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On 23rd Street NW between L and M Streets, would-be parkers don’t have many options. The west side of the busy strip features only a handful of time-limited curb spaces, plus a small aboveground lot for drivers visiting residents of the apartment buildings lining the street. The only other choice is the underground garage below the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, where the hourly rate rises quickly to its $15 cap.

But people who live in the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton—the luxury condominiums on the back side of the hotel, which fetch between $750,000 and $5,650,000 per unit—don’t need to go underground. They’ve commandeered their own front-door spaces in a pair of curbside pull-in zones.

The two lay-bys are marked with signs reading “15 Minute Parking Hotel Guest Loading Only At All Times.” But the front door of the hotel is on 22nd Street NW, and permanent residents at the Ritz routinely use the spaces for free street parking. Department of Public Works spokesperson Mary Myers says parking-enforcement officers can’t visit the stretch frequently enough to catch weekday violators and don’t patrol it at all on weekends. On a recent Sunday afternoon, several luxury cars, including a silver Jaguar and a silver Mercedes—both with D.C. plates—took advantage of the loading zones for hours at a stretch.

A Ritz-Carlton employee said the Jaguar was owned by “a resident,” adding, “She’s in the restaurant—she’ll be right back.” Several hours later, the Jaguar and the Mercedes were still parked in the same spots.

Matthew Hall, spokesperson for the Ritz-Carlton’s developer and management company, Millennium Partners, declines to comment on use of the loading zones. Bill Rice, spokesperson for the District Department of Transportation, says that lay-bys such as those on 23rd Street are designed for quick stops. “Lay-bys are meant to help everyone,” he says. “They help people loading and unloading their cars without stopping traffic and allow pedestrians to use the streets.”

The current 15-minute signs, Rice says, were a quick fix. “One year ago, there were no lay-by restrictions, and cars were using them as a free space,” he says. “We were contacted by hotel management, and we put up ‘No Parking Entrance’ signs there, so people could load and unload. But they had to stay with their vehicle, so hotel guests and residents would load and unload their cars and get ticketed.

“After another discussion with hotel management, we put up the 15-minute signs, which seem to work pretty well,” Rice continues. “The idea is that people can load and unload their cars and then move them to the parking garage beneath the building.” The Department of Transportation is looking for more appropriate signs, Rice says, given that actual hotel guests generally come in the other side.

But Ritz-Carlton residents seem unconcerned about the current restrictions. #West End resident John Butler says that he often sees the same cars parked in the spaces for extended stretches. “People do park there,” says Butler. “But I’ve never seen anyone unloading anything.” CP