Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tinpe Website

John Tinpe, who is a candidate for the ANC2C 03 seat currently held by Doris Brooks, now has a website. It can be found here.

More on Dogs and One-way Streets

No posts recently because I was away and then catching up.

I'm not sure what's happening with Bundy Park. I spoke with one of the ladies who walk around the park in the morning last weekend. She said people are still taking dogs into the field despite the signs saying that is prohibited and someone seems to be taking down the signs. Also, some owners are still not picking up after their dogs. She also said that the walkers were afraid of the unleashed dogs and that she had been attacked or at least rushed by dogs a couple of times. I saw her a couple of days later and asked how things were going, and she said she thought it was a little better.

I still think it's a shame that both walkers and dog owners couldn't share the space, but there really is no excuse for not picking up the poop. Also, dog owners may know their pets, but to other people the same animals can look pretty scary--particularly big dogs not on leashes. I think it would be great to have a dedicated dog park, but in the meantime I think it behooves everyone to abide by the rules. I don't know if signs have been disappearing, but I only saw one on the fence this morning.

In my view, both groups have valid points to make, so why not try to engage each other in a dialogue instead of splitting into hostile camps. I think these little contacts can do a lot to reduce suspicions and quell unfounded rumors.

About the one-way street, there is a flyer being circulated by ANC incumbents Thorpe, Brooks, and Curtis, and candidate Sutherland, which implies, among other things, that the plan to make O Street between 6th and 9th one-way was part of an opposition conspiracy. The flyer says: "Look at what happened in the 600 block of O Streets, when they tried to turn it into a one-way street. We had no warning, no knowledge what-so-ever, about a one way street until we saw the signs going up; not only was the residents not notified, neither was the ANC representatives, that's how much they respect us. Because of calls made to DDot from our ANC representatives (Leroy Joseph Thorpe, Jr., Doris Brooks, Barbara Curtis) along with Mary Sutherland and residents of the affected communities, you will notice that the one-way street signs have come down. At least now we will have a say as to whether O Street is one-way or not, which is what should have been done at the beginning. SECRETS!"

As I noted in the previous post a couple of weeks ago, I personally don't really care if O Street is one- or two-way, but I thought it was odd that such a change was made without community notification. But I think it's equally odd that this would be attributed to these candidates' opposition. So I decided to ask councilman Evans's office if they could shed some light on how this plan came about. This is what I got back:

DDOT Director, Michelle Pourciau... provided the following information related to the changes in traffic patterns at 6th & O Streets, NW whic was received October 5th:

"I have confirmed that due to a mix up in DDOT, notification was not properly provided for the effort and the installation was not done properly. We have been working with the community and religious institutions in the area to expand parking opportunities along this street. Our original analysis envisioned angled parking and two-way traffic. We later found that two-way operation might be problematic with angle parking and did not give notification of this concern. We are proceeding immediately to restore two-way traffic while maintaining the angle parking as originally indicated in the notice. DDOT staff will be on site tomorrow, October 5, 2006, to initiate this process and work should be complete before the end of the week. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and again please accept my apologies for the delay in response, the DDOT mix-up, and the inconvenience to the community."

So, the original one-way parking from 6th to 7th Streets will remain. However, the idea of one-way from 7th - 9th is scrapped.

So it looks like the one-way plan was conceived by DDOT staff as part of a solution to the issue of Sunday double-parking near neighborhood churches. There seems to be no basis for the notion that any of the opposition candidates were behind the idea.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dogs and One-way streets

There's already a recap of Monday's ECCA meeting on the Mount Vernon Square blog, so I'm just going to comment on two issues that came up at that meeting. The common element is that both were changes that have an appreciable effect on residents that were presented suddenly as done deeds with no prior discussion--at least as far as I was aware.

I know a number of people are upset about the loss of the de facto dog park at Bundy Park, and I feel somewhat sympathetic although we never let our dogs run there because one of them can't be trusted around other dogs. I don't know how long people have been taking dogs there (one person told me he'd been taking his there for 8 years), but it seemed to be a kind of easy-going customary gathering place that was tolerated despite not being officially sanctioned. But because it wasn't really legal, that put a special obligation on dog owners to clean up after their pets and make sure they weren't threatening anyone. However, another dog owner told me that wasn't always the case--thus providing a plausible reason for shutting it down.

In my view, if you have a dog in the city you scoop the poop, law or no law, end of discussion. There's plenty of evidence--not just in Bundy Park--that some dog owners aren't doing that, and that casts everyone in a bad light. I don't know who the guilty parties are, but I see lots of people--both newcomers and longtime residents--walking their dogs around the neighborhood, so I see no basis for blaming it all on the former (or the latter).

Now the dog owners have been replaced in Bundy Park by walkers, mostly women, making the circuit inside the fence. I don't know why the two groups couldn't have coexisted (maybe the walkers were afraid of the dogs--many people are). Still it's a shame that little node of neighborhood camaraderie has been lost, and there should be room in this city to have a decent dog park.

What I think most rankles the dog owners, however, is that this just happened without warning or any attempt to work out a solution that might have accommodated everyone. That gave it an appearance of being petty and spiteful, even if it was just an enforcement of the law.

That leads me to the sudden change of the 600 and 700 block of O Street from two way to one way. I had noticed that the parking markings had changed but did not realize before the Monday meeting that the street had become one way. The strange thing is that as of this writing, there still is no sign at the 6th Street intersection (haven't checked 7th or 9th yet) that the street is one-way.

I don't really have a problem with the one-way thing, but my question is why was no one in the community notified that this was in the works? People do care about stuff like this, and everything else seems to come up for public discussion, so why wasn't this ever raised? I don't know whose responsibility that would have been, but it seems like a lapse to me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Shaw Main Streets Meeting

I hadn’t posted anything on last week’s Shaw Main Streets meeting partly because I was out of town (I ♥ NY), and I had kinda hoped someone else would. But since no one seems to have done so, here’s a brief synopsis. (I hope I got this right, my memory has faded and the notes are a little muddled.)

The presentations focused mainly on four projects: the Howard Theatre, Broadcast One, the NCRC Parcel 42 project, and the O Street Market.

The project to restore the Howard Theatre on T Street is moving along, even though there is still a lot of money to be raised to see it to completion as planned. The company (Ellis Development) that won the right to negotiate with the city has restored other theaters such as the Hippodrome in Baltimore, and the Boston Opera House. The intention is to make it primarily a venue for music performances, which is what it was back in its heyday. The lower (orchestra) floor will be made into cabaret-style table seating since the original seats are long gone. There will still be rows of seats in the balcony. It would also be home to the Washington Jazz Institute music school. It could come on line in 2009.

Broadcast One at Florida and 7th will be a mixed-use project combining office, retail, and 181 condos. There will be underground parking for both residents and patrons of the commercial parts.

The NCRC Parcel 42 project at Rhode Island and 7th will be a rental property intended to provide affordable housing at varying scales of discount from market rent levels. There would be about 96 units in the building.

The last half of the program was devoted to Roadside Development’s plans for the O Street Market site. A representative from Giant was present who described the plan to roughly double the size of the current store making it more or less the equivalent of the newer concept suburban stores that Giant is building. The new store would provide many consumer choices and services that the present store does not offer. Development of the plan was apparently delayed by the acquisition of Giant by the Stop-and-Shop supermarket chain, but the plan now has corporate approval.

The new Giant store would incorporate the remaining parts of the historic O Street market (some of which—like the roof—would be restored) and most of the block bounded by P, O, 7th, and 8th (which would be restored as a true street.) There would be a multi-level below-ground parking garage as well as on-street parking on O. There would be retail space for small businesses along O Street and townhouse-type commercial properties along 9th. Residential space would be in high rise buildings (about the same height as existing ones in the 1300 block of 7th), with entrance foyers on P Street. The plan is to set the hi-rise buildings back so that they would not be readily visible from the surrounding sidewalks. A rendering of the proposal can be found here.

As for the timing, the developers expect it will take close to a year to get the necessary permits and reviews completed, so actual ground-breaking might not take place until 2008. There would be a period of perhaps as long as two years when the Giant would not be operating, but the developers said that it would be simply impossible to keep the store going during construction of this magnitude and maintain a safe environment for customers.

Several residents expressed great concern about this—noting that many folks in the neighborhood have no cars and no good alternative for grocery shopping. The Giant rep said they were looking into providing shuttle service to nearby Giant stores for such residents. Other concerns were expressed regarding traffic patterns and displacing rat populations when demolition and construction began.

From what I could tell, the residents in attendance were generally in support of the O Street project, but were worried about the extended absence of a neighborhood supermarket, which to many people may be more akin to a public service than a business. These concerns are certainly understandable, given the lack of nearby alternatives. The new Safeway at 5th and NY Avenue will likely be operating by the time the Giant will close, but that is a considerable distance for many residents to go for groceries—especially on foot. Hopefully, something can be done to alleviate these problems, and I think the prospect of a thriving retail commercial center on that block (or two blocks, really) will be worth the pains of the transition. Personally, I hope it will proceed without unnecessary bureaucratic roadblocks

New Comment Policy

When I started this blog, the intention was to provide a community forum for information about things going on in the neighborhood and give people a place to air their views. I was operating under the assumption that pretty much everyone who lives in Shaw was interested in the same basic thing, i.e. to make the community a better place to live. This blog was intended to be a community-building tool, not something that would sow discord and create divisions.

Unfortunately, this blog has become a focus of unintended controversy, most of which seems to revolve around the upcoming ANC election. I have tried to be evenhanded and factual in what I have posted on that subject, but it's evident that there are strong opinions about the candidates which sometimes have been expressed in intemperate language by other people making comments--often anonymously--on my posts. That's pretty much the nature of blogs, and in other circumstances it might be okay, but I think we need to be mindful that in a changing neighborhood like this one, there are strains and tensions that should not be ignored and needlessly exacerbated.

So in the spirit of 'live and learn', I've decided to impose a policy of requiring commenters to provide their names--either a first name and last initial, or first initial and last name, or both names. I hope this will not deter people from making comments, but I do hope it will encourage some reflection before firing off with inflammatory language. So please, everyone feel free to comment, but let's keep it civil and think about the effect your words might have.

I believe strongly in the right to free speech, so I don't want to resort to censorship or shut off this blog, because many people have told me that they are glad it's here. But in the end, we all need to live peacefully together in this community, even if we don't all agree on everything.