough parking in Georgetown, and we do need to find creative ways to find additional parking,” he said. “But this one — it’s tough.”

The program is aimed at decreasing the number of motorists circling Georgetown’s neighborhoods in search of an open parking spot. City officials say there are 175,000 more vehicles than parking spaces in the District on any given day.

Residents pay $15 a year for permits allowing them to park their cars on blocks near their houses.

“It’s a means to try a maybe out-of-the-box pilot [program] to provide alternative parking,” Miss LeBlanc said.

Other residents oppose the fee, but say it should be higher. Mr. Skelsey said renting a parking space in the Georgetown area can cost $200 a month, or more. “One should be expected to pay the market rate for the city,” he said. “It should be far more.”

Mr. Skelsey’s ANC has opposed the parking plan because they say it could cut the number of available parking spaces. He said some driveways may have to be widened to fit a car, cutting the amount of space available along the curb.

The commission contends that the plan would place an added burden on parking enforcement, which falls to the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Public Works, whose parking-enforcement officers write most of the city’s parking tickets. If a driver without a permit parks against a driveway overnight or on weekends, removing the vehicle could require police intervention.

“If you’ve got somebody that’s not supposed to be parking in front of a driveway, then what’s the homeowner to do?” said William Starrels, another advisory neighborhood commissioner. “They’re going to be boxed in.”

Miss LeBlanc said the program is only temporary in its current stage. “It is a pilot program,” she said. “We’ll evaluate it and see if it is successful or not.”

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