Greater Greater Washington

Restore the sidewalk in Cleveland Park

Restore the Connecticut Avenue Boulevard!


Photo by NCinDC on Flickr.

The service lane on Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Ordway Streets should be replaced with a wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalk.

Connecticut Avenue's west side is a pleasure to walk along, and has inviting outdoor cafés. The east side is crowded, cramped and pedestrian-unfriendly. Two people can barely walk abreast on the narrow sidewalk. The service lane is confusing and dangerous. All because misguided urban planners decided in the 1960s to destroy a sidewalk to make a parking lot.

Some suggest that the businesses on this strip can't survive without the service lane and its 25 parking spaces. But every other commercial strip on Connecticut Avenue is able to thrive without a service lane. These businesses are just steps away from a Metro entrance, and are served by a rear alley that would allow people to drop off and pick up heavy items. The nearby Sam's parking lot almost always has space available. Making this area appealing and walkable would attract people in larger numbers, benefiting all of the businesses in the area.

This service lane was a big mistake, but it can be fixed. Imagine what a beautiful and vibrant public space this could be, with room for walking, sidewalk cafés, shade trees, flowers, and benches.

Sign the petition now to ask our elected representatives to restore this vital piece of the Connecticut Avenue boulevard to its original state.

What are the options?

This stretch of Connecticut Avenue was originally designed with broad, pleasant sidewalks on both sides.


Image from HistoricAerials.com

Option 1: The status quo (cars first, people second)

In the early 1960s, Washington DC was being hollowed out as people fled for the suburbs. City planners were committed creating an automotive utopia. Cleveland Park's citizens had to fight off a proposal to run a freeway down Reno Road, which would have razed a wide swath of the neighborhood; other neighborhoods didn't escape that fate. Throughout the city, graceful mansions were replaced with parking lots. The streetcars that once ran up and down Connecticut were shut down permanently in 1962.

The service lane was created at the behest of local merchants. This was before Metro, during the heyday of the suburban strip mall; and convenience for drivers was everything.

So the wide sidewalk was dug up and replaced with a service lane, a second row of curbside parking, and a median separating the lane from the avenue. The vestigial sidewalk that remained is so narrow it hardly deserves the name.

This may have seemed like a good idea at a time at a time when public transit was poor or nonexistent, but it's completely inappropriate for what's become a vibrant urban neighborhood served by a metro stop.


A blind man is forced off the crowded sidewalk. Photo by Bill Adler.
  • It's unsafe. Pedestrians often step off (or are forced off) the sidewalk, sometimes into the path of oncoming traffic. This is a particular problem for older or mobility-impaired persons. The anomalous traffic pattern created by the service lane is confusing. There's an extra set of stoplights where cars leave the service lane that's disorienting for drivers who are unfamiliar with the area.
  • It's unappealing and hostile to pedestrians. The strip is drab and ugly; it feels crowded and unwelcoming. The only shade trees are on the median on the other side of the service lane, so there's no shade or shelter. The whole block feels like a parking lot, not like a place designed for humans.
  • It's a waste of space. The median, the parking spots, and the access lane combine to occupy well over three times the space actually used for parking 26 cars at most. This is some of the most valuable real estate in DC, and it's terribly underutilized.
  • There's no room for pedestrian amenities. A recent streetscape project conducted by Cleveland Park citizens along with DDOT has provided for beautifying the larger commercial area, with park benches, bike racks, and other amenities. There's no room for any of this along the service lane, nor is there room for any of the 12 excellent restaurants and eateries along the strip to provide sidewalk seating.

The current configuration. Click to enlarge (PDF).

Option 2: Angled parking

A frequently proposed option is to replace the row of parallel parking alongside Connecticut Avenue, along with the median, with back-in angled parking. This approach would result in roughly the same number of parking spaces and a much wider sidewalk for pedestrians - seemingly a win-win.

Unfortunately, this proposal would be very expensive to implement (more than $3 million according to DDOT). Why? Because there's a lot of infrastructure embedded in the median that would have to be relocated at great expense: Metro vents, streetlights, a fire hydrant, and so on. And there are a number of mature trees that would have to be cut down.


Repurposing the space currently occupied by the median is difficult because it currently houses trees, streetlights, Metro vents, and a fire hydrant. Image from Google Maps. Click to enlarge.

DDOT has been unenthusiastic about the angled parking approach in the past, and for good reason. It's not really appropriate for a busy thoroughfare just outside downtown of a big city. And it's not exactly been a resounding success where it's been tried elsewhere; the city recently replaced back-in angled parking in Adams Morgan with more traditional parallel curbside parking.

Option 3: Shared road

Another possibility was proposed on the Cleveland Park listserv:
In a shared road, our sharply defined curbs on either side of our service lane would be replaced by a very graduated decline from the sidewalk level to the road level. There is not a hard boundary between what is walking space and what is vehicular space. ...

One would imagine that this creates dangers for pedestrians, but in practice cars naturally slow down to accommodate the pedestrians. There need not be any loss of parking spaces if this concept is applied to our service lane, the designated areas for parking could remain.

Shared roads make sense in cases where you need to provide occasional vehicle access to otherwise pedestrian-only areas; many college campuses have spaces that are configured this way. Some European towns have deliberately blurred the boundaries between pedestrian areas and roads in their historic centers, primarily as a traffic calming device.

In this context, though, this idea doesn't make a lot of sense. According to DDOT, it would be expensive. It doesn't solve any of the problem's we're trying to address. And imagine walking down that block with a family, trying to corral little kids while cars are trying to parallel park on the sidewalk they're "sharing" with us. For that matter, do you want to be the driver looking for a spot to park on the sidewalk while zoo-bound kids swarm around you? Sounds like a nightmare for everyone involved.


Maybe we should let cars park and drive on the sidewalk on this side of Connecticut as well? Photo by Bill Adler.
If the whole cars-and-trucks-on-sidewalks thing is a good idea, maybe we should let cars and delivery vehicles park and drive on the Uptown's sidewalk, or in front of Medium Rare and Cacao? Or on the sidewalks in Woodley Park or Dupont Circle, or on Columbia Road or Pennsylvania Avenue?

The service lane is already unusual and confusing. This scheme would take the weirdness to a whole new level, at the cost of millions of dollars, without improving anything.

Option 4: Cut-ins

Another proposal is to replace the off-peak parking along Connecticut Avenue with all-day parking by cutting spaces into the median. This would respond to the demand for parking in front of these shops during rush hour.

Unfortunately, it would be expensive for the same reasons as option 3all the median's infrastructure would have to be relocated.

Alternatively, we could work around the existing trees, vents, etc. But this would yield at most a dozen or so spots along the entire block, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of spaces available.

Option 5: Just restore the sidewalk

Sometimes the simplest solution is best.

We all know what a wide sidewalk looks likewe don't need consultants or drawn-out studies when we can just cross the street and see how this sidewalk was intended to be. This option isn't expensive, either; the sidewalk could probably be restored for less than has already been allocated to study the issue.

All of us in Cleveland Park want our local shops to thrive. Restoring the sidewalk would eliminate just one parking spot per business on this strip, and would more than make up for it by being more attractive to people. For a commercial strip that's right on top of a metro station, delivering more pedestrians to merchants is a smarter strategy than delivering more drivers. We can only accommodate so many cars, with or without this service lane; whereas the number of pedestrians we could accommodate is practically unlimited.


The most straightforward and least expensive approach is to just put the sidewalk back the way it was before the service lane was created. Click to enlarge (PDF).

The commercial strips in Woodley Park, Dupont Circle, Kalorama Triangle, and other comparable neighborhoods thrive without surface parking lots. There's no reason why ours can't as well. In the end, the question is whether we want this to be the kind of neighborhood where people drive up, do their business, and leavethe Rockville Pike strip-mall model that results in alienating, unfriendly spacesor the kind of urban neighborhood where people come and spend time because it's fun and beautiful and accommodating to humans.


A recent poll on the Cleveland Park listserv showed lopsided support (more than 2 to 1) for replacing the service lane with a wide sidewalk.
Cheap and abundant "Shop-N-Go" parking will never be this business district's comparative advantage, nor should it be. Let's leave that to the suburbs, and focus on making this a lively, walkable, and human-centered place where people actually want to be.

If you agree, please sign the petition now to ask our elected representatives to restore this vital piece of the Connecticut Avenue boulevard to its original state.

Support us: Monthly   Yearly   One time
Greatest supporter—$250/year
Greater supporter—$100/year
Great supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Greatest supporter—$250
Greater supporter—$100
Great supporter—$50
Supporter—$20
Or pick your own amount: $
Want to contribute by mail or another way? Instructions are here.
Contributions to Greater Greater Washington are not tax deductible.

Herb Caudill lives in Cleveland Park with his wife, Lynne, and two young boys. He has lived in DC since 1995; he taught math as a Peace Corps volunteer in West and Central Africa, and currently runs DevResults, a web-based mapping and data management tool for foreign aid projects.  

Comments

Add a comment »

I can see retail lose out on wider sidewalks, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any retail on that sector.

Restaurants would do better as they can do outside patios.

Isn't the cheapest answer is just block off the service road and turn it into a defacto sidewalk?

by charlie on Jun 20, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

Thanks for the analysis. IMHO, restoring the sidewalk makes most sense and business owners on that strip should be in huge favor, especially those with potential sidewalk cafes.

I always thought the service lane was peculiar when comparing CP to other CT Ave neighborhoods.

by John M on Jun 20, 2011 10:30 am • linkreport

Why would a shared space be expensive?

Whichever happens, it sounds like a good candidate for a pilot program like weekend closure or a temporary space.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 20, 2011 10:45 am • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan "Whichever happens, it sounds like a good candidate for a pilot program like weekend closure or a temporary space."

This is an excellent idea, and would be so easy to implement. Even if they just closed off the service lane on the weekends when the neighborhood is most busy, I think it would make a big difference, and they could test how it affects the businesses.

by Greta on Jun 20, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

Great article. Almost got run-over there last weekend, after bumping into someone because the sidewalk was so narrow and falling into the service lane. People who frequent the shops will still do so if the parking is removed, making it a sidewalk is a terrific idea.

by Alex on Jun 20, 2011 11:21 am • linkreport

Given that this is a community shopping strip (i.e., Metro accessibility plays no part in giving the neighborhood access to it), whatever happens with that strip of asphalt will ultimately depend on the consensus that can be reached between those Cleveland Parkers needing car access to this area and those Cleveland Parkers perhaps not needing that car access and prefering outdoor cafes and the like. How the people operating out of those cafes feels has to take a back seat to the residents. After all, reducing accessibility to this shopping center by the bulk of the neighborhood which must<//b> get there by car isn't in their interests if what they're trading in is making easier for the restaurants there to cater more to people from outside the neighborhood getting their by Metro. Like Mayor Gray said when questioned about the importance of our residents "The businesses are here the serve the residents and not vice versa." Those business are there in what is designated as a neighbor-serving-retail zone ... I.e., There are probably already way too many restaurants and bars there in place of the hardware stores, dry cleaners, and other local stores that a neighborhood needs.

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 11:39 am • linkreport

There are a number of additional resources on this question at http://www.iwishthiswasasidewalk.org , including PDFs of the various scenarios (editable in Illustrator if anyone wants to geek out and play with alternative options). Also some great historical photos of the intact original sidewalk before it was destroyed.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 20, 2011 11:42 am • linkreport

FWIW, the likelihood of the majority of people getting to the commercial district by car is pretty low. If that were the case, given the limited amount of parking inventory, the spaces would all be empty.

by Richard Layman on Jun 20, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

@Lance Good point: this is ultimately a decision that should be made by residents. Do we know the extent to which the parking spots are for non-residents? If the parking is solely for those outside CP and not residents - say on their way home from work to Bethesda - it *may* strengthen the argument for turning it in to a sidewalk.

As a CP resident, I would prefer a sidewalk so that I don't have to constantly step in to the street to avoid groups on the narrow sidewalk - especially during "zoo season." Sidewalk seating for the local restaurants is a side benefit.

by Jeff on Jun 20, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

@Richard, I dunno ... Zillow demographics peg the population of Cleveland Park at 3,980. That's not that large of a neighborhood. I'd guess that maybe half or more of that total lives within easy walking distance (and can walk it.) That leaves a population or 2,000 ... or something like less than 500 households (given the size of the homes, 4 people per household, either related or in a group house, is a conservative guess.) .... 25 spaces around the clock for 500 households sounds more than adequate given they won't all be using those spots at the same time. Maybe the better solution is to make those spots "Residents Only" ... I.e., requiring a Ward Parking sticker at the least.

Either way, the conversation is all wrong when you're looking at a neighborhood shopping strip and you're saying 'It's Metro accessible ... it should be able to handle more people'. It should be worrying about handling its own residents first and their needs ... that's it's entire reason for being. If the restauranteurs want to be in a place where they can better accommodate a far reaching district-wide (or even metro-wide) clientele, then they shouldn't have plunked their restaurants down in a neighborhood-oriented shopping strip.

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 11:57 am • linkreport

@Jeff, you make a good argument for turning these spaces into more sidewalk. I'd like to see the same done on Conn. Ave. down in Dupont where I live. My only objection to the thread is that people not living there are deciding they know what is best for the neighbors there ... and (most likely) doing it on the assumption I see way too often on this blog that 'one size fits all' ... i.e., we all have the same needs and wants and those who don't agree that those should by 'my' needs and wants don't know what they're talking about. The greatest example of that being the folks who want to force sidewalks on suburban parts of the District where the residents there don't want them.

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 12:02 pm • linkreport

Lance, there are some legitimate arguments in favor of parking in a commercial area like this. However, the idea that the parking is for the immediate neighborhood is not one of them.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. This shopping strip is designated as a neighborhood shopping area ... i.e., intended to serve the neighborhood and NOT the city (or metro area) at large. Given this fundamental starting off point, how can you say that 'parking for the immediate neighborhood is not one of them'?

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 12:10 pm • linkreport

A thoughtful piece by Mr. Caudill. As a Cleveland Park resident, I think the current east sidewalk is too narrow and would like to see it wider. I also think that his option 4 (cut-in parking) is the best alternative. But changing the configuration is not a simple task and does require a lot of dialogue with the stakeholders, including the current businesses there (now represented by a revitalized business association). A few points to consider:

1. The Cleveland Park/Connecticut Avenue commercial strip is located by a Metro stop, but there is clearly parking demand there which outstrips supply. Just ask the restaurants that want to offer valet parking. Or look at the side streets closest to Connecticut Avenue, which are jammed during daytime and evening. Other commercial areas on Connecticut Avenue either have adjacent surface parking (Chevy Chase DC, Connecticut & Nebraska) or underground parking (Dupont Circle). Cleveland Park just has the small Park'n'Shop lot.

2. Public transit is great if you live along a bus route, but not if you live several blocks "inland" off the strip. Not everyone is phycially able to walk easily, especially with packages, and they depend on finding parking for short errands. So do certain businesses -- the dry cleaner, the appliance shop, etc. "Urbanism" is not just about outdoor cafes -- it's also about having useful businesses in close proximity to residential areas so that folks don't have to drive to the Rockville Pike for their household needs.

3. Of all of Mr. Caudill's alternatives, the channeled parking is probably the best. (A "shared road" sounds intriguing, but not necessarily as part of a major, sometimes high-speed arterial with a reversible lane.) A dedicated channel of parking would always be available, even during rush hours, and the parking meters could be set for frequent turnover of spaces during the day -- helping the small businesses whose customers need nearby, short-term parking. Some spaces might be made available for deliveries during specified hours. By picking up a few spaces along Macomb and Ordway where the service road now intersects, the net loss of spaces during rush hour would not be that great. Still, the net loss of parking versus today's non-rush hours would be considerable. And Mr. Caudl is correct, that lighting, trees (most in poor health) and possibly Metro vents would have to be re-located (or dedicated spaces would be sacrficed to Metro vent locations). This could be costly.

by Green CP on Jun 20, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

@Lance. Agree completely, well put.

by Jeff on Jun 20, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

I don't see how retail would be hurt. By adding 12 sidewalk cafes, benches, bike racks, plantings and trees, you will be attracting a lot more people to the strip than before. 25 less cars, but a lot more people by foot,bike,transit. More people coming to dine equals more people coming to shop. The sidewalk would probably be wide enough to incorporate some sort of fountain or sculptures. Wide enough to host a farmers market too. So long as market rates are charged for available parking there will always be turnover and spaces available for those that have to drive. I imagine if/when it happens people will wonder why they didn't change it back sooner. My other idea as a compromise would be to close the street in the spring and summer to allow for sidewalk cafes and then open it to cars in the fall and winter when the sidewalk cafes aren't in use.

by Johnny on Jun 20, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Lance frequently argues that "these are supposed to be local community shopping areas!" when he supports neighbors trying to shut down restaurants and the like. There's a large parking lot right nearby. A community shopping area presupposes only a modicum of parking, since it's not going to be used by people coming from out of town.

I could turn it around and say, "it's a community shopping area-- why does the parking situation mirror that which would be used by people driving in from other neighborhoods rather than locals walking by?" If we accept Lance's "community shopping" argument, then we have to ask why the "local community" has built an area designed to support drivers coming in to park from out of town.

In effect, Lance's argument is a huge contradiction: it's a "community shopping area," so the locals should decide how it's designed, and what the locals apparently want is a major shopping district that attracts people who drive in from many different neighborhoods.

by JustMe on Jun 20, 2011 12:24 pm • linkreport

Lance, you're talking about reserving parking to the exclusion of others.

I know you live in Dupont, but I really wonder if you wouldn't be more happy out in some gated community somewhere. Then you could regulate where everyone should park to your heart's content.

Leaving that aside, you've shown no evidence about the inherent neighborhood orientation of this retail area. You have no data to show where patrons are from or how they get to the area. The dual ideas that 1) this only serves the immediate neighborhood, and 2) that everyone drives there are laughable on their face. As Richard Layman noted, if everyone drives to those stores, there is simply no way that a commercial area of that size could support itself on the modest number of parking spaces that exist today.

In short, I think your description of the area is both wrong in terms of the existing conditions, and wrong in terms of what retail areas like this should be.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport

By adding 12 sidewalk cafes, benches, bike racks, plantings and trees, you will be attracting a lot more people to the strip than before. 25 less cars, but a lot more people by foot,bike,transit.

According to Lance, more pedestrians is a reflection of poverty, whereas more cars are a reflection of prosperity, and I think his reasoning is that the local residents of Cleveland Park feel the same way-- that the extra parking is part of the trappings of wealth that they would not want to give up, and feels that sidewalk cafes imply poverty, while driving down the block from Garfield to Connecticut Avenue and parking in a metered space is a sign of people a wealthy gentleman, and he's projecting his personal feelings on what he thinks Cleveland Park people will think.

by JustMe on Jun 20, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I personally support an alternative to the present service road. But don't jump to conclusions based on "what the locals want" with respect to the service road. A Cleveland Park list serv "poll" is not necessarily reflective of anything -- such polls, of course, are not scientific, and that list serv has thousands of members from around Northwest and probably beyond. So I wouldn't read into these polls anything one way or the other about what the nearby community wants. Indeed, the fact that the locals years ago voted in an historic district against a proposal to "Van Nessisize" Cleveland Park is a pretty good indication that they didn't want "a major shopping district that attracts people who drive in from many different neighborhoods."

by Bob on Jun 20, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

By Lance's own logic, his views are totally irrellevant as a Dupont Circle resident and should be ignored.

The whole argument that parking should be maintained to serve those that can't walk is contrived. If that's what you genuinely cared about, then the answer is to convert all the spaces into handicap spots. Of course, if that were done, their vacancy would simply demonstrate that the vast majority of users of those parking spots are completely able bodied people.

by TM on Jun 20, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

@Green CP "2. Public transit is great if you live along a bus route, but not if you live several blocks "inland" off the strip. Not everyone is phycially able to walk easily, especially with packages, and they depend on finding parking for short errands. So do certain businesses -- the dry cleaner, the appliance shop, etc. "Urbanism" is not just about outdoor cafes -- it's also about having useful businesses in close proximity to residential areas so that folks don't have to drive to the Rockville Pike for their household needs.

Thanks for validating what I suspected. I.e., that this parking IS needed by at least a portion of the neighborhood there. Good luck in ensuring that it's what the neighborhood wants that occurs there and not others whose only interests in your neighborhood are fleeting and passing. This is YOUR neighborhood shopping strip, to do with as YOU (and YOUR NEIGHBORS) please.

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 12:54 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. "Leaving that aside, you've shown no evidence about the inherent neighborhood orientation of this retail area. i.e., there is indeed 'evidence' that this is what this area is.

There is a designation in the Comprehensive Plan for neighborhood serving retail on that spot. I think you understand the significance of the Comprehensive Plan, right? (And how it got put together in an opening and fair district-wide process.)

Now why people who live there would feel 'entitled' to sign a petition for a matter that doesn't concern them is beyond me ....

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

*Now why people who DO NOT live there would feel 'entitled' to sign a petition for a matter that doesn't concern them is beyond me ....

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

There's nothing wrong with 'neighborhood serving retail,' Lance - your particular definition of what 'neighborhood serving' means is what's out of whack.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

@Bob: I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the listserv poll. Most subscribers live in CP or adjacent neighborhoods, and even to the extent that non-locals participated in the poll it's not obvious that that would skew the results in favor of pedestrianization. (It seems just as likely that people in, say, Mount Pleasant would be in favor of keeping this as a parking lot so they could drive here more easily.) Petition signatures are overwhelmingly from 20008.

Anyway I think this argument, that outsiders are trying to tell locals how to live, is a red herring, and one that's mostly useful to those who would rather not bother finding out what the majority thinks.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 20, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

So Alex ... what is YOUR definition of neighborhood serving retail?

by Lance on Jun 20, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

How "neighborhood serving" is a retail strip that boasts a Movie Theater, Metro Station, Strip Mall(complete with Petco), and directly neighbors the National ZOO? Cleveland Park is a far cry from the Palisades. At any rate there are currently more CP residents in support of a wider sidewalk than against. So what a Dupont Circle resident is doing debating the issue here is beyond me.

by Johnny on Jun 20, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

@Green CP: there is clearly parking demand there which outstrips supply

Agreed that demand for parking often outstrips supply here, as it does in a lot of DC's neighborhoods. Two points about that:

(1) As someone says, no place is worth visiting that doesn't have a parking problem.

(2) Focusing on supply gets you nowhere as long as parking is underpriced: You couldn't build enough parking to meet theoretical peak demand even if you were willing to turn the whole neighborhood into a parking lot, because of induced demand. As others have noted, performance parking throughout this corridor would ensure that there is always a curbside spot or two available on every block.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 20, 2011 1:47 pm • linkreport

I think what's there is a good start, Lance. And, as Johnny notes, what's there already serves a very broad definition of the 'neighborhood.' As it should.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2011 1:50 pm • linkreport

this parking IS needed by at least a portion of the neighborhood there.

You may not have noticed, seeing as how, since CP is solely for "local community retail," you likely have never really been up there, but there is available curbside parking on Connecticut Avenue in the area. The additional parking that would be replaced with a sidewalk is just bonus parking.

by JustMe on Jun 20, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

There's little doubt that there is more demand for parking than supply. That said, it's not clear that the "parkers" (for lack of a better term) are in the neighborhood to frequent our restaurants, bars, lamp shop, frame shop, or vacuum shop. I'm sympathetic to what cutting off our businesses from needed customers would mean. I'm not inclined to keep the safety hazard that is the access road so people can have easiest access to the zoo, instead of relying on transit or paying for parking in their lot. All that is to say, again, that it's not clear what's best for CP residents. As someone suggested early on in the thread - why not start blocking off the access road on weekends and see what the short term effect is, at least as a way of quasi-empirically testing some of the proposals?

As an aside, how does a resident get on the listserve? Thanks.

by Jeff on Jun 20, 2011 2:02 pm • linkreport

" Cleveland Park is a far cry from the Palisades."

But, isn't this is existential question for Cleveland Park? The Palisades has some destination restaurants, like Black Salt, but most of its retail, including the small but snappy Safeway, are decidedly oriented toward the local community. That's how many in Cleveland Park see their historic neighborhood, as a walkable village in the city, not as a destination retail or entertainment district -- if not the Palisades, then very much like Chevy Chase DC. There are others who look at the neighborhood's location (and desirability) and see more of Dupont Circle, U Street and downtown Bethesda as a future model. Therein lies the choice.

by Green CP on Jun 20, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

I think there's less of a demand for parking as there is a demand for transportation in general.

Just two blocks away from the stripe, parking spaces are empty even at the busiest hours. If transportation alternatives like bus service were more reliable in non-rush hours and if parking were priced fairly, fewer spaces would be taken up by people not lugging vacuum cleaners home.

by Neil Flanagan on Jun 20, 2011 2:05 pm • linkreport

@Lance Metro accessibility plays no part in giving the neighborhood access to it Absolutely wrong. Thousands of people who live in the neighborhood pass by these shops 2x/day on their way to-and-from the metro. The metro accessibility is hugely important to the interaction of these shops and the neighbors from Woodley to Van Ness.

by Tina on Jun 20, 2011 2:46 pm • linkreport

I am a resident of Cleveland Park, currently on assignment out of the country, but this issue is near and dear to my heart and wanted to comment briefly on two points.

Saftey- Without fail as the lanes on Connecticut Avenue shift for rush hour, a car will crash at either Macomb and CT Ave or Ordway and CT Ave. This has become such a regular occurance I don’t even need to set my alarm clock in the morning. I am honestly amazed that drivers, hanging essentially a U turn from south bound CT Ave onto the service lane running northbound, have not struck and killed anyone. Beyond the confusing traffic pattern that the service lane creates (paragraphs could be written about it), as was mentioned before, the sidewalk through this area is simply narrowed too much to safely accommodate pedestrians, joggers, bikers, moms with strollers, school groups, people with grocery bags, etc.

Population Concentration- There has been an argument made that the service lane should exist primarily as parking for those who live in Cleveland Park but need to drive to reach the commercial corridor. I agree that there are some homes which lie just beyond a reasonable walking distance to the commercial strip, however, I would also argue that by far a majority of the neighborhood’s population is concentrated within 3 to 4 blocks of the commercial strip, especially in the apartment buildings along CT ave.

My Concusion- I’m very proud of my neighborhood and although this commercial disctrict is zoned for the primary needs of local residents, I know the vibrancy of my neighboorhood exists because of its’ ability to attract non-local patrons. Cleveland Park does not end at an arbitrarly drawn line, residents from Dupont to American Univeristy can easily access our neighborhood via multiple modes of transportation and their business should be welcomed with the best neighborhood we can provide. As a longterm plan I was very much for the ANC’s idea to convert the current Exxon station into a subterrain parking garage (This would help Cleveland Park better compete with the Columbia Heights development). Until then, if you are one of the few people who truly needs to drive to access Cleveland Park there will continue to be spaces available (would be more if we got approval for performance parking) even without the service lane present. It’s important to remember that this is not suburbia, it will require some patience and even some $$$ to find parking, but it is there.

by Jeffrey H on Jun 20, 2011 3:00 pm • linkreport

My first year in DC, I lived on Ordway in a sublet in CP. The most persuasive argument for getting rid of the access road is safety. The entrance and exit to the service road are both 5 way intersections that have high accident rates. There's a reason that CP is a perpetual traffic snarl.

The idea that locals use those parking spots is a myth. Locals know to stay the hell out of their cars in the neighborhood.

by CJ on Jun 20, 2011 3:34 pm • linkreport

This is so wrong, it is just another attempt by the anti-car elitists to keep outsiders out of their neighborhood, like the closing of Klingle ROAD. Those of us who live on the "wrong" side of Rock Creek Park spend money in Cleveland Park now because we can easily park there. What is next, an electrified fence to keep us on our side of the Park?

by Jeff Bobeck on Jun 20, 2011 3:49 pm • linkreport

@ Jeff B. - When I lived there, I wasn't interested in keeping people out of the neighborhood. I just wanted to be able to walk to the metro without dealing with another fender bender at Ordway and CT. And frankly, walking down that clothesline width sidewalk beside the service road past a solid line of idling parking hunters, was less than scenic.

I do hope they put in a garage at the gas station site. I think CP is a nice drive to destination myself.

by CJ on Jun 20, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

The great thing about this proposal is that it can be tested thoroughly for free (ok, so maybe the cost of traffic cones and lost parking meter fees would be in the low hundreds of dollars). Just block the access road for a week or two and see what happens to the businesses, see how hard it actually is to find parking, see how nice it is for pedestrians, let restaurants put out a few tables and see how it works. Lets TRY it.

by SeanG on Jun 20, 2011 3:58 pm • linkreport

@Jeff B

How does the closing of Klingle Road impact usage of the commercial strip? If you live across Rock Creek Park, then using Porter Street would be the most direct means of accessing that area. It is a red herring to suggest otherwise.

by Andrew on Jun 20, 2011 4:01 pm • linkreport

@Jeff B. Just curious - since we're all at a loss to say who is parking in CP and what they're spending money on, care to give us an idea of how often you come in, where you park, what you buy/do? You also mentioned it was easy to park now, and I'm curious if you exaggerated for effect or that is really the case.

by Jeff on Jun 20, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

Three points:

1. Has anyone asked the actual businesses along the affected strip what their opinion is? Or do they not count?

2. Simply closing the road won't lead to sidewalk cafes springing up. All sidewalk cafes have to be approved by the ANC, and then by DDOT's Public Space Committee. This takes quite an amount of time, money, and "voluntary" agreements with the ANC regarding noise, trash, etc. And if you want to serve alcohol outdoors, that means another approval process with ABRA, in which the ANC once again gets to dictate its "voluntary" demands.

3. There's a zoning overlay in Cleveland Park. I'm fairly certain the cap has been reached on the amount of restaurants allowed along Conn Ave (notice two new restaurant expansions have a "market" in the storefront, rather than tables). So there's no guarantee any sidewalk cafes could even occur without amending the zoning regulations.

A further observation: I patronize businesses along that strip regularly. In the past decade, I think I have parked once along that service road. It's far easier to find parking in the neighborhood streets west of Conn Ave. Cars that would be displaced from parking in that service lane will simply park in the neighborhoods, thereby ticking off residents.

by fritz on Jun 20, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

@Jeff Bobeck - just another attempt by the anti-car elitists to keep outsiders out of their neighborhood

That's a pretty weird interpretation, it never occurred to me that anyone would take this effort that way.

I take my kids to school in Columbia Heights on the H3 bus all the time, so I can vouch for the fact that it's pretty easy to get across the park without a car.

You don't have to be an elitist to notice that an urban commercial corridor can accommodate a limited number of customers arriving in cars, but a practically unlimited number of customers coming on foot/metro/bus/bike/etc. It's just smart public policy on these kinds of decisions to favor the latter over the former, and has nothing to do with which side of the park you live in.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 20, 2011 4:50 pm • linkreport

+1 SeanG

by Doug on Jun 20, 2011 5:04 pm • linkreport

@ Herb Caudill & Jeff Bobeck

I very much agree with Herb and I'm sorry Jeff B if my posting came across as being elitist or anti-car. I actually own a car and do drive in DC when my destination warrants it (I think you are warranted in driving across the park). One could debate the Klingle closing for hours, but for this discussion, in coming from Columbia Heights over to Cleveland Park, I think Porter would have been and still is the more likely choice of roads one would take. As I said before, a long-term plan to put in a parking garage at Porter and CT Ave (where the Exxon is now) I think is one of the best future decisions Cleveland Park could make for itself. Until then, unfortunately everyone trying to park on the service road coming from your neighborhood, Columbia Heights, is experiencing the very grave danger I pointed out earlier: making what is essentially a U turn off of CT Ave south bound to access to the service road going north bound. This maneuver, done usually just as the light is about to change so there is a break in cars, sends the U turn traffic head-on into traffic coming off Macomb. Even when the turn is done while still having the green light, this is a high pedestrian zone (often times frequented by running small children heading to the zoo) and 2 crosswalks have to be traversed at the same time in order to access the service road. I strongly believe a very serious accident is just waiting to happen here.

All other arguments for or against closing the service road aside, I can assure everyone that the incident rate of traffic accidents both at Macomb and Ordway is unreasonably high and having watched these intersections myself for many years, it is traffic heading to and from the service road that is generally the cause of these crashes.

Again, I am very proud of my neighborhood and am glad you choose to come from Columbia Heights to Cleveland Park, it really is a great area. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the neighborhood as much as I do, I think an expanded sidewalk would add a nice touch to our existing community, however, trumping all other considerations is my concern for safety. The service road simply does not create a safe environment that all people in Cleveland Park, regardless of being local or non-local, can enjoy and this is why I hope in the future it is reverted back to the sidewalk it originally was.

by Jeffrey H on Jun 20, 2011 5:29 pm • linkreport

I signed Herb's petition last week and today got this response from Mary Cheh:

I have seen quite a few emails over the past few days regarding the potential closing of the service lane on Connecticut Avenue between Macomb and Porter Streets. As you may know, I was able to secure $1.5 million for streetscape improvements in Cleveland Park. Because closure of the service lane raises complex issues and interests that are in tension with one another, $250,000 has been set aside to study, among other things, that very issue. Therefore, this will be on the agenda at DDOT.

Thanks for your note.

Mary

As I said on the petition's site: I've lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, and I actually avoid the businesses on the eastern side because the sidewalk is too narrow in some places to support two-way pedestrian traffic. I can't be the only one.

by TJ on Jun 20, 2011 5:48 pm • linkreport

@Jeff
The CP listserv is here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cleveland-park/

by TJ on Jun 20, 2011 5:50 pm • linkreport

I use the businesses in Cleveland Park but I would not take my broken vacuum cleaner on the subway. If you eliminate the parking fewer people will use these businesses and go to another shop. A restaurant needs to fill its tables 3 times a night to stay profitable, all these people are not from Cleveland Park. You remember when many businesses left and you had empty store fronts that could not be filled. Heavy groceries, packages to mail, a load of library books, dry cleaning all these require a car and it will be this neighborhood or Chevy Chase. And yes, you get the Zoo crowd who also stop for lunch and use the restaurants that helps keep them in business. Conn. Ave. is a major road in DC with lots of traffic not some little village and that is why the businesses thrive. You also need Klingle Road open to go across town as it is the only road that goes under Conn. Ave. If you want a little village go move to one and leave the city.

by RC on Jun 21, 2011 6:15 am • linkreport

Herb attributes the closing of the sidewalk on the eastern side to faulty or misguided urban planning in the 1960s. My understanding is that the service road was the brainchild of the owner of what was then Woodley Liquors, which was located on the east side a close to the former Safeway (that is now the Brookeville Market). He -- was the name Abe Rosenfeld? -- was well connected and, at one point, a member of the DC School board. From what I had ben told, he pushed for and got the changes made so customers could stop at his store on their way home driving along Connecticut Avenue.

In any event, the closing should not be attributed to inept urban planners.

by Lindsley Williams on Jun 21, 2011 6:34 am • linkreport

@Lindsley - thanks for the clarification. I've had a hard time finding any historical documentation on what exactly led to the creation of the service lane, so this context is helpful.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 21, 2011 8:40 am • linkreport

@RC - How many times a year do you take your vacuum cleaner in to be repaired? I know a lot of people love that store, and it adds to the "main street" feel of the strip; but it seems to be the tail wagging the dog in a lot of these discussions. Appliance repair is good and well, but it's a service most people need only very occasionally; so as neighborhood amenities go it shouldn't take priority over things that people do on a daily or weekly basis (for example, eating). Same goes for the store that sells $2000 antique table lamps.

by Herb Caudill on Jun 21, 2011 8:48 am • linkreport

A couple more thoughts:
If we do close the street for a weekend to test the waters then steps should be taken to temporarily activate the space as it would be if it becomes permanent. Arrange a farmers market?. Rent some temporary seating for the restaurants to set up outdoor areas. Otherwise a trial run could do more harm than good as people just stand around in the drab closed service lane wondering if the change is worth it.
But I must say I find it odd that we even have to "test" a service-lane free sidewalk when they are the norm in every other neighborhood in the city. By all accounts we have been "testing" the service lane in CP for 40 years and the result is that it's a major failure. Hence why they weren't adopted anywhere else.

As for the Vacuum issue. People can pick-up/drop-off at the back door in the alley. Or some of the spaces on Conn ave can be designated as a 15 minute drop off zone.

by Johnny on Jun 21, 2011 10:21 am • linkreport

"You also need Klingle Road open to go across town as it is the only road that goes under Conn. Ave.'

I don't want this thread to segway into Klingle Road, but can't we leave that dead horse alone? It will not be rebuilt as a road for vehicles, and it's simply not coming back. The National Park Service will never let it re-open as a road, and there is no political appetite on the DC Council to incur the construction expense and recurring maintenance costs of a road. Even Google Maps deleted that stretch of Klingle several years ago.

by Sarah on Jun 21, 2011 11:26 am • linkreport

Though it happens frequently, I thought it well timed that as I drove East on Macomb last night a driver going southbound on Conn made the U turn into the service road as the light turned red (his/her only opportunity to beat traffic, I imagine), stopping to avoid hitting a pedestrian, and then holding up West bound traffic on Macomb momentarily. Fortunately this driver was alert and no accidents were even close, but it demonstrates the daily face-palm that is that turn.

by Jeff on Jun 21, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

You are ignoring all the people going to both the restaurants, movie theatre, buying groceries need the parking this service lane offers in Cleveland Park. Just because you build a sidewalk it does not change the need to park a car. Klingle is now defined by the EA as a necessary and open public road and budgeted at 7 million for a three block bike trail. The park service is no longer fighting the road and the construction costs for this useless bike path are very close to the costs of the road. All roads are bike paths.

by RC on Jun 21, 2011 9:33 pm • linkreport

@RC You are ignoring all the people going to both the restaurants, movie theatre, buying groceries need the parking this service lane offers in Cleveland Park.

You are aware there are only 25 spots in the service lane?

Klingle is a seperate issue.

by Tina on Jun 22, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

As an ex-CP resident of 3 years and still a frequent visitor, I am actually unsure how I feel about removing the service lane. I just feel it should be pointed out though that this stretch of road (minus the vacant McD's finally turned into the Tackle Box) has had the lowest turnover in the last 5 years compared to the other 3 stips in CP (the Uptown Strip; Sams Park stirp; & the Fire Station Strip) while supposedly having the worst sidewalk. That does not mean however, that the strip would not improve with an increased sidewalk, per se.

Finally, the 2 things that may not have been mentioned earlier (i have skimmed most of the postings) are 1) the hill to the west of CP - which induces driving instead of walking in my opinion - and 2) CP residents dont want this area to become more appealing to the rest of the city - yes, they want 'their' business' to do well, but they dont want them too crowded.

by Ryan on Jun 22, 2011 2:12 pm • linkreport

@Ryan, the boat's already sailed on this one:CP residents dont want this area to become more appealing to the rest of the city .

CP is crowded with National Zoo visitors from all over the world let alone city-wide all summer and the Uptown theater is also a city-wide destination. I think you're wrong in your assessment of what CP residents "don't want". I lived in CP for seven years and i'm still very involved in the community as a property owner and I've never heard anyone say "i want our area to be less appealing to the rest of the city". On the contrary, to become more appealing to CP residents improvements necessarily will be more appealing to everyone else, no matter where they live.

by Tina on Jun 22, 2011 2:29 pm • linkreport

That side of the street needs a goose. Perhaps such a renovation will make the McDonald's site more appealing.

PLEASE! Someone who serves breakfast buy that space!

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 23, 2011 7:07 am • linkreport

Tina 25 parking spaces in one block is a substantial amount of parking spaces. Since it is constantly used where will the cars park if you take it away? Do you have a plan? Taking away parking spaces does not mean people will stop driving and use the Metro.

by RC on Jun 23, 2011 8:48 pm • linkreport

@RC, your comment seemed to indicated that people who park for hours at a time (go to movie, run an errend and then grocery shop) are vital to the success of the businesses. There's no way those 25 spots, being used for hours at a time, benefit the businesses. Its not like all parking would be eliminated. There is still parallel parking on each side of Conneticaut Ave., Sam's Park & Shop lot, and parallel parking on all the other streets. Those 25 spots are a small fraction of the available parking.

by Tina on Jun 24, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

^clarification: "There's no way those 25 spots, being used for hours at a time, benefitcomprise the businesses major customer base."

by Tina on Jun 24, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

In looking at the photos that accompanied today's article in the NYT about how European cities are making things more difficult for automobiles in order to make things easier for pedestrians, I noted the following statement: "Although Zurich's store owners initially protested street closings, fearing they would mean a drop in business, that fear has proved unfounded. Pedestrian traffic increased 30 to 40 percent when cars were banned, an official said."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/science/earth/27traffic.html?_r=1

by Christine on Jun 27, 2011 1:08 pm • linkreport

At the top of the long escalator at CP Metro Station, there is a sign that reads "National Zoo --->" directing tourists to the East side of Connecticut. If this sign were removed or even changed to "<---National Zoo--->" some people would walk down the West side of Connecticut.

by Daniel on Aug 18, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

The Woodly Park-Zoo metro station should never have included the word 'zoo'. It's a long, uphill walk for people pushing strollers or for small children.

And either Cleveland Park or WP-Zoo stops should have been closer to the entrance to the zoo.

by Capt. Hilts on Aug 18, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

The location of the pedestrian entrances to all three Red Line stops (originally named “Zoological Park”, “Cleveland Park” and “Van Ness”) were discussed extensively in the 1970’s when Metro was ordered to hold public hearings on its plans (“Bootery” is the name of the plaintiff in the court case, a merchant whose business’s front door was to be blocked off during construction).

Residents from Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, and Forest Hills weighed in extensively, as did area civic and community organizations (there were no Advisory Neighborhood Commissions at that time).

As to the Zoological Park station, input was consistent that having the station of that name located in the heart of Woodley Park made no sense. A variety of suggestions were made, none of which was accepted. Among the ideas:

• Relocate both the Zoological Park and Cleveland Park stations so they would extend UNDER the two stream valleys (Rock Creek and Klingle), with access to the surface from each end of both relocated stations, a suggestion that would have had a portal to serve Kalorama on the south side of Rock Creek and Woodley Park to the north and, further north, a portal close to the Zoo itself along with a second access to Cleveland Park (at about Macomb or Newark Streets).
• Create a tunnel for a pedestrian walkway from the lower mezzanine of the Woodley Park station to the lower reaches of the Zoo itself which is about at the same relative elevation.
• Place an elevator off the pier of the Calvert Street bridge’s north side down to the sliver of Zoo/National Park Service land below for a walkable access path.
• Add a pedestrian portal on the east side of Connecticut to the Zoological Park stop, just as there has always been in plan and eventual construction at Cleveland Park and Van Ness

None of these ideas was accepted, and the result is what is now in place.

Over time, Metro did agree to change the names of the stations, renaming “Zoological Park” to “Woodley Park / Zoo” (and later adding “Adams Morgan” to that) and adding “UDC” to the “Van Ness station’s name.

The only concession to the suggestions noted above was to create an upper level mezzanine to the long escalator run at the Woodley Park station and establish “knock out panels” so that there could be direct access to the flanking hotel to the west (then named the “Sheraton Park”) and to the east for a possible later pedestrian access to the east side of Connecticut. Maybe, someday….

by Lindsley Williams on Aug 23, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

I sent a letter to Mary Cheh almost four years ago now, suggesting closure of the service lane and restoration of this sidewalk to pedestrians. No acknowledgement, but glad to learn that possible closure is being studied. More glad to discover Herb's petition, which I have just signed. I also just sent a letter to the DC Office of Planning to recommend restoration of the sidewalk in keeping with Smart Growth efforts. What probably took a few months back in the 1960s to destroy will probably take years to reverse, but we should keep trying. If the city can close the street at Dupont Circle on Sundays for the FreshFarm Market, no reason they can't close this silly service lane at Cleveland Park on weekends so folks can enjoy some safe window shopping, strolling, and outdoor dining. But eventually, the only course of action worth taking is to brick up the service lane once and for all.

by Helen on Mar 24, 2012 5:14 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or