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Citizens Association to Boston Properties: Give Parking Money Back to Community

by Dave Emke — March 29, 2017 at 11:45 am 55 Comments

The Reston Citizens Association says it wants Boston Properties to give the money it is collecting from paid parking at Reston Town Center — a number the group projects to be $8 million annually — back to the community.

In a Tuesday statement, RCA says it has attempted to engage with Boston Properties for more than a year in the effort to “find a compromise that would allow the Town Center to retain its character while respecting [BXP]’s development rights.” Further, the Citizens Association challenged Boston Properties to — if paid parking is here for good — commit the revenue to “community betterments and activities that benefit Reston.”

“RCA makes this call because of the misinformation and untruths that [BXP] provided to RCA. From the very beginning, knowing how central the cellphone app would be for the paid parking experience, RCA asked many questions regarding how the App would work. Despite the assurances that were given to RCA that the ParkRTC App would provide a very user-friendly experience, today it is clear this is patently not true.”

In its statement, RCA says the paid-parking system is “confusing, contradictory and [the] subject of great frustration for users.” The citizens’ organization says it stands with merchants and others who are calling for the system to be scrapped or significantly overhauled.

Last week, Jackson’s restaurant filed a lawsuit against Boston Properties regarding the implementation of the paid-parking system. Other merchants within the Town Center say they are likely to do the same, and they continue to organize events to shed light on their displeasure.

The Citizens Association says it is willing to continue to work with Boston Properties on any mutually acceptable agreement that can be found.

“[BXP] has in the past been a good and generous manager of the Reston Town Center and can be this again. RCA stands ready to work with [BXP] to address its legitimate concerns about commuter parking while at the same time preserving the open and welcoming character of the Town Center that has made it such a centerpiece of our community and the greater region.”

  • tattler

    I see two approaches the RCA can take in an effort to change the paid parking situation. First, as they have already attempted, they can try to bring Boston Properties to the table in an effort to compromise. If that doesn’t work, the RCA should try to rally residents to take up their own lawsuit. Boston Properties appears to be a very dumb barnyard animal that does’t respond well to carrots, so a stick may be in order.

    • Donald

      Tattler,

      While I wholeheartedly agree with you, what would the Reston residents’ lawsuit entail? What is the legal reasoning?

      Donald

      • tattler

        See above. A lawsuit may not have any merit. The spirit of my post was the RCA seems the ideal organization to rally residents to see if that is the case. Not a lawyer here but I definitely think you can qualify and quantify the negative affects this fiasco is having on residents. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to buy at the RTC now. If this sentiment is shared by others then perhaps there is some justification for a lawsuit because Boston Properties is negatively impacting property values.

        • Donald

          Tattled,

          I appreciate the passion, and perhaps there is a legal argument there, somewhere. Worth chewing on.

          Having gone to the RCA website, I’m not sure they are the best entity to represent the Community. They appear to be a one-directional blog site, more often than not, repeating news with an opinion. No comments anywhere.

          I’ve seen much stronger citizen-led grassroots initiatives, like Rescue Reston, save Browns Chapel, etc.

          Donald

      • Why do you bother?

        Reston residents in general have no standing in this matter. BP is completely within its rights as a property owner to institute any moronic penny-wise/pound-foolish parking policy it wishes to. The only parties with standing to sue are those with a contractual relationship with BP.

        One can only hope that it backfires on them spectacularly.

    • ichrysso

      On what grounds? BP is within their right to charge for parking on their own private property. The only exception to this would be if they breached contract (as it appears they did with Jackson’s) and my hope is that other retailers had the foresight to negotiate the same. Don’t get me wrong – I think this was a stupid decision and the negative PR and backlash does not seem to be worth the revenue.

      • tattler

        On what grounds? If I was a resident of the RTC, and I could not sell as a direct result of BP’s paid parking business decision, and my services and/or quality of life was impacted for the same reasons, I think I’d see if a lawsuit had legs at that point.

        • JoeInReston

          I would guess that the residents have a separate parking policy in place that varies from the customer policy.

    • Jenny Gibbers

      You have to know the people behind RCA to get a feeling for whats going on there. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would I want RCA to represent my interests and I am sure many others would agree.

      BXP is smart in comparison, lets not give in by reaching for cash that is no longer ours, it would be like accepting a bribe.

      Appreciate your willing to help the situation tho. Please change your mind on this.

  • The Constitutionalist

    This is a terrible idea. Giving it back to the community is the same as not taking at all. Taking $2 from me and giving $2 back does not make it a gift, it makes us even.

    • Donald

      Absolutely agree. Never demand giving of anyone!

      Donald

  • Heh

    The same snowflake ninnies who bought the Tetra building! They are wise guardians of their fiscal responsibilities…

    • Mike M

      Different group.

      • Judith V

        But same mentality.

      • Bernie Supporter

        Different group. Same results predicted.

  • BooBots

    Terrible idea. Merely a kneejerk redistributionist mindset. Better to ‘let the market decide’. And, guess what? it has decided. We will not pay it, period. And it is killing RTC! Boston Properties must cancel their horrible mistake…or face the consequences.

  • JoeInReston

    The protest of the paid parking policies is going fairly well. Word is getting out through the Washington Post and NPR. Jackson’s is suing. The other merchants are strongly considering a separate lawsuit. A second protest is in the works. Business at the RTC is shrinking (short term good, long term bad). Boston Properties has hired a crisis p/r firm. It is clear that the protest is working.

    So with all this momentum, the Reston Citizens Assocation comes along with a give-to-the-community olive branch. This is an awful idea. Boston Properties can accept the offer and offer token concessions (“we’ll sponsor kids soccer t shirts”) or concessions that ultimately benefit the RTC, much like a class action remedy where the aggrieved are offered coupons to the plaintiff’s products.

    This is like when your in the middle of a negotiation that is going well, and somebody from your own party goes against script and makes a horribly weak proposition that sets back the negotiation. What were they thinking?

    • Donald

      I have to agree. This appears to be a way for RCA to validate themselves.

      They never asked me what I thought before writing the letter.

      Donald

    • Bernie Supporter

      Worse. Its like when Sonny Corleone tells the other bad guys that, yes, he also believes that there’s big money to be made in development … of the drug trade..

  • Scott

    Frankly, this is all stupid. BP doesn’t care about a bunch of people with signs on Reston parkway and calls to compromise. There is no reason to compromise. They care about money and money only. And, you know what. That’s okay. They are running a business and have every right to extract every dollar they can.
    The market, and only the market will force a policy change. I believe the market is working as it is evident that visits and spending is way down at RTC.
    The Tenants of RTC may have standing for a lawsuit if they believe the terms of the lease have been violated and they have suffered damages as a result.

    No citizen group, no protest, no suggestion of donating the money will have any effect. Don’t want to pay for parking? Don’t go to RTC. The silent protest of simply going elsewhere is LOUDER than any protest or lawsuit.

    • cRAzy

      Sometimes extracting every dollar you can is not a good business strategy.

      • Scott

        That’s why I said the market would drive change if it was needed. Picket signs will not.

        • Bernie Supporter

          Yeah, it sure didn’t help pass the Civil Rights Act of ’64

          • Scott

            Are you really comparing governmental policy with what a company does legally on their private property?

            You have just epitomized the core of what it means to be a supporter of crazy uncle Bernie.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Yeah, genius. That’s exactly what I did. Shows you know how to read. Good for you.

            Oh, and thanks for the unexpected compliment.

    • Why do you bother?

      Exactly right!

    • Generic User

      I would vote for you.

    • Irena Gallier

      I think you are not considering the effect on BP of protests. They insure the issue is easily discovered by a simlle Google search.

      Any business considering enterring into a lease in the town center area is going to therefore be aware BP’s sunny claims about RTC are based on a fantasy. They will either decline to move there or will insist on lower lease rates. That will get BP’s attention quicker than existing tenants moving out when their leases expire in 3 or 4 years.

      BP is looking to expand. That requires financing and an indication of new tenants. This is going to make it much harder for them to get that.

  • Jenny Gibbers

    If I were BXP I would take the easy way out, put out a new mantra like

    》proud sponsor of community action!《

    This could be a huge blow to what was achieved so far!

    “The Citizens Association says it is willing to continue to work with Boston Properties on any mutually acceptable agreement that can be found”

    RCA should retract and consult with lawyers immediately!

    • Wm Nix

      RCA is full of the mindless wonders that are destroying Reston

    • MichaelB

      I believe that she RCA proposal is ridiculous. We still have to pay for parking and out of towners couldn’t care less if parking money is paid back to the community.

      I sympathize with the merchants, especially those that rely on quick visit shoppers who don’t want to pay $2-$3 just to pick up some ice cream, a hamburger, or some drugs at the CVS.

      I cannot understand why street parking is $3 with a two hour limit, and ONLY Sundays are free–no holidays (some holidays, such as MLK’s birthday, aren’t even included for parking lots). The empty streets make the place look like a ghost town. The street parking issue is rarely even mentioned in articles addressing this problem. I also sympathize with myself, a resident of the RTC, who is reluctant to invite a group of friends to meet here (indeed I won’t).

      My guess is that part of the inflexibility of Boston Properties is because their software can handle only so many exceptions to their parking fee structure. That could be changed. My proposal would be:

      Eliminate paid parking at 6:00 pm-7:00 am the following day;
      Treat garage and street parking the same way (adjust enforcement methods to accommodate this);
      Allow short term parking at both meters and the garages for free;
      Provide free parking for people with disabilities on the street and in the garages;
      Cover all national holidays with free parking everywhere;
      Provide merchants with free parking for customers (say, 1 hr or 2 hr depending on the establishment (maybe 3 hr for the theatre).

      It is no excuse that the digital system will not allow for this. That can be modified. The objective is to let people enjoy the place and become customers rather than pretending that the RTC is a special place rather than an unfriendly money pit dedicated to Boston Properties’ bottom line.

      I have lived in Reston for 45 years, almost 10 of which in the RTC. This issue plus the most probable end of one of our most important open spaces–the Reston National Golf Course–has, at least to me, diminished the attractiveness and desireability of this community even though the people who remain here sill make this one of the nicest places to live.

  • Let market forces work. BP will be found to be right or found to have made a mistake and then market forces wil work. Giving to RCA is stupid idea. No one is going to pay for parking and be happy and happy ljust because the money is going to the March of RCA Dimes. The only thing that will influence BP is the market. If the complicated pay to park (PTP) has no influence on the over all success of RTC then no change will take place but it seems to me that the TC will have to have a complete business overall to be successful. But the market will tell.

  • EliteinReston

    Boston Properties already gives back to the community by providing a quality town center with numerous amenities that are the envy of cities elsewhere. That is why the company’s poor handling of the parking fee is so puzzling. They did not tell their tenants or the community in advance. They did not study the impact of fees on low-wage town center workers in advance, forcing them to retreat. They did not properly test the app in advance to make it as easy as possible to pay the fee. They did not consider the impact of the fee on free parking at the adjacent Spectrum Center. Worst of all, they refused to compromise with the community when a reasonable solution exists: Free parking for a few hours on weekdays, and no fees on weeknights after commuting hours.

    • BT

      If BP was really concerned about Metro riders taking their parking spaces all they had to do was install a gated parking system (like, I don’t know, every other big commercial property in DC metro) and provide the first 2-3 hours free. This would eliminate free METRO riders, still generate some revenue, placate shoppers and diners, provide for an easy validation method, etc. See Pentagon Row, Bethesda Row, Pike and Rose, etc, etc. They tried to reinvent the wheel with their crazy method using license plate cameras, meters and apps.

  • Joyce W

    This is possibly the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. I am not paying for parking at the Town Center. Ever.

  • Reston Resident

    Hey RCA, you don’t get it. We’re not paying for parking. Not paying Boston Properties. Not paying you.

  • RestonGrandma

    I don’t know who gave RCA the authority to negotiate with BP but it certainly wasn’t the residents of Reston. This is a stupid idea. The boycott is working, Jackson’s lawsuit is working, no one is in favor of paying for parking so BP can “give it back to the community”. RCA, don’t negotiate for us – we didn’t ask you to!

    • AlexR

      We certainly didn’t!

    • Steven

      Well granny we are gonna get your money back

  • Paul Misencik

    I heard on the news today (WTOP) that RTC business have experienced a 30% decline in customers since the paid parking went into effect. Boston Properties should be getting that message.

    • Generic User

      They don’t read the news. Too many big words.

  • Bobby Love

    Agree with the comments about “giving the money back” – a ridiculous idea.
    Lets play “never take the people’s money” instead. We don’t need what is effectively another tax with the money now going to RCA – whatever that is – never heard of it before and the only presence on the web is on blogspot.com!?

    • Donald

      I rarely pile on, but I agree. Who put RCA in charge?

      They appear to be out there meeting with entities under the guise of Reston member representation.

      At one end of the spectrum, I question the legality of such efforts. To the other end of the spectrum, they potentially confuse if not diminish community intentions.

      While, I’m not a big fan of RA at the moment – I assume they are the official entity representing Reston member interests. If anyone is negotiating anything on behalf of Reston members (especially legal) — it better be the association.

      Donald

  • Why do you bother?

    Why on earth would they consider such a preposterous proposal? They instituted this policy for one reason: to make more $$. They don’t give a hoot about “bettering Reston.

    The naivete displayed during this debacle is mind-boggling.

    • Generic User

      Next you will tell us Santa isn’t real. I mean, clearly, he is and I count on his yearly coal deliveries so that I may feel the warmth of any love at all.

      • Why do you bother?

        About the Easter Bunny…

  • Generic User

    Nice pitch by RCA to get funding. How about going back to Plan A where were don’t pay for parking at all for three hours? Seems to me the only thing RCA is doing is showing how misguided they are and pissing off us parkers, many of which are the residents of Reston they are supposedly representing.

    • Bernie Supporter

      That’s the great lie that BP wants you to swallow. That paid parking is a wonderful, benevolent scheme to prevent commuters from using up all our parking spaces and leaving us with none. Of course, if that were really the case, they could just charge for parking from 8-10 AM. After that, mostly everyone is already at their job.

  • New Reston

    Resistance is futile. What a waste of time. The impending golf course sale, rezoning, and development too. Forget it. Fairfax County is developer friendly. In the long term – Reston’s Master Plan won’t prevent rezoning and development. Developers will eventually convince the county to acquiesce. Move on and invest your time and energy elsewhere.

    • Bernie Supporter

      Terrified you’re right. Prayerful that you’re wrong.

  • 30yearsinreston

    More rent seekers
    No paid parking !

    • Nope

      When you charge rent for the use of your own property, that’s not “rent seeking”. It is what you are entitled to do. (Whether or not it’s wise in this case is another matter.)

      “Rent seeking” would be correct if BP convinced the government to let them charge people for the use of something which BP does not own.

  • 30yearsinreston

    Why not sic the DRB on BP

    The aesthetic police can bore them to death

  • Anthony V

    Hey RCA, you don’t speak for me nor represent me in any way. I’m not shopping at any RTC businesses until the parking situation is resolved by removing all paid parking or set to something like Tyson’s. There are plenty of other places to go.

  • JoeInReston

    One last thought …

    Surprised and disappointed that the Reston Community Association didn’t bother to respond, clarify, and/or defend their statement. Certainly somebody from RCA must be aware of the uproar their statement caused in this comment section.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean participating in the comments section, although that would have been nice. The RCA could have responded by posting a new statement on their blog addressing the concerns mentioned here.

    The second bullet of RCA mission statement – “to engage the community by actively listening and communicating with Reston residents in writing and in public meetings” – talks about engagement and communication. That would be nice to see right now.

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