Greater Greater Washington

DC planning office also backs down on corner stores

Parking isn't the only part of DC's zoning update that got cut back this month. In the latest drafts, DC planners have also limited plans to allow corner stores in residential areas.


Photo by MIT-Libraries on Flickr.

Originally, they considered permitting retail, service, grocery, and arts businesses as matter of right in corner buildings, subject to lots and lots of conditions. Instead, only grocery stores might be able to locate as a matter of right, while other businesses can apply for a special exception and have a hearing.

This responds to resident concerns about stores' impacts. While it might impede corner stores, the old rules were so restrictive that almost no corner stores could have opened anyway, so this will have little further impact.

Corner store proposal tries to restore historic patterns

DC's historic neighborhoods had a few "corner stores" (usually, but not always, on actual corners) scattered throughout neighborhoods. Before zoning prohibited commerce in residential areas, and before malls and big box stores, these stores met many everyday needs.

But in the era of single-use zoning, which sought to segregate all commerce from residences, DC and other cities outlawed these stores. Some remained open, grandfathered into the zoning, while others closed and, if they remained closed for 3 years, could never reopen. OP wanted to fix this problem.

Certainly, a store can potentially harm neighbors if there is a lot of noise, trash attracting rodents, smells from cooking, and so on. Therefore, planners tried to write a set of narrow rules limiting trash to being stored indoors, restricting on-site cooking, curtailing hours, and so on.

Leaders ask for hearings before stores can open

The Zoning Commission approved the idea in theory, but it drew opposition from many residents. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, in particular, expressed hostility to this idea. Some small stores in neighborhoods in her ward tend to sell mostly liquor and junk food and can be magnets for disturbances or crime, though OP's rules didn't allow liquor stores under the corner store proposal.

Bowser suggested there have to be a public hearing before any store could locate in a residential area. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B, for southern Capitol Hill, also suggested requiring a hearing.

OP has agreed to change the rules so that a grocery store can still locate as a matter of right, but a retail sales business, art studio, cafe, or service business will require a special exception. To get one, an owner will have to apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA), talk to the ANC, and have a hearing where neighbors can speak.

OP is still finalizing some of the details. For example, the old rules had many limits, including how close one store could be to an existing commercial corridor or mixed-use area. The idea was to ensure that such stores don't sap vitality from the actual commercial area. But, ANC 6B suggested, if the BZA is going to review an application anyway, instead of a firm rule this could be something the BZA can consider.

Similarly, maybe the strict limits on hours and size can be a little less absolute if the BZA is able to use its discretion and weigh the impacts against the benefits.

Is this the right move?

Certainly, this change will make corner stores harder to open than they would have been under the original, Zoning Commission-approved proposal. But there were so many limits on corner stores that there were actually vanishingly few eligible sites for corner stores at all.

Stores could only be in the moderate density R-3, R-4, and R-5-A zones, not the detached or semi-detached house R-1 and R-2 zones or the apartment R-5-B zones. They had to be at least 500 feet from any mixed-use zone (even one with no stores). They had to locate on corner buildings, or buildings originally built to be commercial.

That leaves few areas in most parts of the city. In Ward 4, for instance, only Petworth and a few tiny bits of other neighborhoods are eligible, and then only far from the commercial corridors. Even within the eligible area (shaded in yellow below), it's only corner buildings, most of which someone already owns and uses for a purpose other than a store.


DC's Ward 4. Eligible corner store area is shaded yellow. Corner stores cannot locate in the purple or white areas under OP's proposal. Click for larger map and other wards.

In this case, even with all the restrictions, neighbors might have an understandable concern about an impact the rules didn't anticipate. A special exception, while it creates a burden, might not be unreasonable here.

Meanwhile, residents need easy access to food, especially fresh food. The biggest potential problem with a grocer is trash, and rules require them to store all trash indoors. They also limit the store's size (1,200 square feet in the prior proposal), number of employees (3), hours (not after 10 pm and before 7 am), and more.

OP has tried to bend over backward to allow some stores while also keeping them from affecting neighbors. If their new, scaled-down proposal goes into effect, a very small number of new corner stores might open up, and then we can see how well they do. Or, the rules might be so restrictive that no stores appear.

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. 

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I don't really understand this fear of neighborhood stores. I grew up in a city (Toronto) where the local corner store is a common feature and I don't really recall any objection to the status quo.

The Palisades are home to a number of retail establishments along MacArthur and Foxhall. Even in what is one of the most Nimbyish parts of DC, I haven't heard of any real complaints about the corner stores.

Am I missing something in this discussion? What are people afraid of?

by Potowmack on Jul 16, 2013 10:33 am • linkreport

Ugh, the area where I used to live (Capitol South) is entirely white and purple. But the corner shop we had there in the early 90s (at 1st and North Carolina SE) was perfect for our little neighborhood.

Zoning has its uses, this is not one of them. This is micromanagement at its most damaging.

by Andrew on Jul 16, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

Certainly, a store can potentially harm neighbors if there is a lot of noise, trash attracting rodents, smells from cooking, and so on.

Truly, there are no police or health & safety regulatory bodies in DC to deal with problems when they arise. (I know what David's trying to illustrate here so this isn't directed at him but in general). Regarding other rules, there shouldn't be multiple sets of rules about business practices just because you're in an arbitrarily defined "residential" zones. Then again, we probably shouldn't have two separate minimum wages but it is what it is.

I never understood why a house that is all of 2-3 blocks from a major commercial street is all of a sudden magically residential only and its integrity must be sacrosanct. If you can walk to a whole slew of stores then you're living in an area way more mixed use than most places and its folly to restrict that further.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

I think in this age, most residents are expecting larger scale grocers to meet their shopping needs. More corner stores are just not a great way to increase access to fresh food.

Most of the corner stores in DC do not really offer fresh food anyway because it is too expensive, and there are few (if any) regulations requiring them to in the first place (and this blog does not appear to support any).

In 2011 the DC Central Kitchen piloted a public-private partnership to deliver fresh food to corner stores at a reduced wholesale cost.

The pilot program put $30,000 worth of produce in the hands of low income residents (about $3 per day per store) but without that program that figure would be close to zero.

If one is going to support corner stores under the guise of supporting fresh food then those efforts need to be targeted in Wards 5, 7 & 8 because that's where the food deserts exist.

But the food deserts in those wards are located generally in mixed use zones and buffers already.

So it's not clear how opening more corner stores in those areas would help in the existing business climate.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

Am I missing something in this discussion? What are people afraid of?

Commerce generally impinges on the suburban lifestyle that residents are trying to create for themselves.

Most other cities I have ever lived in have small corner stores as a matter of course. DC really attempts to cultivate a "small southern town" kind of charm, and businesses that do open tend to be of the junk-food-and-liquor-store variety.

Corner stores are part and parcel of daily life in urban neighborhoods, but the distinct culture of DC tends to frown upon them.

by JustMe on Jul 16, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

It's not wether a corner store would help the existing business climate as much as loosening up the regulations that foster small businesses. Corner store architecture can be seen through out older residential neighborhoods. They might be restaurants or other community gathering businesses. Too bad there's still this residual suburban mind-set at the planning department that sseems to fear promoting socialization.

by Thayer-D on Jul 16, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

People are always afraid of what they don't understand.

by Richard B on Jul 16, 2013 11:11 am • linkreport

It's not wether a corner store would help the existing business climate as much as loosening up the regulations that foster small businesses.

Well, it kinda is. David introduced the idea that DC needs more fresh food options, with the implication that corner stores might be able to fill the void.

So it's not trivial to consider whether those stores could, or would, actually succeed in that manner.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

I think the whole debate is framed poorly. It's not really about fresh food, it's about access to commerce on foot and choice in where you buy things. Corner stores allow people the convenience to walk to local shopping that they would otherwise need to drive to. They allow children to "run down to the corner" to pick up some item that would otherwise require a car trip to a bigger store, providing independence for children and saving families time. Yes, they're typically more expensive and often carry some junk food (as do all grocery stores), but they fill a real need and the market supports them. We artificially ban them in the city, and thus forced many people to drive to almost all of their shopping. This lack of choice in shopping options is not to the benefit of local communities.

by Jacob on Jul 16, 2013 12:06 pm • linkreport

Zoning has its uses, this is not one of them. This is micromanagement at its most damaging.

Amen to that.

by andrew on Jul 16, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

Jacob - you're absolutely right about the ability to "run down to the corner." I grew up in San Francisco, where we had corner stores at each end of the block. Countless times my mother sent one of us kids to the corner to pick up something she needed right away. (Like the night before Thanksgiving when she realized she was out of sugar for the pie.) When I moved to this area many years ago, I was surprised that corner stores were not everywhere.

by Mary on Jul 16, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

"Corner stores" have greater potential as small incubator businesses than as groceries. Someone who runs an online used book selling business, for instance, might open for retail sale a few days a week. Or it would allow other hidden businesses, like the Canadian bakery tucked into a condo basement on Cathedral Ave NW, a chance to have greater visibility. Limiting the types of businesses to just groceries further limits its constituency.

by Payton on Jul 16, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

"Some small stores in neighborhoods in her ward tend to sell mostly liquor and junk food and can be magnets for disturbances or crime, though OP's rules didn't allow liquor stores under the corner store proposal."

That's the rub. Alchol sales are what can keep corner stores going -- but in DC they tend to attract the wrong element. hence the opposition.

by charlie on Jul 16, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

At this point most corner stores that still exist in this city sell not just some junk food - as asserted - but rather, mostly junk food. In addition to beer, alcohol, cigarettes, ice, and other sundries.

This is not to argue those stores should not exist, just that there is a disconnect between the existing corner stores and the need for more fresh food that relaxing zoning regulations probably will not solve.

I wish we could leave fresh food out of the debate, but there it is anyway.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

near where I work, there is a corner store (grandfathered in) - They sell some mid range wines, and a bunch of gourmet items. But mostly they make their money from selling coffee and gourmet sandwiches, AFAICT.

If you don't want more liquor stores, don't give corner stores liquor licenses.

as for junk food, its not like big supermarkets never sell junk food. Or walmarts for that matter.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 12:35 pm • linkreport

+1 Jacob, this actually ties into the parking debate. There you have people saying "Most people need cars. Try bringing home a week's worth of groceries on your bike." Now, of course people CAN do that (so it's a false statement) but corner groceries make that less necessary by providing an option to buy fewer groceries more often without the time commitment the grocery store involves. Corner stores help to make cars - and thus parking - less necessary.

by David C on Jul 16, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

as for junk food, its not like big supermarkets never sell junk food. Or walmarts for that matter.

True, but also irrelevant.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 12:45 pm • linkreport

whether its relevant depends on the discussion.

if its "we need more corner stores cause we have food deserts" well sure, its not relevant. I store that sells cheese doodles mostly isnt going to cure a food desert. Neithe weill a corner store that sells lattes and treats made from quinoa.

if its "people are rightly skeptical of corner stores cause they sell a lot of junk food" its completely relevant. Because the selling of junk food is not even unique to the old corner stores.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 12:53 pm • linkreport

That is true, but I don't recall the discussion ever being "people are rightly skeptical of corner stores because they sell a lot of junk food".

I think people are skeptical that corner stores sell a lot of junk food - without selling much else.

And that's definitely not a point that can be rebutted by saying, "big supermarkets also sell a lot of junk food." People already know that big supermarkets sell junk - but they also sell fresh food.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

People are skeptical of some corner stores because they likely had a corner store in the past...

by selxic on Jul 16, 2013 1:14 pm • linkreport

One of the best things that made neighborhoods more livable in Montreal was the corner depanneur. DC NIMBY's are fools.

by Redline SOS on Jul 16, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

"I think people are skeptical that corner stores sell a lot of junk food - without selling much else."

A. I don't think thats true. The corner store near where I work has a range of processed foods - mostly not junk, unless you are Michael Pollard
B. Even if it were true - suppose someone buys their lettuce at Safeway, and their cheese doodles at the corner store. If there were no corner store would they eat less cheese doodles, or just buy their cheese doodles at Safeway?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 1:19 pm • linkreport

A. That's just an anecdote of one single corner store. I can't rule of that many do sell processed food and not all of it is junk, but it is true that very few sell fresh food.

B. Who knows? Why does it matter? I think the discussion concerns the necessity of increasing access to fresh food, not reducing access to junk food.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

A. I will try to note other corner stores and what they sell. I will probably not be checking out ones in areas where I feel uncomfortable walking.

B. The original discussion was of the treatment of corner stores in the zoning code, in general. DA mentioned fresh food access in one line, near the end. I think there are plenty of reasons (which people have mentioned above) to allow corner stores, quite apart from the food desert issue. I will await DA's response as to why he included that issue.

C. Should gas station retail (ie other than gas and automotive items) be banned- they typically sell junk food as well, and almost never fresh food?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

The anecdotes help because they reinforce the fact that people's actual problems with corner stores stem from bad actors or a violation of rules we already have, not the mere presence of them.

FWIW,I think the "but they could have fresh food!" argument is a little weak as well. Let's keep focus on the fact that when you have the option to simply walk a few feet to get something then that's valuble in and of itself. I can't buy Spinach at the CVS across the street from me but I can buy ice/advil/water/whatever and I'm thankful for it.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

it is true that very few sell fresh food.

Is it? What percentage sell fresh food?

by David C on Jul 16, 2013 1:51 pm • linkreport

Broad Branch market is a perfect example of how these are beneficial: http://goo.gl/maps/0UesK (look at the street view).

by Andrew on Jul 16, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

I think you could be right that it's a throwaway comment David's post, but since it was there, I addressed it.

Perhaps the comment was an attempt to elicit an emotional response from the reader by painting the Office of Planning as an enemy of fresh food options for low income households? If so, it was half-baked.

C. Should gas station retail (ie other than gas and automotive items) be banned- they typically sell junk food as well, and almost never fresh food?

I'm not for the banning of corner stores.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Is it? What percentage sell fresh food?

I honestly don't know a percentage. Do you think it's a large percentage? Do you need a percentage to be convinced that it's very small, probably close to zero?

According to the Healthy Food Access Portal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, corner stores offer "very little, if any" fresh produce.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

Examples of "good" corner stores are 2 on the 400 block of East Capitol (one on each side of the street), one at 11th Street and East Capitol NE, probably LeDroit Park Market (haven't been there in years), Broad Branch Market. Don't know about Martin's at 3rd and F Streets NE, haven't been there for many years.

It should be no surprise that the "good" stores that exist currently are in high income areas. The likelihood of similar "good" stores opening up in low income areas is remote. (Although I did try to work with a Korean business association about 10 years ago on the matter, now that I think about it. But their organizer went to graduate school and the project died.)

Part of the issue is developing an inventory replenishment system that can restock these stores in cost effective ways, if you want to add groceries, or to recreate something like the old District Grocery Store Cooperative. The prices are high because they are buying low quantities, etc.

Also, about 10 years ago the NBM had a great exhibit on corner stores in Galveston. (And a person in the thread mentioned Montreal.) It would be interesting to study those places and see what are the characteristics that help make them successful.

But this issue as I have argued for many years is mostly a chimera. The cost of property is too high for marginal retail businesses to be able to survive in these spaces. Broad Branch sells expensive prepared foods, and the other stores I listed also sell more expensive wines and beers. Clearly that helps their profit margins.

There are still some "corner businesses," hair salons, dry cleaners, and doctors offices mostly, and a few office type uses (like title, real estate, and insurance) but many of the carryouts and corner stores in neighborhoods have been closing, getting converted to housing, because that's a better play financially.

I think they should be re-made legal, but I have a hard time seeing such stores being created.

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

Scoot: I have no idea what you are talking about or why you are casting aspersions on my motives. I referred to fresh food because it's a big need that's come up in debates about corner stores, though it's not the only one. However, I looked back at the piece and realized a concluding paragraph got cut off, which I've restored.

by David Alpert on Jul 16, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

Scoot -- besides the point I made about inventory replenishment systems, the problem with the food desert argument is cost of the items (a grocery store is usually cheaper), whether or not the store accepts food stamps (I don't know much about that process), and whether or not people can prepare foods (a/k/a cook).

When I worked for a nutrition group decades ago, I did a couple of presentations in schools and the teachers commented to me about how they have to teach kids on how to eat a meal as a "family" with other people.

2. When the Aldi opened up in NE DC the Post ran a story and one of the people quoted made a very good point, that you have to provide options for people to buy less expensive groceries. That actually was a searing point for me, and led to the point I make that in retail planning, we need to plan for different price points, to serve different segments of the market, including low income. (Note that I am cheap so I buy a lot of produce at Aldi, probably 2-3 times/month because it is so much cheaper than the alternatives.)

Anyway, one of the big problems in the food desert argument is that in the planning and smart growth communities, they argue that people should be able to walk to a store. That's not how the industry is set up to work. Supermarkets have a 3 mi. radius retail trade area.

But wrt this point and the previous about access to discounted prices, note the success of Murrays in low income areas of the city. They sell processed foods in bulk at low prices. E.g., 5 lb. boxes of hamburgers, Murry's brand cereals, etc.

To their credit, at the H St. NE store, about 10 years ago they spent $100K significantly expanding their produce section. I don't know how successful they were. I used to buy stuff there. (I lived around the corner.) But that store did more than 90% of its sales with food stamps.

You could just as easily argue that the city should foster Murry's stores (except that they don't sell very healthful food items) and Save-a-lot stores in low income neighborhoods. (Aldi is much tougher to recruit.)

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

David, what is your motive then? Could you explain a bit further why you chose to tie in the discussion of the zoning code on corner stores with "meanwhile, residents need easy access to food, especially fresh food."

Because surely you know that most corner stores do not sell fresh food, and relaxing the regulations on corner stores is unlikely to change that?

Since you said you don't know what I'm talking about, I would be happy to clarify any of my points.

Richard, I agree, I think the concept of the food desert should be expanded to cover areas that don't have access to a small grocery store as well as a large one.

Unfortunately I'm not certain that would change the outcome all that much because, as you already said, the "good" small grocers currently exist in high income areas anyway.

Also, IIRC, many analyses of food deserts also take into account areas that don't have a large grocer within a short drive or transit ride (not just a short walk).

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

I thought I saw one of the OP documents about the change talking about groceries that serve fresh and prepared food or something, and it sounded like they were making that as an argument. At one of the zoning update public meetings I attended, people asked about specifically finding ways to encourage fresh food. But just because there's a random line about it in one paragraph doesn't near the end doesn't mean it's the main component of the corner stores nor that the comments have to all talk about that.

by David Alpert on Jul 16, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

We have a non-corner, corner store at Lanier Place at Adams Mill, in Adams Morgan. T'S Grocery. Tiny, but very convenient. Even though I have a Safeway about 2.5 blocks away, and an organic store on Columbia Road that may be a little closer, this little store on Lanier is great for last minute essentials, and saves considerable time. Why wouldn't every neighborhood want something similar?

by kob on Jul 16, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

FWIW, I live 1.25 mile from a Giant, 1.25 mile from a Safeway, probably 1.75 mile to the TPSS Co-op, 0.75 mile to a CVS with food, and 3 blocks to an African-American Co-op (Senbeb) and about the same distance to a 7-11. Once/week there is a farmers market in TP, 0.75 mile away. These are the closest places. I shop elsewhere too.

I buy stuff at Senbeb maybe 2x/year. Their prices are outrageous so I only go there in a pinch and they don't usually have what I want. I go to the 7-11 to buy milk for coffee. We used to buy eggs there too, but now we buy free range eggs. The farmers market is very expensive, but a couple of the vendors sell "scratch and dent" and I like to buy those items to save money.

Otherwise, I make a point of going to the grocery.

As far as food deserts go, most people have ways of getting to the store. They have to. USDA only counts 7 census tracts in the city as being food deserts.

and yes, OP uses this as an argument to justify corner stores, but they misrepresent.

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Oh, I forgot to mention CVS. I will buy items there when they are on sale. Only then. Once I bought bread because I had $2 in extrabucks so it brought the price down. I haven't really priced Walgreens on this dimension...

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 2:49 pm • linkreport

According to the Healthy Food Access Portal of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, corner stores offer "very little, if any" fresh produce.

You left out the qualifiers "in neighborhoods without grocery stores" and "often". So, some stores offer more than very little. Some offer little and some might offer none, though they don't say that. We don't anything about neighborhoods that do have groceries and we don't know what their claim is based on.

We do have a lot of anecdotal evidence that these stores offer some fresh food and my experience is that they do. So, yes, I do doubt that its very small. And you certainly haven't made your case that most corner stores don't offer fresh food or that more such stores won't lead to more fresh food, even if it is very little.

by David C on Jul 16, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

the 10% tax on prepared foods isn't going to help the economics of a corner store.

The explosions of CVS certainly suggests there is a market for sub-grocery stores.

something lke 75% of save-a-lot customers are on food stamps.

by charlie on Jul 16, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

I guess I have to ask, is there a benefit on the food desert issue to banning a particular retail format? If even a few corner stores sell fresh food (and certainly in other cities there are corner stores that do) isn't that one more choice?

I mean its just odd, after all this discussion of Walmart, and people saying that elitist activists were denying consumers a choice, that folks don't see this as a matter of choice, and a choice that (like Walmart) we might not all choose, but that also could add healthy food options. I'm all for more supermarkets, and co-ops (I thought co-op shopping was more economical when you are a member) and farmers markets (costlier but they give you visibility on how food is produced which some folks feel is important to health and to the environment) but I don't see that banning new corner stores will mean more supermarkets or farmers markets - more likely it just means more junk food purchased at seven elevens and CVS, and less gourmet coffee shops.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

David Alpert, I never suggested that all of the comments should be about food - I raised the issue because it was in the original post (which you wrote) and then responded to the comments that either directly concerned what I was talking about or directly quoted my posts.

David C, I did not leave anything out. The portal says that in neighborhoods without supermarkets, corner stores often lack fresh food. You seem to be convinced otherwise.

I guess all those reputable philanthropic and charitable organizations around DC who are focused on the task of introducing fresh food into corner stores must be combating a problem that does not exist.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Is there anyone commenting on this thread who thinks that the earlier (more aggressive) position on corner stores was a mistake? Do you Scoot? That there was any reason to water it down aside from political feasibility? Is it really going to improve political feasibility? Enough to be worth the watering down?

Thats what is at issue here. Not whether 1% of corner stores currently have fresh food, or 5%, or 10%.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen -- I think we should be seeking out behemoth Sheetz convenience store-gas stations.

http://smartblogs.com/food-and-beverage/2013/05/28/the-future-of-foodservice-the-changing-role-of-grocers-and-c-stores/

Anyway, we should be encouraging innovation. Some convenience store gas station companies are doing some very interesting stuff. E.g., the Parkers store in the Historic District in Savannah also sells gas but compares pretty favorably with Broad Branch Market in terms of what they sell.

I recently read of an interesting pharmacy store combo by Navarros with a garden center, copy center, and cafeteria. And like CVS, their stores sell some food items.

http://www.chaindrugreview.com/inside-this-issue/news/01-07-2013/navarro-opens-32nd-drug-store

I've been meaning to write about a presentation by Andres Duany at the CNU conference where he talked about "subsidiarity." Basically he means that some things are appropriate for residents to weigh in on, others aren't.

E.g., electric transmission lines ought not to be scuttled by neighborhood residents, that it isn't really a decision for input at that scale.

(Similarly, I saw a note on the Columbia Heights e-list about Verizon putting fios connections on poles and I was thinking why the f* should ANCs be in the position of being able to stop that?)

Probably corner stores should have special exception processes, they should be generally approved--residents can't stop them--but required to have agreements with immediate residents with regard to hours of operation, noise, trash control and removal, etc., with requirements on both sides for reasonable negotiation processes and participation.

2. But the food desert issue is probably a different issue than the corner store issue. I haven't gotten around to writing a follow up story to this piece:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/12/in-lower-income-neighborhoods-are.html

(also in response to a piece by RUSeriousingMe in GGW. My point is that where doesn't all that much matter. How is far more important.)

I wanted to do one on formats (but I am hampered by my lack of graphic skills).

Convenience store/gas. Basically I can see a Sheetz like combo but with more food, either medium scale or upscale like Parkers.

Pharmacy + food. A drug store with more food but more competitively priced, like that Navarros store. But related to MStreetDenizen's point about choice, Walmart is moving into the pharmacy space to capture those store visits going to pharmacies and dollar stores.

Micro-grocers compared to the current store size that is typical. Murry's type store with support, more perishables. Under 5,000 s.f.

Creating the equivalent of public market operations in neighborhoods both to create ec. dev. and bus. opportunities but also to provide more food access options.

General store/corner store/neighborhood cafe, in part as a job training operation.

Co-ops.

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

Potowmack - You are missing something. You mentioned corner stores in the more tony parts of this city. Corner stores in other parts of the city...not so nice. Mostly bumpers of beer and lottery tickets. Last thing my neighborhood needs is another corner store where a bunch of guys can hang out, be loud and drunk and the local drug dealer can setup shop. Glad they scaled back on this zoning

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen -- wrt "watering down" I think in many many many ways that OP seriously screwed up how they handled-marketed the zoning rewrite.

From the start, I argued we needed to spend a couple years just building a basis of understanding of what's in the Comp. Plan, where we are, how to get where we want to be, based on the Comp. Plan.

(I've also argued for changes in how we approach setting up planning engagements, with more education on the front end, and education throughout the processes, such as converting the Trans-formation document to "boards" and trotting them out to public meetings, displaying them at libraries, etc.)

Without that, people just really don't understand what's going on, why change is necessary, how the real estate market works, how the city's budget is generated, the connection between residential density and the success of neighborhood commercial districts, etc.

This process proves it. I happened to write about how the city is dominated by a more suburban perspective last week and today, and I used the "watering down" of ADUs, corner stores, and parking minimums as examples of flawed process, not flawed concepts.

I can't claim to have exhaustive experience, but there are few situations I am aware of where residents came in and said "we want change." The H St. Main St. initiative was one, although there was consensus on that change was needed, but not in terms of what the expected outcomes should be.

Another I came across in Baltimore County, where a set of neighborhood groups updating their community plan (they have a different process there, these plans are initiated by multi-neighborhood coalitions) pointed out that the industrial use in one part of their area was legacy and out of sorts with where the neighborhood could be, especially given proximity to light rail, and so they recommended changing the zoning, putting in roads, approving more density. This is rare. (Of course the county is very conservative financially and finds TIF anathema, so their guts won't go very far.)

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

"Corner stores in other parts of the city...not so nice. Mostly bumpers of beer and lottery tickets."

Aren't lottery tickets sold (ultimately) by the DC govt? If the lottery is a bad thing, maybe DC should just end the DC lottery (although I guess then you'd see a lot of leakage to Md and Va). And of course lots of lottery tickets sold at 7-11 and at gas stations. I guess its okay to sell lottery tickets, as long as its dangerous or inconvenient to walk to.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen - your missing the point. No useful items sold in the corner stores that aren't in really nice neighborhoods. Don't need more Doritos and crime. City has bad history of these corner stores as being drug havens and fronts for crime. The city doesn't need any more corner stores

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

mona- Aren't all of the problems you described an issue of enforcement (or lack thereof) of laws and regulations? It would seem that the solution to those problems would be better served by focusing on enforcement by the relevant authorities.

Your argument is sort of like supporting a moratorium on new restaurants because some existing restaurants violate health department regulations.

by Potowmack on Jul 16, 2013 3:56 pm • linkreport

If crime is a problem then the police should be involved. Not the city's planners. (actually they should be involved to design spaces that encourage openness/"eyes on the street" and what not but that's a different discussion). You could have someone's house be a drug den just as easily.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

How about vote on it by ward. Wards 6 and 1 and maybe 2 and 3 could have them, and 7 and 8 and maybe 4 and 5 could ban them?

Why should a neighborhood where there is little crime lose its convenient, pleasant, neighborhood shop because of problems happening miles away?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

"Don't need more Doritos and crime. "

If doritos are really a harmful addiction, like heroin, maybe the city should ban doritos.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen - you make no sense. You must own a corner store that is your only reason for not seeing the truth. BTW ward 5 does have a nice corner store. Windows at 1st and RI. The owner makes the effort to make it nice and he is paid by people patronizing the place. The other two up the street will be out of business soon except for their drug dealing customers.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

I do 90% of my shopping at Giant and Harris Teeter, but corner stores and small groceries are beyond useful when I run out of milk, limes, or when I just want a pint of Ben and Jerry's. Man, I grew up in suburbia but we still used to walk down to the local Wawa for snacks or hoagies. The whole not wanting a corner store in your neighborhood strikes me as bizaree given the limitations established. When I lived in Glover Park a corner store would have been amazing.

I also don't understand the argument that corner stores lead to drugs and crime. Do you really think those would be absent without them? The blame seems entirely misplaced here.

by Alan B. on Jul 16, 2013 4:16 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen -- but the most vociferous opposition is by the people in the "nice areas." E.g. it was Muriel Bowser in W4 who "forced" OP to back off on corner stores.

It's another example of how f*ed our planning discourse is. It's enough to drive a thinking person crazy.

... but I made the same point about sunday liquor sales. That you could map the commercial districts by crime problems and the places with problems would have to develop security and mitigation plans before being allowed to sell on Sundays.

... and it is reasonable for planners to assist businesses in doing a better job.

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

Really? These comments are what's passing for "dialogue" on the issue of zoning changes? Cornor stores are both good and bad. "Enforcement" isn't going to clean up the bad ones and convert them to good ones. If there is an opportunity for neighborhood input on stores opening in residential neighborhoods, that's not the end of the world and is in fact probably a good thing. It works in many or most cases on liquor licenses and frankly some cornor stores bring more problems to the neighborhood than a well run bar or liquor store would. Is the urbanist agenda simply and always against neighorhood input? If the ANC system was under debate now, would you oppose to the death because there might be NIMBY gains through that approach? Too many people are painting everything one way or the other. Most often, it is never the case. So why make decisions or promote positions based on the illusion that there are should not be recognition of more complicated realities???

by Tom M on Jul 16, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

mona,

So what is it about corner stores that make them intrinsically crime ridden so that the police can't be expected to deal with any problems and must be dealt with by zoning? It's not relevant but since you care, I don't own a corner store. I just don't understand why you want the planning office to do the job of the police.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

"Corner stores" represent two very different things to different people.

In Ward 3, Georgetown: convenient, friendly neighborhood store owned and staffed by well known and liked people from the neighborhood, within walking distance; or

In less desirable neighborhoods: (1) liquor and cigarette store with 1" thick plexiglass between attendant and customers, with good delivered through a plexiglass lazy susan, after they are paid for; or (2) drug front owned by local gang member, that sells nothing really, with 3-6 kids hanging out in front, packing heat, and abusing passer-byes.

Problem is, people that trying portray corner stores as the former to people that are *more* familiar with the latter. DC has come a long way from the drug wars in the '80s and '90s, but those that lived through those days have long memories -- for good reason.

The concern that these new corner stores might become crime magnets in certain quarters must be addressed.

by goldfish on Jul 16, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

In Ward 3, Georgetown: convenient, friendly neighborhood store owned and staffed by well known and liked people from the neighborhood, within walking distance; or

Yet ironically, in Ward 3, they are really, really against corner stories.

The concern that these new corner stores might become crime magnets in certain quarters must be addressed.

The Big Bear Cafe never became a crime magnet. The Windows Cafe isn't a crime magnet. Neither are the tiny stories that pepper different parts of Shaw.

If you can't allow corner stores, then you will never have the sort of public spaces that aren't magnets for crime. Part of the problem is that, subconsciously, anyone who runs a corner store of any kind (not just a liquor store) is considered to be somehow involved in crime.

by JustMe on Jul 16, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

The concern that these new corner stores might become crime magnets in certain quarters must be addressed.
Yes, crime is going down in general but we still need community/police involvement and enforcement of existing laws to get rid of bad actors. Like someone said, we don't ban restaurants wholesale when the health department finds problems at an existing one.

Tom M,

"Enforcement" isn't going to clean up the bad ones and convert them to good ones. If there is an opportunity for neighborhood input on stores opening in residential neighborhoods, that's not the end of the world and is in fact probably a good thing.

Sure, please go ahead and point out where neighborhoods are getting to make these decisions re: corner stores. This is a city wide policy at the moment.

Anyway, reality is complicated that's why zoning shouldn't be really used in this way to prescribe all sorts of uses/conditions for something as banal as a place to grab toilet paper if you run out.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 4:30 pm • linkreport

drumz- the police have enough problems they don't need zoning commission to add to it. There are no loitering laws in the city so there is little the police can do if they don't witness a drug deal in progress or if vice doesn't make the deal. THe best they can do is stop them from blocking the sidewalk. So the run the off for 5 mins and they come right back. This zoning law would have added to the police already burdensome problem of people hanging out and drug dealing. Don't act like the police can just come in and solve the problem instantly. They have procedures they have to follow and the city doesn't make their job easy when it comes to getting drug dealers off the street, and before ask yes I have fully support an anti-loitering law for the city and it gets shot down everytime. So you tell me your solution.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

MStreet, I'm not sure what is the single thing "at issue here", but I think any issue brought up in the original post is fair game to comment on.

As to whether a decades old ordinance was good or bad, I don't have the gift that others have of arriving at a rigid opinion on an increasingly complex and nuanced issue.

I see the good and bad in the old and current zoning ordinances. FWIW I don't think it's a bad idea to hold a hearing before someone wants to open up a corner store.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

Also, are people trying to claim that its the stores that bring crime to the neighborhood and not the other way around?

If a place has a lot of crime you'll see it manifest itself in lots of places: homes, stores, wherever. Places without lots of crime tend not have crime which is an obviously profound revelation.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

Is the urbanist agenda simply and always against neighorhood input?

Generally, if I am a law abiding citizen and I want to open a business, I should be able to, just like if I am a homeowner who wants to buy a house or renovate the windows, I should be able to do that, too. "Community input" simply enables some of the worst elements of our neighborhood to micromanage. If you have a specific vision of a store that you think a store owner should open, the onus is on you to open it yourself.

by JustMe on Jul 16, 2013 4:32 pm • linkreport

mona,

My solution is simple. Let law enforcement handle law enforcement and let zoning figure out how our neighborhoods are designed. This doesn't mean that it'll be easy by any means, I don't know where you got that insinuation.

We have crack houses but no one has ever tried ban houses at large.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

This zoning law would have added to the police already burdensome problem of people hanging out and drug dealing. Don't act like the police can just come in and solve the problem instantly.

The cultural problem in DC is that they associate law abiding citizens buying and selling and drinking a coffee or having a sandwich with crime.

The attitude comes from two places: first, a deep suspicion of private business and a believe that business owners are somehow in the trade of stealing from local residents. Second, ingrained provincialism that does not realize that most towns and cities have local places of commerce and dining on nearby neighborhood street corners. Overcoming these cultural idiosyncracies of DC will be difficult. We can start by pointing out why DC residents have such a low opinion of their own people that they believe that their own people are much more likely to gather for purposes of crime if local businesses open than other cities experience.

by JustMe on Jul 16, 2013 4:38 pm • linkreport

"MStreet, I'm not sure what is the single thing "at issue here","

back on elementary school I think we were asked to pick 'the main subject of a story' Im pretty sure picking food deserts for this one would not have gotten a good grade.

" but I think any issue brought up in the original post is fair game to comment on. "

I think in many cases we get caught up in quibbles and miss the point. I think we did here.

"As to whether a decades old ordinance was good or bad, I don't have the gift that others have of arriving at a rigid opinion on an increasingly complex and nuanced issue."

My opinion is not rigid - Im open to argument. Im not sure that this is increasingly complex - how is it more complex than it used to be. Of course you are free to give your complex and nuanced opinion of the the treatment of corner stores in the old zoning code.

"I see the good and bad in the old and current zoning ordinances. FWIW I don't think it's a bad idea to hold a hearing before someone wants to open up a corner store."

Why not hold a hearing whenever someone wants to open any store. Or any business for that matter?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

Is the urbanist agenda simply and always against neighorhood input?

The truth is that both sides (urbanist and "anti-urbanist") are not really that interested in input from the other.

And both sides want to recreate a lifestyle from an earlier era, or another place, or sometimes both; they just can't agree on when or where exactly.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

MStreet, you asked a question, so I answered it. I'm not making any pronouncements on whether your opinion is rigid or not. I'm just saying mine isn't.

It's fairly common for a topic that wasn't even in the original post to spin out into a number of tangential discussions. I'd say it happens more times than not.

At least the issue of fresh food actually made an appearance in the original post.

Why not hold a hearing whenever someone wants to open any store. Or any business for that matter?

That's a hypothetical that so far no one has recommended we do. If that suggestion is ever remotely close to becoming policy I'd be glad to weigh in.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

drumz, I'm ok with crackhouses, as long as they are single family detached. I don't need low rent crack houses in my neighborhood.

by Alan B. on Jul 16, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

I hope I never live in a time where a desire to be able to walk to places is seen as a quaint antiquity.

Anyway, considering that people are asking for hearings before any store can open (7th or 8th paragraph) in their area I think its now time to discuss how much input is needed at that level. Corner stores already exist in DC and all over the world in all sorts of ways. How much discussion is really needed? How is DC so uniqe from all other cities (including itself)? At that point, you're right, I'm not interested in input from people who have made their desires clear to not have any sort of corner store at a particular location. Their position is known.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 4:58 pm • linkreport

We can start by pointing out why DC residents have such a low opinion of their own people that they believe that their own people are much more likely to gather for purposes of crime if local businesses open than other cities experience.

They might think that because DC actually did, really, live through that era for a while and their skepticism is based on their experience.

That being said, DC is often ranked among the world's most livable cities, so for all of our "ingrained provincialism", we must be doing something right.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

To whoever said it, yes there is an association with a corner store owner and crime. Is that always the case, no. But even in GT where they were selling booze to under age kids these store owners are constantly allowing anything to occur on their property if it turns them another buck. In GT they sell booze to under age kids in other areas they allow drug dealers to loiter in their space cause they don't get robbed and they get enough business to keep going even if all the sell are bumpers of beer. The city won't allow the police to properly address the problem with the proper laws and at a the same time the city won't police these place like they should for health and licensing violations. So on that note then it is a resounding NO for more opportunities for more corner stores until they address ever single one in the city that is not doing what they should be doing. This isn't a NIMBY issue cause the people in GT would love one more store selling expensive wine and French cheese as long as they aren't selling it to under age kids and you can walking in without stepping over the local crack head and his dealer

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

"Why not hold a hearing whenever someone wants to open any store. Or any business for that matter?"

"That's a hypothetical that so far no one has recommended we do. If that suggestion is ever remotely close to becoming policy I'd be glad to weigh in."

Its a hypothetical that is useful - as a way of pointing that asking for a hearing before a business open is not without significant costs. If holding a hearing is a minor thing, thats not a bad idea as a way to get community input, than its also a good idea for businesses other than corner stores. I think before imposing such a hurdle, a case should be made - far better than any I have seen - for corner stores being a net negative.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

"ut even in GT where they were selling booze to under age kids these store owners are constantly allowing anything to occur on their property if it turns them another buck. "

Pardon, but dont liquor stores in commercial strips, and in shopping centers, sometimes also sell to under age kids? Thats not really unique to corner stores, now is it?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

That's a hypothetical that so far no one has recommended we do

Scoot, why are you against community input? Why do you hate the community and why are you trying to silence them???? All the community wants to do is help improve the neighborhood by allowing them to have input before you open a business, buy a house, or live in a neighborhood. Stop trying to silence people!

by Tyro on Jul 16, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

MStreetDenizen - no it isn't unique but we aren't talking about strip malls and liquor stores we are talking about neighborhood corner stores

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:04 pm • linkreport

So on that note then it is a resounding NO for more opportunities for more corner stores until they address ever single one in the city that is not doing what they should be doing.

That's totally reasonable and in no way a distraction from the actual problems with crime/poverty that the city faces. I say let's not allow any new business at all, corner store or not.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

"The truth is that both sides (urbanist and "anti-urbanist") are not really that interested in input from the other."

again, I'm going to have to point out the earlier proposed new code was already a compromise, with limits on corner stores.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:05 pm • linkreport

"MStreetDenizen - no it isn't unique but we aren't talking about strip malls and liquor stores we are talking about neighborhood corner stores "

yes, thats my point. If your problem is with what liquor stores in general do, theres no reason to have a zoning code that restricts corner stores (even if the do NOT sell liquor) and that does NOT restrict liquor stores, as long as they are not corner stores.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:07 pm • linkreport

Tyro - community input gets you the fiasco that is occurring with the McMillian reservoir and other development projects in the city. It gets you the problems that occur just trying to repair a gate in a historic district. Why does my neighbor get to decide what and where I get replacement windows? Because of some of the mechanisms in the city to provide "community input" Initially all this input was to improve now it is being used to control. Just heard of the ULine building in NE was declared "historic" even though it was built in 1941 and the Beetles performed there. So now an ugly industrial building is standing there with no means to change it or improve the area because some Beetles fan greased the hand of someone on the historical review board. That is what community input gets you.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

It's not really a useful hypothetical.

Just to see how useless it is, let's take another hypothetical.

For those who believe that a corner store should just be able to open without any neighborhood input, why not let someone open any store whenever they want, without any input whatsoever?

Or any business for that matter?

I mean, why not just abolish the zoning code while we're at it?

We can be like Houston Texas, which doesn't have a zoning code at all.

It's a useful hypothetical.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

and look how great Houston is :-(

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:12 pm • linkreport

drumz -That's totally reasonable and in no way a distraction from the actual problems with crime/poverty that the city faces. I say let's not allow any new business at all, corner store or not.

The city isn't going to solve the problems of poverty by allowing more corner stores and none of these corner stores are going to turn into miniaturized, cheap whole foods either cause there is no money to be made. The will always sell bumpers of beer in under developed neighborhoods and expensive wine in your developed neighborhoods.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

that is a useful hypothetical.

indeed the "why do we have zoning at all" meme is raised here regularly, whenever someone argues against any particular zoning restriction.

The answer is that some uses are inherently incompatible. A factory, for example, has noise and other issues that make it incompatible with residences (though SOME kinds of industrial use CAN coexist with residential, in some cases)

However neighborhood serving retail, such as a corner store, is NOT inherently incompatible with dense residential areas. And no one here has argued that it is - no one has been able to indicate why a store that sells lattes and quinoa bars is harmful to a neighborhood.

All thats been raised are issues of crime, for which zoning is a poor tool.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

"The city isn't going to solve the problems of poverty by allowing more corner stores and none of these corner stores are going to turn into miniaturized, cheap whole foods either cause there is no money to be made. The will always sell bumpers of beer in under developed neighborhoods and expensive wine in your developed neighborhoods"

The ones in expensive neighborhoods don't just sell wine. They actually do provide an alternative to driving to a supermarket in many cases. And they may not solve the problem of poverty, but they can help neighborhoods become more vibrant and walkable.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

For those who believe that a corner store should just be able to open without any neighborhood input, why not let someone open any store whenever they want, without any input whatsoever?

That's a far cry from what's proposed which is basically an extra set of rules/hearings just because you're a corner store. Let's have rules and process for input, but make it clear, simple and uniform.

And houston has plenty of land use rules, none of it is just called "zoning".

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2011/11/30/the_myth_of_zoning_free_houston.html

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 5:18 pm • linkreport

And no one here has argued that it is - no one has been able to indicate why a store that sells lattes and quinoa bars is harmful to a neighborhood.

That's probably because few people believe a store that sells lattes and quinoa bars is harmful to a neighborhood.

If every corner store was like that, then we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

I'm assuming you agree that no business should have to seek community input before opening in a neighborhood.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

The ones in expensive neighborhoods don't just sell wine. They actually do provide an alternative to driving to a supermarket in many cases. And they may not solve the problem of poverty, but they can help neighborhoods become more vibrant and walkable.

No they don't they make the neighborhood great and they prices in those stores are astronomical. You can't suggest that one of these high end stores is going to open a store in Ward 7 or 8 do you? Look what happened to the Yes Organic that opened. Shut down pretty fast afterward cause they were being robbed and stolen from and they weren't making the sales to stay in existence. You have some fantasy that a fancy store is going to open up and do well in an impoverish neighborhood and everything will be roses and butterflies. Find reality, it cost money to run a business and no one wants to give it away or they go out of business. They have to sell what has the highest profit in that neighborhood and they have to sell a lot of it. In GT that is wine in ward 7 and ward 8 it is bumpers of beer. May not like it but that is the reality of it. Until the underlying issues are addressed adding more corner stores isn't going to help with poverty, crime or anything else. It shows how zoning laws have an over whelming influence on the rest of the city and it isn't harmless to just allow this sort of thing to go on.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

"I'm assuming you agree that no business should have to seek community input before opening in a neighborhood."

Not necessarily. There are kinds of businesses that are properly excluded from residential neighborhoods, but that may work in some instances. In that cases a zoning exclusion with some kind of exception process is appropriate which could include community input.

I just see no argument for that applying to corner stores as a format. 90% of the arguments seem to be about liquor stores. Period. So fine, regulate liquor stores. Most of the complaints could as easily apply to a store in a commercial zone. Or a park. Or a house. I have yet to see an argument for the particular noxiousness of corner stores that justifies the burden of community hearings, which would apply in all parts of the city, not just in the crime ridden parts.

Again - if the problem is the usage itself, restrict by zoning. If the problem is crime, enforce the law.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:27 pm • linkreport

"No they don't they make the neighborhood great"

They can help.

" and they prices in those stores are astronomical."

One pays for convenience. Its a choice.

" You can't suggest that one of these high end stores is going to open a store in Ward 7 or 8 do you? "

Why should policy for the whole city constantly be driven by the issues in wards 7 and 8?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:30 pm • linkreport

what is "GT" in this context by the way?

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 16, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

Mona,

Why are corner stores responsible for solving poverty or preventing crime? Corner stores provide a place to buy things and if they don't do a good job of that, they close.

You're acknowledging that they're neither the cause or solution to certain problems, yet you want them banned all the same.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 5:31 pm • linkreport

An ANC isn't even going to think about getting involved unless they start selling any sort of alcohol or if the activity is going to be disruptive or affect parking. Those are the things that start allowing "community input". But then you ask yourself who is going to do that? Who is going to start a corner store with no beer and wine? Find a corner store in this city that doesn't. The markup on booze is phenomenal so most places want to sell booze in some format or they are going to go out of business. If your going to be a corner store and not sell beer and wine I can count on one hand how many years you will be open.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:35 pm • linkreport

90% of the arguments seem to be about liquor stores. Period. So fine, regulate liquor stores

So now it seems like you're OK with regulating liquor stores but not corner stores.

Why should we regulate liquor stores? Like you said, if the problem is crime then that's an issue for police, not the zoning code.

Why should a neighborhood where there is little crime lose its convenient, pleasant, neighborhood liquor store because of problems happening miles away?

Is there a good argument for applying a blanket set of rules for liquor stores?

If you want to put a set of regulations on liquor stores then I'm assuming you would also put an identical set of regulations on every store? Or even every business.

Now we are starting to see how nuanced the issue is.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

That's a far cry from what's proposed

You took the words out of my mouth.

Asking every business to submit to community input before opening is a far cry from what's being proposed.

I would love as much as anyone else to see a zoning code that is clear, simple and uniform but cities are not always clear, simple and uniform. I'd love to see a tax code that is clear, simple and uniform too. In place where everyone thinks the same and wants the same thing, we could have those things.

by Scoot on Jul 16, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

GT= Georgetown. drumz - I very much did say they contribute to the problem. They won't fix poverty but the do contribute to crime. That is just it they provide a place to only buy booze and junk food so I guess you could say they do a good job of it cause they are still in business. It just doesn't contribute to the neighborhood. It takes away and leaves the crime that it allows to linger way after they have closed for the night.

Why should policy for the whole city constantly be driven by the issues in wards 7 and 8?

So you think there should be rules for GT and other rules for ward 7 and 8. Best of luck getting that thorough.

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:40 pm • linkreport

Mona -- actually the Uline designation happened because of an evil cabal led by me (it helps to know the law and how the process works), that thought it was worth preserving the building's historicity and architectural distinctiveness. There is a lot to be said for industrial architecture. And knowing stuff rather than just being reflexive and making baseless statements. FWIW, Elijah Muhammed, Malcolm X spoke there, one of the first African-American players in what became the NBA played there, the Ice Capades started there, Go Go (ugh, don't like it myself) was an element in later years, etc.

What kept the building empty for the last 10 years was the intransigence of the latest property owner, who was unwilling to entertain other viable offers to rehabilitate and activate the property.

by Richard Layman on Jul 16, 2013 5:41 pm • linkreport

Scoot,

It's not being proposed (by OP) but it is being asked that it be put in (by various actors).

Cities are complicated, and sometimes solutions are complicated. However in the case of "should the city allow businesses to locate in what was formerly a house" I think the answe should be a simple yes, especially if its something so banal as a convenience store.

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 5:45 pm • linkreport

Good for you in getting a building that wasn't historical declared historical cause you know how to grease the wheels. If we hold historic every place that someone famous performed or slept or ate a meal at then we make no progress in this city. Unless all these people engraved their names on the wall what is the point of holding it historic. So look how much was accomplished by doing that. It sat for 10yrs with nothing being done to it. No new tax base no new retail no new nothing. It just sat. I guess you feel you accomplished something then. Hurray!!

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 5:47 pm • linkreport

I am deeply offended by Scoot's hostility to community input regarding newly opened businesses. Businesses, as mona says, are a locus for crime, and without community input for any and all businesses, you will create more crime. Hopefully the ban on corner stores can be extended to all stores, and thus mona can live in a business and crime free paradise.

The fact that Scoot doesn't support community input to shut down businesses just shows that he doesn't care about the community. Having stores is just a vestige of another age that Scoot is trying to impose on us. Everyone buys stuff online. We don't need stores. If you allow people to open stores without community input, it will create crime.

mona is right- no stores anywhere. Get rid of all businesses and stop the criminal element that business brings in this city. Government and non-profit jobs ONLY and ONLY in isolated areas.

by Tyro on Jul 16, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

Actually, OP is proposing a different rule for Georgetown that does not apply for any other neighborhood. Section 501.3(d) of Subtitle D includes the following additional condition for corner stores in Georgetown: In the R-3 zone in Georgetown, “a Corner Store use shall be only permitted by right in those locations where a Corner Store exists with a valid certificate of occupancy as of January 1, 2013.” This condition does not apply to corner stores in any other neighborhood.

by OtherMike on Jul 16, 2013 6:02 pm • linkreport

No new tax base no new retail no new nothing.

It probably helped prevent crime because new stores would attract criminals, as you keep pointing out. DC is a city entirely full of criminals, and if you open stores, it will attract criminals, as you keep saying. So why are you complaining? Do you want more crime?

by Tyro on Jul 16, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

"I can't be held responsible for these crimes your honor. The corner store made me do it."

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 6:08 pm • linkreport

Tyro- nice try. You know exactly what I am talking about, but you want to twist it to your little illusion to make yourself feel better. All stores don't cause crime. A lot of neighborhoods through out this city have enhanced crime that can't due to the enclave nature of corner stores. You know exactly what I am talking about or you live in GT or Palisades or your don't even live in the city likely

by mona on Jul 16, 2013 6:13 pm • linkreport

So it's acknowledged that all stores don't cause crime. Yet the only solution is to ban all future stores (in certain areas, I can pretty much open what I want on an established commercial street).

by drumz on Jul 16, 2013 6:23 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, The portal says that in neighborhoods without supermarkets, corner stores often lack fresh food

1. That's not what the portal said. It said that they often have little fresh food "if any". I hope you can see that having a little fresh food is not the same as having no fresh food. If not please consult the teachings of Miracle Max.

2. In addition, that isn't what you wrote.

The statement is so vague and unattributed that it's impossible to know how often a corner store has fresh food. What is clear is that they sometimes have fresh food, ergo opening more corner stores is highly likely to increase the availability of such foods, even if it is only at the margins.

by David C on Jul 16, 2013 9:17 pm • linkreport

Big box 'grocery stores' ? I am gobsmacked. What happens where a pre-existing business - oh like a small hardware store moves out? I prefer form based zoning. We care about the size, mass and scale of new development, and we care about look and feel walking down the street, and we care about historic preservation. As well, we care about parks, amenities, libraries and community centers. Just smal businesses and housing rates that need to be supported, right? Why do those things require counter-intuitive and ham fisted measures?

by Escapee from the DC area on Jul 17, 2013 6:58 am • linkreport

How many of the people on this blog lived in DC 30 years ago? How many remember Brookland and it's graceful growing up? How many lived in the 13th and Irving area (which was FINE BTW) 30 years ago --no cheating.

Maybe some of you understand that the DC 2000 plan was an open plan for displacement. That stuff ruins the energy for actual improvements, but the disparities created are what ppl fight.

Hope DC is doing better than a lot of cities, and there is a LOT going on that is really better than where I live now, but I really hope that social equity is part of planning.

Do you all allow Urban Farms? Planing food on the parking strips? Chickens in the backyard? Are the corner stores being encouraged to bring in local food? Do you have growth boundaries set around the various cities and towns in the region? Do you HAVE any local farms left? Might be time to talk seriously about some corner stores, and local food growing....

by Escapee from the DC area on Jul 17, 2013 7:06 am • linkreport

Smart? Wanting a store next to your home so it loses half its property value. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by AndrewJ on Jul 17, 2013 7:31 am • linkreport

Glad this was squashed. Read "Sugar, Salt, Fat" by Michael Moss to get a sense of the pernicious impact of these convenience stores, particularly on childhood obesity. The corner store is the real gateway drug for kids. The corner stores overwhelming sell garbage or at a minimum depend on selling it for their existence . . . pretty much the oppoosite of "fresh food"

by anon_1 on Jul 17, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

... and it's not liquor and cigarettes. It's candy, soda, and chips

by anon_1 on Jul 17, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

"So now it seems like you're OK with regulating liquor stores but not corner stores."

Im okay with regulating corner stores. If and when I see a convincing case for it. I do not see one here. I see complaints about liquor stores.

Here's a regulation I would suggest.

Someone opening a corner store shoud be given a choice. Submit to a community hearing. OR pay some fixed amount per month - say $100. It would NOT vary with revenues or profits - just be for the privilege of having a corner store. That should kill the "corner stores that do not sell anything" or that just sell a few chips. It should allow the latte and quinoa stores to go in without the delays and costs of hearings (and if they prefer to have a hearing rather than pay, that would be okay too) And it would provide revenue for the city - which could go for policing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 17, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

"The corner store is the real gateway drug for kids. The corner stores overwhelming sell garbage or at a minimum depend on selling it for their existence . . . pretty much the oppoosite of "fresh food" "

where I grew up there was a corner grocery store. I sold foods - when I was a kid i got sent there to pick up bread and milk, mostly.

There was also a corner "candy store" that mostly sold cigs, newspapers, comic books, and even a little candy. It was the gateway that got me addicted to the New York Times.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 17, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

"it sold foods"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 17, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

The corner store is the real gateway drug for kids

This is what I mean by the ingrained provincialism of many DC residents. So many of them have no idea that a corner store is anything other than a grubby magnet for crime and drugs. And yet all over the world, corner stores manage to exist without being this way. Maybe if you looked beyond your nose every once in a while.

by JustMe on Jul 17, 2013 12:03 pm • linkreport

Unless you are working hard to get good new supermarkets into underserved neighborhoods, cutting out fast food places, and reforming school lunch programs, focusing on corner stores seems a little excessive. If kids want to get to bad food, it's not that hard no matter where they live. What about parental not to mention personal responsibility here. Also seems like we are getting into food nazi territory. You can incorporate a chocolate bar or almonds or even a slice of pizza into a healthy diet...

by Alan B. on Jul 17, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

I think it's important to consider that not everyone everywhere sees corner stores as a "banal use" for a former house.

And not every corner store is a place where parents feel safe sending their kids to buy milk and bread.

So it's important to consider not just how you feel about an issue, but how others feel as well.

I think I agree with Alpert that neighbors' concerns might be legitimate and an exception might not present an unreasonable burden.

And I think it's a good point to consider that we won't know how the new regulations will affect corner stores considering that the old regulations were very restrictive and the new regulations have little further impact.

I also think it's a good idea to enable grocery stores to open as a matter of right.

That will most likely have more an impact on the availability of fresh food than easing the restrictions on corner stores.

Most likely these proposed changes are probably neither a positive nor a negative in achieving the goal of improving access to fresh food.

by Scoot on Jul 17, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

I think it's important to consider that not everyone everywhere sees corner stores as a "banal use" for a former house.

I'm coming at this from a place of empathy. I can get that it seems crazy but it then helps to point out that there are lots of places all over where residences have since turned into different sorts of businesses. That makes it less exotic.

And not every corner store is a place where parents feel safe sending their kids to buy milk and bread.
Again valid, but thats why it helps to point out that the problem isn't with the store itself. Some parents don't feel like their child goes to a safe school, there are solutions for that as well.

I'll repeat, this isn't to ever assume that I know whats good for anybody but it's not patronizing per se to work to correct people's perceptions.

by drumz on Jul 17, 2013 1:31 pm • linkreport

I think it's important to consider that not everyone everywhere sees corner stores as a "banal use" for a former house.

Why are the anxieties and provincialisms of others a concern out ours? Indoor plumbing must have seemed exotic and strange to many communities at one time. Nevertheless, zoning doesn't merely allow for indoor plumbing, it now requires it.

by JustMe on Jul 17, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

Do you mean to say that commenting on this blog is correcting anyone's perceptions? If so, that seems a bit naive.

I don't go to as many ANC meetings as I should but then again I usually agree with whatever comes out of my ANC anyway. That's probably the place to convince people, if there is one. Otherwise people's opinions are rather slow to change.

Why are the anxieties and provincialisms of others a concern out ours?

I don't know, because one of the characteristics of living in a diverse city is experiencing and reacting to different opinions and viewpoints? I guess that's too much of a burden for some folks.

by Scoot on Jul 17, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

Do you mean to say that commenting on this blog is correcting anyone's perceptions? If so, that seems a bit naive.

My mind has been changed on here (through comments and the stories) a number of times. At best, I hope I can do the same at worst, I hope I can at least challenge people making bad arguments and force refinement on there part.

I don't live in DC so I'd either have to go to all ANC meetings or none, but maybe there is someone on the fence and uses the comments to further drill down their thinking. It all has value.

by drumz on Jul 17, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

How about we allow corner stores without hearings only in wards with below a certain crime rate? We could easily set that to make new corner stores in wards 7 and 8 (and 5?) require hearings, while avoiding that requirement in the lower crime wards.

Are there any parts of Ward 3 where parents are afraid to send their kids to the corner store (I mean due to crime, not due to traffic)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 17, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

I don't know, because one of the characteristics of living in a diverse city is experiencing and reacting to different opinions and viewpoints

I have experienced those opinions and viewpoints, and my reaction to those viewpoints is to regard them as provincial and ignorant. I am sure many rural communities in the late 19th/early 20th century viewed indoor toilets and electricity as scary and bizarre, much like many people regard corner stores. Simply because people are scared of corner stores and don't understand them doesn't mean that a business owner should not be allowed to open one. If no one shops there because the local residents find such an alien use of a street corner strange and incomprehensible, then it will close.

by JustMe on Jul 17, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

You're right, I did not mean to imply that it has no value (if I didn't think it had value I probably would not be commenting on here either).

My opinions have been changed to but then again I am open to that.

If you care about a specific issue like for instance the corner stores then you could go an ANC meeting in ANC6B (which also suggested the hearing idea) and voice your opinion. They don't verify that you're a resident of the neighborhood :)

by Scoot on Jul 17, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

It's all good. People often say something like, "well talking about it here doesn't matter" as a dismissal tactic so I'm sensitive to it.

by drumz on Jul 17, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

I see what appears to be a homeless person sitting outside the Paul Bakery from my office window. I'm with Mona and concerned that he may be about to or has just committed a crime. We need to close this bakery and all of the stores for that matter on Connecticut Avenue. They're causing crime!!

by logan on Jul 17, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

If you didn't allow liquor and tobacco sales at corner stores, you'd probably eliminated a lot of potential crime. It seems that having more opportunities for interaction with neighbors could only increase the safety aspect, like Jane Jacobs famous eyes on the street. Kind of like that suburban mind set that if there's a crash on an older street with trees, you should widen it, increase the speed, and eliminate all visual barriers like trees.

by Thayer-D on Jul 18, 2013 7:29 am • linkreport

Does DC require a public health professional to be on the planning committee and/or zoning committee?

by Tina on Jul 18, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

If you didn't allow liquor and tobacco sales at corner stores, you'd probably eliminated a lot of potential crime.

You'd probably eliminate a lot of potential corner stores as well.

by Scoot on Jul 19, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

There are a lot of ways for corner stores to complement their customers health. Here is one example:

http://articles.philly.com/2011-07-29/news/29829719_1_fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-food-deserts-affordable-food

http://thefoodtrust.org/what-we-do/corner-store

by Tina on Jul 22, 2013 9:13 am • linkreport

Tina, thank you for those great links. I've been inspired to volunteer with Food Trust!

More corner stores in DC now!

by Adriana on Jul 31, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

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