Logan Circle Church Cries Foul Over Requested Zipcar Parking Spots

by Tim Regan November 6, 2015 at 2:00 pm 35 Comments

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.

  • Popeye

    “Right now, we have one spot, and that’s for the pastor. Our first lady has nowhere to park. Our secretary has nowhere to park.”

    You know which other organizations in the neighborhood don’t have designated parking spaces for their employees? Most of them.

    • ceefer

      You’re a perfect example of why long-term residents detest carpetbagging newcomers.

      You’re a bunch of entitled, smug disrespectful racists.

      • missmurrr

        Mind explaining your logic on what exactly was racist about the above poster’s sentiments? I’m a long-term resident and am curious.

      • Jose

        You say carpetbagger, I say taxpayer.

        • ceefer

          Most of those church members live in DC, own homes and pay more taxes than the entitled snot nose brats who pay rent and use Mommy and Daddy’s address in West Butcuss to avoid paying DC taxes.

          Even the people from PG are paying DC taxes because they own property in DC.

          Nice try, sparky.

          • Actual resident and taxpayer

            You mean like a Largo address with postal code as “Upper Marlborough,” ceefer? Property ownership in Washington DC is easily verified. Try again.

          • ceefer

            I actually live in Bowie, nephew.

            Since you’re all up in my business, let me tell you I also own 2 row-houses in DC that I lived in and renovated – before the H St.-East Capitol St. NE corridor was “Capitol Hill East”,

            I was a REAL urban pioneer. I was in DC during the ’80’s and 90’s when banks were still red-lining, and people like you – who were afraid to walk the streets in DC – stayed out in white bread suburbs and amused yourselves with Marion Barry jokes. I now rent them to guys like you who are making me rich (thanks).

            It wouldn’t surprise me if the real estate taxes I pay to DC are substantially more than the DC taxes you “I’m a DC resident so I make the rules” clowns are paying.

            I just love when little entitled Johnny-come-lately types move in, pay too much for the privilege, and think they’re “saving DC” just by showing up. I run into your type nearly every time I go by to look at/work on my property and I just laugh when I think of what I can get you to pay me to live on the block and call yourself “a DC resident and taxpayer”.

            I ain’t mad at ya’.

          • Popeye

            You haven’t got a single fact of your side. Give it up.

          • ceefer

            Every loose-lipped little jerk with an alias is a smart guy on the Internet.
            Come back when you can prove the majority of church members are n-words from PG that you hate so much. Otherwise just shut up.

          • Popeye

            What’s up with the “n-word” business, tough guy? I haven’t even hinted at any racial animus here, because there is none – certainly not from me. I haven’t gotten the slightest bit of “hate” toward any African-Americans, least of all elderly churchgoers.

            You might try learning a little bit about reasoned debate. Here are some hints: Calling people who you disagree with “racists” absent any evidence of it is not winning. Suggesting they use (or even think in terms of) disgusting racial slurs is not an argument. Name-calling and telling them to “shut up” doesn’t mean you proved your point.

            On the contrary. You simply reveal that you can’t – or don’t know how to – make a case for your position.

          • ceefer

            You’re the typical smug know-it-all who knows nothing at all. Not exactly someone whose opinion I value or who is worth my time. Have a happy landing (use your imagination).

      • Actual resident and taxpayer

        Carpetbaggers like car-dependent PG residents who come from Kansas by way of Texas and the outer boroughs, ceefer?

        • ceefer

          Most black PG residents have ties to DC, many are DC natives, Sparky.

          Be quiet because you don’t know what you’re talking about. Since you can’t deal with diversity, YOU should go back to whatever white-bread suburb or flyover state you slithered here from.

          • YesILiveHere

            Neither the “slithered here” line nor the “deal with diversity” trope sound authentic to me. I don’t appreciate it when white people pretend to be angry black people for the sole purpose of stirring up an internet comment debate.

      • Popeye

        (1) I would be interested in knowing what exactly I said that was even remotely racist. Seriously.

        (2) I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 15 years. How long does one have to be here before you’re no longer a “carpetbagging newcomer”? Or will I always be, because I’m white?

    • Greg Taylor

      Is the first lady the pastor’s wife? If so, then this is the heart of the problem – if even the pastor and his wife cannot drive to church together, there are far too many people driving to this church.

  • Sam

    The argument that this would disadvantage elderly parishioners is compelling, as delivered by the representative of Le Diplomate, but the representative of the church didn’t, at least in what is quoted here, seem to have that in mind when he suggested that the church wants to use the spaces for their church employees and their spouses.

    But I feel their pain. Parking in that area is a nightmare.

  • So if we don’t give them what they want, they’re going to shut down local restaurants? That’s not very Christian.

  • D_Rez

    First they came for the bikelanes, and I did nothing because I did not ride a bike…

  • RobMF

    As someone who lives a block away from this building, I really have no sympathy for anyone who wants to cause MORE cars to come to the area.

  • LCman

    If you look at the cars that tend fill up parking spaces at these center-city churches on Sundays, you’ll notice that most have Maryland or Virginia license plates. Maybe if these folks would attend church in their own suburban neighborhoods, where they moved to whenever they decided to bail out of the city (years ago in many cases), they wouldn’t have parking problems. Instead, they want to come in and take up spaces that could be used by people who actually live here and work to make our community viable economically and in every other way. And then they want to lecture us and threaten our local businesses with “massive demonstrations?” Can you spell “chutzpah?”

  • JR

    They’ve been around 166 years and never purchased space for parking? Land has been quite cheap in that area for a long time, until recently. Did they think it would be cheap forever? If so, that tells you a lot about their vision of the neighborhood. They want a neighborhood that’s so undesirable they can drive in from wherever they are and park right in front because no one else wants to be there.

    Also, I love the idea that the church’s “first lady” should have her own parking spot at public expense. That’s a good $20,000/year subsidy … for doing what exactly?

    • Regular Sized Rob

      She can’t ride in with the pastor?

  • bbattjer

    It seems to me the real argument Zipcar should be using is number of people served by a single parking spot. A Zipcar in a high usage neighborhood like Logan will serve MANY more local taxpayers by using 3 spots than normal unzoned or church parking spots would.

  • jojopuppyfish

    Le diplomat uses a valet…..what do they care about parking?

    • missmurrr

      Where do you think they park those cars?

      • jojopuppyfish

        At the church?

        • missmurrr

          Le Diplomate cares about parking, because their valets park those car on the streets.

      • YesILiveHere

        If so, that’s a violation of DCRA and DDOT rules.

  • ceefer

    So here we have the usual whining and snark – from the usual entitled newcomers – about “churches and parking for people who don’t live here” (read: black people from PG County who have the audacity to attend church in DC) and “subsidized parking for churches” as if the church members are the only ones who use parking spaces – because a for-profit business wants the spaces to serve paying customers. You can’t make this up.

    Why can’t Zipcar buy or lease lot/garage space? Are they paying the District a fee to compensate for the lost parking revenue? Exactly who is being “subsidized” in this case?

    • southeaster

      Zipcar did lease lot space, as clearly stated in the article, until it was re-developed. This was the same lot the church “was planning” on using, until Zipcar “claimed” it. Also stated in the article is that Zipcar looked for private or garaged spaces and was unable to procure any, before requesting the spaces from the city.

      I too am curious as to whether Zipcar pays the city “rent” on street spaces, or Metro, for their lot spaces for that matter.

      I don’t understand how the Church thinks that three street parking spots in an area as hard to find parking in as Logan circle will still be available on Sunday morning for parishoners. They’ll be parked up by residents! Unless they are specifically reserved for the church… which was not clear.

      • southeaster

        Zipcar bids on “car-sharing” zoned public street parking spaces, bidding against other car sharing companies. I think they are at least $1360 and up to $2800 / year.

    • Popeye

      (1) So you think the DC residents/taxpayers who object to PG County residents demanding parking spaces at their churches in neighborhoods they no longer live in are doing so because those churchgoers are black? Do you really believe they would object less if the parking spaces near their homes were set aside for use by white people from Montgomery County?

      (2) Zipcar does lease all curbside public parking spaces that they use. This information is readily available if you chose to take the one minute necessary to google it.

      (3) Am I still a “newcomer” after 15 years in the neighborhood?

  • Actual resident and taxpayer

    These suburban churches need to stop bearing false witness against their neighbors.

  • JoDa

    Let’s clear one thing up…Zipcar parking IS resident parking. It IS (semi) public access parking. A Zipcar serves multiple local residents’ transportation needs, not just one’s, as a private car does. Zipcar members also pay car rental taxes every time they use their membership, and a portion of their membership and use fees go to pay things like gasoline taxes and VERY steep registration fees (my understanding is that Zipcar pays several thousand dollars a year per car for the “Zone 9” parking designation) plus fees to the city for using city-owned street parking or lots as the “home base” for certain cars. Zipcar use is a win-win-win for everyone nearby (fewer resident cars, tax money that the city wouldn’t have if the users of zipcar owned (more) personal vehicles, and fair remuneration for use of public streets, which is more than can be said for car owners who are paying a mere $35/year to park their car or out-of-towners who come in and double park on weekends), and yet people can’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that Zipcar is a neighborhood-serving business. No one goes all the way across town to rent a Zipcar, you do it in your own neighborhood, go somewhere, come home, rinse and repeat for next renter.


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