Greater Greater Washington

5th and I residents get eyesore, DC only gets $60,000/year

On Tuesday, representatives of DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) faced tough questions from the Mt. Vernon Square Neighborhood Association about 5th and I.


Image from Google Maps.

DMPED turned the site into a "temporary" parking lot with zero advance notice to the community after the planned development, the Arts at 5th and Eye, stalled without funding.

According to DMPED, they signed a two-year contract with Franklin Parking last summer that binds the government through June 2011. The terms include a flat payment of $5,000 per month to DC. Residents were shocked at the pittance being collected by the city for a property use that has met widespread community opposition.

Residents allege that the parking lot does not conform with zoning, including incomplete fencing and a total lack of landscaping. The property is also being left unlocked at night, which is raising security concerns from neighboring residential properties.

DMPED's Clint Jackson, David Roberts and Jose Soussa blamed unnamed formal officials for failing to notify ANC Commissioners or anybody else of the parking lot contract. Supposedly, these officials have since left DMPED, so they are "unable to determine" why communication and outreach did not occur.

The discussion thus turned to how DMPED will avoid creating the same exact problem with the next property that they might attempt to turn into a parking lot. One resident asked that since individual property owners in the District were required to post physical, visible signs on their property about zoning requests and buildout proposals, why doesn't DMPED also post signs on their properties such as alerts about RFPs?

Jackson replied, "Signs? Signs? We don't do signs. That isn't what we do." But the next words out of his mouth were, "We need to talk about communication. How can we communicate with the community?"

The DMPED representatives did give residents the direct emails of the officials involved with the 5th and I project, but since it's now too late to do anything since the contract is already signed, they instructed residents to email the Mayor's correspondence unit instead. They also said that DMPED officials are unable to answer all email inquiries sent directly to them.

My emails to Deputy Mayor Santos's published email address had all gone unanswered after weeks, so apparently DMPED is not in the business of responding to taxpayer inquiries via email, unless you go through specific channels. They also mentioned that Jose Soussa checks the dcbiz@dc.gov email address regularly and could ensure a response.

Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2) did not stay for the DMPED presentation, but when I asked him about the 5th and I debacle, he said, "The last thing this part of the city needs is another parking lot. They aren't doing anybody any good." I thought that was a very strong and positive statement across the board.

The DMPED reps said that they had no expertise in temporary urbanism. They also said that at other such sites in the city, neighbors who liked the temporary uses sometimes opposed the development projects that had been originally planned. That might indeed happen, but isn't a good enough reason to create parking lots just because neighbors won't oppose their redevelopment years later.

5th and I experience is irksome, the larger issue is DMPED's process for interim property management when the economy hits the skids. They seem to go to parking lots by default, and those plans were only stopped by well-organized residents and eagle-eyed Councilmembers. That's simply not a fair way for DMPED to operate. DMPED needs a different process that automatically seeks community input before signing any contracts for interim uses of city property.

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DMPED operates under DMPED's rules, regardless of what the law says. See, for instance, their continued refusal to abide by the law when it comes to charter schools getting first dibs on surplus gov't real property.

But at least the area's hookers have a new place to practice their craft.

How about this site being the new location for a real farmer's market?

by Fritz on Mar 18, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

"DMPED's Clint Jackson, David Roberts Jose Soussa blamed unnamed formal officials for failing to notify ANC Commissioners or anybody else of the parking lot contract. Supposedly, these officials have since left DMPED, so they are "unable to determine" why communication and outreach did not occur."

How curious. This is very strange, considering Clint Jackson attended multiple ANC 6C meetings and frequently exchanged e-mails with Commissioners during this time period.

This is insulting. Thank you for brining to the greater public's attention what we at ANC 6C experience on a regular basis--a complete lack of transparency from DMPED.

Ryan Velasco
ANC 6C07

by Ryan Velasco, ANC 6C07 on Mar 18, 2010 11:16 am • linkreport

When Jack Evans said "This neighborhood doesn't need another parking lot" that Chet Jackson had a grin on his face that would rival that of the Cheshire Cat in size. I'm not suggesting it was a villanous grin - just one that probably meant "come on man".

I thought the comment about posting RFP signs to the parcels was a great suggestion. I've seen such signs often during my visits to in downtown Seattle.

by FourthandEye on Mar 18, 2010 11:20 am • linkreport

I love how DMPED thinks the only real problem here is poor communication. A poor decision properly communicated is still a poor decision.

by Paul on Mar 18, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

The lack of notice to the community and an opportunity for a dialogue on the temporary use of the property before the asphalt and construction equipment arrived. For a community whose motto is "we're not just parking lots anymore," it was a slap in the face, which is why I called the meeting. Hopefully, DMPED heard the message and will not take this route with future RFPs in Mount Vernon or other neighborhoods.

It's also amazing how cheap the city is leasing this substantial property -- $5k a month?

Now, we need to move forward. In the coming weeks, we will form a work group to examine programming for the lot for weekends when it is not used for parking. We will also consider possible temporary uses for the vacant buildings on the 900 Block of 5th Street NW. The group will include neighborhood association reps, the MVT CID, ANC Commissioners, and reps from adjacent condos and apartments. We will then work with the DMPED and the development team to get this area back on track as we wait for the 5th and Eye development to move forward. We appreciate any suggestions for temporary uses.

by Cary Silverman on Mar 18, 2010 11:52 am • linkreport

I find it extremely difficult to believe that anybody could make $5000 per month on a parking lot at that location, much less one penny above the $5K rent, which would technically constitute a profit.
Although I am thrilled that the city will be getting $60K in revenue during this tight budget season, I am offended by the DMPED's long history and continued practice of making deals behind closed doors.

by M Fox on Mar 18, 2010 12:26 pm • linkreport

Agree with M Fox - daily parking is going for $6/day in that area. I've been told by a reliable source that this lot won't fit more than 50 cars. After paying for the capital improvements and rent to the city this operator isn't going to make much profit.

by FourthandEye on Mar 18, 2010 12:43 pm • linkreport

@M Fox and FourthandEye - your point is well taken, but we have to recognize that one of the reasons surface parking is cheap in Mt Vernon Square is because it's already oversupplied. Each time DMPED creates another "temporary" parking lot, they drive down revenues even further. We also have to consider that parking lots lower surrounding property values and decrease foot traffic through the area, which actually imperils long-term development and decreases property tax revenues to the city. Are lower property values in Mt Vernon Square worth $5000/month in parking lot revenue to the city?

by Jeb Stenhouse on Mar 18, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Jeb - I'm not disagreeing with anything you've said. Just commenting that this lot didn't even make much sense from the operator standpoint... this is a big #FAIL all the way around.

by FourthandEye on Mar 18, 2010 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ M Fox: I find it extremely difficult to believe that anybody could make $5000 per month on a parking lot at that location

That is not a relevant question. You assume that parking is the only option here. Furthermore, you seem to be assume that the city should be concerned whether a lessee could be profitable.

On any level $60k is pittance. It's an embarrassment to the city. Actions like this show why so many people have no faith in the government.

It is also bogus that they can't answer questions because certain people left. What does administration exist for?

by Jasper on Mar 18, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

This whole thing stinks...pee u! I think ANC 6C has some legal recourse since they were never given the requisite "great weight" as mandated by law. At the very least we need to make sure this lot conforms with code requirements like the mandatory percentage of landscaping, lighting etc. And then work with the MVTCID to hopefully get some temporary urbanism uses in there. AND NO billboards!

p.s. the mixed use project planned for this site is very well supported by the community, that is definitely the end goal...

by Si Kailian on Mar 18, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

i've attended multiple meetings that clint jackson has attended (mostly for the mcmillan project north of bloomingdale), and he always came across as a bit of a sheister, and he was always quite combative with those who disagreed with him. even when i agreed with his point-of-view, he never presented in a neighborly manner.

agreed with those who said transparency is not DMPED's strong suit. the place is more like a black hole. light does not escape.

by IMGoph on Mar 22, 2010 11:17 am • linkreport

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