With Opening Day 2008 inching closer, the cobbling together of parking at the new ballpark
is apparently turning out to be a greater challenge than constructing an on-time on-budget stadium. So this week the city put in another zoning amendment request to allow more temporary surface parking lots, this time covering eight squares in Southwest, all between P, T, 2nd, and South Capitol streets. (See my Stadium Parking page
for a map with the new lots highlighted.) You can read the Office of Planning's report on the new case
(07-08A) for more detail.
On Monday night the Zoning Commission approved this request on an emergency basis, meaning that the zoning change takes effect immediately, lasting 120 days while a hearing is scheduled and a permanent amendment is voted on.
As with the original amendment approved earlier this year
, the lots can last no more than five years, are required to be available for public parking during non-game times, and must have District Department of Transportation approval of their traffic routing plans to ensure that access to the lots is not directed along I, P, or Fourth streets, SW. There's also a new requirement being added with this latest request, that a minimum of five percent of the spaces in these lots be reserved for a car/ride-share program.
These new lots are still subject to the cap of 3,775 total spaces laid out in the first amendment, unless special exceptions are obtained after the cap is reached from the Board of Zoning Adjustment on a per-lot basis. As with the squares covered earlier this year, it's not expected that lots will suddenly sprout on every one of the locations covered in the request; the main goal appears to be additional flexibility in finding possible spots for the needed spaces.
A separate zoning action a few months ago approved three temporary surface lots totaling under 800 spaces at The Yards, across the street from the stadium. There are also apparently negotiations underway about using the lots at RFK and providing shuttle service to the new ballpark.
There are other locations within a few blocks of the ballpark that will no doubt become temporary parking lots as well--one example is the Lerners' recent permit applications to build a lot on land they own at 1000 South Capitol Street.
At Monday's ANC 6D meeting, when this new zoning amendment was discussed, commissioners mentioned rumors of additional lots perhaps coming to the recently closed KFC and Exxon locations on the west side of South Capitol. But these blocks are not in the Capitol Gateway Zoning Overlay, and so don't require the special approval needed for the squares in the previous amendment requests. And these additional locations still require the Nationals to contract with the landowners, which might not always be an easy negotiation.
The ANC commissioners did not bring up many concerns about this new request, other than asking for confirmation that the traffic controls in the initial amendment cover these new lots, which Judi Greenberg of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development assured was the case.
Commissioner Ron McBee said that he hopes to organize a town hall meeting for Southwest residents about all the parking plans when they are more concrete, and vice chair Andy Litsky reminded Greenberg that the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission is supposed to be meeting with community leaders to address ballpark-related concerns, but that there hasn't been a meeting in six months.
The zoning commission's approval of the emergency action came with little discussion, perhaps reflecting that most of the potential issues with these temporary lots were hashed out in the first request.
Time should solve many of the initial parking issues around the ballpark; right now there are seven office and residential projects already under construction around Near Southeast that by 2008 and 2009 will have multiple levels of underground parking that could potentially be available for gametime, just as with the lots are in the buildings around the Verizon Center. Most of the squares in these recent zoning requests, along most every other block between South Capitol and Second, will also eventually be home to buildings with underground parking.
UPDATE: An e-mail sent out today to Nationals season ticket holders says that 2008 ticket package information will be sent out "in the next month or so", and that a "comprehensive transportation package will also be sent to all season ticket holders shortly after you have received your seat location information." Presumably the "transportation package" means parking plans for season ticket holders (and maybe a really good Metro map!).