Someone forgot to check one small thing before putting up those free parking signs

Washingtonians flocked to the city’s Green P lots Saturday to grab free parking — until the green signs turned red and people had to pay.

Some green signs that went up around neighborhoods along the Anacostia River were fake, said Rachel Boros of the Civic Consulting Alliance, which has contracted with WADA Group to oversee pedestrian and green spaces in the city. WADA is a private consulting company with the city’s Office of Planning.

“It was a $10,000 mistake,” Boros said.

The park spaces were open to the public for a few hours after the off-peak park time ended. Green signs read: “FREE PARKING TOMORROW Only. Private Lot on The Border of N. Waterfront Park? Come Here and Save Downtime for Your Showers and Cooler.”

Some signs went up at North Waterfront and were red a couple of times before being resolved, according to Boros. There were about 60 to 75 signs out, and most could be solved by talking to a manager or checking on the company website, she said. But when a $10,000 mistake was made, people were the ones who were confused.

“You can be sure we’ll fix this as soon as possible,” she said.

The signs have been removed, and no additional signs are planned. The Civic Consulting Alliance is working to put out its own set of “big green signs” instead, she said.

Boros said the signs were put up at North Waterfront at a time when the city was studying its parking to see if it needs to regulate permits or use a grace period on off-peak parking or extend parking times for overnight parking in downtown areas.

“It wasn’t because we were thinking of the city right now,” she said.

The Washington Post has written several stories in recent months about opportunities to offer free off-peak parking on city lots. Under a program called Charge It!, residents can pay no more than $2 an hour for off-peak parking on lots in District government lots for residents, drivers with garages or on-street spaces. Payment options include cash, debit, credit card and Relay services.

Anyone who experiences problems with parking in their area can report it online at

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