Greater Greater Washington

Positive resident activism: Shell no!

Shell wants to build a new gas station at the corner of 12th 14th St and Maryland Avenue, NE, one block from the H Street corridor and the future streetcar. Residents are organizing to promote using that site for a business that better contributes to the walkable retail district they want for the areaa restaurant, daycare, flower shop, or almost anything else.


Shell station on Connecticut Avenue. Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

The "Great Streets" program is specifically trying to transform H Street into a lively, walkable retail and entertainment area. A gas station pushes the neighborhood the opposite way, creating a more suburban strip-mall feel. Besides, there are already three gas stations in the area.

Unfortunately, gas stations are a permitted use in that zone (hence the three already there), but this project requires a public space permit as well. In many if not most blocks in DC, the private property line is not at the sidewalk, but farther back. For example, my property line runs directly through the middle of my front stairs, making half my front yard private and half public. In many blocks, the bay window protrusions of the houses actually extend into the public space. (Here's more about public space from the Capitol Hill Restoration Society).

Shell plans to build the station on their property, but would use the substantial public space between their property and the street as paved area for cars to park and access the station. The public space is nearly as large as the property itself. By using it, they give DDOT the opportunity to oppose this auto-oriented use, just as they are with the Van Ness Walgreens.

The ANC asked the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development to support an alternate use here, but they declined, citing "the interest of encouraging new investments across the District from various business types." ANC Commissioner Bill Schultheiss replied:

What I don't understand is how your office sees a gas station at this corner lot fitting into the "Great Streets" initiative. I am troubled by the idea that any development is better than no development implied by Mr. Albert's response. That is a false choice. There are other interested buyers of this property which would be more than happy to build a project that meets the goals of the Great Streets program.
Opponents of the gas station have a very snazzy site, "Shell No!" The project will come before DDOT for public space review on September 24th and before the BZA on October 14th.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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I saw this a couple days ago on FrozenTropics... I signed the petition and truly hope they are successful in stopping this. The guy who owns the land is shady and is using political connections to push this through. This gas station would be a setback for that particular neighborhood (there are multiple gas stations nearby, and this is prime land that would only encourage crime). The use of public land is just icing on the cake.

by SG on Aug 29, 2008 10:17 am • linkreport

Where exactly are the other three gas stations in the area?

by Nick on Aug 29, 2008 11:31 am • linkreport

SG,

How does a gas station encourage crime? Aid and abet drive by shootings? Crimes against the environment?

I am not familiar with the block and will agree that the gas station might not fit in the vision for the neighborhood, playing the crime card is the weapon of choice of the NIMBY-crowd. You don't want to go there do you?

by WTF? on Aug 29, 2008 11:56 am • linkreport

Nick,

There is a BP on Bladensburg Rd, a few blocks from there. There is a BP on 15th St NE, a few blocks from there.

I think the BP at H and 4th closed.

There is an other gas station, which brand i forget, also on Bladensburg Rd, a few blocks away.

by dcseain on Aug 29, 2008 1:49 pm • linkreport

There is also a BP at 6th and Florida which is just a few blocks away.

I live in the area and am strongly against this. H Street, with the streetcar coming, has the potential to be something great. Another gas station would just hamper and slow the progress that is already there.

by BiLL on Aug 30, 2008 2:57 pm • linkreport

And perhaps the streetcar will lower the demand for gas in that immediate neighborhood. If not, then the need for additional gas will justify the gas station remaining open.

I think the market will determine whether or not the station is necessary after the streetcar line is installed.

by Tim Yuskavage on Aug 31, 2008 2:35 pm • linkreport

WTF,

That idea about gas stations and crime came because there have been robberies, and even a murder, at the BP station down the road from the proposed gas station. the cashier didn't even call the police -- a customer did hours later.

by lou on Sep 3, 2008 11:21 am • linkreport

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