Pocket Park Controversy Ends

DDOT Reconsiders Characterization of a Pocket Park as 'Public Parking'

In a letter dated June 11 to ANC 6A Chair Nick Alberti, the DC Department of Transportation's (DDOT) Acting Director Matthew T. Brown stated that the agency had “reconsidered its prior characterization of Reservation 266 as public parking.”

A pocket park that formed the western section of Reservation 266 had become the center of a community controversy after Joyce West and Mark Kadesh, owners of an adjacent home, had been granted a permit by DDOT to landscape the parcel adjoining their property. The landscaping enclosed a section of the pocket park by limiting egress to Kadesh-West's property and an entrance located at the center of the parcel. When the permit was challenged by ANC 6A and other members of the community, the agency determined it to valid by designating the entire federal reservation as 'public parking.'

DDOT now appears to have reversed course. The “various triangle parks under DDOT's jurisdiction are integral elements of the L'Enfant Plan that should be maintained as parks and preserved as publicly accessible neighborhood amenities for the use and enjoyment of all,” wrote Brown in his June letter to Alberti.

“I understand the ANC's concern that DDOT's previous classification of Reservation 266 as public parking in response to the adjacent property owners request to landscape and maintain the area, carries with it the implication that the adjacent property owners could have exclusive use of the park to the possible detriment of the surrounding community,” wrote Brown. “I want to assure you that this was not the intent of the classification,” Brown stated.

In line with DDOT's new Open Space Preservation and Enhancement Policy, Brown promised, henceforth, “all permit applications for improvements to triangle parks must not 'change the real or implied function of the park as public open space.'” The new policy requires all such permits be forwarded to the appropriate ANC for review and comment prior to issuance.

Furthermore, Brown promised to pursue a change to Title 24 of the definition of public parking in the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations that would exclude all federal reservations from the District's power to designate land as public parking in future.

“DDOT is committed to working with the community and the adjacent property owners to modify the current landscaping to improve public access to Reservation 266, while providing the adjacent property owners the opportunity to beautify and maintain the green space immediately adjacent to their home,” Brown stated.

Recently, West and Kadesh had applied for a permit to fence the section of Reservation 266 partially enclosed by their landscaping. Given Brown's letter and DDOT's new policy, it appears that application is now moot.