How Easy Is It to Create Parking in DC?

by Shilpi Paul

How Easy Is It to Create Parking in DC?: Figure 1

As rowhouses are turned into condos and multi-family apartments pop up all over DC, the street parking situation is becoming ever more competitive. A reader recently reached out with a query about how feasible it is to add a parking space on the lot of a purchased home.

I am in the midst of a house hunt and have come across a few listings that do not include parking. However, their backyards back up to alleys that lead to neighbors’ parking spots/garages. I was wondering how feasible it is to add a parking spot to the back of a property/lot that you own. In searching online, I’ve come across only posts about obtaining curb cuts in front of a house (that decrease sidewalk space and are therefore very hard to obtain). I couldn’t find anything about the feasibility of adding a spot when it would not decrease sidewalk space and would rely on an existing alley. Therefore, I’m unsure how to evaluate how much the lack of parking should affect the listing price. It may depend on the neighborhood and I’m looking in neighborhoods where residential parking is the norm- e.g., 16th Street Heights, Palisades, Tenleytown — so maybe it’s easier in these neighborhoods compared to Dupont, Logan, etc.?

The question intrigued UrbanTurf, as we had been hearing more about the idea that utilizing the space behind a row house as parking rather than as a patio or backyard is something that should be encouraged.

According to this document from the city’s Department of Transportation, constructing a driveway or curb cut requires permitting, an inspection and several additional steps because it cuts into public space.

The situation described by the reader above, however, would use private land, and the new space would be accessed by an existing alley.

We reached out to DCRA to find out what is necessary in this scenario. The agency told us that a permit may be required to build the space depending on the zoning where the home is located. (A permit may also be required if new fencing will need to be constructed, though they didn’t go into great detail.) We have reached out to them for further information, and will add to this article when we receive it.

In the meantime, have any readers converted a portion of their property into a parking space? How easy was it, and what was the permitting process like, if there was one?

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/can_parking_in_the_alley_alleviate_the_street_parking_crush/7151


  1. GFR said at 8:32 pm on Tuesday June 4, 2013:
    I had no problem paving over a portion of my yard in Columbia Heights to create one parking space. As a courtesy, I alerted the local ANC what I was doing, but otherwise, it was easy.
  1. Lowet said at 9:41 pm on Tuesday June 4, 2013:
    Shilpi, I am curious to know what DCRA says about the zones where permits are required for this type of addition. I suspect that R-4 and single-family homes do not require permits for construction of a parking space, but that could be totally off.
  1. mona said at 12:12 am on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
    I am so glad this has come up. I see my neighbors complaining about parking but if you use google maps over the neighborhood nearly every house has room in the back yard for parking. Some have old abandoned cars back there or junk and yet they complain they can't find parking. This is a very good solution for the city and they should be pushing for it for every home owner who has space. The police will also have to step up and patrol alleys more to prevent people from being preyed upon or the cities could start lighting the alleys properly
  1. Andi Fleming said at 12:18 am on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
    You need a permit if you construct a garage for sure. I am not sure about where carports and the garage doors that do not have a structure fall. I think for a parking pad (gravel or concrete), you do not need a permit in most cases for residential single family homes. You always need a permit for a new fence, but not necessarily if you are replacing a fence.
  1. Andi Fleming said at 12:20 am on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
  1. 7r3y3r said at 2:01 pm on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
    I have a concrete parking pad in my backyard, but in hindsight I wish it was something more permeable, such as tire strips or checkered tiles, because when the car is not parked there, it's ugly. Also I like to use when hosting in the summer and a little grass would looks and feels nicer. Permeable surfaces are also better for the environment. Something to keep in mind for those contemplating adding parking to their backyard.
  1. Jason said at 3:33 pm on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
    Good point 7r3y3r... a citywide push for residents to pave over backyards will only add to DC's stormwater runoff and flooding issues. Alleys will turn into mud trenches. Pavers provide all the utility of a concrete pad, and still allow natural seepage of rain into the ground.
  1. Seth said at 7:43 pm on Wednesday June 5, 2013:
    If you have alley access to a rear yard you can add the parking no problem. I don't know why some people don't realize this and add the parking before listing....makes it more valuable.
  1. LittleContessa said at 3:05 pm on Friday June 7, 2013:
    Hi - I submitted the question that prompted this article and just wanted to thank Urban Turf and the readers who left comments. You've been very responsive and informative!
  1. david said at 8:15 pm on Saturday June 8, 2013:
    Fair Warning!: Well, let me tell you. My home in Eckington, which was built in 1912, had a garage that was torn down back in the 70's by my mother which sat at alley level (my home and yard sits up on a much higher grade level. I have the home now and all that was there was a parking pad, and a small side wall, 3'height along the alley side. My house is an end unit row house. In 2011, I had the broken small wall torn down, and a carport built (custom wood). Well, I as most people, don't have a clue about laws, permits, etc, so I'm thinking, well, it's my property so I had the car port built. A not so friendly relatively new neighbor down the alley report the DCRA and I got a stop work order(carport was completed) and had to go the a great deal and lots of paper. There was a lot forms, photos taken, paying for plats, getting drawings done, copying and running back and forth to 4th st sw to DCRA. I had to post a sign at my front door of my hearing date to the public which all took place from that time Aug 20011 up until say March 2012. Paid 1000K fine, which was really 2000K, printing this and that, attend ANC meeting in case anyone rejects my car port and and to prove why car port could not be attached(because of the layout of my home), and have that proof all with my paper work, got some letters from some neighbors in favor of my carport which I added a security light which they loved, etc. Had to make like 20 packets with all of my photos, letters, forms, etc, etc, etc since these would get distributed to different city personnel. I was a nervous wreck for almost a year since they could have told me to tear down my $3,400.00 car port. Had my hearing at the Dept of Zoning and got approved June 2012. And that hearing cost me another $350.00. And no one, I mean, no one could explain to me why the city doesn't allow detached car ports which went into effect back in the 30's I think. So always infer to DCRA when you don't know. You need permits if you going to install windows in your home even! If you're going through this and need some advice, I fell you. My email eckingtonwashdc@yahoo.com
  1. soulshadow55 said at 9:32 pm on Monday June 24, 2013:
    I live in a newer home in Columbia Heights (built in 1996). All of the 12 row houses in my complex have asphalt parking pads in the alley. A few of my neighbors had the money to actually build garages over their parking pads, but most of us just have chain-link fenses on the left and right of our pads. The pads are large enough for two cars (3 if you're really good as squeezing in tight.) I can't imagine what our street would be like if all of the residents in the rowhouses had to find street parking. It would truly be a mad-house and I definitely appreciate that the builder made that one smart design move and created our alley parking. It's the one thing that sold me on the house. I have a very old car and I work 2 jobs. It's a blessing to come home and know that I don't have to circle the block at 12 midnight looking for a space. And I agree that alley parking is a real under-utilized idea in D.C.'s parking hungry neighborhoods.

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