Members of a Logan Circle church are up in arms over a plan to designate several newly created parking spaces near their house of worship as Zipcar-only spots.
Dozens of parishioners from the John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (1615 14th St. NW) showed up to Wednesday night’s ANC 2F meeting at the Marriott Marquis in Logan Circle to loudly weigh their concerns about a request to establish “2-3 Zipcar-only street sparking spaces on the north side of Corcoran St. NW.”
Zipcar, which as recently as 2013 housed 20 vehicles in the lot that was later developed into the Corcoran at 14th, said the three requested spaces would help the company better service its customers in Logan Circle, one of its most popular service areas.
“We’re trying to replace what was a 20-space lot with really three spaces,” said Scott Hall, Zipcar’s D.C. area general manager. “We’ve been unable to find any replacements, private, public, anything. This has been the only possible solution for us to serve our membership.”
“I would rather have the residents have the parking spaces,” said ANC 2F chair John Fanning. But commissioner Kate Gordon, 2F-01, pointed out that, even if the spaces aren’t allocated for Zipcar’s use, there’s no guarantee that residents could actually use them.
“I’m always in favor of street parking,” Gordon said. “But the loss of that Zipcar lot has meant that more people have had to go out and buy cars or make other arrangements.”
“I would like to see us come up with a compromise,” she continued. “I don’t necessarily want to lose three potential parking spaces, but one or two we could absolutely allocate to Zipcar.”
Keith Spinner, John Wesley Church’s parking and transportation committee chairman, said in response that designating any spots as Zipcar-only would deprive the church’s congregation of parking spaces they originally planned on using.
“Right now, we have one spot, and that’s for the pastor,” Spinner said. “Our first lady has nowhere to park. Our secretary has nowhere to park.”
The church’s reverend, Dr. Vernon A. Shannon, then delivered a passionate speech directed at ANC 2F’s commissioners. In his presentation, Shannon laid out the church’s 166-year history and how the church had previously planned to purchase and use the lot at 14th and Corcoran as a parking area before Zipcar laid claims on it.
He also suggested the neighborhood commission was keeping the church out of important matters.
“It would seem to me that your committee would have said to us, what effect would it have on your church that we take three of these lots?” Shannon said. “You do well with new commerce, the upscale restaurants, the development that has taken place in the community … but [the ANC] completely ignored the church as though we did not exist.”
“We did not ignore the church,” responded Kevin Sylvester, 2F-07. “The [community development committee meeting] was advertised with due notice. No one showed up to state their opinion. All we had was what was presented to us by the applicant and a statement of support from one of the neighbors.”
Before he sat down, Shannon seemed to deliver a warning to the commission.
“I want to say this. I’m here representing a protest committee,” Shannon said. “They are prepared to bring about a massive demonstration around the area which will adversely affect every restaurant in that area. We are prepared to send people in.”
“Threatening us is actually really not an effective strategy,” Gordon shot back. “Let me be clear.”
A representative for John Wesley Church could not be reached to comment on whether the church might actually “bring about a massive demonstration” as the reverend suggested.
Other members of the church also weighed in on establishing the Zipcar-only spaces.
“We have legitimate concerns,” said one member of the congregation. “Please let us speak and then maybe we can come to some sort of agreement. This is a total disrespect to the church.”
“Why would Zipcar come in and take those three spots, and once they leave, we can’t even park our cars there?” the member of the church continued.
William Washington, Director of Operations at Le Diplomate, also spoke on behalf of the church, which sits next door to the restaurant.
“Parking in the neighborhood is difficult for all of us,” Washington said. “We all have problems finding parking spots. Removing a number of spots from public access is what we’re talking about.”
“To take away spots that would be right in front of them and force an elderly congregation to park … blocks away, instead of readily parking across the street, I think would be wrong,” he added, to applause from the audience.
Several 2F commissioners said they were sympathetic to the church’s concerns, but suggested that opening up three spaces wouldn’t do much to alleviate the church’s parking woes.
“It’s not an easy question,” said Karin Berry, 2F-02, “but I don’t know that three Zipcar spaces is going to solve your problem.”
Ultimately, the commission gave its blessing to Zipcar’s request for two spaces by a vote of three yeas, two nays and two abstentions.