Council considers bill to cap parking fees for D.C. farmers markets

The Petworth Community Market operates on Saturdays from May to November at 9th and Upshur streets NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/May 2015)

After the Petworth Community Market complained that soaring parking meter fees were placing its operations in jeopardy, the D.C. Council is reviewing a bill to cap the charges billed to farmers markets.

The bill — introduced by Council members Brandon Todd, Mary Cheh, Robert White, Jack Evans, Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau on Sept. 19 — would cap a market’s meter fees at $50 a day. Currently, markets are assessed the hourly rates for all parking spaces within the area they’re occupying.

According to Todd, the idea for the bill came after the Petworth market — which operates on Saturdays from May to November at 9th and Upshur streets NW — saw an almost 800 percent increase in its meter fees this year.

Petworth’s farmers market was charged nearly $9,000 for parking meter fees in 2017. (Brian Kapur/The Current/May 2015)

“I would hate to see the death of D.C. farmers markets,” Todd told The Current. “I think that having the opportunity to have … a farmers market right here in Petworth or anywhere else in the city is an asset. It brings locally grown produce, vegetables, fresh food, all kinds of merchandise. And it really brings together communities.”

Citywide, farmers markets were billed $38,051 for parking meters in 2015 and $98,822 in 2016, and had already been assessed $157,839 in 2017 through August, according to Petworth market organizer Lauren Anderson. The Petworth market specifically was assessed $990.64 in meter fees in 2016, a number that increased to $8,841.69 in 2017.

The change is largely due to an increase in hourly meter rates throughout the District. Previously costing $2 per hour in high-demand areas and 75 cents an hour elsewhere, the meters increased to $2.30 citywide last summer. Some previously free spaces have also received parking meters over the years, Anderson added.

Although the Petworth market was able to sustain itself this year, if fees remain high, the volunteer-run market projects that it won’t be able to continue past 2019, Anderson said. This year, the market stopped hosting local musicians to save money.

“That they’re profiting off a volunteer organization that serves the community is frustrating,” Anderson said.

She also took issue with the fact that markets are charged meter fees for all spaces that they use, even though some operate at times when many of the spaces would likely be left vacant.

Other farmers markets throughout the city have seen increases in their meter fees as well. FreshFarm — which operates markets throughout the District — has seen significant increases in meter fees at some of their markets, though others have remained relatively static, FreshFarm senior manager Pierre Grahn said. In 2014, their H Street NE market paid $1,080, a figure that increased to more than $3,000 this year. Fees for FreshFarm’s market near the White House have increased more than fourfold.