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Breakfast links: Preserving history

Photo by mgstyer on Flickr.
Local vs. national on the Mall: Two bills in Congress seek to redidcate the DC War Memorial as a national WWI memorial. The Mall lacks an official memorial to that war, but many feel DC should keep a tribute to local veterans. (TBD)

Are chain link fences historic?: An Alexandria resident removed her chain link fence only to learn that the city deemed it historic. Staff say the fences define "mid-century vernacular housing and their cultural landscape." (Post)

10-20 fewer people will get to live on 14th Street: Responding to Wallach residents' and HPRB's objections, architects have shaved 10 units off their planned 14th Street building. Is this really any more historic or architecturally beautiful? (U Street Dirt)

Questionable campaign finance practices: Tommy Wells want to reform DC's campaign finance laws, but some councilmembers are taking mutiple donations from developers. Jack Evans received donations from 12 companies with the same address. (WAMU)

Another departure at elections board: BOEE chairman Togo West is resigning his post. The city must now fill at least two spots on the board, after Rokey Suleman left last month. DC's next election is 8 months away. (DCist)

Feds won't pay for parking yet: GSA is delaying a plan to charge federal workers to park because negotiations with the federal workers' union have stalled. There is no clear timeline for GSA to finalize the program. (Federal Times)

All Hands in jeopardy: A labor board ruled that MPD's "All Hands on Deck" initiative violates police contracts. The city may have to pay millions in overtime wages, but Chief Lanier plans to continue the program, saying she has corrected the problem. (Post)

Gray defends bond tax veto: Mayor Gray defended his veto of the municipal bond tax in a letter to the DC council. Gray says the city must rebuild its cash reserves and challenged claims that he ambushed councilmembers. (Post)

And...: Maryland's driver's manual now includes rules about sharing the road with cyclists. (FABB Blog) ... VRE employees use DC hotels for breaks during the day. (Examiner) ... DC ranked the 7th most walkable city in the US. (NBC Washington) ... A parking enforcement vehicle parked illegally. (City Paper) ... Who lives in LeDroit Park? (Left for LeDroit)

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Jamie Scott is a resident of Ward 3 in DC and a regular Metrobus commuter. He believes in good government, livable communities and quality public transit. Jamie holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown. 


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Historic chain link fences? Honestly?

(I could maybe understand it if all the houses in the neighborhood still had them, but from the story, that does not appear to be the case).

by Jacques on Aug 9, 2011 8:29 am • linkreport

Chain link fences are just the tip of the iceberg. HP boards are simply fiefdoms for the politically connected tweed jacket set. Every rule is fungible, and when they run out of things worth preserving, they invent new things to preserve. If you hire a connected builder or architect, you can get anything by an HP board. Otherwise, the "rules" have to apply.

Rule of man, not of law.

by ahk on Aug 9, 2011 8:48 am • linkreport

you'd think MPD wld make it easier to apply to become an MPD volunteer reserve corps member

by CCCAPrez on Aug 9, 2011 8:52 am • linkreport

I don't know the circumstances of this particular fence story, but I know last year I saw someone put up an arched picket fence on a corner lot of a row house just north of U St (near the MPD) and couldn't help but think 'it's a nice fence, but I've never seen one like it in any downtown neighborhood ... which is known for its black wrought iron fences ... it looks like it belongs in North Arlington with detached 'country cottages' look". Maybe it's the same situation in Alexandria? After all, preserving a historic district's 'sense of place' is supposed to be the focus of historic preservation ...

Of course, the same people who'll criticize historic preservation on the grounds that 'it's a front to just dictate good taste' are the first to attack historic preservation when it protects even those things which aren't in good taste ... when they help preserve the sense of place ... It's one of those 'you're damned if you do and damned if you don't situations.'

by Lance on Aug 9, 2011 9:03 am • linkreport


I completely agree with you on historic preservation boards. They filled with people who have brilliant ideas on minute details on how someone else's property should look and wish to use the power of coercion and the pretense of historic preservation to see that through.

Old Town Alexandria is the worst too. You can't even replace your windows with energy efficient types. Ridiculous.

by Fitz on Aug 9, 2011 9:04 am • linkreport

again with the greater greater wells slant on everything.

david - jack evans has not broken any laws and your blurb framing it like he has is irresponsible. i hear there is some great, cheap real estate in ward 6 these days. considered a move?

by deliboy on Aug 9, 2011 9:16 am • linkreport


David didn't put that link in or write the blurb, I did.

The WAMU article discusses Wells's plan to reform campaign financing, including the "bundling" of donations from a single developer. As the article points out, Evans received 12 donations from different companies, all with the same address. The article further goes on to say that tax records indicate that one Maryland developer controls those companies.

Currently, the practice is not illegal. But it is my belief, a belief shared by Wells, that is it inappropriate. No, Evans hasn't broken a law. But he has engaged in the exact practice Wells wants to outlaw. Hence the way I wrote that blurb.

by Jamie Scott on Aug 9, 2011 9:27 am • linkreport

I live in a dumpy-for-its time, plain, mid-century lower-middle class brick TH box in Alexandria, and nothing improved the appearance of the property more than when I ripped down the chain link fence about 8 years ago. It is open at the front and on the south side property line between neighbors. It feels so much more spacious, and mine and my neighbors landscaping just sort of blends together. There is still a CL fence between the north side neighbors, but its grown in with vines and jasmine so it just sort of recedes. They have dogs and wanted to do a black wrought iron deal with a gate so their dogs could run (never mind that they have an enclosed back yard also) but black iron would look stupid, and it chops up the front yards and makes them look like little 19th century cemetary plots. Thankfully they got that idea out of their heads when I wasn't willing to pay for part of it. Anyhow, thankful that I don't live in a historic district. This is what its come to. And the reference in the article to the projects is interesting. I'm actually surprised that there hasn't been an effort on the part of citizens to preserve them, not so much for "historical" reasons, but as a way of guarding against increased density. Of course they would want to retain the buildngs but replace the residents.

by spookiness on Aug 9, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

Now that the Maryland driver's manual tells drivers how to share the road with bicycles, we'll just have to wait a generation or so for said Maryland drivers to treat bicyclists well. I can't wait for 25 years from now!

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Aug 9, 2011 9:32 am • linkreport

RE Developers setting up seperate LLC's for all their holdings is as common as the sky is blue. Some of the areas largest RE Companies have dozens, if not hundreds of seperate LLC's isolating the liability for each and every property, but all addressed the same way. It has been done this way for...decades.

You can believe that it shouldn't be this way, but you also have to include ALL the other Councilmembers and Mayor well that have been donated money in this manner. I personally know that Cheh, Thomas, Brown(s), Gray and Thomas have all been given money by LLC's of the same company over the years.

I don't specficially know if Wells is guilty of the same thing but considering how much RE money finds its way into campaign coffers, I would be really shocked if Wells hasn't been guilty of it too, so this is kinda like calling the kettle black.

by freely on Aug 9, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

Here’s a little fact that nobody here probably knows. Prior to the conversion of the Union Station into a shopping arcade there was a part of the building that had facilities in it to accommodate train crews during their layovers. It was operated by the YMCA and was located on the north end of the building. The entrance into Y was located where Claire’s Etc. is today.

by Sand Box John on Aug 9, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

I wasn't up in arms about the original proposal for Wallach Street, but the new renderings show a much more handsome building. Not necessarily because of the building's size/capacity, but because of all the other minor architectural touches that they added...

by andrew on Aug 9, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

AHOD is not in jeopardy, it's been a wildly successful program from a PR perspective, even if all it does is save up all the busts for one weekend. The police union obviously doesn't care about their public perception and is hoping to capitalize on what the teacher's union achieved.

It will be interesting to see if DC's residents really want a safer city, or continue to listen to voices that don't have their best interest at heart.

by ahk on Aug 9, 2011 9:41 am • linkreport

So other than send a picture to Lydia DePillis, where do we report police/parking enforcement problems? Is there any way to give out a ticket to them? I'd like to think that we, as citizens, could write a ticket, take a picture of the offending vehicle, send it in, and have it stick....but I doubt it.

by thump on Aug 9, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

Agreed with Freely. Setting up an separate LLC for individual projects is SOP as a developer for liability reasons regardless of the political donation thing. It's hardly a smoking gun for corruption.

I think GGW and the news are misreporting the angle because of basic ignorance. Wells understands the RE game too well to not understand this too. I think what he's pushing for is an amendment to the rule which is to say that child LLC's should be treated as part of a parent organization and the limits should apply to all subsidiaries as a whole, not separately.

That said, I don't like Wells. I think he sold out to "old DC" for too long and it's too late to come back.

by ahk on Aug 9, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

DC should certainly have its own War Memorial...outside the National Mall. Maybe they could put it in Pershing Park. How many tourists have ever stopped to contemplate DC's voting rights while looking at the old ramshackle monument? The National Mall is sacred national space that brings all Americans together. I support DC representation but there's a point where local concerns should take a backseat to national interests. Using this space to score points on the issue of DC representation only degrades and diminishes the argument. It's a crime that there's no national World War I memorial on the National Mall and this is a chance to finally correct that. It's indicative of how little we think about or consider the importance of World War I in our nation's history. The DC World War I memorial was dedicated at a time when the city was for all intents and purposes a small town with a small town mentality. It should have never been on the National Mall to start with.

by Mike O on Aug 9, 2011 10:04 am • linkreport

VRE train crews get hotel rooms to relax in between their inbound and outbound shifts? Big deal... in fact, this seems like a win-win-win arrangement. The hotels (a real upgrade to the available accommodations in NE) get more business (during an otherwise-slack period: weekdays midday), the train personnel get an environment to relax in and avoid having to commute home and back in the middle of the day (presumably saving energy as well), the traveling public gets better-rested personnel on their evening trips, and all of this is done without putting up a single-purpose building or converting office space into a facility (like the layover room described by Sand Box John) that would sit idle the rest of the time.

The Examiner is good at spotting wasteful expenditures both by government agencies and outsourced contractors, but I think they missed the train on this one.

by Arl Anon on Aug 9, 2011 10:10 am • linkreport

@ Jamie:

Why target Jack Evans then? Why not mention everybody else - had a look at Bowser's records or Brown's or anybody else's? Give me a break.

Seriously - the Greater Greater WELLS slant on everything you guys produce is getting really tired.

by deliboy on Aug 9, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

deliboy: The breakfast links are intended to summarize the news articles they link to. That WAMU article starts by saying that Wells wants to stop the practice, then talks about Evans and lists his 12 contributions from one address in Potomac. So Jamie is just noting the information that's in the actual article there.

by David Alpert on Aug 9, 2011 10:17 am • linkreport

We already have a national WWI museum & memorial, but it's in Kansas City, Missouri and not on the Mall.

by Moose on Aug 9, 2011 10:17 am • linkreport

deliboy: I'm not sure why you're not happy with the editorial content of a blog that has a clear editorial bent. What would you propose otherwise? The WAMU article covered Jack Evans' fundraising, not the other councilmembers you mentioned. I believe your ire belongs in the comments of their website, not this one.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Aug 9, 2011 10:18 am • linkreport

@ andrew,

I agree. I was broadly supportive of the re-development of the post office building on 14th, but the new renderings do look much better than the first iteration. I wonder if these development firms systematically offer sub-par first proposals so that they can strategically come back with more acceptable second efforts?

I don't think that residents of Wallach street are owed a shorter building, but it is a narrow cross street, and the step back on the southern side of the street will make it much less canyon like.

by CJ on Aug 9, 2011 10:32 am • linkreport

More Wells grandstanding.

by HogWash on Aug 9, 2011 10:46 am • linkreport

Um, in Virginia Bailey's Crossroads tied with Arlington as the state's most walkable? Forget that Bailey's Crossroads is an area within Fairfax County (why was Arlington County considered as a whole and not parts, some of which are infinitely more walkable than others)....I wouldn't consider it walkable in the slightest, unless you're talking about walking around the strip malls.

Also...where's Alexandria? Old Town is 98!

by Catherine on Aug 9, 2011 10:50 am • linkreport

@Arl Anon:

The Y at Unions Station never sat idle. It was used 24/7 by train crews from all the railroads that serviced the terminal.

by Sand Box John on Aug 9, 2011 10:53 am • linkreport

I think that small pox and cholera, and open air sewers are historic too. Old town (or is that Olde Towne?) needs some whipping posts, and stocks. Town criers: "Bring out your dead!!"

by SJE on Aug 9, 2011 11:13 am • linkreport

Old Town has no E's. Parker Gray isn't really Old Town but thats another debate for another day.

by spookiness on Aug 9, 2011 11:28 am • linkreport

and to answer GGW's question in the blurb above, yes, this is a better integrated, and less jarring design for a building in that location. I challenge anyone to examine the two proposals and then disagree.

I don't support the process that allows small interest groups to extort these changes from developers, but it's sad that the process does sometimes result in better efforts from them. The first proposal for this site is a cookie cutter Clarendon special, which has little or no architectural place on 14th street. the second proposal wont win awards, but it's clearly superior to the first, both structurally, with it's allowance for more light on Wallach, and in term s of its facade, which has some integrating elements that reference other structures on the street.

It's hard to argue against a system of inappropriate micro-management, when that system sometimes yields results.

by CJ on Aug 9, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

Amtrak and freight railroads crews also spend time in hotels during their mandated "rest" periods, at their away-from-home terminals. This is a common practice nationwide, and spelled out in standard labor agreements for train crews. Why the Examiner thinks this is "big deal" is anyone's guess, other than an opportunity for a journalist to display his/her manifest ignorance about the railroad industry.

by Paul on Aug 9, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

"I'm actually surprised that there hasn't been an effort on the part of citizens to preserve them, not so much for "historical" reasons, but as a way of guarding against increased density. Of course they would want to retain the buildngs but replace the residents. "

Oh, there has been. Not only for the projects but for that whole area of Old Town, generally. Parker-Gray, while on the grid system with Old Town, was built at a very different period of time and until recently was considered a different neighborhood (mostly along racial and economic lines). From my understanding of the issue (and I'd love to hear other input), a large part of designating the Parker-Gray historic district (which is a different entity than the Old Town historic district) was, among other things, to stave off density and keep the old time residents where they are.

by Catherine on Aug 9, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport


I like the new design, too. I don't like the fact that it lost 10 units off the previous design.

Trade those larger setbacks for an extra floor of height to retain those 10 units, and let's see how that looks.

by Alex B. on Aug 9, 2011 11:49 am • linkreport

@Sand Box John - Sure, didn't mean to suggest that it did. But without a greater volume of rail traffic, I'd think it would go underutilized today.

by Arl Anon on Aug 9, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

@Mike O The WWI DC veterans memorial is not a monument to DC voting rights. It's a monument to DC soldiers who fought in that war.

However, if Congress tries to expropriate it, then yes, it will be the site of a massive protest and it will become a monument to Congressional tyranny over unrepresented taxpaying, war-fighting citizens.

by Ward 1 Guy on Aug 9, 2011 12:00 pm • linkreport

@ Mike O

Technically, the WWI memorial isn't on the Mall, it's in West Potomac Park--an area that was identified in the McMillan Plan as The Washington Common, to be devoted to the people of the city as a place of recreation and relaxation--and construction of the memorial predates the construction of the Mall itself. In my opinion, national memorials such as MLK and FDR are encroaching on land that should rightly be reserved for the use of the people who live here.

by Christine on Aug 9, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

Catherine, my understanding of the rationale for the Parker-Gray historic district is the same as yours.

by spookiness on Aug 9, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

The Tommy Wells campaign finance idea is interesting because it clearly has no chance of passing (nor is Wells doing himself any favors by portraying Evans in a negative light; alas, Wells seems to have not learned anything about why he was demoted and relegated to the Siberia Committee). Perhaps this is Wells' plan for the next 3 years: Propose bills that will get him accolades from his echo chambers, but that won't actually see the light of day as law? He can become the liberal version of Ron Paul, but far less entertaining or effective.

But it brings me to my point: How would Wells' scheme run up against the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United? The Supremes made pretty clear that they're not very fond of campaign limits on corporations.

by Fritz on Aug 9, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

Moose, Kansas City does not have the national world war 1 memorial.

It has the national world war 1 museum AT the liberty memorial. The same act that would make the DC world war 1 memorial into the DC and national world war 1 memorial would make the liberty memorial a national world war 1 memorial. Dropping the DC section and just making the liberty memorial in Kasas City the national world war 1 memorial seems fine to me.

by CharlesK on Aug 9, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

@Fritz; I tend to agree with your logic but your legal analysis is misplaced.

Corporations do have a right of free speech, and political speech is important. Very important. But we're not talking independent expenditures here, we are talking donations to candidates. Those can be limited and regulated.

The better analysis would say why is legal for a corporation to have one limit, but a household to have multiple limits? 2 people + children can easily get 4 or 5 donations for one address.

I'd say a court could see that difference, but political speech is always tricky.

by charlie on Aug 9, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

@Fritz, the reference to Evans seems to have been made by WAMU, not Wells. WAMU cites Evans's financial disclosure forms as their source.

As for Citizens United, the case dealt with independent expenditures. It's still constitutional for the time being to place a cap on donations made directly to a candidate or campaign, and the WAMU piece explicitly indicates that what Wells is proposing deals with donations to campaigns. Axent Realty would still be allowed to spend as much money as they want to re-elect Jack Evans as their representative, so long as they don't coordinate with Evans on how the money should be spent.

by cminus on Aug 9, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

@Arl Anon:

I don't thin it would be as under underutilized as you might think.

I would hazard a guess Amtrak is doing the same. Several Amtrak trains terminate and originate in Washington generating layovers. Then there are the crews layover when locomotives are changed when said trains are running through.

The Y at Union Station was also used by Washington Terminal employees.

by Sand Box John on Aug 9, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

If only the community feedback process similarly improved the design of the buildings slated for the Hine School site.

Instead, there, we started with tall ugly buildings, and ended up with revised short ugly buildings.

by andrew on Aug 9, 2011 3:55 pm • linkreport

Many of the nation's larger rail systems have "crew rest" areas spaced throughout the system. I know that both MTA in NY and NJ Transit have them, including one right next to the Princeton Junction station. Every major airport also has a crew rest room with bunks, etc. Federal law is strict on rest requirements and I think most people would rather the crew actually rest then be stuck trying to drive home and back.

Given VRE's size, its probably cheaper to rent out a few motel rooms then try and build a new facility.

by cityer on Aug 9, 2011 6:55 pm • linkreport

It's hard to argue against a system of micro-management, when that system yields results.

The new buildign is far better than the old one, and losing units to preserve light and openess is exactly what the system was desigbned for. Looks like it worked this time.

Shocking, that's a Ward 2 issue. We'll see what happens with Grahamzilla and the PUD's in Ward 1.

by greent on Aug 10, 2011 11:14 am • linkreport

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