Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: How to use public space


Photo by Baileyusa115 on Flickr.
Fairfax against Tysons road: Fairfax County supervisors officially recommended against building a controversial road through the Old Courthouse Spring Branch forest in Tysons. Nearby residents had mobilized against the road. (Post)

Hyattsville boosts public parking: Hyattsville is increasing its public parking by more 50%, including removing travel lanes on Route 1 outside of rush hour and new municipal lots. The city is also standardizing parking rates at 50¢ per hour. (Gazette)

Cracking down on loitering: A new law in Prince George's allows up to 10 days in jail for a first-time loitering offense. Do anti-loitering laws discourage or promote sociable use of public spaces? (Gazette)

Don't congregate near Andrews: Prince George's will forbid public gathering places like churches and theaters near Joint Base Andrews because there's a chance of a plane crash. A helicopter crashed 3 miles from the base in 2008. (Examiner)

DC sees more Ward 6 voters: DC has released the final tally for the election. Ward 6, home to some rapidly-growing neighborhoods, had the most presidential votes. Will this growth continue in years without a presidential election? (Post)

Arlington cab drivers protest : 40 Arlington taxi drivers protested yesterday outside the County Board offices, opposing the expansion of Arlington's taxi fleet and calling for a bill of rights to protect them from companies' control of operating certificates. (Post)

How New York recovered: NYU created an interactive timeline of NYC transportation before and after Hurricane Sandy as part of a detailed report on Sandy preparation and recovery. One recommendation: keep the exclusive busways the city set up to route around flooded tunnels as permanent BRT lines. (Atlantic Cities, Streetsblog)

And...: GWU and AU will ban smoking on campus in 2013. (DCist) ... Chicagoans argue about strollers on transit like we do. (Tribune) ... Toronto's anti-bicycle mayor was removed from office for violating conflict of interest rules. (Atlantic Cities, Streetsblog)

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Cracking down on loitering...

Hey! I thought loitering laws were unconstitutional! Wonder how long it'll be before we get one in DC.

by oboe on Nov 27, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

A loitering law is one of those things where a police officer is the one to decide whether you're loitering or not. That doesn't seem ideal.

by drumz on Nov 27, 2012 9:34 am • linkreport

Re: Arlington taxi drivers.

I think any and all taxi regs should exists to protect the consumer. The drivers against this law need to prove how their preferred system is better for the rider than the current one. Until then I don't really care who drives my taxi.

by drumz on Nov 27, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

Loitering laws exist to allow police to search anyone they feel is suspicious. Any defense lawyer will tell you that reasonable doubt is an easy standard to make, and it holds up in court very easily. Loitering laws make it all too easy.

Predict it will be challenged by the MD Supreme Court within a year. 10 days in jail? Geez, not too racist, is it?

by Jack Love on Nov 27, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

@drumz,

Very true. Just interesting that DC's loitering laws have been off the books forever--mostly because of racial justice concerns--but now PG County's government has passed an ordinance unanimously. That seems like a big cultural shift.

(While police officers deciding who's loitering is not ideal, having your local playground or park rendered unusable by scores of violent alcoholics is suboptimal as well...)

by oboe on Nov 27, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

@Jack Love,

Predict it will be challenged by the MD Supreme Court within a year. 10 days in jail? Geez, not too racist, is it?

That's an interesting question. If the all-black legislative council of a majority African American county passes legislation that will disproportionately affect African Americans, can it be called racist?

by oboe on Nov 27, 2012 10:25 am • linkreport

Also predict this will not withstand a challenge either:

"Prince George's will forbid public gathering places like churches and theaters near Joint Base Andrews because there's a chance of a plane crash."

For a freedom of speech (religion) regulation to survive, it must: be content-neutral, be narrowly drawn, serve a significant government interest, and leave open alternative channels of communication.

First test of content neutrality passes. Second test passes, though it is less narrow. Third test is tricky but pits local vs. federal government. Are Air Force bases so risky that we should not also consider limiting operations?

The fourth test fails miserably: there are no alternatives for those who operate churches and theatres. You simply cannot shut down a church or theatre in this way.

by Jack Love on Nov 27, 2012 10:34 am • linkreport

That's an interesting question. If the all-black legislative council of a majority African American county passes legislation that will disproportionately affect African Americans, can it be called racist?

I'd say yes because it still has the de facto effect of putting black people in jail for a long time based on the crime.

We already have laws about public drunkeness and being threatening. A better solution would be for better police presence.

by drumz on Nov 27, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

Jack Love: They're not shutting existing churches down, they're just forbidding new ones through zoning. It seems it should survive legally; the alternative is to site a new church anywhere else.

by David Alpert on Nov 27, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

@oboe "That's an interesting question. If the all-black legislative council of a majority African American county passes legislation that will disproportionately affect African Americans, can it be called racist?"

If the legislation is targeted at youths who are "loitering" (whatever that means), and if those youths are predominantly black, then yes, I'd say it is racist, no matter who originated it. And I think 10 days in jail is utterly absurd; it echoes the throw-away-the-key menatality that is prevalent in federal sentencing.

Returning to the GGW core, which in this context asks the question, "Do anti-loitering laws discourage or promote sociable use of public spaces?" I think if there are truly issues with individuals who "loiter", then maybe we're not correctly analysing our social issues.

But we can't even start a discussion since "loitering" is not really defined. Must I have a purpose to stand outside a 7-11? Must that purpose be clearly determinable by another person? etc etc etc.

by Jack Love on Nov 27, 2012 10:41 am • linkreport

can it be called racist?
Anyone can be racist regardless of genetic heritage just like anyone can be sexist; there are loads of sexist women.

However I read the "is it racist" comment as "is the Af.Am. Co. Gov. racist towards the Latino's in the Co."?

I hate loitering laws and think they were invented by type-a busybodies who can't stand the idea of someone sitting in the sun relaxing. Loitering laws are designed to criminalize 'not having spending money while being outside'.

by Tina on Nov 27, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

Let's make sure we're on the same page regarding the PG loitering law. According to the article, this is how the law defines it:

" loitering — defined as refusing to leave a private or public area and impeding the free use of the area by others."

Impeding the use of the area seems to be the key in making the law at least somewhat reasonable.

by Falls Church on Nov 27, 2012 11:54 am • linkreport

The Hyattsville parking story makes me wonder if anyone bothered to do an actual inventory of the parking spaces already exist. There is a ton of parking north of the District Court building/west of Rt. 1 that isn't used most of the time. Instead of spending 500K on more parking, maybe they should have worked with local property owners to determine when they have excess capacity. I'd rather see that money used to make the pedestrian experience better so that people wouldn't mind parking in a lot not directly adjacent to Busboys/Chipotle/YES!/Franklin's.
Taking away a travel lane for parking is a great idea. While it's fairly narrow in that part of Hyattsville, speeding is still Rampant along Rt. 1. Speeding isn't that bad where street parking is currently in place. Volumes, outside of rush hours, are not high enough to justify 2 lanes.

by thump on Nov 27, 2012 12:04 pm • linkreport

@thump - There is a ton of parking north of the District Court building/west of Rt. 1...Do you mean at St. Jeromes church? (the big Catholic one)

by Tina on Nov 27, 2012 1:24 pm • linkreport

There has been plenty of parking in the lots by the train tracks. I struggle to see on-street parking helping that area of Route 1. I understand the new apartments and townhomes not wanting retail parking taking up spots, but there appears to be plenty of parking there without taking away traffic lanes. I can imagine more traffic driving through neighborhood streets to avoid congestion points by Kennedy to get further south on Baltimore. Speeding is rare in that area since the road is already narrow and there are lights almost every block.

by selxic on Nov 27, 2012 1:56 pm • linkreport

I'm talking about much of the space between Farragut and Jefferson, including the church. One could also include DeMatha and the small buildings to the north (to Oglethorpe) and their parking. DeMatha certainly doesn't need most of it's parking on the weekends or after 5-6 pm, or in the summer.

by thump on Nov 27, 2012 2:00 pm • linkreport

And here I was wondering what's racist about littering.

But it's loitering. I personally think this is a bit of an overreach and obviously seeks to affect the one group mentioned in the article, young, black, youth. There are definitely times when even I don't feel 100% safe passing groups of rogue do'nothingers. But 30 days in jail for standing outside? Not so sure about that and question how effective this will be. If an officer or business owner instructs you to leave and you simply change spots, does that meet the criminal definition?

In many instances, "self-hating" is a better term than racist.

by HogWash on Nov 27, 2012 2:12 pm • linkreport

@selxic-Most of the complaints the retailer have been getting regards parking, mainly that there is not enough of it. Indeed, it's often tough to get a space in the parking lots provided. My guess is that only one side of the street, the Busboys side, will have on street parking. It wouldn't seem feasible to put parking south of Jefferson in the S-B lanes b/c of the left turn at Old Baltimore Ave. I don't think parking in N-B lanes is a problem at all from the block by Franklin's up to Madison.
The real, long-term solution to Rt. 1 congestion isn't more parking or cars, it's a streetcar or BRT. I think it's time for folks from Mt. Rainier to College Park to think outside the SOV model. Perhaps that's where the extra .25/hr for parking should be going.

by thump on Nov 27, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

Anti-loitering laws across the country may fall because PG County is stupid enough to put a 10 day sentence on it. Now it's worth a legal fight.

by Michael Hamilton on Nov 27, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

@Michael H,

True, though I wouldn't assume any given outcome given the composition of the current Supreme Court.

by oboe on Nov 27, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

FWIW, the parking signs have been up for weeks now, thump. I still think signage pointing towards more parking would have been a better idea than street parking.

by selxic on Nov 28, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

@thump @selxic- there is already street parking on both sides of Rte 1 between Gallatin and Farragut, S. of Jefferson.
So this plan is to extend it farther north?

by Tina on Nov 28, 2012 12:18 pm • linkreport

I believe it's the area south of Dematha with the Arts District on both sides.

by selxic on Nov 28, 2012 1:08 pm • linkreport

@oboe

The Prince George's County legislature (and the county itself) is not all black. There are 2 whites and a Hispanic.

I fail to see how this is racist at all. It doesn't specifically outline members of a certain race. Of course if the majority of residents are black, the majority of criminals will be.

Even if there is a disproportionate effect, so what? People breaking the law, of any ethnic demographic, shouldn't get a free ride because of their race. It's a pity the inept government here in Montgomery County will never pass legislation like this.

by King Terrapin on Nov 28, 2012 5:25 pm • linkreport

can it be called racist?

The conflict falls along class, not racial lines. As it usually does.

by goldfish on Nov 28, 2012 6:25 pm • linkreport

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