As some of you know, the Lauriol Plaza valet parking situation can range from being a nuisance to being a safety hazard. When traffic backs up and blocks the intersection, emergency vehicles cannot pass.
Before the 18th Street reconstruction began in 2010, I hosted a meeting with Lauriol Plaza management, DDOT Public Space officials, and MPD. The valet situation had already been somewhat problematic, but the new project added the pedestrian “bulbout” to the corner, making it even easier for cars waiting for valet to block the intersection. The group agreed at that discussion to see how things developed after the bulbout was installed. Arguably, things are worse now.
Lauriol Plaza has had valet parking since before the recent valet parking regulations went into effect, but they are not grandfathered. The new regulations require a valet parking permit from DDOT Public Space, if any public space is used in staging. Lauriol uses public space both in the driveway curtain and on T Street between the corner and the parking lot. This is not legal without a valid permit.
Lauriol Plaza recently engaged an off-duty police officer to assist the valets in moving traffic along during peak hours. I also spoke with Deputy Chief Groomes, who informed both the off-duty police staff and the regular MPD detail for our area (PSA 301) that Lauriol Plaza has unpermitted valet, so the off-duty officer now is working to prevent cars from idling or staging anywhere in public space. DDOT has also been notified by both me and by Chief Groomes, and they committed to send investigators who can issue fines if violations are found.
In the long term, I think that a validly permitted staging area on 18th Street, in front of the restaurant close to the Swann alley, would be the best system. Lauriol has too much volume and too many patrons to avoid using any public space at all. It’s not realistic to make them only use their small lot. Hopefully, with this added pressure from DDOT and MPD, we can discuss this 18th Street option with Lauriol Plaza management.