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Councilmembers: stand firm for the Brookland Small Area Plan

At the DC Council's hearing a few weeks ago on the Brookland Small Area Plan, a number of residents argued vehemently that the windswept traffic oval and chained-up empty lots around the Brookland/CUA Metro station are the pinnacle of good civic spaces, and creating housing, retail and public plazas would destroy their community. And some expressed incredulity that anyone could disagree.

Photo by NCinDC.

When one resident was testifying for the plan, an anti-development leader on the same panel turned to him and shouted, "Who are you working for?" Another resident, Guy Durant, said, "If you can find neighbors who support this plan, I would be surprised." I don't know if he was surprised, but numerous supporters testified in person. Over 50 residents of the neighborhood signed our petition for the plan and the Office of Planning's lengthy process to gather a wide range of public input. George Davis eloquently wrote of the need to break free of parochial knee-jerk opposition and dream of a better future:

I have been a resident in the Brookland area for eight years now and I fully endorse this plan. Brookland, without question, deserves more. It has a rich history of being a vibrant and dynamic part of the city where families can live, work and play peacefully. The transit oriented development efforts between Fort Totten and Catholic University are greatly needed not only to remove the industrial blight, but to show the world that DC is not just Capitol Hill and parts of Northwest. [Emphasis added] I don't want to go to the suburbs anymore for everything. I would rather spend the dollars in my own city and neighborhood. This plan will allow for all of this and more.
Others spoke of the scary walk from the Metro station at night, and muggings that have plagued the area. Erin Hutson said, "I currently go shopping and dining elsewhere in the city because Brookland offers so few amenities. Brookland is a wonderful community that could benefit from more residents, more shoppers, and more businesses, and the natural location for all of that to occur is around the metro station." And Michael Sauers summed it up succinctly:
I sincerely believe that the silent majority of Brooklanders believe that the plan is a good one. Please don't let the extremely vocal minority of people push this off-track. Thanks.
Tomorrow, the DC Council will vote on the plan. They support the concept, but vocal groups of opponents have been making a last-ditch effort to flood the Council with emails. Please help keep them strong. Send a letter to Chairman Gray, Councilmember Thomas, and the at-large Councilmembers asking them to vote for the plan this Tuesday. Tell them that most residents, visitors, and potential shoppers are eager for a plan that imagines a better future instead of clinging to the past. Click here to send your letter now.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Stagnation is not necessarily good. But we can do far far better, with a deck and multi-modelization.

To get a deck over, add multi-modelization (critically needed northern radial highway in a cut and cover tunnel with expanded rail beneath a new linear park). See the ancestor of this at:

Note how the 1966 plan would have extended a deck alongside the main body of CUA. Why would the later plan delete the decking alongside CUA? Does CUA prefer remaining isolated from the east by the surface railroad?

It was the earlier planning as seen below that made people infinitely less likely to support multi-modelization:

A more equitable plan would place a southbound cut and cover tunnel on the west side of the rr from Taylor to Franklin Street, with a linear park atop:

Why the rush to sell out the greater public interest for developer-property tax greed?

And why allow a corridor chock in this post 911 age of acknowledging the need for improved evacuation capacity?

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 2, 2009 7:16 pm • linkreport

Douglas, you sound just like the anti-neighbors. Throwing stuff up against a wall and hoping that something sticks.

by Cavan on Mar 3, 2009 8:52 am • linkreport

I didn't even need to see Douglas's signature; he's the only person I know who uses the word "chock" on a regular basis.

Seriously, I'd love to see more east-west roads crossing the tracks in Brookland, but a north-south road tunnel seems so counter-productive. It will lead to cars driving UNDER the neighborhood, but what does the neighborhood get out of that? Brookland should be trying to look like an affordable Tenleytown, not Suitland.

by tom veil on Mar 3, 2009 10:07 am • linkreport

Really, pver 50 residents of the neighborhood? I counted something like 23 who specified Brookland and/or an intersection (rather than other neighborhoods) when I followed your link. Or is there some other list of signers?

And isn't this post itself a last-ditch effort by vocal supporters to flood the Council with emails? I guess I'm not seeing the moral high ground (or the groundswell of popular/local support) you're claiming here. Especially given that the affected ANC is unanimously opposed. Why should the Council listen to you and not them?

This whole "we represent the future and those who disagree with us represent the past" shtick is getting really old. Such divisions typically exist when OP has provided only two options -- stick with the status quo or do something really problematic. There's no reason when you start out with a neighborhood that has "good bones," so to speak, that they shouldn't be able to come up with an SAP that builds on what's already there rather than threatens it.

by z on Mar 3, 2009 10:48 am • linkreport

threatens it? How does the plan threaten Brookland?

by Cavan on Mar 3, 2009 10:50 am • linkreport

I have to agree with Cavan. I am in Brookland several times a week and it is silly how underutilized and "suburban" the metro stop and its facilities are. There could and should be so much more (and no, it should not be an affordable Tenleytown -- Tenleytown can be more too) and there isn't anything in the SAP that seems objectionable in my humble opinion.

by William on Mar 3, 2009 11:00 am • linkreport

I never go to Brookland right now because there's nothing there. The only person I know who ever goes there is my roommate because she's a grad student at CUA. I would love to go there if a cool shop or a restaurant/bar opens up.

As much as I hate to admit it, for the most part, in my world, the District is downtown, Capitol Hill, and Northwest because there are so few amenities anywhere else. I go to SW to visit a friend but still, I wouldn't go there if I weren't visiting someone. Maybe when the new 4th St. development above the Waterfront Metro opens...

George Davis had an excellent point about amenities.

by Cavan on Mar 3, 2009 11:27 am • linkreport

Cavan- the plan to chock the corridor makes no sense. It even crams townhouses with their back ends practically hanging onto the right of way likely preventing even upgrading the railroad. How smart is that?? (Me thinks you should put down the textbooks and further develop your own though- I think you are capable of that).

William- There is room to build to the west without infringing upon the transport corridor; most of what CUA wants is not problematic. Also, conceivable some buildings could go atop the cut and cover tunnels.

Tom- you need to acquaint yourself with the DC area transport grid; the northern DC area represents one of the largest urban-suburban gaps in the highway network, which is particularly inexcusable in this post 911 age. Incidentally the cut and cover tunnel idea would make it possible to have more east west surface streets crossing the rr.

The whole thing has the stench of CUA selfishness in maintain amongst other things its isolation from the east.

It was those jesuit priests that I encountered at my 2005 DC NE Historical Society presentation that embodied the highest of selfishness in wanting to keep the highway as far away from them as possible; they had nothing to say about neighborhood preservation, or noise, or pollution or people's convenience and time (and they could just sit like a bunch of monkeys when I brought up my campaign to save the South Capitol Mall).

Anyone who educutates themselves about that entity, the Vatican and its jesuit order would hang their heads in shame for twisting the truth as some do to support their parochialism forced upon our transport networks.

And our defense department people who allow this are traitors.

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 3, 2009 11:29 am • linkreport

I support the small area plan. Mainly because it is better than the current state of affairs, and opponents have really presented nothing better. I think I could have rallied around a better plan had it been presented to the community by the ANCs, or the Better Brookland Development Group, but nothing has been. Instead, I see an ANC come out opposed with no concrete specific alternative.

More traffic studies? Ok, so what?

Decking over? (I like that idea--could opponents create a critique about why it IS feasible and lobby the Office of Planning and Council on it?)

More green space? (don't like that idea-green space is ample in Brookland, don't need it near the metro)

Blah. I don't think opponents of the plan represent the past, or supporters the future, but I do think that opponents have the burden to supply a real alternative plan that they can advocate for if they want to oppose something that people can actually look at and grasp.

by What is the alternative vision? on Mar 3, 2009 11:30 am • linkreport

Douglas, your blog is the only place where I have ever seen anyone talk about the Grand Arc or the South Capitol Street Mall.

The Red Line tracks between Union Station and Silver Spring are all either elevated or at grade. You couldn't build a deck like you can over a trench like the Center Leg. Any deck would be a dome and would be just as much of a barrier that the tracks are today.

by Cavan on Mar 3, 2009 2:39 pm • linkreport


There would be an excavation, with drilled tunneling for the heavy rail owing to its need for a grade change of no more then 1%.

The segment from NY Avenue southward would be somewhat elevated as is today, though monumentally adorned.

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 3, 2009 2:42 pm • linkreport


The South Capitol Mall appears throughout the 1997 U.S. National Capital Planning Commission document, including upon its cover with numerous renderings.

Strangely though the text simply refers to it as a boulevard or gateway, carefully avoiding terminology as green way, promenade or mall.

Likewise with the MSM reporting and the "e" groups...

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 3, 2009 2:46 pm • linkreport

It's amazing to me how many people are so deathly afraid of the idea of development and change. I live in Fort Totten, Brookland's equally quiet and under-developed cousin at the next stop on the red line. Fort Totten is in the same problem, lots of empty space and nothing but cars driving out to the burbs. Why? Because there is nothing in Fort Totten except the Metro and a few gas stations...oh wait, we do have a McDonalds... Anyway, if you don't like the idea of city life being brought to your URBAN neighborhood, than move out of the district and go settle in some crusty old crank-ville in Maryland. It'd be nice if DC had some more modern and developed neighborhoods that are not the rich-people's elite haven of Dupont...something nice that the rest of us could afford! To the opposition: get with the program or get out! These types of "eeeeeh it's what we're used to and we can't change good heavens eeeeh" reactions are what holds back too much economic, social, and developmental progress in this city. What a shame!

by matt on Mar 4, 2009 10:49 am • linkreport

Doug is right about the South Capitol Mall - it was a popular idea in the 90s.

The Grand Arc, I believe, is his concept.

by BeyondDC on Mar 4, 2009 11:07 am • linkreport

I live in Brookland and those who live here near the future Bulldozers and Skyscrapers and Gridlock would like to see the "Greater Greater" move here and buy a home next to the Construction and then see if the DC Office of Planning is really serving the Greater Greater. They are not, they are only serving Deep Pocket Developers for Short Term Profits and Long Term Destruction of Family Oriented Low Density Green Spaces.

by Guy Durant on Apr 1, 2009 3:53 pm • linkreport

Why so many capitalized letters?

Get over yourself. After all the new businesseses and amenities open up you'll forget that you were ever against this plan. You're in a city. The city needs tax revenue to pay its bills. The plan will provide more tax revenue while using existing infrastructure. Since it'll be adjacent to the Metro, many of those new residents won't even own cars. Those who do won't use them much.

by Cavan on Apr 1, 2009 4:03 pm • linkreport


I stress the importance of design details with my advocacy of much needed urban freeway links, yet you apparently have NO criticism of the 'new urbanest' planning for Brookland?

One can support a basic concept without necessarily doing so without reservations regarding details.

I am amazed how you and others for instance were so accepting of the notion that a Brookland deck is not feasible.

by Douglas Willinger on Apr 1, 2009 4:41 pm • linkreport

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