Apparently a new restaurant in Church Hill (25th and M) is being held hostage by our society’s addiction to cars. According to church hill people’s news, Que Pasa- a Cuban, S. American, and Puerto Rican restaurant all rolled into one- is simply awaiting a Certificate of Occupancy before it can open. The holdup? The city requires businesses to have parking. And a shared parking arrangement already in place is, apparently, not good enough. From chpn.net:

As a sit-down restaurant, the business is required to have a certain number of parking spots available. To meet this requirement, Sanchez has arranged to rent parking spots from the city-owned EDI directly across M Street. This was an arrangment agreed to by the Mayor and approved unanimously by the City Council. As the restuarant will only be open evening and weekends, when demand is low at EDI, this should not be a problem.

The newish Commissioner of Buildings for the Department of Community Development, Art Dahlberg (scroll to the 2nd bio)(Dahlbead@ci.richmond.va.us, 646-6624), has apparently decided that this arrangement is illegal, and will not issue the Certificate of Occupancy.

Seriously, does the city want to destroy some historic buildings and pave over the lot to make room for cars?

I have serious issues with a policy that requires parking for every business. I’m not a rabid free-market kind of person, but this is one instance where I think it should be up to the market to decide how much parking a business needs. Isn’t it in the business owner’s interest to figure that out? If she needs more parking, the owner will find it. If not, why is the city requiring it?

I’m sure part of the reason involves not wanting to overwhelm residential neighborhoods with parking problems, but there are so many ways to solve that. Neighborhood parking permits, or time restricted parking would solve that problem.

This particular restaurant is in a dense, walkable, urban neighborhood. It’s on a bus route. And it’s found parking to share with someone else. Let them open. And better yet, kill the parking requirements.

Portland, Oregon did just that to revitalize their warehouse/arts district: the Pearl District. The city built a few parking garages and removed requirements for individual businesses and residential developers to provide parking. They built a streetcar, which is free within the downtown and Pearl Districts. And the neighborhood came to life with more than 50 restaurants, 10+ condo buildings, 30 art galleries, 60 furniture/antique shops, as well as national chain stores like REI & North Face. Richmond should take note. Stop destroying our historic architecture and decreasing density to make space for cars.

And on an activist note, again from chpn.net: “Sanchez is asking that you stop by the restaurant and sign their petition, and to contact Dahlberg and Mayor Wilder (wilderld@ci.richmond.va.us, 646-7970) to register your support for the opening of the restaurant.”

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