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When the CVS at 5550 Connecticut Ave. NW receives deliveries, the entire sidewalk in front of the store is filled with red and gray bins holding toilet paper, bottles of water, AriZona Iced Tea, and all sorts of other goods that are stocked inside. The shipment creates a maze on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and McKinley Street NW, forcing pedestrians to dart between giant boxes of Kit-Kats or York Peppermint Patties.
The truck that dumps off the goods is massive, but its driver somehow manages to always find ample parking right in front of the store, in the heart of busy Chevy Chase. Residents of the neighborhood say the fact that there are always three or four empty spots when it’s time for the truck to arrive is no stroke of luck. According to neighbors, the store uses a special “No Parking” sign to turn metered spaces into its own loading zone, making parking even scarcer than it already is.
As one resident puts it, they’re “fucking things up for everybody.”
Justin Cuffley, 25, who lives around the corner from the CVS, says he has seen store workers use signs that are “metal and diamond-shaped” and “free-standing” in front of the door to discourage regular parkers. “I always thought they looked legit,” he says.
But on Aug. 8, an inspector from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) paid a visit to the store, following up on a tip that the signs being used to reserve parking spaces were not issued by the agency. Although no signage was in plain view, the manager admitted to using signs on delivery days. The inspector issued a warning and told management that the use of such signs is illegal and that continuing to use them could result in fines and other penalties.
Chevy Chase resident Evan McAnney says that despite the in-person visit, the signs are still placed out front in advance of the store’s weekly delivery. “The store manager does it, every week, about an hour before their delivery truck arrives,” says McAnney, who first noticed the signs about a month ago and immediately fired off a complaint to D.C. councilmembers. “They have had an in-person warning from [DDOT], and they’re still doing this.”
Larry Robinson, manager of Chevy Chase Wine and Spirits, which is next door to the CVS on the commercial strip, says he’s noticed a sign in the past but hasn’t spied it lately. It’s been about six months, in his estimation, since he’s seen store employees use a sign to reserve parking, and he believes deliveries are being made later, so as not to interfere with rush-hour traffic and after-work errands.
Robinson also says that, in the past, the store has used cardboard boxes to occupy parking in front of the store until its delivery truck arrived. DDOT Deputy Director Lars Etzkorn says that such a practice is, again, a violation of city regulations. “I would encourage anyone who wanted to park there to move that box,” Etzkorn says, “unless it was so heavy that they might hurt themselves. Then I would not want them to do that.”
Employees of the CVS store declined to comment on the situation, and Mike DeAngelis, the company’s manager of corporate communications, says that trucks that deliver to the store weekly use only nonmetered parking spaces while unloading and deliveries never take more than two hours, max. “Store staff does place portable ‘Loading Zone’ signs by the truck while it is being unloaded for the safety of both our employees and the public,” DeAngelis says.
But, according to Etzkorn, if such signs are used to divert drivers, rather than just inform them of the unloading taking place, they’re unenforceable, and their use is unauthorized. While the physical signs themselves are not illegal, any parking violations they may encourage—double parking and zoning time limits, for instance—are subject to ticketing and fines.
When it comes to piling crap on sidewalks—that, too, is an illegal use of public space. And it’s a problem hardly confined to the chain’s Chevy Chase outlet. A picture of a sidewalk-clogging delivery to the CVS at 15th and K Streets NW was recently posted to the Metroblogging D.C. Web site. And sources near the Thomas Circle CVS location describe a familiar litany of complaints—not only do delivery trucks fill the sidewalk with bins, but they are noisy and block in parked cars. “Usually, it’s a lot of stuff,” says an area worker about the CVS bins. “It [is] in the way, and people are trying to get past.”
“We have the ability to set the rules as to how the curb space is used,” says Etzkorn. “We recognize that CVS needs to have delivery of merchandise—we want stores in the District, and we want them to have inventory, things for sale. We need to manage that in a way that is as consistent as possible with the adjacent uses.”
The best way to do that, Etzkorn says, is for DDOT and the business to work with the community to come up with a solution—typically, that means establishing loading zones with time restrictions, which they hope to do in front of the Connecticut Avenue CVS. He adds that it’s in no one’s interest to tie up parking: “Stores not only want to accept goods, they want to sell them to customers. There needs to be a balance for the use of curb space.”
Because of the parking issues, as well as the problem of bins filled with merchandise crowding the sidewalks, Etzkorn says that a closer look at CVS might be warranted. “It sounds like we may need to do an education effort with CVS in [the city] about how it manages delivery of goods to its stores,” he says. “I doubt this particular store is unique.”
Robinson, from the Chevy Chase liquor store, sympathizes with the store and its delivery woes. “They can’t get to the back door—where are they gonna park?” he asks. “It’s a bad situation…but I was stunned they had the nerve to put up their own sign.”CP