One of the weird byproducts of the pandemic has been some rapid changes in zoning that were given widespread, impromptu pilot programs over the last year. One of those, the conversion of on-street parking to “parklets“, is being considered as a permanent zoning change.
A city presentation defined a parklet as the “conversion of an on-street parking space into an extension of the sidewalk, to be used for open space, public seating, or the use of an adjacent business for dining or retail.” Examples shown from other cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles show permanent features installed in former parking spaces.
Parklets went from non-existence to a common feature at many restaurants and businesses across the city over the last year. In some ways, the closure of the 100 block of King Street incorporates some parklet elements, like dining in what had previously been parking spaces. The outdoor space allowed for more social distancing while shopping. The city said a survey with around 2,700 responses found broad support for parklets.
According to the survey:
- 91% of residents/visitors more likely to visit a restaurant with outdoor seating
- 67% of residents/visitors have positive/very positive views of parklets
- 74% of residents/visitors want to see parklet dining continue permanently
- 66% of businesses want to see parklet dining continue permanently
Under the new ordinance, parklets would become a permitted encroachment, meaning a business, restaurant, or other development would apply to have on-street parking converted into some form of open space. Temporary parklets around the city, the report said, may be gradually converted into permanent ones.
The proposal to add parklets to city zoning is headed to the City Council tomorrow (Tuesday) for first reading, but the ordinance will still need to go back to the Traffic and Parking Board to get more details on guidelines like buffer space and Americans with Disabilities Act access.
In a crowded City Council election, the Alexandria Democratic Committee split the candidates into two groups for moderated debates, which posted Tuesday night.
Alexandria journalist Michael Lee Pope moderated the discussion, which touched on critical talking issues in city races over the last few years, from parking to broadband to — of course — Seminary Road. Interestingly, the coronavirus pandemic was not a main topic of discussion.
ALXnow featured the first debate on Wednesday.
This debate featured candidates John Taylor Chapman, Sarah Bagley, Amy Jackson, Kevin Harris, Patrick Moran, Bill Campbell and Kirk McPike. Answers are summarized.
A number of candidates support reversing the Seminary Road diet, which has been a controversial issue for years.
Chapman voted against the proposal in 2019, and said he would vote to reverse it.
Moran — “I think a lot of the framework in which these conversations are made are so permanent,” Moran said. “I would spend the money to undo it.”
Campbell — “I absolutely would not spend any additional money to change that unless there was some new information that came up with regards to safety,” Campbell said. “And then you have to be responsible to take a look at that.”
Jackson would also vote to undo it, although she said that future road diets would have to be considered on a case by case basis.
“This became a ‘he said, she said’ in a lot of ways that I don’t think anyone on council was prepared for when city staff brought it to us,” Jackson said. “That just means that we have to do our own sleuthing and know the questions to ask after we’ve done our homework.”
McPike said he would not undo the road diet.
“I would not initially in this next council session, vote to revert the road back to what it was,” McPike said. “The intersection at Howard and Seminary is going to change in the near future when Inova Hospital relocates to Landmark Mall, and we don’t know what the needs are going to be along that stretch of road once that has occurred.”
Harris — “It’s one of those things that we ought to wait and see how it plays out before we try to change anything,” Harris said. “Because we’ve already wasted too much money creating the road diet. I think that we could use this money in other places.”
Dave Dolton moved to Potomac Yard last month, and with his new garage full of unpacked boxes has been parking on the street. One of his neighbors wasn’t too happy about his extended street parking, and left a strongly worded note on his windshield.
“Please don’t park and take up space on a street where you don’t live,” the note says. “Alexandria has parking rules — and your vehicle has been reported. Thank you.”
Dolton said that the note is hilarious.
“No idea which neighbor left the note,” Dolton wrote to ALXnow. “We moved here in early March, and I still can’t fit my car into our garage, due to all the boxes. We live in Potomac Yard, and while there are no posted signs, there is a rumor of not leaving your car here (if you don’t live here) for longer than 72 hours.”
In fact, it turns out that Potomac Yard is not in a residential permit parking district, and only general parking rules apply, such as no commercial vehicles can park in a residential area, no parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant and the city’s 72-hour rule. There are few parking signs throughout Potomac Yard along and around Main Line Boulevard, which neighborhood residents say leads to rampant fraudulent parkers.
“It happens all the time,” said a Potomac Yard resident. “They come park here and they take an Uber and go to Reagan National Airport for a trip and leave their car parked here and nothing happens. Sometimes they will just park and take an Uber to the Metro. Imagine how it’s going to look at this new Potomac Yard Metro station they’re building.”
Alexandria does not enforce parking on private streets, according to the city. Accordingly, many of the streets on the garage side of homes are private streets owned by the Potomac Yard Homeowners Association.
“Transportation & Environmental Services staff are working with the Potomac Yard HOA to consider creating a residential permit parking district,” Alexandria Senior Communications Officer Andrea Jones Blackford told ALXnow. “This will be a public process that involves petitioning the residents and going to the Traffic and Parking Board and City Council for approval if there is neighborhood support.”
Blackford said that there are no current plans to install new signs and that the City does not install parking signs on private property.
#twitterverse I need some help. Just found this note on my car, PARKED DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE. I could use your creative contributions for the note I plan to leave in response. The snarkier the better 🙂 @AlexandriaNow @AlexandriaVAGov @AlexandriaVAPD @justindotnet pic.twitter.com/5w3YKQ9yc5
— David Dolton (@DaveDolton) April 28, 2021
Worried about driving and parking with expired tags? Alexandria is suspending its vehicle registration, safety inspection and emissions inspection requirements through October 31, and any parking tickets issued after July 19 will be voided and payments will be refunded.
“This follows the City’s prior suspension of enforcement, from mid-March through July 19, of the requirement to display a valid state safety inspection sticker while parked,” notes a city release. “Any parking tickets that were issued by the City for safety inspection violations after July 19 will be automatically voided, and any payments will be automatically refunded by October 16.”
Vehicle registrations can also be renewed online.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle locations throughout the state were closed from March 18 to May 18 due to coronavirus, prompting action from Governor Ralph Northam to extend the deadline on license renewals. That deadline has also been extended to October 31.
Alexandria’s DMV at 2681 Mill Road reopened on June 22. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.
After weeks of laissez-faire parking enforcement during the pandemic, Alexandrians may want to start being more careful about where they park later this month.
“The City of Alexandria will resume enforcement of residential parking zones, weekend meters, and other parking regulations beginning Monday, July 20,” the city said in a news release. “Enforcement has been temporarily suspended since March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
While residents could still be ticketed or towed for parking in restricted areas, the city went months without enforcing meter times. The city said regulations will start going back to their old enforcement at the end of the month, however, including:
- Time restrictions for the general public in residential parking permit zones (signs in these zones include the language “residential permit-exempt”).
- Saturday time restrictions and meter fees on blocks with pay stations (time restrictions and meter fees on blocks with pay stations will continue to be enforced on weekdays).
- Time restrictions for street sweeping (signs pertaining to these restrictions prohibit parking during a one-hour window on a particular day of the week).
- The prohibition against parking on the street for more than 72 hours.
- The requirement to display a valid state inspection sticker.
- The City suspended enforcement of these parking regulations to assist vehicle owners who were working from home, caring for others, or trying to ensure the flow of goods and services. As Virginia continues to reopen and state COVID-19 related restrictions are being lifted, the City has determined that it is now appropriate to resume normal parking enforcement.
There will be some form of grace period implemented to get people readjusted to the regulations, the city said.
“To give residents, visitors, and workers adequate time to adjust their parking routines, the City is giving advance notice before parking tickets are issued to cars in violation of posted restrictions,” the city said. “Residents who are still unable to move their vehicles on a regular basis may apply for an exemption of the City’s 72-hour rule. To encourage continued physical distancing, temporary signed curbside pickup zones will remain in place at this time.”
(Updated on May 16 at 12:00 p.m.) The director of Feed the Fight Alexandria was picking up 300 cupcakes from Alexandria Cupcake to donate to three Inova hospitals on May 6, when she found an unexpected surprise waiting on her windshield — a $40 parking ticket.
The ticket was later paid for by an Alexandria Police officer.
Ali De Jongh Whitley asked Mayor Justin Wilson for help after receiving the ticket by posting her grievance on the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria! End Seminary Rd Diet & Other Bad Ideas Facebook page.
Whitley said she was parked outside Alexandria Cupcake at 1022 King Street in Old Town with the rear trunk door of her SUV left open, and was inside picking up the cupcakes for National Nurses Day.
“There were 3-4 large white bags in there as I was carrying bags filled with 25 cupcakes per bag into the car. I had 300 cupcakes to pick up to deliver to 3 INOVA hospitals for National Nurse’s Day,” Whitley wrote. “While I realized there was no parking on that side of the street, I was loading the car and there were NO other cars on King Street that morning. (ZERO!) I had my hazards on, and the parking police saw me walking back and forth loading the bags. I WAS STILL GIVEN A $40 ticket. I was shocked.”
Whitley added, “In the last 5 weeks, we have delivered over 4,000 meals to the frontline heroes in Alexandria. I am not asking for a pat on the back or a trophy, but what I am asking for is that this ticket be rescinded. I am asking Justin Wilson to speak with the Old Town Parking Enforcement officials who clearly made a rude call. Can I afford to pay the ticket, yes…Should I get a break, YES!!”
As Mayor, however, Wilson legally has no ability to direct staff to do anything. The city manager is the individual who runs the government, while the mayor and council direct the city manager with their votes and requests at various official council meetings and work sessions.
“Ali De Jongh Whitley, thanks for the important work that you are doing,” Wilson wrote Whitley in response. “I do not have the authority to cancel tickets, but if you drop me a line ([email protected]), I can help you navigate the process to contest the ticket.”
Whitley responded by saying that being given a ticket was wrong.
“Thank you for your prompt response. I will reach out to you,” she wrote. “We have been trying to keep the restaurants in… Alexandria afloat by supporting local and donating local to our INOVA partners. Most of the time, the restaurants deliver for me, but we had to deliver to 3 separate hospitals that day, and it was impossible. I have such a bad taste in my mouth about the whole episode that I could no longer stew about it at home. It was wrong.”
When ALXnow spoke with Whitley, she said that the ticket had been paid for anonymously.
“I don’t know who paid for it,” Whitley said, and joked that “except for parking enforcement,” her organization wants to partner with the fire department and other city departments with uniformed officers.
It turned out later that the ticket was paid for by an Alexandria Police officer. One of the residents monitoring the Facebook page asked City Attorney Joanna Anderson for help on the issue.
“She looked into it and felt she could not legally intervene but got the word out and one of the police officers, Captain Fard took it upon himself to pay the ticket because his wife is a nurse and he wanted to thank Ali for her caring kindness!” resident Baraba Beach wrote. “So although I don’t believe a ticket should have been legally or morally issued in the first place, I do want to recognize the City staff who tried to right a wrong. Thank you again Ali and am so very sorry this happened to you!”
Staff photo by James Cullum
Vice Mayor Volunteers For ACPS Food Giveaway — “I’m putting my food manager’s license to good use this week in coordinating the preparation of school meals at TC. Thanks to a rock-star team of Alexandria City Public Schools employees, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities employees, and Volunteer Alexandria volunteers, we distributed more than 1700 meals yesterday.” [Facebook]
Police Hosting Virtual Story Time Tonight — “Great news! Every Friday evening APD will be starting a new initiative–APD #VIRTUALStorytimes at 7PM. This Friday join Sgt. Morgan as she reads “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle. Do you have any book recommendations you wish to see us read???” [Twitter]
Online Focus Group on Parking, Curb Issues Planned — “The City of Alexandria’s Transportation & Environmental Services will be conducting another round of focus groups from April 20 – May 1 on transit, parking and other curb-side uses for Alexandria’s streets.” [Alexandria Living]
Senior Services of Alexandria Gets Face Mask Donation — “We appreciate all the mask donations we have received! Thank you to everyone who responded to our call for masks, our volunteers now can continue to provide services to local seniors while staying protected. Grocery Program volunteer Dave Dolton rocked his new mask this morning while shopping!” [Facebook]
Old Town Boutique District Starts #lovelocalOT Contest — “Each day is a different theme, all you need to do is post in your stories how you supported local in OT that day, use #lovelocalOT & tag @otboutiques… Winners will be chosen at random each night & will receive a $50 gift card to the OT small biz of their choice!” [Facebook]
Evening Star Cafe Sells Wine Package With Tiger King Theme — “As an ode to the latest Netflix phenomenon, Tiger King, Beverage Director/Cat Enthusiast Greg Engert has curated a special selection of bottles tail-ored to sip as you watch the cat-astrophe surrounding Joe Exotic and the G.W. Zoo unfold.” [Facebook]
Village Brauhaus T-Shirt Sales Going to Staff — “We can’t wait for the day when we can all be drinking and eating together at Village Brauhaus! Make sure to get your shirt and wear them when we open our doors again!” [Facebook]
Yates Dry Cleaning Makes Face Masks For Customers — “In challenging times, we’re thankful to have a team with such diverse skills! Our wonderful Seamstress at Yates Dry Cleaning, Joy, has been hard at work making face coverings for our Yates team and some at-risk customers.” [Facebook]
Seifeldein Asks Governor to Ease Restrictions on Medical Transport Businesses — “Some medical transportation businesses needed assistance and I reached out to our governor and elected officials in Richmond. The DMV Commissioner looked into the issue and provided reasonable relief. Our collective actions will help us navigate this crisis.” [Facebook]
ABC Store at 686 St. Asaph Street to Close — “Virginia’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority announced Thursday afternoon that they’re closing 12 ABC liquor stores in Northern Virginia in order to deal with reduced staffing levels as workers self-quarantine. The closure starts Monday and lasts until at least April 30.” [WTOP]
Del Ray Farmer’s Market Open Saturday — “Farmers’ markets in the City of Alexandria are open ONLY for the distribution of pre-paid preorders. Many of the #delrayfarmersmarket vendors are offering this option. Vendors will NOT be offering items for sale at the market – only pickup of preorders is permitted. Please place your orders as soon as possible to give our vendors time to prepare.” [Facebook]
Rosemont Neighborhood Holds Door Decorating Contest — “The Hooff family came in First Place in the “Most Creative” category for their stained glass chalk artwork on their door, windows, and front walk, inspired by artwork they had seen on Facebook.” [Zebra]
Updated Del Ray Easter Menu — “Celebrate Easter while supporting our restaurants! Special menus available for carry out.” [Facebook]
Old Town Deli Needs Support — “If anyone is in the DMV area please stop by my dad’s shop Old Town Deli in Alexandria, VA! It’s been around for over 29 years. Just like everyone else, we’re struggling and we could use all of your support! We offer UberEats, carry out and delivery!” [Twitter]
The city said on its website that the changes in parking enforcement were aimed at helping the disrupted routines caused by working from home and other effects of social distancing.
“To assist vehicle owners who are now working from home, caring for others, or trying to ensure the flow of goods and services, the City has suspended enforcement of the following parking restrictions until further notice,” the city said.
The biggest change is the elimination of time restrictions for general public parking in residential zones and time restrictions and meter fees for blocks with pay stations.
The suspension of enforcement is an expansion of the policies from two weeks ago, which suspended enforcement of parking restrictions for residential street sweeping and for the prohibition on vehicles parking on the street for more than 72 hours.
The full list of waived parking restrictions:
- Time restrictions for the general public in residential parking permit zones. (Signs in these zones include the language “residential permit exempt.”)
- Weekend time restrictions and meter fees on blocks with pay stations. (Time restrictions and meter fees on blocks with pay stations will continue to be enforced on weekdays.)
- Time restrictions for street sweeping. (Signs pertaining to these restrictions prohibit parking during a one-hour window on a particular day of the week.)
- The prohibition against parking on the street for more than 72 hours.
- The requirement to display a valid state inspection sticker.
The city noted that parking restrictions are still being enforced in areas that are prohibited “no parking” zones.
“All other time restrictions not listed above, such as 15-minute spaces or time limits in commercial corridors, will continue to be enforced,” the city said. “Parking enforcement officers will have the discretion to enforce suspended restrictions in exceptional circumstances where a significant traffic safety or community concern exists, or as necessary to ensure the safe and orderly movement of vehicles.”
Schools Preparing for Coronavirus — “ACPS has partnered with the Alexandria City Health Department and local first responders to form a COVID-19 Task Force Planning Committee to work closely to monitor this evolving situation. We plan to provide updates as we progress with this planning and work.” [ACPS]
Reminder: Primary Day is Tomorrow — “On Tuesday, March 3, there will be a Democratic Party presidential primary election in the City of Alexandria. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]
Business Robbed in Old Town on Sunday — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a commercial robbery in the 800 block of South Washington Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]
Resident: Parking Is Too Sparse in Old Town — “Personally, I have consciously put off or cancelled Old Town plans several times because the parking crisis made visiting a business or meeting up with friends impossible with my own vehicle. I believe our city planners should consider building a public parking deck or similar facility somewhere in the neighborhood in order to alleviate the impossibly high demand on our limited parking situation.” [Gazette Packet]
Update on 1/22/20 –Craig Fifer, spokesman for the City of Alexandria, told ALXnow in an email: “Port City did not ‘snag away’ the parking lot from the City. When the City learned that an Alexandria business was attempting to purchase the lot, we discontinued our efforts to purchase it.”
Thanks to some new negotiations, 4001 Wheeler Avenue might become a place you’re happy to find your car, rather than an impound lot.
In December, the City of Alexandria started moving forward with negotiations to acquire 4001 Wheeler Avenue — directly across Wheeler Avenue from the Port City Brewing Company at 3950 Wheeler Avenue — and use it as an overflow impound lot to help handle the city’s shortage on impound space.
According to Emma Quinn, a spokeswoman for Port City, the brewery was working on acquiring the space around the same time.
“There had been talks about the city buying and we saw that [ALXnow] article in November when Bill had already been in negotiations to get the lot for [Port City],” Quinn said. “Luckily, we were able to secure it!”
The brewery is in an industrial-heavy area off Duke Street and is off the beaten path for most transit services, meaning the existing parking lot is heavily used even when there aren’t spaces taken up by food trucks for events.
Though the idea of adding more car parking at an alcohol-focused venue might turn some heads, Port City said most of their events feature sampling in small amounts.
“We always encourage responsible drinking!” Quinn said in an email. “Luckily, our brewery serves as a place to educate and sample the product more than a bar scene where people are drinking to excess. A lot of customers come by just to get beer to-go and were avoiding doing so because we didn’t have enough spots.”
For large events, Quinn said Port City provides Lyft codes to get people to and from the brewery safely. She also noted that tasting room beer guides are trained to watch for people getting intoxicated.
Photo via Port City Brewing/Twitter