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Time to ditch Cleveland Park's anti-restaurant law

Why is Cleveland Park's commercial strip struggling while restaurants that could serve residents' needs don't open? An outdated zoning law prohibits new food establishments. It's time to get rid of this failed rule.

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

5 years ago, shortly before our second child was born, my wife and I moved to Cleveland Park from Dupont Circle. We were determined to stay in the city, and Cleveland Park seemed like best of both worlds: Metro, restaurants and shops, but also a yard for the kids. So we bit the bullet, took out a mortgage we couldn't really afford, and moved.

I work from home, and coming from a more urban neighborhood I had a hard time adjusting to Cleveland Park's little commercial strip. The area felt empty and sad during the day, with a thin selection of lunch options. But word came out that a Così planned to fill a space that Blockbuster had recently abandoned.

I already had a long-standing addiction to their wasabi-roast beef sandwich on freshly baked flatbread. So, good news! I'd get another lunchtime option, plus a place to meet someone over good coffee, or to work when I need to get out of the house.

That's when I learned about Cleveland Park's anti-restaurant zoning overlay. A couple of decades ago, the neighborhood lobbied for a cap on the number of restaurants. Specifically, no more than 25% of the linear footage fronting the Connecticut Avenue commercial strip could hold any kind of food establishment—including restaurants, bars, takeout, delis, coffee shops, or sandwich shops.

Così, after briefly floating some creative legal arguments that would have exempted them from the cap, decided a zoning fight wasn't worth the trouble and pulled out.

To summarize, we had:

  • a sandwich shop that wanted to sell me sandwiches;
  • a landlord ready to rent space to the sandwich shop;
  • citizens ready to take jobs as making sandwiches; and
  • me, a customer, willing to buy sandwiches on a regular basis.
The neighborhood would have gotten another "third space", a comfortable and informal local gathering place. The city would have gotten tax and licensing revenue. Così's vendors, suppliers, and contractors would have made money, and so on—a cascade of voluntary, mutually beneficial economic transactions that would have left everyone involved better off.

But no. Instead we got a shuttered storefront for two full years. No jobs for anyone, no sandwiches for me, a landlord losing money on a vacant space, and an increasingly depressing-looking commercial strip.


At this point it would be very easy to turn dismissive and snarky about Cleveland Park's comfortable, out-of-touch, selfish residents who oppose everything. But here's the thing: Since that time I've gotten to know these people. They are among my neighbors and my friends. They're good and generous people, and they're not fools or cranks. They're proud of their history of local activism and they're trying to do what they think is best for the neighborhood.

They deserve a fair hearing for the strongest arguments they've made for the restaurant cap. I still think this is still a bad law. More broadly, this provides a good case study in how neighborhood politics can go wrong, and what we can do about it.

The original rationale for the restaurant overlay involves two main arguments.

  1. Cleveland Park's commercial strip should provide first for the needs of the neighborhood. Restaurants can pay higher rents, so they crowd out small and diverse neighborhood-serving retail and services. Typical quote: "We have enough restaurants, what we need is a bookstore and a hardware store."
  2. Restaurants are more likely to bring in people from outside the neighborhood; a critical mass of restaurants would turn Cleveland Park into a drinking and dining destination, creating traffic and parking problems. Typical quote: "Removing the cap could turn Cleveland Park into another Adams Morgan that lacks a neighborhood feel."
To the first point, the overlay hasn't worked. It hasn't given us the retail landscape we imagined, but has instead given us empty storefronts and tanning salons. To the second point, I'd suggest that these fears are exaggerated and not realistic. There are better ways to address parking problems than keeping amenities out of the neighborhood.

Most importantly, though, it's fundamentally unfair to allow a minority of neighbors to use the government to impose their consumer preferences on all of us. The District of Columbia doesn't want the restaurant cap, and neither does Cleveland Park. It's time to get rid of it.

It isn't working

We all want a lively, diverse retail landscape. The problem is that zoning laws are a blunt instrument: They can only say "no." Zoning can prevent business, but it can't create business. The overlay has been around for 23 years now, Cleveland Park is still waiting for that hardware store and that bookstore, and neither one is ever going to come.

It's not hard to see why, now more than ever: We're halfway between two legendary local bookstores, Politics & Prose and Kramerbooks. Established independent bookstores and big corporate chains alike are going out of business in droves. As much as we might wish the world was otherwise, the economic rationale for retail bookstores has been nearly destroyed by the one-two punch of Amazon Prime and the Amazon Kindle.

A hardware store isn't much more likely: there's also competition nearby and the retail hardware sector is still subject to the economic forces that are leading us to the End of Retail As We Know It.

The long-term future of neighborhood retail, in Cleveland Park as everywhere else, is in products, services, or experiences that people can't obtain over the Internet or receive by UPS. If we don't allow more restaurants, cafés, bars, or delis, what does that leave? We have a couple of grocery stores and a CVS and a Walgreen's. And there are shops that are doing well by offering unique and carefully curated selections (like Wake Up Little Suzy) or advice from helpful specialists (like Potomac River Running).

But that still leaves a lot of space to fill. After years of empty storefronts, that void has now been filled by an abundance of nail salons, tanning salons, cellphone shops, and the like. That's not exactly the sort of "diverse retail" anyone had in mind.

I do wish we had a bookstore and a hardware store, and there's nothing wrong with you and I indulging in wishful thinking. But there is something wrong with building public policy on a foundation of wishful thinking.

We've made it illegal to add any more food establishments, in the hope that that would magically produce lots of charming independent retail. But no sane entrepreneur is going to give us the stores we say we want. The unintended consequence is that we're filling our storefronts with the dregs of the service sector.

It's a solution to a nonexistent problem

The second argument stems from fear: Fear of more traffic, fear of changing the neighborhood's character, fear of becoming "the next Adams Morgan."

Let's not flatter ourselves. That's not going to happen. Adams Morgan isn't even the new Adams Morgan any more; the district's hipsters have long since moved on to U Street and H Street and 9th Street. What those neighborhoods have in common is the energy that comes from cultural and economic diversity. How do I say this nicely: Cleveland Park's respectable citizens are ... boring. No one goes out of their way to party in a neighborhood full of middle-aged white lawyers and minivan-driving families.

Anyway, Adams Morgan's weekend crowds never went there for the fine dining, for the cafés, or the sandwich shops: They were going for the bars and nightclubs; and the liquor licensing process gives neighbors all the tools they need to keep those kinds of establishments in check.

One last thing about the "not-another-Adams-Morgan" trope: I lived in Adams Morgan for years, and while the twice-weekly onslaught of drunken kids was a big nuisance, the entertainment venues didn't crowd out neighborhood retail.

To the contrary, the neighborhood has a diverse and vibrant retail scene that puts Cleveland Park to shame: A slew of trendy women's clothing stores, shoe stores, home decor shops, music stores, ethnic groceries, and gift shops. And the best running store, the best frame shop, the best bike shop, and the best florist in DC. And standard neighborhood amenities like grocery stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, and convenience stores. And, yes, a hardware store and a bookstore.

None of us wants more congestion or more cars parked on our side streets. And none of us wants teenagers from the suburbs puking on our lawns. But allowing more food establishments in the neighborhood will do none of those things. Restaurant, cafés, or delis are not more likely than other businesses to cause traffic or parking problems. People can always take the metro or walk to eat out; but they're more likely to use their cars to get to a hardware store, a grocery store, a wine store, or a vacuum cleaner repair shop.

It's not fair

The most important argument for getting rid of the restaurant cap is that it's not fair. It's not fair for consumers, and it's not fair to our local landlords and merchants.

The restaurant cap imposes the economic preferences of one group of consumers on everyone else, and that's not right.

Some people eat out more than others. And there's been a generational shift in dining preferences: For our parents' generation, restaurants were for rich people or for special occasions. In contrast, my wife and I eat out all the time, sometimes with our boys and sometimes without, and we rely on neighborhood take-out for the occasional weeknight meal. The market is perfectly able to sort out those preferences and figure out the "right" number of restaurants for the demographics of any given location.

The 25% cap is also unfair to landlords and merchants. If you happen to already own space occupied by a restaurant, you're "grandfathered in" and you can replace that restaurant with another as a matter of right. All else being equal, the retail space right next door is worth less, for the arbitrary reason that it doesn't happen to already house a food establishment.

When a food establishment leaves the neighborhood for whatever reason, their landlord has every incentive to turn away retail or service tenants, even if that means keeping the space vacant for years. When McDonald's left Cleveland Park in 2004, the 2-story space—one of the most beautiful and valuable spots on the strip—remained empty for 7 years.

People wouldn't start restaurants if people didn't want to go to restaurants. The fact that so many people want to open food establishments in Cleveland Park is a reflection of the desire of the people of Cleveland Park and the people of the District of Columbia for more food establishments. And yet here we are using the coercive power of the government to keep those food establishments from happening. That's not right.

The neighborhood doesn't want it

The Office of Planning would lift the restaurant cap if were persuaded that Cleveland Park doesn't want it. And it's not what the neighborhood wants, at least not any more. The Cleveland Park listserv held a survey on the question in 2008 and again just recently. In both cases voters expressed about a 2:1 preference for allowing more restaurants.

This is a classic example of one of the most frustrating aspects of local politics: A highly motivated minority can easily end up overruling a passive majority. A handful of angry people shouting "No" can often carry the day, even if the predominant sentiment is "Yes" or "Sure, why not?"

We've all seen this happen in Cleveland Park and elsewhere in DC. We saw it with the Wisconsin Avenue Giant controversy, and I worry that the same phenomenon will hamper the current effort to bring DC's zoning code into the 21st century.

So if you're OK with allowing more restaurants, cafés, diners, delis, ice cream parlors, sandwich shops, and other food establishments, you need to speak up. If you want lively and walkable neighborhoods, they're not going to just happen as long as leaders only hear from an outspoken minority.

If you agree, and you're a DC resident, please sign this petition to send a message to key local officials.

Sign the petition!

This petition is now closed. Thank you for participating!

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.  


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Isn't there a similar cap on new restaurants or bars along Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park?

by Ron on Nov 13, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

A textbook example of why zoning shouldn't be focused on Use.

by drumz on Nov 13, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

How about building up that main street, what's the height cap here? I'm guessing there's a Historic Overlay there, but talk about a wasted opportunity, especially with a one story commercial strip.

by Thayer-D on Nov 13, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Jasper on Nov 13, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

Herb-thank you.

by Tina on Nov 13, 2012 1:11 pm • linkreport

Couldn't agree more. It would be nice if the the restaurants on the western border of Cleveland Park (Wisc Ave) could trade places with a few of the retail places on Connecticut and balance eachother out. Im sure once the Giant gets built the retail will return to Wisconsin but will anything new have opened on Connecticut?
I agree with the need to increase the height on retail buildings. Incentivizing landlords to redevelop their property to include residential abover commercial would provide additional foot traffic that would support retail that neighborhoods like CP desire.
DC should really push to increase density in neighborhoods like CP, Tenleytown, Adams Morgan, and Glover Park.

by andy2 on Nov 13, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

I am not suggesting being rude. But I am suggesting holding people accountable for their bad decisions.

One of the reasons I really liked the article is because he didn't decide to go nuclear and attack his neighbors. That usually is the problem w/such debates...paint the other as evil and the communication halts to a standstill.

Herb made good points but parts of it really isn't as "anti-restaurant" as the title suggests. Cosi would be great for that area. But while I'm sure "fight" might have played into their decision, I also wonder whether "bad business" did as well. They've closed several Cosi's in the area and at some point I thought I remember them saying that it was going to be bought or was already.

Then there's the fact that existing policy allows for grandfathering..not to mention landlords hoaring properties.

There seems to be a confluence of factors as a reason why more restaurants aren't open in Cleveland Park than simply being "anti-restaurant." We now understand that the majority of residents are in favor of removing the cap. The problem is, as in nearly all instances of anti'ism, that the minority speaks for the majority.

by HogWash on Nov 13, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

I've often wondered if the DC Council should authorize ANC-wide referenda on some of these bigger policy questions about caps and moratoria. I suspect the majority might support easing these restrictions.

If I recall correctly, the cap is set by the Zoning Commission, so an interested party such as the ANC or Office of Planning would have to submit a proposal to the Commission. I don't think the DC Council can directly legislate the cap away.

by Eric Fidler on Nov 13, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

Agree with the author 100%!

by MrTinDC on Nov 13, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

Adams Morgan has the Reed-Cooke Overlay. It was put into place in the 80s, and as with the overlay in Cleveland Park, the RCO is restrictive in terms of use and height. I'm sure it was put into place with good intentions but I kind of wonder about its relevance in the present day. I'd like to think that the DC Council has the authority to change zoning codes or overlays. Are overlays reviewed when the update of the zoning code is being done (as is presently underway)? If not, perhaps they should be.

by anon2012 on Nov 13, 2012 2:28 pm • linkreport

Re bookstores, it's interesting to note that Kramerbooks is attached to both a bar and a cafe. And if I'm not mistaken, Politics and Prose has a cafe in the basement. So that restaurant ban might in fact be keeping out the best bookstores.

And what was the last bookstore to open in DC? The ones inside Busboys and Poets.

by M.V. Jantzen on Nov 13, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

The author is flatly wrong that the Cleveland Park commercial area is "struggling." As evidence for this dubious proposition, he cites the presence of some tanning shops and phone stores and suggests that all will be well if the zoning overlay is lifted. But the commercial area seems to be doing very well, even in a mixed economomy. Where are the empty storefronts? Last night I was walking along Connecticut Ave. by Dupont Circle, which has no overlay and lots of restaurants and you guessed it, tanning salons and phone stores.

Also, the author is incorrect that Cleveland Park doesn't want the overlay. The list serv "poll" he cites is not only unscientific but most of the list serv's 12,000 + members live around the city, not in the neighbhorhood. Indeed, in what is pretty close to a vote, a couple of years ago a group which avowedly opposed the zoning overlay tried to take over the local citizens association in a heavily contested election with hundreds of members voting. They lost decidedly to a slate that supported more balanced growth.

If the zoning overlay is so wrong, why does the Office of Planning recommend in the Comprehensive Plan that such overlays be adopted in other neighborhoods?

by Bob on Nov 13, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

So do you think its a good idea to cap the number of restaurants on a block by block basis? Moreover, is that the best way to get the retail diversity that is desired?

by drumz on Nov 13, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Cleveland Park has had a fair number of restaurants come and go over the last 5 or 6 years. Tackle Box (awful), Whatsabagel (sadly gone because of landlords jacking up the rent), that Chinese place that became Walgreen's. Starbuck's couldn't survive here even though there once had been 3 coffee places on the stripback in the mid-90s. Good, inexpensive places like Vace's (a place I'd take over Cosi any day) and the Vietnamese place have done well for years. Overpriced places like Indique with reasonably good food have survived. I suspect that the restaurant cap is the least of Cleveland Park's problems.

by Rich on Nov 13, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

"Typical quote: "Removing the cap could turn Cleveland Park into another Adams Morgan that lacks a neighborhood feel." "

Adams Morgan lacks a neighborhood feel?

I am curious, what was the position of Cleveland Park activist Peter S. Craig on this resturant cap?

by Douglas Andrew Willinger on Nov 13, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

Based on past alignments, I would say he would be opposed to changing the status quo. What difference does it make? As the author notes, the demographics have been changing and people want more carry out and dining in options than people of Dr. Craig's age.

by Andrew on Nov 13, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

@ HogWash:One of the reasons I really liked the article is because he didn't decide to go nuclear and attack his neighbors.

It's not about attacking. It's about pointing out the mistake and relating it to the regulation. Analyzing the mistake and preventing it from happening in the future. It's not about blame, but you can not change minds if you ignore the mistakes that were made.

by Jasper on Nov 13, 2012 4:16 pm • linkreport

There are some good restaurants in Cleveland Park. That little Thai place next to the fire house is excellent!

by Richard on Nov 13, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

I've long be on the side of eliminating the cap on restaurants. Herb's arguments in favor of getting rid of the overlay are solid and persuasive.

The overlay was conceived in a pre-Internet era, and the Internet has dramatically changed retail. The kind of retail that people use most are stores that offer what the Internet can't provide, and that often turns out to be restaurants.

I'd like to take exception to Bob's assertion that most of the over 12,000 member of the Cleveland Park Listserv live outside of Cleveland Park. I'm the publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how Bob came up with that statement, because it's not true.

But let's follow that particular point out to it's logical conclusion anyway. Does anyone think that only people in Cleveland Park should have a say over what happens to the overlay? Should only ANC representatives who live in Cleveland Park, rather than the entire ANC, vote on the overlay, if this issue comes before them?

The two polls we have conducted on the listserv show that by a 2-1 margin people in Cleveland Park support getting rid of the cap on restaurants. Could these polls be off? Of course; they're not perfect measures. But could these two polls, conducted four years apart and yielding almost identical results be completely wrong? No, they express the sentiment of people in Cleveland Park accurately.

If anyone thinks that Cleveland Park's residents don't support getting rid of the restaurant cap, then they should conduct their own poll. The more measures of neighborhood sentiment, the better.

by Bill Adler on Nov 13, 2012 6:05 pm • linkreport

I appreciate Herb's well-reasoned and reasonable essay -- but I still disagree.

The zoning overlay essentially creates two rent classes. Restaurants pay higher rent (whatever the market will bear); everything else only has to compete with each other, not with restaurants.

Without the overlay, all establishments would eventually be forced to pay restaurant-level rents. I would welcome empirical evidence to the contrary, but it's hard for me to imagine how *any* of the following businesses could remain in Cleveland Park:

Artisan Lamp
Brother Vacuum
Framemart Gallery
Guitar Gallery
Made by You
Parcel Plus
Town Jewelers
Transcendence, Perfection, Bliss
UBreakIt WeFixIt
Uptown Vision
Wake Up Little Suzy

Some would still survive -- CVS, Petco, City Fitness, etc. Maybe the primary care clinic, probably one of the dry-cleaners.

But what about the mom-and-pop, the quirky, the everyday-essential, the unique services? I mean really, vacuum repair? competing with something like Ardeo? what do *you* think would happen?

Now maybe some people value even more take-out options above a diverse retail environment. But several dozen restaurants within two or three blocks seems like enough -- count me out.

Note: On the other hand, I would absolutely support adding 2nd or 3rd stories to many of the historic buildings along the commercial strip. Maybe change the overlay rules so street frontage doesn't count for a restaurant, as long as non-restaurant retail is operating upstairs?

by Shalom on Nov 13, 2012 7:00 pm • linkreport

Shalom - To see if your argument holds water, let's try and imagine a neighborhood without a restaurant cap.

Oh, wait - we actually don't have to use our imaginations at all, because Cleveland Park is, for all practical purposes, the only neighborhood in the District of Columbia that has a cap on restaurants.*

Chevy Chase doesn't have a restaurant cap. Dupont Circle doesn't have a restaurant cap. Tenleytown doesn't have a restaurant cap. Georgetown doesn't have a restaurant cap. Logan doesn't have a restaurant cap. So by your logic, the commercial space in those neighborhoods should consist of 100% restaurants. But it doesn't. There's all kinds of quirky, interesting, and neighborhood-serving retail in all of those places.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single commercial area in DC or anywhere else in the country where restaurants occupy more than about half of the space available. So since the nightmare scenario you suggest has never happened anywhere, ever, I'm not sure why it should be a consideration when talking about Cleveland Park.

* Other neighborhoods are technically covered by the same zoning overlay, but for various reasons they're enforced loosely or not at all. Only Cleveland Park has a citizens' association that has historically insisted on rigorous enforcement of the 25% cap.

by Herb Caudill on Nov 13, 2012 8:21 pm • linkreport

@ Shalom:I would welcome empirical evidence to the contrary

Old Town? 75% locally owned. Retail and restaurants mixed.

by Jasper on Nov 13, 2012 8:42 pm • linkreport

@Shalom: What exactly is so wonderful about having that large collection of random, low-use retail anyway?

I live in CP and walk along that strip everyday, and the vacuum repair shop is almost always empty, the lamp shop is almost always empty, the frame shop is almost always empty, the metal gates are down on the jewelers, etc. I don't really understand why people are in love with these places that probably barely survive even with their unnaturally-low rent. And while a bookstore and hardware store would be awesome, as the article says that would have happened already if it was going to.

I eat out a lot. I can tell you as much as I love Vace, Fresh Med, Siam House, and (thank god) Chipotle, it would be nice to have a sandwich shop. Or a burger place. Or whatever. No one is going to metro to CP to eat at a deli, but I will walk to eat there. The overlay does nothing more than prevent me and other residents from spending our money the way we would like to, for seemingly no reason other than maintaining some quirky visual "appeal" (an appeal that I'm guessing requires you to be of a different generation than I am to understand).

by JW on Nov 13, 2012 9:02 pm • linkreport

Cleveland Park is just screaming for a place that serves a decent breakfast. It needs a diner!

by Capt. Hilts on Nov 13, 2012 11:49 pm • linkreport

A good way to ensure that there are local businesses is to provide lots of commercial spaces. In georgetown the number of locally owned businesses is something above 50%. Part of that reason is that there are a lot of retail spaces in georgetown. More storefronts=more stores.

Allow more commercial/retail in CP and you're likely to see a similar rise.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

Well said! You said what the planners couldn't!

by eylngrl on Nov 14, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

As someone who used to live in Adams Morgan for many years and now lives in Cleveland Park, I dearly miss the wealth and diversity of options that Adams Morgan offers. Sure it's a zoo on late Friday and Saturday nights, but the rest of the week, Adams Morgan is the best neighborhood in the city in my opinion.

However, Cleveland Park has some structural differences with Adams Morgan (and Dupont, Logan, etc.) that make it a different neighborhood. The biggest obstacle for Cleveland Park is that it's surrounded by parkland that limits the nearby population base to draw from. The Zoo is to the southeast; to the southwest are the grounds of the Tregaron Estate; cutting across the northern border is Melvin Hazen park; and most importantly, to the east is Rock Creek Park. All of this parkland means that there are simply fewer residents within a 1/2 mile radius who can easily walk to the core commercial strip for their needs. Also, Rock Creek Park is so large that nobody on the opposite side of the park is going to walk across the park to frequent Cleveland Park businesses. This bounty of parkland is what makes Cleveland Park so secluded and quiet relative to its neighbors, but it's also what's going to make it more challenging for better retail options to survive.

The type of retail that will do well in Cleveland Park is destination retail, such as restaurants or movie theaters that will draw people from outside its immediate population base. And we've got plenty of that from the Uptown to Palena and Medium Rare.

by A-lo on Nov 14, 2012 10:22 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by David B. on Nov 14, 2012 11:33 am • linkreport

First, to offer the potential of an answer to one of the other comments: On the CP listserv, one commenter noted that the Woodley Park cap had been lifted, and she chronicled the problems associated with the change. Might be worth checking it out.

Second, I do not agree with Herb. His primary argument is that the cap represents the minority foisting their will on the majority, yet there is absolutely no proof that the majority/minority argument holds. And, the fact that there are more nail and tanning salons than HE might like doesn't mean that this is the majority view either. Those who are big on arguing against the cap because of "the market" and competition and smart growth seem not to be noticing that these establishments will or would be closed and there would be empty storefronts in their stead if there were too many of them. We all have our own ideas re how many of which sort of store we'd really like to see. And, I hear the pining for a hardware store and bookstore, but where are the (empty)storefronts in CP that are big enough for either? The argument that there's competition that might be keeping them away is equally bogus: Walgreen's had no problem moving into a way too small space only a block away from another drugstore to compete with CVS, and Weygant similarly had no problem moving only a block away from another wine/liquor store when there was one only a block away ....

by kldavisunc on Nov 14, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

I'm a new Cleveland Park resident and could not agree more with you. Unfortunately I am having problems sending the petition as I keep getting an 'error'. I hope my comment here helps!

by ArchitectDesign on Nov 14, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

I would also like to point out that other neighborhoods do have a restaurant cap. 14th street corridor recently changed their cap to 50% I believe from 35%. I could be wrong but as I just moved from that neighborhood I remember this being a topic of conversation there. The people against raising it were also using the arguement of 'another Adams Morgan'. As has been pointed out, Adams Morgan has a lot of bars but that is more of an issue of licquor licenses, not restaurant zoning. Adams Morgan also has a very diverse commercial infrastructure which CP currently lacks. This may be in part due to the larger size.

I think both sides of this arguement need to actually listen to the other side instead of being stubborn and sticking to their pre-decided guns as I see inaccuracies on both sides.
For the record, as stated in my comment above, I am for lifting the restaurant cap.

by ArchitectDesign on Nov 14, 2012 12:09 pm • linkreport

Herb - if you are interested in getting this changed, bring petition to OP and then file a text amendment (through the Office of Zoning) to alter the text of the zoning regulations. If you can work with the ANC, get OP on board, and show neighborhood support, you can get this Overlay modified. That's what happened with the Arts Overlay on 14th Street. Jennifer Steingasser from OP is a great resource on this.

by Jamie on Nov 14, 2012 12:57 pm • linkreport

Woodley Park has an overlay with a restaurant cap of 25% just like CP. Contrary to what an earlier poster said, the WP overlay and restaurant cap have not been changed. Landlords in Woodley Park have complained that they have had trouble finding tenants - that there are plenty of restaurants interested in their space, but not other stores.
Also, there is a halfway measure: instead of eliminating the cap, raise it: to 35%, 50%, whatever.

by Urbanette on Nov 14, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

Secondly, I wonder if the "empty and sad" Cleveland Park is the one with crowded sidewalks and plenty of people dining outside on Conn. Ave on any given Friday night in the summer.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by K Street on Nov 14, 2012 3:54 pm • linkreport

K Street, Cleveland Park - until VERY recently - had several empty storefronts that stood empty for YEARs.

It was sad!

by Capt. Hilts on Nov 14, 2012 3:56 pm • linkreport

I like Cleveland Park as it is. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] All we can say for sure is that it would change the neighborhood. We have no real way of knowing whether these changes would be positives or negatives, so why take the chance?

Cleveland Park isn't broken. [Deleted.]

by jrobie on Nov 14, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

I dont live in DC, and cannot speak to the desirability of a restaurant cap


lots of people move for a variety of reasons. To neighborhoods that have some things we like, and other things we dislike. If we see a change we think would improve things, we have every right to advocate for them - tell newcomers they should have moved somewhere else no more makes the case than telling oldtimers they should leave.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Nov 14, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

You're right Cleavland park has been perfect ever since the buildings and stores that occupied them spontaneously erupted out of the ground all those years ago.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2012 4:13 pm • linkreport

I've always wondered why some kind of "mixed zoning overlay" might be permitted. Par ex., a restaurant w/bookstore (ala Busboys & Poets) or an art gallery with a restaurant component. Some of these have worked quite nicely. Call it a Culturestaurant. Rather folks lobbying to open up the shade completely, let's try an interim approach and see what happens.

by RAWeiss on Nov 14, 2012 4:19 pm • linkreport

I believe that since all of us pay for an expensive piece of permanent transportation infrastructure (Metro) that all of us have some proportional say over the development around that infrastructure, since development affects its use. The Cleveland Park Metro station is underutilized compared to other stations in the city - more should be developed there so that we are using our transit infrastructure to its fullest potential.

by MLD on Nov 14, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

No one ever said it was perfect or that it eve was perfect, but rather that the state in which it currently exists is satisfactory, and that I personally like it. If there was a crisis, if it was falling apart or failing, there would be a reason to try the schemes that some of the neighborhood's newer residents are proposing. As is these ideas are unnecessary risks.

So I'll say it again, and you can redact it again if you want to: Cleveland Park isn't broken, so stop trying to fix it.

by jrobie on Nov 14, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

"We say this game's not of our choosing.
Why should we risk losing?"

by CoolCoolConsiderateMan on Nov 14, 2012 4:27 pm • linkreport

So the fact that you like it precludes it from criticism?
And you don't think that a sandwich shop that can't operate in an area because of a cap on restaurants period shows that they're might be reason to look at why we have the current regulation? It's not even a bar, its sandwiches.

It's fine if you think its satisfactory but don't belittle others for not feeling the same way.

by drumz on Nov 14, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

The fact that I'm satisfied with the status quo means that I resent having to pay attention to try to preserve it from unnecessary disruption.

I'm not bothered about your sandwich shop, if it was a question of opening your sandwich shop alone, I wouldn't care about that, but we're not talking about your sandwich shop. We're talking about disrupting a system currently more or less at equilibrium, and no one can pretend to know what the neighborhood would look like after that disruption.

It's fine if you want to disrupt the status quo, but don't belittle the disagreement by pretending we're just talking about opening a sandwich shop.

by jrobie on Nov 14, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

We're talking about disrupting a system currently more or less at equilibrium...

A completely artificially imposed equilibrium, and one that does not have anywhere near universal support (as the very existence of this thread shows).

by Alex B. on Nov 14, 2012 4:54 pm • linkreport

Every system of laws is "artificial." Markets don't exist in nature.

And "artificially impos[ing]" a disruption to that equilibrium does not have anywhere near universal support either (as the very existence of this thread shows).

by jrobie on Nov 14, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

Markets don't exist in nature.

Oh, yes they do.

by Tina on Nov 14, 2012 5:37 pm • linkreport

Tina, don't confuse a 'market' with a 'bazaar'.

by Capt. Hilts on Nov 14, 2012 5:46 pm • linkreport

So you basically don't like being bothered. That's an excellent way to approach policy.

And the future isn't so impossible to predict. Cleveland park will likely get more restaurants if more restaurants are allowed.

by Drumz on Nov 14, 2012 6:01 pm • linkreport

@jrobie - If I've understood correctly, your view is that you're entitled to a voice in neighborhood decision-making, but I'm not, and that the reason for that is that you've lived here longer. Do I have that right? How many years do I need to live here before I'm allowed to speak?

Neighborhoods change, whether you want them to or not. Our is not the only young family that's moved to CP in the last 10 or 15 years. Over the last 200 years Cleveland Park has gone from wilderness to farmland to summer resort to streetcar suburb to urban neighborhood. The only thing we know for sure is that the neighborhood will continue to change as the District changes and the region changes and the country changes; and I think in a democracy we're all entitled to weigh in on the direction we want our neighborhoods to take.

by Herb Caudill on Nov 14, 2012 6:25 pm • linkreport

Don't forget Transcendental - an eclectic little shop. No more tanning salons and nail shops... I live at Van Ness/UDC which is really a dead zone for shops and restaurants so I frequent Cleveland Park and Chevy Chase. I love the stores that are already there and hate seeing empty storefronts. Don't forget to buy local!!!

by Quilter on Nov 14, 2012 8:03 pm • linkreport

Cleveland park isn't any more broken than many other awsome and in demand neighborhoods in DC, but that's not the issue. The problem is there's an un-natural cap on growth in neighborhoods like Cleveland Park which is hurting the cities furute potential and making us invest in more infrastructure to deal with natural growth when we have many underdeveloped areas in the city that could handle some growth, especially since everybody's dollars have gone into providing metro in Cleveland Park.

Now I differ with some in wanting good infill that build's on the character of these neighborhoods, buildings that aren't all glass and anonymous, or as some say, avant guard, but I'm definatly for the redevelopment of strips like Cleveland Park with housing, offices, and new lunch options. This "I got mine, so the heck with you" mentality that goes by the nimby moniker of "it ain't broke" isn't fair to the whole area, which is how we need to think fi we're all going to prosper in the future.

I'm for clear and firm zoning, but with-in those rules, one shoule let the market do what it will. People forget that the market is what created these wonderful neighborhoods and the market, well regulated as it should be, will allow for the most vitality.

by Thayer-D on Nov 15, 2012 8:13 am • linkreport

Yes, Cleveland Park along Connecticut Avenue really needs revitalization with the addition of lots of offices, housing and no zoning overlay by the Metro.. Oh, wait, all that exists just a few blocks north. It's called Van Ness. Now there's an example of urban vibrancy!

by Sarah on Nov 15, 2012 9:57 am • linkreport

Sarah, Van Ness doesn't have the Uptown Theatre or the Zoo.

The shuttered McDonald's that sat EMPTY for YEARS was just depressing. Three Brothers was shuttered. City Fitness. At one point, there were six shops shuttered for extended periods of time in the two strips. If you were one of the surviving businesses, the lower level of foot traffic had to affect your business. I don't know of anywhere else that many empty storefronts at one time would be tolerated.

by Capt. Hilts on Nov 15, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport


zoning for use is not the same as zoning for design. Van Ness has a design problem that contributes to how its used. Cleveland park has the opposite issue. Besides its not really an argument about "vibrancy" (which is generally defined as an area with stuff that I like) but rather how how the affects of this zoning decision affect the people who live there.

by drumz on Nov 15, 2012 10:05 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Brandon on Nov 17, 2012 1:47 am • linkreport

Additional restaurants create more competition and you will see some stay in business and some go out of business as an area can only support a certain number. Creating more restaurants does not guarntee they can all make it so you will see the constant coming and going and empty storefronts. Restaurants do not have to provide parking but those who come from other neighborhoods will fill up all available public parking and that does have an affect on the neighborhood. The restaurants need people from outside the neighborhood to stay in business and they will have to do something to attract the crowd. So the view of I want more restaurants to please me does not serve the neighborhood.

by Sally on Nov 19, 2012 7:44 am • linkreport

Sally, the Uptown Theatre and the zoo give Cleveland Park a high profile in the community as they are huge attractions.

In Bethesda, where we don't have restaurants we have expensive trinket shops that attract no customers. I'd rather have more restaurants to create more competition and variety.

by Capt. Hilts on Nov 19, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

Sally - of course restaurants will come and go, but what certainty do we have that the neighborhood can only support the number of restaurants it currently has? Maybe it could support 2x as many?

by Urbanette on Nov 19, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

Perhaps Cleveland Park is trying to keep the neighborhood charm with unique and one of a kind restaurants instead of letting it become full of mediocre chains that are the only restaurants able to afford the rent like in Arlington.

Arlington used to remind me of Cleveland Park, with quaint restaurants and unique food. Now, those are more rare, and it's full of "Cheesecake Factory", "On Tap Bar and Grill" and other bigger names that are fine for sometimes...but not why I moved to a city like Washington DC. Keep it in the suburbs.

by Nicholas on Nov 21, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Several years passed, nothing changed, except several more properties became vacant in our neighborhood... It is indeed getting sadder and sadder.

by recently moved to CP on Aug 31, 2016 5:09 pm • linkreport

Cleveland Park needs a greasy spoon diner where you can eat breakfast 24/7!!!!!!

by Tracey Johnstone on Aug 31, 2016 5:19 pm • linkreport

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