In the past 10 years, the Columbia Heights neighborhood and surrounding area has changed dramatically with massive development of commercial property. These changes have also brought higher rent prices and the displacement of many low income individuals due to the the lack of affordable housing in the area.
This displacement has forced many members of congregations in the area to move far away from their congregations, but they are still very much part of the community. This means more people commuting to their home churches, increasing the already considerable parking troubles and traffic in the neighborhood.
Sacred Heart RC, All Souls UU and Kelsey Temple of God leaders, after talking with many members of their congregations who had identified parking as a crucial issue affecting their church lives, came together to address this problem and identified a practical, immediate solution. Leaders who were longtime or new DC residents stood in solidarity with former residents who were priced out of the neighborhood to behind a solution to affirm everyone’s place in the community. This solution was to use the underutilized parking garage at the DCUSA complex, which is owned by the D.C government, and encourage members to park there at a reduced rate on Sundays. Leaders gathered over 150 petitions from DC residents and neighbors in support of the solution.
Leaders such as Fr. Kevin Thompson, ANC commissioner Laina Aquiline, All Souls lay leader Jan Smart and Athelea Haggins from Kelsey Temple of God met with the Deputy Mayors Office on Economic Development to discuss the feasibility of this solution. After petitions, surveys and meetings with the office and councilmember Jim Graham, we can now announce that a pilot program will be implemented in the near future where individuals both from these congregations and from the community can enjoy a reduced rate of $3 for 4 hours of parking on Sundays.
Members of neighborhood institutions displaced by the recent development can now return to church with a little more ease, and neighbors can park with more ease in thier own neighborhood. This victory occurred because of the organizing efforts of the three institutions, coming together and providing a concrete solution to the problem they saw because of the gentrification of the area.