How Parking Makes People Insane
Last night, I sat in on a presentation by representatives of the new owners of Georgetown's Evermay estate. Neighbors were guarded about their proposal to convert the three-acre residence into the headquarters of their non-profit foundation, which would eventually have as many as nine employees. Attorney Alice Haase promised that they would barely even notice the organization's activities: They'd have no public events, occasional short-term gatherings of artistic "fellows" the foundation supports, and an annual bash that maybe would draw 200 people.
Still, some residents worried about the impact of even that many staff around on a daily basis. "That's quite a few people to be employed in a residential zone," one lady fretted. Another guy was unwilling to support anything that might draw dignitaries for whom cars on surrounding streets would have to be towed—the President, for example, who might've attended political fundraisers that took place under the Evermay's former ownership.
But most people were mollified by the promise of few events. Why? Because the Evermay has stacked parking for 109 cars. Think of what the opposition to a small non-profit would have been like if employees and visitors had to compete for parking on the street! Just one example of the neurosis that ails neighborhoods that lack both Metro stops and a culture of commuting by bike.
This is all an excuse, really, to point you towards a fascinating profile of parking guru Donald Shoup that doubles as a history of parking lots in Los Angeles. The District is in a whole other universe from L.A. when it comes to car culture. But parking is still probably the biggest fight in every development project, and Shoup has a read on why:
“I truly believe that when men and women think about parking, their mental capacity reverts to the reptilian cortex of the brain,” Shoup says. “How to get food, ritual display, territorial dominance—all these things are part of parking, and we’ve assigned it to the most primitive part of the brain that makes snap fight-or-flight decisions. Our mental capacities just bottom out when we talk about parking.”
Just go read it.