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Cleveland Park could lose 30 parking spots under proposal

Thursday - 10/31/2013, 5:00am  ET

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Businesses along Connecticut Avenue are worried what reduced parking could do to their business. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

WASHINGTON - Parking in D.C. is almost impossible on some days, so local businesses along a stretch of Connecticut Avenue near the Cleveland Park Metro station are upset about a proposal that would eliminate about 30 parking spots that customers use every day.

Signs are up at businesses along Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Ordway streets in northwest that read, "Save the Service Lane," and a petition is going around that already has a lot of signatures. Email traffic on the Cleveland Park Listserv has also been busy with residents unhappy about the proposal.

The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) is considering four proposals to revitalize this stretch of Connecticut Avenue, including one that would extend the sidewalk and eliminate all 30 parking spots. Other proposals include maintaining the current layout, a shared space and a partial sidewalk extension that would eliminate some of the parking spots. DDOT is considering the change to attract more pedestrian traffic on a sidewalk where there's not much room.

Susan Linh is one of those fighting against the proposal. She owns Wake Up Little Suzie, which has been in Cleveland Park since 1992.

"Parking is vital to this neighborhood. Between 7 and 9:30 [a.m.] and 4 and 6:30 [p.m.] there is no parking on Connecticut Avenue, so the service lane provides the only parking. This is really parking for our neighborhood and for many of our customers," says Linh.

Roger Marmet, who owns a restaurant called Ripple, says eliminating parking spots would hurt his business.

"We can't survive with just foot traffic. I'd say 80 percent of our customers drive by car. Right now, during happy hour [5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.], there is no other place to park. Bottom line: the neighborhood does not have the density to support us with just people who can walk, bike or Metro here," he says.

Marmet also has the "Save the Service Lane" sign in his window. Just a few doors down, Christopher Stadnyk also has a sign in the window of his store called Frame Art Gallery. Stadnyk's father opened the store on Connecticut Avenue in 1968.

"A lot of people have their friends and family drop them off with their art work. They don't stop on Connecticut Avenue, they pull into the service lane, they pause, they bring in their items, so it's a safety issue," says Stadnyk.

"I don't just have customers who've been here for a few years. I've got customers who've lived in D.C. for years in nice homes in all sorts of areas in Northwest. The need to be able to pull in off Connecticut Avenue to park and get their business done is important."

Next door, Ali Forghani owns Town Jewelers, which has been in Cleveland Park since 1980. He agrees that his clientele expect a certain experience from his business.

"People can't park here. We're already losing customers. They're rushing in, trying to get their business done before [DPW] officers ticket them. It's going to get worse and worse. The only thing DDOT is doing is trying to close us up," says Forghani.

"We are the retailer. We are the ones paying the taxes. But we don't get anything from the D.C. government except penalties, higher taxes and proposals like this."

These small business owners are all worried that eliminating parking spots could force them to close -- only to be replaced by big box stores.

"My business would suffer drastically. It would really be a death knell for our businesses and that's not being dramatic. We know what goes on here. We are small, independently owned business and this is what Cleveland Park residents like and want. To eliminate our businesses will ruin our neighborhood. Residents don't want those big box stores," says Linh.

"I think the impact for many businesses could be closing. If you want to drop off your dry cleaning on your way to work and there's nowhere to park, you're going to go a dry cleaner that's easier to get to. For a restaurant, it's very hard to stay in business relying on foot traffic, bikes or Metro. People drive in their car to get a formal dinner," says Marmet.

While DDOT and other D.C. agencies haven't made a formal decision, it's clear there is fierce opposition to any plan to eliminate parking.

DDOT didn't respond to a request for comment by the time this story was published.

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