Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Taking it to court


Photo by Andrew F. Scott on Flickr.
Livable, walkable, safety, jobs: In yesterday's links we mentioned the Post article in which Ward 6 candidate Kelvin Robinson was campaigning against Tommy Wells's focus on livable and walkable communities, and that Housing Complex offered some advice for Wells and other urbanist pols. In an interview with TBD, Wells responds to exactly these types of questions - and offers a robust case for "livable, walkable" as priorities by making the connection between walkable urbanism, public safety and job creation.

Small crowd, Giant opposition: Opponents of the Wisconsin Giant have filed another lawsuit to try to stop the project, which is very popular with residents but has enough vociferous and well-heeled opponents to keep throwing up legal obstacles. (All Life Is Local, David Alpert)

Policy poor for Purple: UMD's experiment closing Campus Drive to transit vehicles as well as private cars has ended, but university officials will consider whether to make it permanent. If they do this, it would interfere with the preferred route of the Purple Line, which university officials don't want going through campus. (Post, David Alpert, Andy Peters)

Arlington still steamed over HOT lanes: Arlington County has named Federal Highway Administration chief Victor Mendez, in both his official capacity and as an individual, in its suit against VDOT's HOT lanes proposal. The County opposes the proposal because it claims a disproportionately high impact and low benefit to Arlington residents. (TBD)

Replacing two cars with ten bikes: The Crystal City BID has a photo of Capital Bikeshare station installation underway in Arlington. It looks like this station is being installed in former parking spaces. (BeyondDC)

Get da dish on da trees: DDOT responds to Geoff Hatchard's post about tree maintenance, including news that UFA will be renamed d.Trees, to be pronounced DDOT Trees. (d.ish)

It may be safer, but it's reckless: A Texas cyclist has been convicted of reckless driving by a judge after he rode in a roadway's rightmost lane instead of its broken and discontinuous shoulder. In handing down the conviction, now under appeal, the judge in Ellis County, Texas, told the cyclist, "You may be right that it is safer to ride in the middle of the lane instead of the shoulder, but it is reckless of you to do so." A support site called Let Him Ride! is collecting money to support an appeal. (Streetsblog.net)

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Stephen Miller lived in the District from 2008 to 2011 and is now a student at Pratt Institute's city and regional planning masters program. 

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So instead of this and this being where pedestrians & transit are... instead this and this are where the transit will be. In the name of pedestrian safety.

by Bossi on Aug 20, 2010 9:52 am • linkreport

Didn't UMD just get a new president? Perhaps the new guy will see things more clearly with regard to the purple line...

by andrew on Aug 20, 2010 9:57 am • linkreport

The original story on the Newark Street Giant isn't the full story. Yes, the same batch of neighbors is prolonging the never-ending lawsuit. BUT, the issue isn't that they don't like a new Giant. It's that they don't like the residential development that will be built along with the new Giant. And some of the immediate neighbors don't like the loading docks and trailer driveway that will be located right next to their homes.

Realistically, the only way the Giant will be rebuilt in the near future - assuming it's able to get financing - will be by scaling back the development. Otherwise the lawsuits will continue for years to come.

by Fritz on Aug 20, 2010 10:04 am • linkreport

The thing is (Giant) that the people opposing the current development are the same ones who opposed the development 10 years ago. The difference? The fall back position for the opponents this time was essentially the proposal from 10 years ago.

What has changed? In the intervening 10 years, virtually every other neighboring community has at least one new grocery store:

Social Safeway (Georgetown)
Van Ness Giant
Tenley Whole Foods
Friendship Heights Whole Foods
P Street Whole Foods
Columbia Heights Giant

As such, the idea that this development will become the grocery store destination feared 10 years ago is simply moot.

The financial parameters have changed over 10 years. Now, in order to get a grown-up grocery store, with all the neighborhood amenities, the residential is required. I would also argue that one would want the additional residences for all of the "smart growth" reasons discussed in the forum. A Transportation Demand Management plan will help mitigate the situation - and one is I believe in place per the zoning commission order.

At this point, it is simply additional stall tactics by a small group of residents at the expense of reduced driving for nearby residents and an increased tax base for the whole city.

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

Opponents of the Wisconsin Giant have filed another lawsuit to try to stop the project, which is very popular with residents but has enough vociferous and well-heeled opponents to keep throwing up legal obstacles.

If this were the Post, would we tolerate such biased 'reporting'? How does David you know that it's popular with residents? If it were, why would they be the ones opposing it via their neighborhood organizations? I've only spoken to a couple of folks from that area, but they've said that by and large the community does want a better Giant, but like Fritz said, it's the accompanying residential development and the loading docks and the like that are the problem. Giant is supposed to be in the business of selling groceries, not residential real estate. Am I the only one who sees the irony in David promoting the interests of real estate developers over the neighbors in a neighborhood that he doesn't live in?

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport

He said a neighborhood listserv had a poll that said 93% supported the new Giant.

by NikolasM on Aug 20, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

Lance,

If you have followed the issue (and read the link to the All Things Local blog) you know that the unscientific Cleveland Park Listserv poll was overwhelmingly in favor of the Giant proposal.

The ANC voted to support it as did, I believe, the McLean Gardens Association (I may be mistaken on that). The Cleveland Park Citizens Association nearly imploded over the issue because its board took a unilateral and unpopular position.

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 10:33 am • linkreport

Yet again, Lance is attempting to hijack this blog to push the Committee of 100's agenda of NIMBYism and zero development. These "neighborhood organizations," much like the Committee of 100, are unrepresentative of the neighborhood. In this case, the so-called "Wisconsin Newark Neighborhood Coalition" was in fact set up to serve as a mouthpiece for opponents to the project.

Also, if I had to guess, David would support a similar project in his own neighborhood. So I doubt there's any inconsistency here.

by Phil on Aug 20, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

@Nikolas, And how did the folks responding to that poll prove that they actually lived within the neighborhood, never mind being affected neighbors (i.e., being within whatever the requirement is such as 400 ft?) I understand that when the neighborhood association held its elections last year, that they ended up having to postpone them because people not within the boundaries of the association had registered as 'residents' of that neighborhood ... but weren't.

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 10:37 am • linkreport

If the Giant development includes apartments, wouldn't those people not have to drive, thus reducing the congestion that the opponents swear will occur? So shouldn't they support it more with the apartments?

@Lance: This is not the Post. This is a blog. No where does it claim to be unbiased.

by Tim on Aug 20, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

Seriously, to follow on other commenters, please stop pretending the neighborhood organizations represent the majority of their constituents. They don't. Not in my neighborhood and probably not in your neighborhood either. They represent the people who complain the loudest at best, and their leadership's own personal self-interest at worst. They are always opposed to any changes to the status quo, and will use any convenient excuse they can find to get their way.

by Nate on Aug 20, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

@Phil, Also, if I had to guess, David would support a similar project in his own neighborhood.

I am a neighbor of David's, I serve on the local preservation association with him, and I'd have a very very hard time picturing David supporting such a huge huge development in our backyard. In our neighborhood he does a fantastic job upholding the fundamentals of design, scale, massing, etc. that make Washington the special place that it is. We've had developers in here recently, such as the N Street Follies, who wanted to build something that was inappropriately large for the area, AND would effect the immediate neighbors. David went so far as to write a posting on here detailing why the shadow to be cast by that proposed development would affect diners in the adjoining restaurant ... No, he definitely wouldn't go for this project in our neighborhood if it meant he'd have loading docks abbutting his back yard ...

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 10:44 am • linkreport

@Tim, If the Giant development includes apartments, wouldn't those people not have to drive,

Not really. In a city you either have a large store with parking that people from all over drive to (e.g., the Harris Teeter in Adams Morgan) or you have a small store that gets used as a 'convenience store' for small item purchases because there's no parking there (e.g., the Safeway on 17th.) to allow for doing a full weeks grocery shopping. So, you build a small store and you'll have the car-less folks doing daily or every other day shopping there (as well as the car folks runnning in there in an emergency) or you build a big store and have folks from that entire quadrant of the city going there.

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 10:49 am • linkreport

I lived right next to that Giant for about 5 years, and everyone I knew in the area was strongly in support of redeveloping the Giant, as well as building out the entire retail strip along that area of Wisconsin to a more dense mixed-use shopping / condo development area with wider sidewalks and narrower streets, slower vehicle speeds. A lot of people wanted streetcars, bike racks, etc. There were a lot of older folks who wished they still ran the streetcar down Wisconsin to Georgetown.

True story: A number of years ago I was in that Giant on thanksgiving day, and there was Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, apparently picking up some last-minute items... I overheard them complaining to each other about how horrible this location was and how it needed to be redeveloped!

by Lee on Aug 20, 2010 10:57 am • linkreport

But Lance, as I have already posted, all of the other surrounding neighborhoods have new grocery stores. This development will be serving its community, and will also provide new retail opportunities (or at least bring Shemali's back from New Mexico Avenue).

Also, unlike the N Street Follies, this development is not shadowing over anyone's house. There is a building next door, and they would be building new townhouses at the back of the lot, across from the MPD 2D station.

Finally, with the CPCA elections, there were a lot of long standing, dues paying members who lived outside of the official boundaries. The leadership told those members that they couldn't vote. No one tried to nefariously register to join or vote in the proceedings.

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 11:01 am • linkreport

@Andrew, I'm really not enough to know all the facts. Just what I've heard. It's not my neighborhood, and I don't have a reason to get involved. I know we've been through this earlier, that GGW is an 'advocacy' and thus gets to get involved (i.e., 'take sides') on any issue anywhere in the Washington area. But then if it's an advocacy (i.e., a 'shill' for a certain position) ... why do we call it a 'social media'? To me at least, the media is held to a much higher standard of objectivity than an 'advocacy'. There's nothing wrong with being an advocacy ... but doing it under the cloak of being a 'media' is not quite right ... Or is GGW, not really a part of the media? I.e., not a source for 'news' (which by its definition should be unbiased) but a source for specific 'positions' related to specific agendas? Are all social media operating in the same 'advocacy' manner?

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

Solution to the University of Maryland's desire to keep the Purple line off their property.

Bypass the campus. Run the alignment in the median of University Boulevard from Adeiphi Road to Rhode Island Avenue, turn south along the unused streetcar right of way to Paint Branch Parkway.

No stations between Adeiphi Road to Rhode Island Avenue. Station south of Greenbelt Road at Rhode Island Avenue.

by Sand Box John on Aug 20, 2010 11:18 am • linkreport

Lance - I am glad you are acknowledging insufficient knowledge to comment with authority. I would submit that providing opinions is one thing, which I think all "social media" encourages. However, when you make authoritative statements without having the facts, it does a disservice to both the readers and yourself.

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

Lance, if you would actually go to this neighborhood (or look at Google Street View) you would see large apartment buildings literally across the street from the Giant. This is totally in proportion for the neighborhood.

by Phil on Aug 20, 2010 11:42 am • linkreport

Lance,

The idea that the media is neutral or unbiased was pretty much always a myth, albeit a useful one at times.

To broadly oversimplify, most "new media" types strive for accuracy and transparency, but not objectivity. Because we can't. None of us are objective, it's far better to admit that then it is to pretend to a false front of neutrality.

I don't know how many blogs you read, but just about all of them serve to articulate a certain vision or speak from a specific viewpoint. I don't think David pretends otherwise.

There's a good discussion of this topic here:

http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2009/10/04/objectivity-and-neutrality-arent-the-only-ways-to-protect-journalists-credibility/

by TimK on Aug 20, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

@Andrew However, when you make authoritative statements without having the facts, it does a disservice to both the readers and yourself.

I think you've latched on to my point. It's one thing for David to take a position ... but to state it 'authoritatively' (i.e., like a 'media') than it really does a disservice to the readers ... you and me. It's like the cigarette ads that used to proclaim 'Smoking is good for you!'. They were authoritative ... and probably got a lot of people to start smoking. The problem was, they were also advocating for something ... more customers ... I think getting the news out there quickly and allowing people to discuss it is a great ... But is it really 'news' when we're told 'Smoking is good for you'?

by Lance on Aug 20, 2010 12:46 pm • linkreport

@Sand Box John-

I'm not entirely sure whether your comments were meant in jest or not, but assuming they weren't: refer back to my comment (first in this thread) -- University is far from being a condensed pedestrian-friendly area.

Furthermore, such an alignment is near absolutely nothing... even the Preinkert alignment would be better than running down University; though University is where the buses would likely end up (and it's where they were diverted to during the summer closure).

Campus Drive is close to dorms, classes, and athletics; with only the Comcast Center and downtown College Park being significantly distant. Preinkert alignments is nearer to the dorms but further from classes and the stadium; and still Comcast and downtown are pretty far. A University Blvd alignment could serve the stadium and potentially Comcast, but would be distant from classes & dorms and utterly inaccessible to/from downtown.

Of course, if you don't have any stations in between then it doesn't matter if you are or are not near things... but not having any stations for UMD would be a similar folly to putting the Green Line significantly removed from campus. Granted, that seems to be what the University's administration desires; despite what its own engineering staff & student population say.

by Bossi on Aug 20, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

@Lance:

Umm, I'm pretty sure ANdrew was talkign about yu, not David. But then you knew that already.

by dcd on Aug 20, 2010 1:38 pm • linkreport

If there are any UMCP alumni here, perhaps it would be worth their while to write a letter to the President of the University about his subordinates' ridiculous obstruction of the Purple Line. Particularly if it's accompanied by a threat to stop donating.

by Phil on Aug 20, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

Oh Fritz. You just don't know how to play the NIMBY Game. To play you characterize anyone over 40 and opposing a development in part or in whole as NIMBY. You don't stop with that characterization and with every objection brought up, supported by reason and facts, you press harder and harder. The object is to get a signature no matter what t's haven't been crossed. Get it?

by Jazzy on Aug 20, 2010 2:34 pm • linkreport

@Phil-

I've actually toyed with that thought for a couple years now, often giving that as my response to the people who call asking for donations. Granted, the cold callers are unlikely to care... I may take you up on that suggestion and agree with urging others to do the same.

by Bossi on Aug 20, 2010 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Andrew: There's absolutely no reason why a new Giant can't be rebuilt where the current, crappy one is located. Of course, that means it couldn't have the 3 stories of residential on top of it. The Social Safeway was built super fast because it was built as a matter of right development, not as a mixed use PUD. Hence the years of delays.

And as for the NIMBY argument, there are several residents of Idaho Avenue who's backyards would literally be affected by the development. Are their quality of life rights and concerns somehow negated by what the majority of residents may want?

I'm in favor of a new Giant since that current one is awful. But Giant's parent company could long ago have had a brand-spanking new store, had they not tried to also redevelop the land into a mixed-use development, along with the parcel of land across the street.

It's a bit more complicated than simply saying some of the neighbors don't want a new Giant. I think a more fair assessment of the neighbors concerns is that they don't want two blocks of high density apartment buildings suddenly appearing in a low-density commercial area.

by Fritz on Aug 20, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

@Fritz

Your argument would carry weight except for a few points:

1) The residents rejected an essentially stand-along store with parking (3 stories, yes, but 1 and 1/2 underground) 10 years ago.

Delay and fast forward and what you have is a different community dynamic, and a different urban model which suggests a more urban neighborhood center will be more profitable for the property owner and provide more amenity to the residents. The economic model will not support, according to the landowner, a stand-along grocery store, like it would have in 2000.

2) The residents on Idaho Street bought property next to a surface parking lot. What they will end up with is townhouses next to them, with a curb cut to facilitate deliveries. The curb cut is better there (as has been argued with similar cases in this blog) than on Wisconsin Avenue or on Newark Street, where much of the retail and pedestrian activity would take place. There is a Transportation Demand Management Plan which suggests that deliveries are taking place during business hours and not all odd times of the early morning or late night. Further, since the deliveries are taking place in the garage, the residents won't be impacted by back-up beeping, exhaust etc. The property owner is also providing sound-proofing enhancements to the neighboring residences.

Since the property is to the north of the affected residents, there will not be a loss of light, since as you know, the sun is coming from the south. I am not sure of the impact of "air" to the immediate neighbor.

I do not dismiss lightly the impact of the development on the immediate neighbors. However, most of the objection is coming from residents in the greater Newark and Lowell Street areas East of Wisconsin Avenue who are suggesting that there are going to be hordes of new people driving to the neighborhood center and driving/parking on "their" streets.

I would say, we live in a city and should be encouraging as much residential mixed use development that serves the community as possible. This reduces VMT and provides vibrancy on our streets. If there is an impact, there are plenty of remedies to limit access or parking in the residential area.

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 2:57 pm • linkreport

@Andrew:

Isn't it a bit odd for the developer to claim that it's not profitable for it to have a stand-alone vastly expanded grocery store? And that the only way it can be profitable is for there to be residential development above it?

Especially given that the Social Safeway was somehow torn down and completely rebuilt and greatly expanded, with no residential development?

And the plans for the Tenleytown/Friendship Heights Safeway also call for a greatly expanded and rebuilt store, with no residential development?

And the Tenley Whole Foods somehow survives with no residential development?

I think what the developer really means is that it would be far and away much more profitable to have a grocery store with two blocks of residential development, rather than simply a new grocery store. But the developer is clearly willing to wait a decade and have empty storefronts between the Giant and Cactus Cantina, rather than scale back its plans. Fair enough; that's an economic decision on the developer's part. Just like it's a quality of life decision for nearby residents as to whether they support it or not.

I assume the developer will be paying the new vacant property tax rate in a few months for all that empty commercial space. Maybe that will spur the developer to put that property into some productive use, rather than continue to be empty and painted over for another decade.

by Fritz on Aug 20, 2010 3:15 pm • linkreport

I do not know the state of the property owner's finances particularly as compared to Safeway or Whole Foods.

What I do know is that the contiguous property has remained vacant, except for the Giant, for the better part of a decade. I also know, as has been noted, that there are high-rise buildings, much greater than what is proposed, immediately across the street, down the street and up the street. As a minor transportation hub with an existing bus line terminus, the Wisconsin Avenue lines, a taxi cab stand and the potential for a bike sharing station, this area has prospects for a great future.

Why would we want to encourage a 1950's style suburban grocery store with a surface parking lot when there are options that can make this a lot better from an environmental, livability, mobility and sustainability standpoint?

by Andrew on Aug 20, 2010 3:26 pm • linkreport

@Fritz-

What's the scale of the non-residential expansion possible here as compared to those at those other locations cited? Perhaps those other locations are getting significantly expanded commercial space otherwise as compared to the subject Giant.

Bear in mind that the cost of redevelopment itself needs to be justified by the potential revenue that could be generated after redevelopment. If the potential revenue is too low & risk too high, it may not be worth it to the developer to redevelop... especially when their first job is to make money; not necessarily serve the community by providing increased commercial options. Even community-oriented and good-neighbor businesses still need to answer to shareholders.

[and for what it's worth: not living in this area I don't an opinion one way or the other (yet) on the subject at hand]

by Bossi on Aug 20, 2010 3:28 pm • linkreport

@Bossi:
If the University of Maryland is so hell bent at keeping the Purple line off their property then the Maryland Transit Administration should obliged them. Bypass their property provide no convenient point to access to the line from the campus. If a semi convenient point is desired place a station in the median of University Boulevard east of Adeiphi Road and or at Metterott Road / Axalea Lane.

It will be the University of Maryland that will have to live with the decision not the Maryland Transit Administration.

by Sand Box John on Aug 21, 2010 12:39 am • linkreport

As much as I'd love/hate to agree, UMD is a pretty integral part of the ridership equation... which is an integral part of the federal funding equation.

by Bossi on Aug 21, 2010 12:51 am • linkreport

I cannot believe there are still people who do not want the new giant and the development in the area to continue. I moved to the area a year ago and would actually like development, a grocery and drug store that are both modern and carry all types of products, not selective and outdated. So for those of you who are outdated and not interested in welcoming yourselves to modern times, I think you should move out to the farm land. We are in DC and should have a little modern development.

by Neighbor Across from Giant on May 16, 2011 9:18 pm • linkreport

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