Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DC Government 2009 Wish List - Top 10

The top 10 areas that I'd like to see progress on in 2009 -- or at least the top 10 that come to mind at the moment....

10. DDOT addresses dangerous intersections, such as the crosswalks at New York Avenue NW at 4th and 5th Streets NW where pedestrians have 20 seconds to cross 6-10 lanes of traffic.

9. DC government disposes/better maintains the hundreds of vacant property it OWNS throughout the city, such as properties in the Home Again program.

8. MPD provides assurance that ShotSpotter (detects the location of gunfire instantly) is fully operation and producing results in the Third District.

7. Election reform ensures every citizen's vote is actually counted (no more touch screen ballots without a paper trail). Consideration of eliminating set-aside seats for minority parties on the DC Council and authorizing open primaries through a referendum vote.

6. Generally, more consistent enforcement of DC laws -- all of them -- and applying the law equally to all, i.e. permitting/construction and "quality-of-life crimes."

5. An effective, well-managed Advisory Neighborhood Commission representing the Shaw, Mount Vernon, and Penn Quarter neighborhoods.

4. Tax relief and other support for small businesses in areas that were hit by high property tax increases over the past decade so that they do not go under and find themselves replaced with more Starbucks and Subways.

3. The DC Council stops giving away public property (i.e. the Southwest waterfront for $1 a year for 99 years) without a transparent, open competitive bidding process. Next up: Franklin School?

2. Renovation of abandoned and neglected parks, such as Carter G. Woodson Park, 2nd and Massachusetts Avenue NW, 6th and N Street, or the Chinatown Park at 5th and Massachusetts Avenue NW. Let's see at least one more forward in 2009! Also - more dog parks.

1. When federal legislation to provide DC with a vote in the House fails yet again (or is declared unconstitutional), I hope the DC Council will restart discussion of true Home Rule issues (as opposed to license plates and billboards at the baseball stadium). Potential action items include having our own prosecutors and judges, an elected attorney general, placing federally-controlled small parks (aka "reservations") under DC control, and legislative and budgetary autonomy. DC Council passes a resolution urging Congress to move forward in one or more of these areas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year to all! Tune back in on January 2, 2009 when The Other 35 Percent goes back online.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rent Control (for developers)

Councilmember David Catania: "We are handing over the property to people and we don’t know what it’s worth.... So this is dumb. But we are where we are."
DC Council website.

In the wee hours of Tuesday night, the D.C. Council approved, through "emergency legislation," a land transfer deal to develop the Southwest Waterfront.

The deal includes leasing 16 acres of the most valuable property the District owns to developer PN Hoffman for the sum of $1 per year for 99 years. The ultimate rent control.

It's the largest deal in recent memory outside of the baseball stadium and the convention center, yet you won't find more than a peep from the media on it. (You can read what DC Watch's The Mail said here). Observers of the council hearing (and you can watch it live here at 10:36:30), report that some members of the Council did not know the details of what they were voting on and deals were being cut in the hallway outside as the hearing was going on.

It's an exciting project, but is giving away our most valuable property for a buck a good deal for the District? Is the agreement or even the legislation anywhere the public can access it? It's not as if this is a superfund site that needs a massive cleanup -- its the waterfront!

Here's Councilmember Catania's description of how this broken process of giving away land works (he later voted for the deal anyway):
I think this deal is a far cry from perfection. And from what has been going on today it’s bad and getting worse, to be honest, because everybody and their brother is inserting their own self interests into this. And left aside are the discussions and interests of the District taxpayer - people who own this land that we are giving up today and we don’t know for how much. And that, for me, underlines why I object to this deal - that we are disposing of property without having an independent appraisal of the value of the property, without knowing, in fact, how much the property is worth, and we are handing it over.

Now, we are told, “we can’t know how much it is worth until we go through the zoning process, how high the density, etc. and then we can have a proper evaluation.” And of course that is utter nonsense. Because any grown up organization like the District of Columbia is supposed to be with the largest per capita Office of Planning in the country, by the way, that could have and should have run a zoning process based on what we might want as legitimate owners of the land - x number of square feet for retail and residential etc. We could have, through our office of zoning, determined what we wanted, gone through the zoning process as the proprietor, and then sold off the parcels to the highest bidder.

That’s not where we are here. We are handing over the property to people and we don’t know what it’s worth. And we’ll negotiate it after the fact. And I’ve often said how utterly ridiculous that is.

No one and their brother would sell their house, can you imagine selling one of the largest assets you own, in this case, this prime one-time land on the Potomac. That we would run a process, which was utterly a joke to pick a winner with no objective criteria at all, totally subjective. It is like selling your house by saying, “Well, who will come in and promise to take care of the garden? And who will promise to take care of the kittens who come out back?” I mean, really, it is that ridiculous, right? And so if you promise to take care of kittens and keep the garden up, we are going to tell you that you get to keep this house. Don’t worry about what the house is worth or whether you’ll ever get the money. We’ll worry about that later.

But of course everyone understands the absurdity of selling a valuable asset without ever discussing the amount of money you will get, but then picking the winner. Now, I want you to imagine how the negotiations go in that perspective. How does that go? You have picked the winner. And then you go to the winner who has promised to take care of the kittens and you say, “What are you going to give me for this property?” And the person says you have already sold it to me. And you have no other choice.

And we are now six years down the road here. And this is not Mayor Fenty’s ridiculously contorted structure. This is the trajectory, the inertia of many years, of having blown this from the jump street, when Andy Altman refused to work for Ted Carter of whomever and our former Mayor just took a pass and said, “Well, I’m not going to get involved in this, Christ, we are only talking about the most valuable piece of property in the District outside of the Old Convention Center.”

Alright? So this is dumb. But we are where we are. And our choice is either we go forward with what we have or we don’t. If we don’t, we get sued. And we further imperil the promised development of this site. Or we go forward and we hope there are some hard bargainers at the table going forward. But we’ll see....

We are where we are and I am reluctantly voting to support it - under the idea that we never dispose of property again without knowing what it is worth. Hardly a high standard.
You can watch Councilmember Catania's statement beginning at 10:48:30.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And the Award for Creativity in Charitable Solicitations Goes to...

...the Whitman Walker Clinic. The mailing: An addressed paper bag with a prescription drug sign in my mailbox certainly led to a close look. Who knew that one could even send a paper bag through the mail, but Whitman Walker found a way.

The message:
The annual cost for treating a single HIV-positive patient in the U.S. is as much as $34,000. And last year alone we spent $800,000 on prescription medications for those who cannot afford them.
They'll be getting an additional donation this year. And someone in marketing should get a promotion. That probably won't be happening this year because I just read that Whitman Walker is in trouble - with donations down 29%, it is closing its Northern Va. office and laying off 45 employees.

Inauguration Closures

Here's some information I received on the inauguration plans:
This year’s Presidential Inauguration is sure to be historical in nature and turnout. Many sources report upwards of four million attendees, enhanced security and long lines at Metro or access to the secured parade route.

Metro will provide rush hour service from 4AM well into the evening on Tuesday, January 20. Anticipate pedestrian inspection centers. Vehicles are likely to be prohibited up to four blocks from the White House, Capitol and the parade route itself. Certain roads shall have restrictions as well. Turns that require crossing over an on-coming stream of traffic, such as left turns, shall be restricted on certain streets, such as I Street from 14th Street continuing through 18th Street. These sorts of restrictions could commence on the evening of the 19th and continue through late evening on the 20th.

The Inauguration parade route, which is open to the public, runs from 14th Street, NW, to 1st Street, NW. Authorities may choose (and it is likely) to stop admittance into the secured areas should the crowd grow too large or for social disturbances. If you plan to try to enter the secured area surrounding the parade, be prepared to arrive early. There will likely be enhanced security measures such as bag inspections - plan to pass through a metal detectors.

Authorities will likely conduct visual and canine inspections of properties, garages, and exteriors located within four blocks of the White House in the early morning hours on Tuesday (20th). Garages around the White House and parade route will be required to close Monday (19th) afternoon around 5 PM. Autos remaining in these garages shall not be released until late on Tuesday (20th). Traffic is sure to be at a standstill - or prohibited altogether in some areas. One example, traffic shall be prohibited south of I Street–to–Constitution Avenue and from 14th Street continuing to 18th Street. These restrictions shall commence at 5 PM on Monday (19th) and finish late afternoon on Tuesday (20th).

The above map area that will be barricaded-off to all vehicular traffic (except emergency vehicles and placarded official vehicles) is bounded by:
  • I (Eye) Street to the north between 12th and 18th.
  • 12th Street to the east then along F Street east to Union Station and 2nd Street, NE.
  • 18th Street to the west - the area west of 18th Street will experience some traffic restrictions, as well.
  • Independence Ave to the south.

*This area may be expanded as they deem necessary. There will be a vehicular entry point at 13th and I Streets for official vehicles that have been pre-registered and swept for explosives. Several other access points to the east and west of this site are expected. Vehicles will not be permitted into the secured areas, unless credentialed by the USSS and authorized before December 15th.

Concrete ‘jersey’ barricades will begin to be set across intersections early as 3PM on Monday, January 19, 2009. As noted above, vehicles parked in private garages may be allowed to leave the area, but this will cease early in the evening on the 19th.

Pedestrian access will not be restricted until a block (or two) of the parade route. Again, magnetometers will be set up at various locations. Backpacks and bags will not be permitted along the parade route.

As a note, many, actually most, of the law enforcement officers at the checkpoints and along the parade route will NOT be DC/MPD officers.

An area for protestors has been designated on Freedom Plaza -- 1300 block of Pennsylvania Ave: in 2005, this is where chemical munitions were used, an area to avoid and to prepare your engineers in the event they have to shut down their HVAC system.

Metro will be overwhelmed, but is still considered the best option of movement. Again, Metro will open at 4AM on Tuesday (20th) and close at 2AM (21st).

The Inauguration is anticipated to begin around 2PM, and the Inauguration parade will step-off at 2:35PM and is scheduled to end at 5:30PM, but could end as late as 6PM on Tuesday. Barricades will begin to be removed later Tuesday evening. Pennsylvania Avenue and several north-south streets may not reopen until early morning on the 21st (Wednesday).

Police rest/warming site: The DC agency is looking to identify such locations and say only several officers at a time would be in the site at any one time.

As for the Chinatown, Gallery Place and Verizon Center area, on Monday (19th), ‘jersey’ barriers are planned to be arranged by 3PM with street closures to traffic. Monthly parkers will be able to get out of their buildings after 3PM on Monday (19th) in most buildings; however to reenter the area, parkers will have to go through a security checkpoint and will have to be on the checkpoint's list through Tuesday (20th). Drivers may be required to submit their name, date of birth, and social security to their respective property management group. Please check with your respective property management team for further detailed instructions as guidelines could vary building to building (across the City as well).

On Tuesday (20th), security checkpoints for vehicles and pedestrians open on 8th and F Streets, USSS has suggested that people arrive before 7AM in anticipation of very long lines accessing designated checkpoints. The only way to access most of this area will be through the aforementioned security checkpoint.

Archives Navy Memorial Metro Station and Smithsonian Metro Station will be closed all day Tuesday. Therefore, plan for the Gallery Place Verizon Metro Station to be extremely overcrowded. And, the areas around this station to be very busy.

The average high for January 20th, provided by the Washington Post, is 37 degrees. President Ronald Reagan holds the record for both the coldest and warmest Inauguration Ceremonies: 7 degrees (1985) and 55 degrees (1981). Here is a chart of weather conditions during the Inaugurations. The DC Government also provides information on the Inauguration.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Playgrounds Downtown?

Imagination Park, New York City. Designed by the Rockwell Group. 15,000 square feet. Concept: Hundreds of blue foam blocks of various shapes and sizes allow kids to create their own play environment. Renderings: Rockwell Group. Featured in GOOD magazine.

At a meeting of the Residential Advisory Committee for the CityCenterDC (the Old Convention Center project), the discussion veered off the mundane topic of transportation circulation around the site to the design of its planned park. Would it include a playground? "Where are the children," one longtime resident repeatedly asked.

"A playground is not in the current plans," responded the developer, although he was open to the idea. The reasons presented as to why were very similar to that which I heard when I raised the issue with respect to the broken park at 2nd and Massachusetts Avenue NW several months ago:
  1. Few people living downtown have children.
  2. The apartments/condos being built are small and targeted toward single people and young couples, who will inevitably move out as soon as they have children because of DC's terrible school system. Or, if they do stay, they'll move away from downtown to a single family home where there are playgrounds.
  3. The streets around the park very dangerous and its not safe for kids to go to a playground there.
While there's some truth to these points, the more I think about it, the more I'm not buying it.

To a large extent, I believe it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. In fact, a playground or two downtown would get plenty of usage. Even if there's not a whole lot of kids living downtown now, there certainly are some. And then there's the tourists who have kids in tow as well as visitors who will come with their kids to shop downtown, especially when the new CityCenterDC opens. A playground might be a welcome distraction from wandering around a museum or Macy's for hours.

As for the dangerous streets... that's a problem whether its a playground or not, and there are ways to address the situation: (1) Narrow the streets in order to make it a shorter distance to cross. While this may not work at every location, this is an easy solution at the 2nd and Massachusetts Avenue park, for example; (2) install brick, raised, or otherwise prominent crosswalks to send a message that pedestrians come first; (3) place a fence around the playground area to protect against children wandering into the street; and (4) plenty of lighting.

Downtown living... now with children.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Iraqi Sendoff for Bush

The Washington Post reports that during a press conference today with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:

Bush received a taste of the immense resentment many Iraqis feel toward his policies: Just after Bush finished his remarks and said "Thank you" in Arabic, an Iraqi journalist took off his shoes and hurled them both at Bush, one after the other. The incident lent an air of chaos and farce to a trip intended to highlight improving security conditions in the war-torn country.

"This is a farewell kiss!" the man, identified as Muntadar al-Zaidi, a reporter with the Cairo-based network Al Baghdadia Television, yelled as he threw the shoes. Bush had to duck out of the way, and narrowly missed being hit, according to on-scene reports. Maliki reached out his hand to shield the president.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What Reeks?

I'm putting this in the "That's News?" category, but really I am indebted to the Washington Post for this little piece of investigative journalism. Finally, an answer to what the heck is that stench coming from those things that fall off the trees. How the government managed to apparently make it worse is a mystery of science.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fenty Unveils New Agency Slogans

Earlier this week, I noted the interesting, somewhat random choice of slogan for the Department of Public Works (DPW): "The Preferred Choice." Well, our other agencies deserve good mottos too. Here's are some proposals, but feel free to chime in with better ones or add agencies that I missed:

ABRA: "More Fun, Less Singles"
DDOT: "The Best Part of Waking Up..." (is trying to cross [insert dangerous intersection])
DCBOEE: "Every Vote Counts, We Think, Maybe, Sequoia?"
DOH: "The Freshmaker!"
DPR: "I'm lov'in it!"
DMV: "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't."
DCRA: "The Permit Expediters"
Washington Gas: "Got Gas?"
HPRB: "The few, the proud, the staff."
OTR: "There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's embezzlement."
PEPCO: "Clap on. Clap off."
CFO: "What's in YOUR Wallet?"
BZA: "Better...stronger...higher."
DCPS: "Get Cash-Back on all your learning!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Butt Out!

Official Press Photographs from websites of Senators Feinstein and Bennett

A few days ago, I questioned the DC Council's abruptly allowing all-night drinking during inauguration week without adequately considering the public safety implications for neighborhoods. Well, this week, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Bill Bennett (R-Utah) weighed in, sending a letter to Mayor Fenty and Council Chair Vincent Gray urging them to reverse course. The action signals that Congress might not permit the law to take effect. I agree with them, but stay out of our business!

To the respected senators, in DC, as in the states you represent, we're allowed to enact dumb or simply unwise laws without your involvement. According to several internet sources (Disclaimer: I have not taken the time to verify these laws), in Senator Feinstein's hometown of San Francisco, just for example:
  • Elephants may not stroll down Market Street unless they are on a leash.
  • It is illegal to wipe one’s car with used underwear.
  • Persons classified as “ugly” may not walk down any street.
  • One may not pile horse manure more than six feet high on a street corner.
Headline: DC Mayor Urges San Francisco to Free Elephants, Reduce Health Hazard of High Horse Manure, Eliminate Requirement of Using New Underwear to Clean Car; Mary Cheh Introduces Legislation.

It doesn't get any better in Utah. In Senator Bennett's hometown of Salt Lake City, no one may walk down the street carrying a paper bag containing a violin. Sounds like an ABC single sales restriction targeting drunk musicians. Utah has a whole mess of ridiculous laws. Its restrictive alcoholic beverage regulations are not exactly mainstream. In fact, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah relaxed its alcoholic beverage law enforcement, and when no catastrophe occurred, it adopted a new set of regulations that moved toward normalcy in 2003.

Utah is a place that until recently limited drinks to no more than an ounce of alcohol. Bars got around the rule by offering “sidecars,” an extra half ounce served separately that the customer could pour into the drink himself. Restaurants got mad, since they had to serve weak drinks. So now, you can get a drink with an ounce and a half of alcohol in Utah, and sidecars are prohibited, unless, of course, you would like a side shot of a different type of alcohol with your drink. In order words, you can order a vodka tonic and a shot of tequila, but don’t try ordering a vodka tonic with a shot of vodka for your friend. Huh? Most Utah ABC licensees are located in Senator Bennett's hometown. Did he raise a stink when they relaxed restrictions during the Olympics, is he urging reform of his own state’s oddball ABC laws, or does he only butt into DC's business?

Perhaps DC Council action is in order: "The Bringing Rationality to Utah’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws Emergency Resolution of 2008."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DPW: The Preferred Choice!

A few weeks ago, new trash cans arrived in my yard. They proclaim, DPW: "The Preferred Choice." (Quotations on the Can). The preferred choice? I have no qualms with Department of Public Works, but it is an interesting choice of slogan. What other choice do I have as to who is going to pick up my trash? Is that the reason for the quotation marks?

"The Preferred Choice" sounds more like a motto for an auto parts shop, a handyman, or an insurance company.

The previous slogan, "It's Everyone's Job," at least makes some sense.

Also of note, apparently Mayor Adrian Fenty does not want his name associated with trash.

Flip Flopp'in With Guns Blaz'in

If you closely watched the race for Ward 2 in its final months, you'll remember that my opponent, Councilmember Jack Evans, attempted to label me some type of gun nut.

Why? It was a two-step:

(1) He represented that I was a gun industry lobbyist, which anyone with an internet connection could have looked up in 10 minutes on the federal lobbying disclosure database to find was patently false. Now, I do have more experience with guns, but because that's because I live in Shaw; and

(2) I had the audacity to suggest that in shaping a new gun law for DC following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Heller, it would be odd to allow a small business owner, say a corner store, to have a gun for protection when upstairs at home, but not downstairs the store, where, of course, the danger of robbery is greater. A court would likely strike down the law in a New York minute, making us again the laughingstock of the country. Councilmember Evans in debates, on the radio, and to newspaper reporters, portrayed my view as wild. "No one is even talking about extending the law to allow businesses to have guns," he said.

Here's the text of exactly what Evans' campaign wrote in an August 7, 2008press release entitled, "Audience Favorite, Jack Evans Wins Debate against Pro-Handgun Opponent":
The debate drew but one surprise when Councilmember Evans spoke of limiting the prominence of handguns in the district in the wake of Heller v. DC while his opponent, gun industry lobbyist Cary Silverman, called for the use of handguns to be expanded beyond private residences into places of business. It is unfortunate that Silverman must learn the difference between representing his lobbying clients in the gun industry and serving the residents of the neighborhoods of ward 2.
It's also unfortunate when politicians say anything to get elected. Last week, with Councilmember Evans' support, the D.C. Council unanimously passed legislation doing just that.

In fact, the legislation that passed first reading sounds similar to what I proposed. News reports say that the legislation requires mandatory safety training, prohibits those with a history of domestic abuse or those convicted of violent crimes from owning guns, and for guns to be kept out of reach from children (I actually don't see those provisions in the introduced bill, but good luck finding anything on the Council's horrible "LIMS" - It was probably amended with the changes not reflected online). And, the proposal allows D.C. residents to keep a loaded and unlocked handgun "at his or her place of business, or while being used for lawful recreational purposes within the District of Columbia, or for the purpose of immediate self-defense in his or her home.” It's up for second reading on December 16. (I would have also imposed strong civil and potentially criminal penalties for owners whose guns fall into the wrong hands and are subsequently used in crimes).

Kojo, Segraves, Stewart, Kennedy, Ch. 9 -- you were all duped. Some credit goes to Debonis for at least debunking the gun lobbyist myth during the campaign, rather than letting it slide. Is anyone going to call him out on this flip flop? What suddenly changed in three months to make something so radical... so unanimous?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Keeping Bars Open All Night

Ok, I hail from the City-that-Never-Sleeps and I'm used to having restaurants, bars, and clubs open all night. But I'm concerned about the DC Council's abrupt legislation authorizing them to stay open 24 hours and sell alcohol until 5am between January 17 and 21 for the inauguration. Why?

1. When legislation is enacted essentially in the middle of the night, with no public input, you can guarantee it's not the citizens of the District of Columbia who are calling the shots. The manner in which the Council passed the bill is reminiscent of the West End Library sale debacle. In this case, however, it's not a politically-connected developer that pushed it through, but the powerful restaurants and bar owners/lobby
who generously contribute to councilmember campaigns.

2. I don't live in Adams Morgan or Georgetown, so for me, personally, it is not about the loss of parking or noise. It is, however, about safety, not just in nightlife heavy areas, but my own neighborhood as well. Inauguration week is already going to be "all hands on deck" with police resources stretched incredibly thin. Now our overworked police officers will be trying to control what is predicted to be as much as a quadrupling of the District's workday population all through the night, after trying to keep order during the day. You can bet that the increased bar activity will siphon what is left of neighborhood police resources to the club zones.

The police union, which was not consulted when the DC Council extended hours,
is concerned:

"With our resources stretched so thin that weekend to provide security at the inauguration, we're going to be at the bare bones out in the districts," Kristopher Baumann, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, which represents D.C. officers, said, referring to the seven police districts whose officers respond to neighborhood crime. . . . "If you're going to have the bars operating beyond a capacity they're operating under usually, we don't know what kind of manpower needs we're going to have."

My neighborhood had a shooting last Monday night, a murder on Wednesday, an apparent mugging Friday night, and a serious domestic dispute last night. Will police be available to respond?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Is it time to get rid of the big green signs?

For years there been talk about stopping 395 at Massachusetts Avenue and turning the New York Avenue corridor into a a nice tree-filled boulevard rather than a piece of urban blight. While the recommendations of the New York Avenue Corridor Study and much of the Mount Vernon Triangle Transportation & Public Realm Design Project remain unfulfilled, hundreds of residents are moving into new apartments and condos along the New York Avenue between New Jersey Avenue and 7th Street NW. Thousands more will be coming with the additional of Yale Lofts II and as Yale I and CityVista fill up, and as the tremendous Northwest One project comes online in the old Sursum Corda site. I can't tell you how many residents have struggled with trying to get across 10 lanes of flying traffic from Mount Vernon Square to the new Safeway at 5th and New York Avenue, or the number of accidents at that intersection or the NJ/NY/3rd/4th Street intersection.

So when will the DC government stop viewing New York Avenue as a superhighway?

This week, a Yale Loft resident suggested to me a small measure that could go a long way in changing that perception among NY Avenue drivers: get rid of the big green signs.

They send a message that drivers are indeed in the freeway. And there appears to be no need for them. There are an abundance of smaller signs already along New York Avenue pointing out where to turn for 395, which way is to downtown, and how to get to 50. Perhaps one sign is needed to inform truck drivers of the height and hazmat restrictions of the 395 tunnel, but five?

And the flashing "STOP PEDS" sign as drivers approach the convention center doesn't quite do it. Of course, removing the signs is not even by far a silver bullet and does not excuse the need to make the street truly more pedestrian friendly and safer for drivers, but it will begin to change the atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Democracy-Enhancing Reform Package

Marc Fisher's column in this morning's Washington Post advocates for elimination of the set-aside seats provided for the DC Council for members of minority parties included in the Home Rule Charter and mandated by Congress. As you may know, 2 of the 4 at-large seats on the DC Council are designated for non-Democrats, leading to the Michael Brown situation/lawsuit. I agree with Fisher wholeheartedly, but I believe there may be another element necessary for DC election reform, particularly if we get rid of the set-aside seats: open primaries.

While in other jurisdictions, I might not support open primaries, in DC, the closed primary system further disenfranchises the already largely disenfranchised. Those who are not registered Democrats are effectively precluded from a say in mayoral and city council races -- and eliminating the set aside positions will render their votes almost completely irrelevant. It will lead even more people to remain registered in their prior home state, stay home on election day, or engage in the silliness of our DC system in which numerous independents, Green/Statehood, and Republicans switch their registration to Dem to vote in the primary, then switch is back for the general (it would be interesting if the DCBOEE could give us statistics on the number of switcharoos).

I can't tell you the number of independents I ran into on the campaign trail, many of which were relatively new to the city, who didn't realize that by choosing to be unaffiliated with a party for whatever reason, they would effectively have no say in our local elections.

Should open primaries be part of an election reform package that eliminates the set asides?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where the Streets Have No Name

Photo: Truxton Circle from More historic photographs here.

I was out walking the dog tonight and found myself staring up again at the banners that appeared along the 200 Block of N Street NW promoting the area as Truxton Circle. Truxton Circle? Where is Truxton Circle? There is no Truxton Circle. There was once a revolutionary war hero named Thomas Truxtun (with a "un" not an "on") and the area did once have a misspelled Truxton Circle located at the intersection of Florida Avenue (then known as Boundary Street) and North Capital Street, which was wiped off the map in the 1940s. I'm not sure when Truxton Circle first came about, but it's not shown on my 1867 map of the District, and it is not part of the L'Enfant plan of the city. According to the great research by In Shaw (part 1 and part 2), it was considered more of a landmark than a neighborhood. The primary civic associations in the area are the Bates Area Civic Association and the Hanover Civic Association, and the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association takes in a little piece of its southwest corner. No Truxton Circle civic association, although Truxton Circle does have an informative website.

Ok, so there's no Truxton Circle. Well, how about Mount Vernon Triangle? Where's the triangle? There's a Mount Vernon Square that goes back to the original L'Enfant Plan. There's a Mount Vernon Square Historic District. There are numerous little triangle parks known as reservations throughout the area, but none of them is called Mount Vernon. Truth be told... there is no triangle. The name refers to the triangular piece of land, formerly (and still to a degree) filled with surface parking lots, between Massachusetts and New York Avenues NW and New Jersey Avenue and 7th Street NW (at Mt. Vernon Square). The name was a little marketing genius to promote the area as a new and upcoming neighborhood.

Map: Mt. Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District. Click above for interactive map.

So, what will stick? Will Truxton Circle gain more widespread usage, despite the lack of an actual circle? Might DDOT actually reconstruct a Truxton Circle at some point? I've seen speculation online (I bet that will happen rights after they implement the decade-old New York Avenue Corridor Study). Any interest in spelling the 'ol Commodore's name correctly this time? - I think he'd appreciate it. Will the Mt. Vernon Triangle name survive after all the condos are built and sold? Or will the area generally become known as Mt. Vernon, Mt. Vernon Square, north Penn Quarter, or simply referred to by its condo name - i.e. CityVista? I guess only time will tell.

Until then, take a left at Mt. Vernon Triangle, then go around Truxton Circle onto North Capital Street.

The Usual Returns: Another Shaw Shooting

At 12:15pm tonight, 6 shots rang out on the 1300 Block of 5th Street NW. I called 911 and the first police arrived within 3-5 minutes, followed by fire trucks and one, then another, ambulance at the 2nd NW Coop. I don't have any more details as the block was taped off, but after about 20 minutes, the two ambulance left, sirens on, with police escort. It had been relatively quiet in Shaw for the past few months.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pumpkin Abducted, Split in Two

I returned home from Thanksgiving to find my pumpkin halfway down the block and across the street from my stoop, and in this sorry state. I wonder if the police camera above my house recorded the mysterious events that led to this fruit's untimely demise.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chinatown: On Hold

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Progress seems to be on hold in Chinatown. Specifically, here's what I learned at Monday's Chinatown Revitalization Council meeting:
  • Renovation of the future Chinatown Park (5th and Massachusetts Avenue NW) is on hold. This project, which would incorporate Chinese themes into the park and make it a well-suited gateway to the neighborhood, has been anticipated for a decade. There's still little movement because its ownership and control by the National Park Service makes putting as much as a sculpture in it an Act of Congress. We discussed seeking support from the DC Council and Congresswoman Norton to transfer the park to the D.C. government. In addition, Downtown BID is short funds for restoration by about $20,000. I suggested requiring the developer of the DC-awarded 5th and I lot to include this among the likely package of community amenities.

  • The International Lantern Festival is on hold. This was a new idea, which has the support of the Taiwanese government, was tentatively schedule for May 2009. It is on hold until the new Administration is on board.

  • Repair and restoration of the Chinatown archway is on hold. Mayor Fenty pledged to pay for needed repairs to the arch, but there is no money included in the 2009 budget.

2009 is the Year of Ji Chou, the Ox (the Chinese New Year begins January 26) , which is characterized by perserverence, hard work, and sustained effort. Let's hope that pays off with progress for Chinatown in the year ahead.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

So let me get this straight...

A suspect who recently turned 18 years old, let's call him M.A.R. to protect his privacy, is suspected of robbing 20 DC residents, coming up behind them, knocking them to the ground, taking their I-pods, cell phones, money. On robbery No. 21, the suspect is yet again taken into custody. The police, who have to their credit managed to catch this guy, are worried that he'll be let out onto the street and will instantly rob again. You see, he's been taken into custody before and released back into the community before.

Well, MPD Inspector Delgado takes community policing seriously and he's concerned, so he sends out an e-mail to the Third District listserve urging residents to e-mail our now official Attorney General Peter Nickles to beg him not to release this guy again. (Full text of e-mail following this post)

Nickles' reaction, to paraphrase, is "Stop e-mailing me! It's annoying and not helpful." An exact quote to the Washington Post, "I haven't touched them. I told my secretary to put them in a pile." Anyway, he must have thought, we have the guy in custody and he's not going anywhere anyway. Right? Right? So Nickles picks up the phone the next morning. Wrong. Oops, the prosecutors let him go. "No papered" - apparently there was not enough evidence, despite video footage, and the U.S. Marshals missed missed the memo to hold him.

So what do we learn from this situation? Number 1. I'm tired of having prosecutors and marshals who are FEDERAL employees. These folks are accountable to no one. They work for the U.S. DOJ and they are theoretically overseen by Congress. I bet if we had an elected attorney general, who had full prosecutorial power, we would not have this B.S. You know he would get voted out in a New-York minute for this continuous arrest-and-release law enforcement. You can envision the campaign ad. Same goes for our judges. They ought to be appointed by the Mayor with the consent of the DC Council, not appointed for a 15-year term by the president. These officials come from all over the country -- many are not from DC and they are likely to live in Maryland or Virginia. Perhaps they'd think twice if they took this kid into custody and he was let out for #22 on their street.

Seriously, enough. And I don't care what mental health or other problems this guy had that a court found him incompetent to stand trial. And there's lots of others who don't want to hear lame excuses for and defenses of the alleged criminal when a score of people have been beat over the head. The answer is to put him someplace secure where he can get help, not put him out there to rob again.

The e-mail:
Fri Nov 21, 2008 11:39 am

Good Morning Neighbors

I write this email to inform you that the Third District made yet another arrest for robbery, however the circumstances surrounding this latest robbery you will find upsetting. The facts are reported as reported below:

In the earlier this year the Columbia Heights neighborhood experienced a rash of violent robberies. This particular suspect approaches people from behind and hits his victims. Once the victim is down, stolen are cell phones, money and IPODS. The suspect was also identified as committing six (6) robberies within the METRO Rail System. Once this suspect was developed as a viable suspect in the METRO robberies, DC Police began to look at the suspect on several robberies as well. The suspect was was subsequently identified in thirteen (13) robberies in Columbia Heights. The suspect, who was a juvenile, was released from jail because he was found to be incompetent to stand trial.

The suspect was released back into the Columbia Heights Community where he committed another 6 robberies. The total number of robberies at that time stood at nine teen (19) robberies. Well the suspect was released back into the community and was placed in a halfway house where he absconded and came back to the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Well, I was never notified that he was released or even absconded from the group home. Recently, he committed yet another robbery, this time within the grounds of Cardozo High School. This is a total of twenty (20) robberies that this suspect has committed and I am concerned that if this person released again he may commit more robberies or worse harm one of you. I find this lack of accountability by the juvenile justice system to be a travesty and a disservice to the community.

Please view the enclosed OAG Organizational Chart and I ask that each of you write an email or letter to the Attorney General Peter Nickels and every supervisor, manager, and attorney under the “PUBLIC SAFETY CLUSTER”

Please remember that the email address is the First Name then a dot then the last name @ DC. Gov.

I expect each of you to flood the email system today because time is critical in this matter. Let them not release this criminal yet again into the community. You can refer to this juvenile as M.A.R., they will know whom you are talking about. I also ask you to forward this email to which ever person you think will assist in this matter. Remember flood the system….

Edward Delgado
Third District Sub Station

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nobody lost service yet

I just received this alert from the DC Emergency Management Agency:
WASA reports a 16" water main break at Manor Pl, NW in Georgetown. Water was gushing into the street, now shut off. Nobody lost service yet;low water pressure in area. Roads are ok but muddy. No ETA yet on repair.
I have to say, use of the word "nobody" jumped out at me. While I might say "nobody was home" or "nobody answered the phone" when speaking informally, I can't remember the last time I've used it or seen it used in the written word. The consensus seems to be that although "nobody" and "no one" have the same meaning and can be used interchangibly, no one is more formal.

I also appreciate the optimism - nobody has lost service yet.

Friday, November 21, 2008

But really, how much?

By now, everyone has heard or read an article about the astronomical prices at which DC area residents are offering their homes for rent during inauguration week. The going rate on Craig's List seems to be about $2,000 per night for a 2-bedroom condo in the city, but some are listed for substantially more. There's a bit of randomness to the amounts - with some places well outside DC charging just as much or more as similar homes or apartments in the downtown area.

I've read enough about what people are offering. I'm more interested in knowing -- is anyone actually paying these prices?

If you posted a listing on Craig's List or somewhere else - sound off. Is your e-mail box full and you are sorting through references? Or did your ad go into oblivion, vanishing silently into the depths of the internet?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That's News? No. 1.

In what will be a regular feature, I'll draw attention to questionable local reporting. This one is called, "That's News?" I may also have another edition called, "That's Reporting?," to highlight those all-to-often local news stories that fail to ask probing questions, understand the issue, or go beyond the surface.

Did you read today near front page story in the Examiner going nuts on the Fentys? Apparently, someone looked very closely at photos taken of their nursery for the Washington Post Home Section in which the crib is filled with pillows, blankets, and toys and had a gotcha! moment. The Fentys apparently join baby-dangling-off-the-balcony Michael Jackson in the irresponsible parents section. Why? Fluffy things in a crib pose a suffication risk for a baby.

"We were like crazy when we saw it," said Betty Connal, executive director of SIDS-Mid-Atlantic.

"That crib is just not a safe place for a baby to be sleeping in."

Ok, but get a grip, it was an arranged photograph and THE BABY ISN'T EVEN BORN!

Well, the SIDS advocates are doing their job by bringing attention to the issue, so I'm not sure I fault them other than going over the top. But how does this warrant a story on the cover page of the regional section? Maybe a blog, maybe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I'm even more appreciative I bought that space heater... this is just wrong. The Washington Post is attributing the loss of heat to an operator error. And it's not the first time we are hearing about major Washington Gas issues in this area of Shaw, as discussed here or here. To whom exactly is Washington Gas and its management accountable?

District, Washington Gas Work to Resolve Problem, Care for Residents

Washington, DC - A serious interruption of gas service in a section of Northwest and affecting more than 400 households in the Shaw neighborhood has Washington Gas officials and several DC city agencies pulling together.

Currently, the outage affects residents in an area between U Street to Rhode Island Avenue and 8th Street to Vermont Avenue NW.
Emergency Management officials have obtained space at the Kennedy Recreation Center to be used as a warming center. Kennedy is located at 1407 7th Street, Northwest.

Officials are surveying individual residences in the affected area to determine their heating needs. Many residents may be using alternate heating methods, such as space heaters. Fire officials remind that if space heaters are being used, at least three feet of space should be allowed around the heater. Also, if you leave the room, you should turn the heater off.

Fire officials also remind that if anyone ever smells an odor of natural gas, please call 9-1-1. If anyone is in need of medical transport, call 9-1-1..
Further updates will be given as necessary.

An Active Street Life, But No Residential Proposed for Mt. Vernon Site

Paul Millstein of Douglas Development presents plans for
Squares 450 and 451 in the Mt. Vernon area.

Last night, the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association heard a long-awaited presentation from Paul Millstein of Douglas Development on the project that includes property they had amassed over the last fifteen to twenty years in the area just east of the Washington Convention Center. In September, the Washington Business Journal discussed the scope of the project and speculated on what might come to an area that is full of vacant property and parking lots. I highlighted some of the reported details on Life in Mt. Vernon Square.

Millstein provided an underwhelming few more details last night. The Triangle blog provides the specs and a map of the site. I won't repeat that information here.

The project is still very much in the conceptual stage. There were no detailed renderings available, just the massing sketch from 30,000 feet visible in the photo above. Douglas Development plans on presenting this concept to HPRB next month, but I would not be surprised if the presentation is postponed. Mr. Millstein committed to returning to MVSNA with more information in the future. This project is still far off -- at least 6 to 12 months as the concept develops, they'll need HPRB and Zoning approval, then add a year for permitting -- 2, most likely 3, years until groundbreaking. They do not yet have financing.

For the time being, Millstein was receptive to considering improving lighting on the 600 Block of L Street, which is near pitch black and experiencing increased pedestrian traffic between the metro and CityVista/Yale Lofts. They are also open to temporary uses of the property, such as the Fringe Festival hosted at AV Restorante earlier this year.

Here's a few things we learned about the project. Douglas Development is DONE amassing property. They've thrown in the towel on some of the hold outs, such as Marakesh, the corner lot at 6th and New York, and one of the historic properties on the 1000 Block of 7th Street NW. They do own property including The Eagle and the club formerly known as Avenue. There are still a few properties on which to close.

Mr. Millstein reported that Douglas Development has given up on the property they own on the northwest corner of 6th and L Streets NW. MVSNA had reviewed a proposal for housing at that location about a year or two ago - it includes a historic house where Thurgood Marshall reportedly lived at some point, a vacant lot, and a small condemned structure that is sometimes used as an illegal billboard. Apparently, the site is now considered unbuildable for financing reasons. Sad and disappointing. The house is falling apart. I guess it joins Carter G. Woodson's home on the list of dilapidated and forgotten black history.

So back to the project. It involves:

  • Fully restoring the historic properties along 7th Street;
  • Literally picking up and consolidating several historic properties to make room for new buildings;
  • Retail, restaurants, I believe, a hotel, and entertainment at the ground level with offices above. Regarding the entertainment anchor, Milstein said, "I think they have a phenomenal entertainment venue" lined up that would open at 7th and New York Avenue. What it is, however, he could not yet say. Past articles have noted the potential for a House of Blues in the project;
  • Below-grade parking (no amount discussed); and
  • Zero, none, zilch residential units.

That last bullet is likely to be the most controversial aspect of the project. Currently, zoning laws would require a residential component -- it's part of the push to create a living downtown. Mr. Millstein mentioned seeking something called a "CLD," which would apparently allow them to forego the residential requirement by paying money to support housing somewhere else. Does anyone know how this works?

Should a project of this size and at this location include a residential component?

My initial reaction is mixed.

On the one hand, DC has come great lengths since I first moved down here from the-city-never-sleeps NY and was surprised to find a downtown ghosttown. Incorporating residential into Penn Quarter certainly helped. DC's population has increased to about 580,000, but that is still far short from its historic pre-riot high of over 760,000. There is plenty more room to grow. It would seem the portion of the project on the 600 block of L would be ideal for residential. Currently, the plan for that block is to use it for loading docks and a parking garage entrance for the retail/office frontage on New York Avenue, continuing the dead zone. Think the 1400 Block of Church Street in Logan Circle, where they turned the Rainbow auto repair shop into a unique condo.

On the other hand, has the massive condo and apartment explosion maxed out, particularly in the area surrounding this site? Over the past few years, in addition to the Penn Quarter units, we've seen condos and rentals come online at 400, 450, and 555 Massachusetts Avenue, the Sonata, and the Whitman. Most recently, Yale Laundry, CityVista, and Madrigal Lofts have opened their doors. (Note: Yale has filled about 65 of 140 units so far). Yale II is under construction. How much more housing can the area sustain? What will the current financial market allow? As Mr. Millstein notes, there's plenty of unfilled demand for retail and restaurants in the area. It's amazing how consistently packed Bus Boys & Poets is within weeks of opening.

At some point, the community will be asked to weigh in on a request for zoning relief from the residential requirement. Let the debate begin.

Monday, November 17, 2008


With the gains Democrats made on the Hill and our incoming president's support of voting rights, the District might actually get a vote in Congress in the foreseeable future. Under the proposal that came up just a few votes short, the District would receive a voting seat in the House of Representatives, along with an additional seat for Utah. That means DC would have 1 vote out of 437 (the percentage above).

Now, that's the power to make a difference. Not. (Is it even constitutional, well, that's doubtful).

There's a reason why the Constitution provided for a U.S. Senate - so that residents of states with smaller populations would have at least some real influence in the Nation's governance. Wyoming has less population than DC and it has two senators. Several other states have populations just slightly larger than DC, such as North Dakota and Vermont, but they are not excluded from what is considered the more deliberative body of Congress. Alaska's population exceeds DC by just 95,000, yet we may soon have a Senator Palin telling us how to run our local affairs. You betcha! ;)

So what is the solution?

Well, first, why don't we talk more about achieving real Home Rule given the favorable political climate and higher faith in our local government? That means that our officials should be pushing hard for legislative and budgetary autonomy for the District, so that every law our D.C. Council-passes is no longer subject to Congressional review before it takes effect. It makes our legislative process a confusing, time-consuming nightmare. And it's a repeated slap in the face.

Second, let's achieve full self governance when it comes to our judges, our prosecutors, our courts, and our parks, much of which are controlled by the feds. These are incremental steps we can take toward greater Home Rule and there should be political will to achieve them.

Folks, these things do not require a Constitutional amendment.

Third, as we move toward Home Rule, let's also push for meaningful representation in the U.S. Congress. That may require thinking out of the box. What if we gave citizens of the District the opportunity to vote for one Senator in Maryland and one Senator in Virginia, rather than create two new seats in the Senate, in addition to a voting representative in the House? At least then, we'd have meaningful representation.

Or maybe we need to rethink the District's boundaries, creating a smaller federal district limited to the area immediately surrounding the mall, Capital, and White House, and a larger state encompassing some of the area retroceded to Virginia in 1847 as well as a portion of Maryland inside the beltway. I realize this may be a practical and political stretch, but it at least looks like a viable state -- with industry beyond government, lawyering, advocacy, and politics. It's about as likely as retroceding most of D.C. back to Maryland for the purpose of voting rights. We might as well talk about it.

I fear that achieving such a small step forward as a House vote may hurt momentum for true Home Rule and meaningful Congressional representation. Am I wrong?

Friday, November 14, 2008

DC Council: "I Want to Tear Off Your LIMS!"

This is not a threat of violence, but a reference to the D.C. Council's Legislative Information Management System, aka "LIMS."

LIMS is what citizens use to pull up legislation being considered by the council and check its status. Now, maybe it's because I am a lawyer and policy wonk who has every state legislature's bill tracking website hotlinked at work, but I think transparency and knowing what the heck they are passing in the Wilson Building that will impact our lives for better or worse is of particular concern. But the old DC Council website was probably the worst in the country. Good luck finding out where legislation stands, who amended what, and what is becoming law.

So I was excited to hear that the Council was finally working on bringing their website out of the year that Al Gore invented the internet. When the new website came online a few weeks ago, I was pleased. Then again, the website had no where to go but up. Today's average fifth grader at a non-failing DC public school could have substantially improved it.

Would the new LIMS actually tell me the accurate current status of the legislation? Would it allow me to pull up any amendments and the vote on each? Might it provide the testimony submitted to the council? Would it alert me to upcoming hearings? Might it even include links to the video of past hearings? Wow.

I click the link. Damn it, same old LIMS. It's back to the future, the best in technology circa 1993.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finally Going to Fix Dr. Woodson's House?

Built in the 1890s.
Dr. Carter G. Woodson's home between 1915-1950.
Offices of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History until the 1970s.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
A neighborhood eyesore for over three decades.
Photos Left to Right: 1976, Library of Congress; 2006, Richard Layman.

The National Park Service is holding a public "scoping meeting" for the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site today from 6-8pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage, 1816 12th Street, NW. The purpose of the meeting, according to Shaw Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Commissioner Alex Padro, is to gather input from neighbors and Washingtonians at large regarding their hopes for the house and surrounding area and suggestions for the future use of the house and adjacent buildings.

It's a disgrace that this historic site, the home of the father of black history at 1538 9th Street, NW, was allowed to deteriorate for so long. It took an Act of Congress to save the home, which NPS purchased in 2005 for $465,000. The plan includes incorporating the two adjacent houses north of the Woodson home at 1540 and 1542 9th Street into the historic site. NPS acquired these two properties from Shiloh Baptist Church, which owns numerous other vacant properties in the immediate area, to house a visitor center and administrative functions.

CityCenter DC (aka the Old Conventer Center site): Update and Plans

Top: Arial view.
Second row: Ground level master plan.
Third row: NW Park (NY Ave. & 11th St.), Alley, Central Plaza

This week, Hines, the developer of the Old Convention Center site known as CityCenterDC, will hire its general contractor. The schedule has slid back a few months, but they have entered the permitting process. Bidding for subcontractors will begin in January or February 2009. Ground breaking is anticipated to occur in June 2009. The project does not yet have financing in place, but Hines is hopeful this will occur as the process moves forward.

Here are some of the details on the project:

Parcel A (between H & I Streets):
Retail: 250,000 square feet
Rental Housing: 458 units (20% affordable)
Condos: 216 units (20% affordable)
Office space: 463,000 square feet
Private below grade parking: 940 spaces
Retail/public parking: 700 spaces

Parcel B (between New York Avenue & I Street):
Hotel: 400 rooms
Retail: 110,000 square feet
Parking: 400 spaces

Gould Parcel:
Office & Retail: 600,000
Parking: TBD

Merchandising Mix: Restaurants/cafes, market foods/specialty goods, fashion, home furnishings, electronics, and entertainment.

Critical Plan Elements: Maximize street oriented retail, pedestrian friendly streetscape, urban public space that is attractive and compelling, storefronts that are exciting and interesting, actively programmed public space, unique goods, services, and experience in an utrban setting.
As this project takes off, Mount Vernon Triangle will continue to grow, O Street Market ("CityMarket at O") will take shape, and the Marriott Convention Center Hotel will come to life. In addition, Douglas Development may soon be ready to develop the area immediately east of the convention center, including the 600 Blocks of L Street and New York Avenue NW and the 1000 Block of 7th Street NW.

As a member of the Residential Advisory Committee for CityCenter at O, I'll be helping make sure that this project delivers on its potential benefits to the community (jobs, retail, a vibrant street life) and to minimize the disruption during construction.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Borderstan Public Safety Meeting & Yet Another MPD 2D Leadership Change

If you live along 15th Street at the Logan / Dupont Circle line, the next Borderstan public safety meeting is this Thursday, November 13, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of 15th and R Streets NW.

This is a follow up to the first Borderstan meeting on August 6 — meeting postings here and here. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans and MPD representatives will attend, including Assistant Chief Diane Groomes.

Borderstan is split between two MPD districts and two PSAs:
West Borderstan (west of 15th Street NW): Second District and PSA 208
East Borderstan (east of 15th Street NW): Third District and PSA 307

In addition, Borderstan reports that MPD's Second District, which includes Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Palisades and Spring Valley, and was recently expanded to include Dupont Circle, has a new acting commander, Matthew Klein. DCist also reports on the "switcheroo." Klein will be the third Second District Commander in a few short months.

Michele Molotsky Moves to DPR

I learned today that Michele Molotsky, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans' longtime Director of Constituent Services, has left for a position at the Department of Parks and Recreation. She is now serving as DPR's Director of Senior Services.

I came to know Michele when I was active in Logan Circle. Michele worked extremely hard for Ward 2 for so many years, and, regardless of the campaign, I always praised her as I spoke with community groups. She was the go-to person of the councilmember's staff and we miss having her there.

If you are a senior, this is a good time to take a stroll to the park.

Thank you, Michele.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Convention Center Hotel Cometh

View of the future Washington Convention Center Hotel from Mount Vernon Square.

Massachusetts Avenue View

Ninth Street View

L Street View
Renderings: The Cooper Carry - TVS Collaborative

The Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan for the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel on November 24, 2008. It will be one of three Marriott Marquis hotels in the United States designed to offer "dramatic, entertainment-oriented destinations" with "a broad range of high-end social and business experiences." The hotel is scheduled to open in 2012. Marriott has not received the $300 million needed in financing yet, but they don't think that will be a problem, according to the Washington Business Journal. They have received $134 million in tax increment financing from the District - in which the city sells bonds serviced by future tax revenue anticipated from the project.

Here are some of the details:
  • Hotel Size: 765,400 square feet of gross floor area
  • Guest Units: 1,166
  • Meeting and Assembly Space: 100,000 square feet
  • Height: 130 Foot Maximum, 45 degree setback above 110 feet
  • FAR: 9.3
  • Underground Parking: 2 levels, 400 spaces
  • Special Features: An underground pedestrian tunnel will connect the hotel to the convention center below Ninth Street between Massachusetts and L Streets.
  • Historic Element: The American Federation of Labor building at Ninth and Massachusetts will be incorporated as a boutique hotel linked to the main hotel, including 42 guestrooms and a restaurant/bar.
  • Retail/Restaurants: "Proposed project will have streetscape animated by outdoor seating areas associated with food and beverage outlets." Floor plans envision a specialty restaurant on Massachusetts Avenue and 10th Street, a corner bar at Massachusetts and 9th Street, a coffee shop on 9th Street just north of Massachusetts Avenue, a sports grill at 9th and L Streets, and a full-service restaurant mid-block on L Street.
  • Main Entryway to Hotel: Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Environmental: Will achieve LEED silver certification.
  • Bus Drop Off Area: Mid-block on L Street NW.
  • Loading Dock: Below ground.
It is my hope that the headquarters hotel will revitalize 9th Street. The convention center design has a fatal flaw that, in my opinion, tremendously set back 9th Street when it could have spurred a positive change. That's because the great white elephant has no retail or restaurant frontage, or any interaction with the street whatsoever, on a 2-block stretch along 9th Street between Massachusetts Avenue and M Street (aside from the problems in getting its own retail up and running). The result is that the design cuts off the convention center foot traffic from the rest of Shaw and makes it very difficult for businesses on that stretch to do well because retail on both sides of the street is important, if not essential, for a vibrant business corridor. So today, five years since the opening of the convention center, the west side of the 9th Street remains lined with vacant storefronts and small businesses that are struggling to survive (the 7th Street side is long waiting for development as well, and has been bought up piece-by-piece by Douglas Development).

If done right, the convention center hotel has the potential to drive pedestrian traffic from downtown, DC up into Shaw from Massachusetts Avenue up to the soon-to-be-coming renovated O Street Market at P Street. Wouldn't that be something?