Parking Decks – urban necessities

The District has proposed a short-term family housing facility on public land adjacent to the 2nd District police station in Ward 3.  Everyone agrees the neighborhood can’t absorb any more vehicles requiring on-street parking.  The parking for the facility and additional parking needed for police activities must be contained on the site.  Hence, the city has proposed a parking deck to serve the needs of both facilities.

The Short-term Family Housing on the Idaho Ave site is part of an all-ward strategy to provide smaller buildings with living facilities for families who are homeless as they await more permanent housing.  With the completion of the facilities, DC General, a decrepit building never meant as living space for 240 families, will close.

The siting of the Ward 3 housing on Idaho Ave. has been contentious from the start.  The Council approved this site and the sites in other wards at the end of the budget process in June 2016.  Almost immediately, the opposition formed. They clearly stated that though they didn’t oppose housing for families who were homeless in Ward 3, the Idaho Ave. site was inappropriate.

The reasons for opposition began with the fact that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) had not been consulted on the selection of the site. Others feared that children who have been homeless, most likely traumatized by police, should not live near a police station, that the local school would be overcrowded, that the building at 6 stories was too tall for the neighborhood….

Those in favor of the facility also made their voice heard:  there is no such thing as an ideal site in Ward 3. Though not perfect, the Idaho site would serve the “greater good” of the city in helping its most vulnerable residents. The sentiment most strongly articulated: it was important for Ward 3 to participate with every other ward in the city in furthering the “greater good.”

After listening to extensive community comment in the past weeks, ANC 3C at its February 21st meeting will finalize its recommendation to the Board of Zoning Adjustment who meet on March 1 to consider 3 variances the city needs to construct the facility.   No variance or exception is needed for parking.  The proposed parking deck will provide the needed spaces.   However, to construct the deck the adjacent playground, community gardens and tennis courts will be less accessible during the 18-month construction period.

More than likely a facility for housing families who have been homeless will be built on the site.  At this juncture, the community has a choice:  continued outrage at the whole project or redirecting that energy to the design of the parking deck, the first facility to be built.  Urban parking decks often are ugly with poor access and materials that age quickly, not meant for long term durability. Bringing good design, durable materials and plantings to soften the exterior mass as well as good vehicular access to the deck will add value to the site and the neighborhood.

Good Faith casts its vote for a new working group including all neighbors working collaboratively and constructively with the District on the parking deck to ensure that it is functional, decent looking and a community asset for everyone in the neighborhood.  This action would immediately further the “greater good” in Ward 3 and in the city as a whole.

At their meeting on February 21, ANC3C passed their resolution (with 27 whereas statements) 5-4.  The resolution supported short term family housing in Ward 3, but rejected the height of the building at 6 stories. The parking deck will receive further consideration in the weeks ahead.