This coming Wednesday, June 12, ANC 5C will consider a resolution to support a ‘Zoning Variance’ for the new Woodridge Library. I support the variance because it maintains the current amount of parking and if we demand more parking, we’ll get less library. I’ll explain in more detail below.
As you probably know there have been community meetings going back at least two years in designing the new Woodridge Library. The DC Library has a great website available to keep people updated about this renovation. You can look back at all the renderings and information available there, as well as the current designs.
And after all that, we’re on the verge of actually building this thing! Last I had heard the old library will close late Summer or early Fall and the temporary library will open a short time later (at 18th and Douglass, across from the Center for Aging). Once the temporary location has opened, it will be about one and a half or two years to build the new library.
But before they can move forward with construction, they need a zoning variance from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The ANC is given consideration in these matter and, as a result, we will consider the issue at the ANC 5C meeting on Wednesday night.
What is the zoning variance for, in simple terms?
Basically, the new library was designed to retain the same amount of parking as the site currently allows for. The zoning laws have changed from when the original library was built. The current code would require 20 spots (1 parking spot per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area in excess of 3,000 square feet), instead of the 11 they are proposing. (for reference, the currently library is just a shade over 20,000 square feet and the new library will be about 22,000 square feet)
So if we wanted to have the 20 spots the law currently requires, we’d have to cut other parts of the library as currently designed. And that might be worth considering if the current parking lot was more heavily used.
What is the current usage?
Before I made a final decision on how I feel about this, I wanted to get some information on how much the parking lot is actually used. I observed the library parking lot 10 times over a couple weeks in May and my results are below. I was primarily looking at how full the library was and how much parking there was on the adjacent part of 18th Street NE.
I fully recognize that this is not a scientific sample and it is danger to extrapolate from a small set of data. But I think it also shows that the library parking lot is frequently under capacity, and when it is near full, there is plenty of parking on the adjacent street.
You’ll notice that my observations indicate there are more than the 11 spaces that legally exist behind the library. It’s hard to say exactly how that happened, over the years, but it appears the painted parking spot lines have washed away and you can fit up to about 15 cars behind the library currently, even though there are technically only 11 spaces back there.
And this is not to say there are not justified concerns about parking at the Woodridge Library. I have heard from neighbors on Hamlin Street about the great parking demands on their small block because of the library and other businesses on Rhode Island Avenue. I didn’t really consider Hamlin Street as much of an issue on this specific action because people are parking there to get as close as they can to the front door of the library, and that won’t change with the new library. I was looking at the parking lot in the back and trying to determine if it was an appropriate size for the current use, not trying to figure out why people cram on to Hamlin Street when there is ample parking behind the library.
This is my informal summary of the issue. If you would like to read the full narrative that will be provided to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, you can do so here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/146910030/BZA-Filing-for-Woodridge-Library-2013. It’s 15 pages double-spaced and not as unreadable as I thought it would be. They go into much more detail about the background and why various alternatives to provide the 20 parking space are not viable.
As always, I welcome any feedback you’ve got on this topic or others. You can contact me via the contact form on this site. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, June 12 at 7pm at the 5th District Police Headquaters, 1805 Bladensburg Road NE.