On Monday night, the ANC rejected a request by the residents of 1724 35th st. to establish a curb cut on S st. to allow them to build a two car garage on the back of their home. The Commission expressed concerns about the effect the move would have on parking and stated their general distaste for such curb-cuts. While the ANC made the right choice by rejecting the curb cut, it did so for only partially the right reasons. Find out why after the jump:
It’s no secret that parking is a huge issue in Georgetown (although, less so for us over in the northern East Village). When you allow a curb cut and a garage, you are taking away a parking spot from the “pool” so to speak. The owners inevitably argue that you’re also taking a car off the road too. But in effect you’re not taking a car off the road as much as simply guaranteeing a parking spot directly in front of the owner’s house. From an equitable point of view, that’s somewhat indefensible.
Curb cuts are simply ugly and inconsistent with our neighborhood form. They turn a sidewalk into a driveway. As a result they are dangerous and make a sidewalk (the place pedestrians should feel the most secure) feel unsafe. GM has had plenty of occassions where he’s been walking on the sidewalk and came across a car trying to exit or enter its garage, and had to stop short waiting to make sure the driver saw him. Sure they’ve never hit him, but so what? It’s still an unecessary danger for the pedestrian, especially considering that it only exists to benefit the homeowner. And that’s not even mentioning those inconsiderate homeowners who park their cars across the sidewalk. That’s downright rude, not to mention callous of people who can’t or shouldn’t step out into the road, like children or certain handicapped individuals.
Ok so they’re anti-social, what else is wrong with them? Well consider this: right now it’s a pain in the ass to own a car in Georgetown, particularly in the West Village. It’s even more of a pain in the ass to own two. You’ve got to constantly struggle to find a spot on the street to store that car, particularly if you drive it every day. In fact, it’s probably such a pain in the ass that a certain amount of people choose not to own a car or two. Or if they own one, they may not drive it as much as they otherwise might.
Guaranteeing storage changes that equation. Allowing residents to build a two car garage virtually guarantees that they and all future residents of that house will, in fact, own two cars. When you lower the natural disincentive to own and drive a car what do you get? Driving. Lots of it.
Now plenty of people will argue that the traffic back-ups in Georgetown are mostly caused by non-residents. And they’re right. But Georgetown residents contribute to that. And if we were to start allowing more and more “easy parking” it would cause more and more Georgetowners to own cars or own second cars and start taking more discretionary trips. This would increase the congestion and unpleasantness of the neighborhood.
So yes, the ANC was right to say that allowing a curb cut unfairly alters the parking equation, but they still don’t seem to see that parking is only part of the problem. Safety, beauty, and traffic are as much if not more at stake with curb cuts.