Posts about ANC
A number of businesses and residents around 14th and U Streets are interested in trying to create a municipal parking garage in a large government-owned parcel on S Street. Is this a good use of the land? What if it cost $4 an hour, or required heavy subsidies from the DC budget?
The DC Department of Parks and Recreation now uses the property, 1325 S Street NW, to park vehicles and for other service uses. Proponents of a municipal parking garage suggest an above-ground parking structure lined with retail or residential, or an underground garage with buildings or a park on top.
But those advocating for the garage assert that it would pay for itself. Based on a quick analysis based on numbers from parking experts, it seems likely that such a garage would have to charge $3.50-4.50 per hour just to break even.
Do those supporting this garage idea realize that would be necessary? Or, if a garage would require significant ongoing subsidies to operate, is there a good reason to spend public money on making parking cheaper in the hot Logan Circle and U Street area?
A committee of Logan Circle's ANC 2F heard a presentation on the concept in January, as did ANC 1B in March. The concept is getting support as a part of a larger effort to establish a Business Improvement District for the area, and the JBG Companies, which owns a lot of properties nearby, has given $150,000 to help set up the BID.
A lot of the impetus is coming from the Studio Theatre at 14th and P, which, the presentation said, saw "significant reductions in their show subscribers and customer base, largely due to the lack of available public parking."
Arguments for the garage
Recently, many residential blocks in the area got the "red sign" parking restrictions that limit parking on one side of each street to residents with the appropriate ward sticker (1 or 2, depending on where in the area you're talking about). That has made parking easier for residents (or people driving in from places like Mount Pleasant or Georgetown in the same wards) but even scarcer for others.
The presentation to ANC 2F claims that there are not many buildings with "abundant nighttime parking" in the area, and that "case studies of many great urban areas show how centrally-located public parking facilities solve transportation issues and spur economic development (locally, including Clarendon, Bethesda, and Shirlington)."
Architect Roger Lewis praised the idea in a recent column for the Washington Post, where he suggested cities need a "flexible approach" to parking. He said,
Along 14th Street for several blocks north of P, public parking is a scarce and expensive commodity. Moreover, the nearest Red Line and Green Line Metro stations are a half mile or more away, just far enough to be a challenging walk for older folks, for people with disabilities and for parents with very young children in tow. ...How much would this cost?
Either the city or a parking garage operator could construct and manage the garage, which would be self-financing. From such a garage, people could comfortably walk or hop on a local shuttle to reach their destinations.
Is this a good idea? Certainly parking is often difficult in the area. If one could make parking easier, without any costs or tradeoffs at all, that's not a bad thing. But it's always important to understand the proposal clearly.
There are plenty of arguments to be made about the garage. I will get into most of those in part 2. First, we need to talk about cost. How much would this cost the DC government? How much would people pay to park? Often in these discussions, people make assumptions that turn out not to be true. Let's delve into them.
Lewis suggests a garage would be "self-financing." What does that mean? Does it mean that a private company could afford to buy the land at market price, build a garage, run it, and break even? (Probably not, because if that's true someone would probably have done it).
Does it mean that the city would lease the land for free to the operator, who would then build a garage and maintain it? Or would the city have to pay for a garage which then an operator could maintain?
Many suggestions to build parking (like the National Coalition to Save Our Mall's proposal for the National Mall) assert that garages will pay for themselves, but often without numbers to back up the assertion.
Fortunately, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute has some detailed research on the cost of parking structures. Their report estimates that an urban parking garage costs about $18,000 per space to construct, and $600 per space per year to maintain. Karina Ricks of Nelson\Nygaard says DC has higher costs than around the county, so $20,000 would be a better estimate.
If a property pays no taxes, therefore, the annualized cost of construction per space, plus maintenance, is $1,569 to $1,744 at a 6% interest rate. With operating costs, that's $181-195 per space per month. Already, this rivals the cost one would pay for an off-street space in the neighborhood, meaning that the revenue from parking is unlikely to even pay for just constructing and maintaining this garage.
Plus, we haven't even talked about land. This property is about 2 acres. The square to the west, once you get past the commercial area right along 14th, has about 120 townhouses in 5.74 acres. The property assessment database shows that DC assesses the land for each townhouse at $400-500,000, so at an average of $450,000 per townhouse, that's $9.4 million in land value per acre in this area, comparable to what VTPI lists for center cities in most of the country.
For a 4-level parking structure of 130 spaces per level, that's $36,000 more in land costs per space; for a smaller 3-level garage, it would be over $48,000. That adds $263-$351 per month to the parking cost.
Oh, and that's just if the garage is above ground. Move it underground, and your construction cost skyrockets. Ricks says DC construction costs usually run around $60,000, or $5,231 per space. That makes the monthly cost per space about $486 per month with operating costs, even if you ignore the cost of the land entirely. You can do that to some extent because you can still build something else on top of the garage, though that building then becomes more expensive, and having a commercial garage below diminishes the value of whatever can be built there.
The price per hour to break even is...
How much would the garage have to charge per hour to recoup these costs? Ricks said that a very generous estimate would assume the garage averages 70% full each day over an 8-hour peak period of 4 pm to midnight.
This assumes the garage is totally full at the busiest times, like Saturday at 8 pm, tapering off toward the edges with low occupancy on weeknights at 5 or 11 pm. There will be little if any revenue from the daytime in this area, which has few offices except the Reeves Center, which has its own garage.
If Sundays and holidays stay free, that is 270 days per year. With the numbers from above, the garage would have to charge $3.52 to $4.33 per hour just to recoup its costs, whether it is underground or above ground.
You can see all of the math and calculations on this spreadsheet (XLS).
Would people really park in the garage?
So, we've got a parking garage which costs $3.50 or $4 an hour to park in. To go to 14th or U for dinner, that would set you back maybe $10-15. The presentation to ANC 2F CDC suggests that a garage would "relieve parking pressure on nearby streets and reduce circling." That's only true if it is considerably more desirable than parking on the street.
Right now, it's not. At night, it's free to park on the side of the street which isn't reserved for residents of the ward. Lots of people (including myself) circle for long periods of time in Georgetown to find free spaces or cheap metered spaces even though there is pay parking, because the cost is so different.
If this garage has to pay for itself, it would provide some parking, but that probably wouldn't be cheap enough to dissuade people from trying for a street space. We could change the on-street policies to charge more of a market rate there, but then would a garage be necessary?
For those who don't want to circle, there are businesses with valet parking on 14th and U already. Le Diplomate, for instance, has valet parking for $12. It seems that there are options to park if you are willing to pay a market rate, and building a garage wouldn't lower the market rate.
One problem with many of these parking proposals is that they assume, on the cost side, that the garage would make so much revenue to not cost the public anything, but on the other hand they assume that the parking is cheap enough to not cost the public much there either. It can't be both.
Cost isn't the only reason to build or not build a garage. In the next part, we'll look at other arguments for and against the proposal.
As part of a deal to build a replacement for the Tenleytown Safeway, residents are looking for the right public benefit to ask for. But the rare opportunity to get a big donation is bringing out narrow interests.
At the February ANC 3E meeting, Steve Strazzella of developer Bozzuto presented the latest iteration of a 5-year-old plan to redevelop the so-called "Secret Safeway," located at 42nd and Davenport streets NW. Bozzuto plans a block-long, brick building with 4 stories of apartments atop a 65,000 square foot supermarket and two levels of parking.
The project is a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which gives an owner more flexibility with a property's zoning if community representatives and the DC Zoning Commission agree to it. There are basically two ways a PUD contributes to a neighborhood: through public benefits, or amenities within the project itself. But it's unclear who will benefit from what the community's asked for.
The proposal has some benefits all by itself
Safeway originally needed a PUD because it wanted a new supermarket bigger than what could fit on the part of the site zoned for commercial use. In response to community pressure, the company agreed to build the store as part of a mixed-use development that is often the foundation of a more vibrant, walkable neighborhood.
In many ways, the proposed building is good on its own. What is currently an ugly one-story building that turns its back on the street and has acres of impermeable parking lots would be replaced with a new store, 200 rental apartments and extensive green roofs, all a quarter-mile from the Tenleytown Metro station and a half-mile from the Friendship Heights Metro.
Bozzuto has hired a new architect for the project, Maurice Walters, who also designed the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market in Brookland. The developer wasn't willing to share any images, but as before, the apartments will range from studios to three-bedroom units, perfect for an area known for its family-friendliness.
The plan will absorb the adjacent WMATA chiller plant, allowing the building to have an inviting, street-friendly facade for the entire block. A loading dock in the rear will be fully enclosed, hiding loading activities from public view.
Neighbors unsure what the public benefit should be
At the ANC meeting, the neighbors largely supported the project. No one opposed it outright. For his part, Strazzella came to the commission ready to negotiate. Owners of the adjacent rowhouses worried that the proposed building would block their sunlight, but already the building was lower than previous iterations. Residents were divided on whether the building had too many parking spaces, and whether residents should be able to get parking permits.
Everyone generally agreed that Bozzuto should close a slip lane that lets southbound drivers speed off of Wisconsin Avenue onto 42nd Street. Instead, traffic would have to slow down and turn right, reducing cut-through traffic without sacrificing connectivity. In its place, there would be a small park just outside the entrance to the new store.
Beyond these points, discussion broke down. In a preemptive gesture, Bozzuto came with plans for a 4,000 square foot community building to occupy a corner of the lot on Ellicott Street. The building would hold meeting space, but it was unknown who would own it. While the main building featured quality design, the community building was bland and uninspired.
In the subsequent discussion, one woman said it would be better used as a park. Another said it should become a new house. Commissioner Sam Serebin insisted that it should be an outdoor pool. The commissioners agreed to talk it out, but Strazzella indicated that Bozzuto wanted to file with the Zoning Commission within 60 days.
To me, the community building makes little sense. There's no clear need for this kind of functional space. More importantly, there's no reason for this kind of building to be placed on a solidly residential street. But at the meeting, it felt like everyone agreed that the ANC had to extract something from the developer.
How do you decide what a community benefit is?
Part of the problem is that there is no framework to decide what's appropriate at this site. The Upper Wisconsin Avenue Corridor Study would have identified community needs and combined them into a menu of amenities. In that scenario, either the developer or the ANC could see whether the benefit would be appropriate. In the absence of that or any plan, the public is left grasping for any chances it gets.
ANC 3E negotiated an meticulous PUD for the Babe's Billiards redevelopment nearby by focusing on the benefits and negative impacts of the project. This is a much bigger project, so there's more opportunity to toss around big-ticket items. But rather than seeing the PUD process as a mere transaction between a developer and the public, both parties should view it as a chance to build a neighborhood together.
In neighborhoods with streets restricted to resident-only parking, how can visitors and household workers park when they need to? The Logan Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2F) recently endorsed giving residents a "coupon book" of passes to give visitors.
This is the best solution for areas of DC where parking is tight. Logan Circle joined the growing number of neighborhoods where one side of every street is reserved for residents only. This makes parking much more available for residents, possibly at the expense of local businesses and houses of worship.
But this arrangement also creates its own problem: if a family member is visiting by car, or a home health worker needs to drive in to care for a resident, what do they do?
In some other neighborhoods, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) mailed out placards, one per household, which the resident can give to the visitor to display on the dashboard. But for neighborhoods like Logan Circle, this would represent an enormous temptation: if you don't need your pass, sell it to someone who works downtown and they can suddenly park in residential zones.
That is why ANCs in Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, NoMA/H Street, and other mixed-use neighborhoods vehemently objected when DDOT tried last fall to expand the visitor placard system citywide. Earlier this month, Logan's ANC instead endorsed the idea of a booklet, where people get a limited number of passes:
Commissioner Cain moved that the ANC endorse a Visitor Parking Program for all residents living within the boundaries of ANC 2F and at a Resident Parking Permit (RPP) eligible address. The proposed program shall consist of a coupon booklet containing 10 individual coupons for temporary visitor parking. Each coupon shall be valid for seven (7) days and may not be reused. Residents must opt in to the program. Each program participant may receive one coupon booklet per year (through the end of FY14). The motion was seconded and approved by the Commission (7-1).This is a much better idea than the all-year visitor pass. Over a year ago, DDOT parking manager Angelo Rao said he thought the city should set up some kind of visitor pass system, and he was under the gun to implement something by fall 2013. For whatever reasons, which almost surely include internal agency policies and bureaucratic inertia, instead nothing happened. Maybe now there can be some momentum for a real solution.
There are still some questions to work out and some ways to improve the plan.
This proposal would make passes each good for one week. That's not so bad, though it would make more sense for passes to work for a single day, and simply offer more passes. Some people have a housecleaner who comes once a week all year. Under this plan, they would get 50 days' worth of passes, but couldn't use them once a week for 50 weeks. Why not? How about a book of 50 day passes instead of 10 week passes?
One big question: what do people do if they need more passes? Some people might get passes from their neighbors, but it also would make sense to let people purchase more booklets. The rate can be low enough that it's not extremely expensive, but high enough that it keeps the numbers of cars parking in the neighborhood from overwhelming the resident-only space, and also deters a resident from selling booklets to a commuter.
The ANC did not work out a way to get more passes; Matt Raymond, a member of the ANC, said that they, Councilmember Jack Evans, and DDOT have to work out details like this.
Another question is who gets the passes. Do people with cars and people without cars alike get them? Does a household with 2 drivers get the same number as an apartment of a single person? What about basement rental units? What about illegal basement rental units?
Raymond said the commission was split on this issue, and said, "When we discussed restricting it to Ward 2 permit holders, we admitted it was somewhat arbitrary, but there was sentiment (I among those who felt this way) that there needed to be some way to restrict them rather than a no-holds-barred approach."
"Ward 2 permit holders" are people who have a car registered with a residential parking permit in the area. That is probably not a good criterion, because a person who has no car will have visitors just as much as a person who has a car. On the other hand, it's a dense neighborhood with a lot of people, and ten week-long parking passes for every person could bring in a lot of cars.
If people can buy more coupons, then one good way to deal with this is over time to lower the number of passes in the first, free book, while letting people buy more. That would discourage over-use, and DDOT could adjust the size of the initial book and the price for more until the demand doesn't overwhelm the neighborhood supply of spaces.
Will this program (or an even better day pass version with the chance to buy more books) become reality, and even expand to other mixed-use neighborhoods? DDOT has had a years-long track record of promising to do something about parking and then failing.
Walt Cain, another ANC 2F commissioner, said, "My understanding is that the new crew at DDOT is not in favor of visitor parking generally, so it will likely be an uphill battle to actually get the program put in place."
DC Councilmember Mary Cheh's Committee on Transportation and the Environment is holding a hearing on parking Wednesday, January 29 at 11 am. Perhaps this, and the opportunity to apply it to more neighborhoods, will come up for discussion then.
After a survey that says residents don't want traffic calming on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B will support returning the street to six lanes.
The District is working on a new streetscape that includes measures to discourage speeding and increase pedestrian safety. But ANC 3B commissioner Brian Cohen, a longtime supporter of the project, said at a meeting last night that it will oppose the median at a December 4 public hearing. Most of the 300 responses to a constituent survey favored returning to the six-lane configuration, he said.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh first called a hearing in May as a response to concerns from Massachusetts Heights residents about a painted median that replaced one of the through lanes on Wisconsin between Calvert and Garfield streets. Councilmember Jack Evans was vocally opposed to the median, saying it created more traffic congestion as he drove his children to and from school.
The District Department of Transportation created the median to draw attention to the commercial strip, give pedestrians a safer way to cross the street and planned to keep it for a one-year trial. Though this section of Wisconsin Avenue was the site of multiple pedestrian strikes, DDOT removed the median after about six months. DDOT has yet to release any empirical data supporting their decision.
In addition to the lane configuration, the survey also solicited opinions on installing alternative traffic calming measures such as a HAWK light or speed cameras. ANC3B did not disclose the specific survey results on this question, but indicated that the results on these survey items were less definitive and suggested the community is more divided on such measures.
Commissioners explained that the wider sidewalks, streetlights, and aesthetic improvements will remain in place. There is still enough room to keep the wider sidewalks along with a six-lane street. The few residents in attendance at last night's meeting voiced their agreement with the ANC, and repeated their frustration with the slow traffic between 35th Street and Calvert Street.
The commissioners also noted that they have repeatedly complained about delivery trucks impeding the flow of traffic. and will work on pressing new rules for nighttime deliveries. Despite all the ideas residents floated from removing parked cars and ticketing delivery trucks, there was a perception that it was not working.
"I wanted it to work, but no matter what fixes we tried, it didn't," said Commissioner Jackie Blumenthal. "What did work are the sidewalks, the streetlights, and especially the new intersection at 37th and Tunlaw."
It's likely that the lanes will return to their previous form. However, there remains strong support to some kind of traffic calming measures to protect people crossing the street.
The Wisconsin Avenue streetscape has exposed DDOT as being particularly vulnerable to political pressure. It sets a precedent for opponents of other progressive transportation initiatives, particularly in Ward 3. Opponents of the brand-new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue can only come away emboldened by DDOT's eagerness to placate many of the same people on Wisconsin.
It's clear that DDOT is willing to make significant decisions on highly politicized issues while offering no empirical support. It's a sobering reminder of the need to be vocal in support of progressive transportation projects, even after they're built.
Architects Eric Colbert and Associates shared renderings of the latest design for their proposed apartment building at 5333 Connecticut Avenue. Few renderings of the project have been available until now, so it's been difficult to understand how it will look.
The design depicted in the renderings is substantially the same as the one presented at an ANC3G meeting in August, when commissioners voted for the Memorandum of Understanding with developer Cafritz.
Colbert applies planes of glass and white frames to a glass block in manner similar to the neomodernist apartment buildings of Richard Meier. Two of those buildings are regarded as kicking off the trend for glass-enclosed apartment buildings in New York.
The sides of the building that face single family homes have significantly fewer windows, addressing the light pollution concerns the neighbors are reasonably worried about. Having such an dramatic transition from one side to another puts a lot of pressure on the corner, architecturally. Colbert negotiates this shift with a line of windows on the edge of the Kanawha Street wing, shown above. Whether this shift succeeds will depend on how transparent the glass appears at a given time of day.
The change of transparency is driven by the sun, whose heat and light are serious concerns in a glazed building. The renderings show similar treatments on both the north and south elevations of the building. That much glass on the southern exposure will lead to an excess in heat in light, but on the northern side, the glass might also abate the worries about shadows by reflecting light down to the street.
To me, the building is the most successful at the edges of the projections from the sides of the building. There, the relationship between interior walls and the opaque frame around the edge makes it feel like volumes have slid out from the building. This could have been a simplistic, cheesy move, but Colbert's office wove translucent balcony railings into the white frame. The result is a sensitive corner, a feature often absent in glass-heavy modern architecture.
Unfortunately, this sensitivity is absent where the building touches the ground. Considering that the ground has been so controversial, the design would be better if the walls changed as they met the landscape designed by Trini Rodriguez. Whether becoming more solid, showing the weight of the building, or simply transitioning from vertical to horizontal, this relationship is key to producing a building that feels appropriate for its site.
Developer Cafritz has stated their desire to have a building that is contemporary and of its time, and meant "glass." However, glass is only "modern" when it calls attention to relationships of inside and outside, ground and sky, and between the people who look through it as neighbors. Like any materials, how a window shapes our environment is more important than the sheer technological thrill of transparency.
Despite having endorsed bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue in July, ANC 3D will consider a draft resolution asking the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to delay installing the lanes at its meeting tonight.
Rendering of proposed bike lane on New Mexico Avenue from WABA.
New Mexico Avenue forms one of the few street connections between American University and the neighborhoods of Glover Park and Wesley Heights. The resolution, drafted by ANC 3D Commissioner Michael Gold, argues that DDOT shouldn't build bike lanes "until the completion of a formal analysis and impact study" of the surrounding transportation network which the ANC and neighborhood groups can review.
On Monday, DDOT announced that it plans to complete installing the lanes this week and posted photos outlining where they will go. DDOT has worked with the community to change the proposed design so that it would not take away any parking places.
ANC 3D voted 5-4 in favor of the bike lanes, but commissioner Tom Smith, who opposes them, happened to not be in town for the July meeting. He's marshaled those constituents who previously expressed opposition to the lane's installation to once again re-litigate the decision via email messages to the ANC supporting the resolution, which was introduced without proper notice to the community in an effort to reduce supporter outcry. Cycling advocates only found out about it yesterday.
This bike lane is an important connection in Ward 3, and if you support it, there are a few things you can do:
- Let Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh know that you support the New Mexico Avenue bike lane. Cheh is head of the council's Transportation Committee and has previously indicated her strong support for Ward 3 bike infrastructure. Ask her to have your back on getting this lane installed and to reach out to DDOT to make sure it keeps with its installation schedule. You can call her office at (202) 724-8062 or send an email to email@example.com.
- You can also remind the five ANC members who voted in favor of the prior resolution, Stu Ross, W. Philip Thomas, Rory Slatko, Penny Pagano, and Joe Wisniewski, that you and the community still supports the bike lanes. You can find their email addresses at the ANC 3D website.
The developer of a new residential building at 7th & R streets NW in Shaw plans just 40 parking spaces for 105 units, but ANC commissioners say it isn't enough. Is more parking actually necessary?
Last year, DC put out a request for proposals to develop Parcel 42, a 17,000 square-foot lot next to the Shaw Metro station. After receiving several proposals, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development selected the TenSquare Group, which wants to build 105 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail space there. The developer will set aside 20% of the eight-story building's units as affordable housing and expect it to meet LEED Silver standards, a measure of environmental sustainability.
The Zoning Commission has yet to approve the project. Neighbors and ANC6E commissioners are unhappy that the building would have just 40 parking spaces, located underground. TenSquare insists that the current plan maximizes the motor vehicle parking for a building its size, but it's unclear how much of the parking will be set aside for retail customers.
At a meeting last Wednesday, commissioners insisted that TenSquare add more parking spaces before they could support the project. Kevin Chapple, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner whose single-member district covers Parcel 42, and fellow commissioners threatened to oppose the project at the Zoning Commission unless there was more parking.
Chapple owns a home three blocks away and relies on street parking. Not surprisingly, he and his neighbors want to ensure that there is enough space for their cars. But this building may not have a big impact on that. After the Howard Theatre opened last year, DDOT decided to include Shaw in its initial launch of the Visitor Parking Pass program.
Parcel 42 is also next to the Shaw Metro station, and several Metrobus lines run up and down 7th Street in front of the proposed building, including the 70, 79, and G8. There are also several Capital Bikeshare stations nearby. Meanwhile, there's a lot to walk to nearby. Shaw has seen a tremendous boom in corporate, retail, and restaurant development. In fact, Mayor Gray will take part in ribbon cuttings for three restaurants in Shaw later this week.
It's because of compact, walkable neighborhoods like Shaw that DC residents led the regional trend in driving less. According to COG, DC residents drove 8% less in 2011 than they did in 2005. While the city has added 40,000 residents in the past decade, the number of car registrations has remained flat, suggesting more people are choosing to live without owning a car. It's likely that a new building at Parcel 42 will attract car-less residents, both to market-rate and affordable units, as less affluent households tend to have lower rates of car ownership.
Shaw has not seen the traffic congestion that other parts of the city experience. But that may soon change with the completion of developments like Jefferson at Market Place, CityMarket at O, and smaller projects, many of which will have much more parking than Parcel 42 and are likely to attract more cars.
The Jefferson development will include 281 apartments, 13,400 square feet of retail space, and 230 below-grade parking spaces. CityMarket will have 645 residential units, 182 hotel rooms, and 86,239 square feet of retail, along with 500 parking spaces. Roadside Development, which is building that project, originally planned for 700 parking spaces. Because it's in such a transit-accessible location, city planners asked for less parking, despite complaints from community leaders.
Mayor Vincent Gray has repeatedly suggested that as the District's population increases, the city will not be able to accommodate similar increases in motor vehicle ownership and traffic. The developers of Parcel 42 already seem to have accepted this reality. More homes and amenities within close reach of each other means fewer car trips, not more, and we should plan for parking accordingly.
I grew up in California, the heart of American car culture, but carpooled or took transit to high school and university, fighting two or three hours of congestion each way. I'm not unfazed by the growing pains DC is facing, but I am surprised it's taken so long for local leaders to address them.
This article was edited to note that this project has not yet been approved and that the Zoning Commission, not the Office of Planning, will decide to approve it.
Starting tomorrow, DDOT will repave the 15th Street cycle track between K and Swann streets. The agency agreed to fix the protected bike lane in June after months of complaints from cyclists about its uneven and dangerous pavement.
The first protected bike lane in DC, 15th Street is one of the city's most popular cycling corridors, used by hundreds of bicyclists daily. But the road surface is uneven and falling apart, causing cyclists to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid bumps.
At the Dupont ANC, we heard from many, many frustrated cyclists, or would-be cyclists, about the need for repaving the lane. Because we believe good infrastructure is vital to encouraging a diversity of transit options, I and fellow ANC commissioner Noah Smith have worked with the city and the DC Council for many months to get this project accomplished.
The project will cover 13 blocks of 15th Street between K and Swann streets. When completed, the cycle track will have a 4.5-foot-wide southbound lane, which contains a 1-foot-wide gutter but has enough room for cyclists to avoid it. The northbound lane will be 3.5 feet wide, but will also be adjacent to the 3-foot parking buffer, making it feel wider.
Work will begin tomorrow in two main phases. During the first phase, the work will move in two block segments. DDOT will repair curbs, gutters, and pedestrian ramps along the corridor. While construction takes place in each section, there will be restrictions on using the parking lane and the bike lane. This phase should take about two weeks.
During the second phase, workers will resurface the 15th Street cycle track with new asphalt and install pavement markings. This should last one week, but restrictions on parking and biking will cover larger segments of the work area. During this time, DDOT recommends that cyclists use 14th or 16th streets instead.
Throughout the entire construction process, DDOT will post "No Parking" signs ahead of time so residents know when to move their cars. In addition, work should only take place between 9:30am and 3:30pm.
I'm excited to see that this important cycling corridor will get the repairs it needs to keep everyone safe and moving. However, if you encounter any problems or have any questions, please contact me at Kishan.Putta@DupontCircleANC.net.
Last night, the Dupont Circle ANC recommended that DC lift a liquor license moratorium for restaurants and stores, but to temporarily keep the cap on taverns and nightclubs. Some commissioners feel it's a step towards phasing out the moratorium entirely.
In 1990, DC first created the moratorium, which applies primarily to establishments along 17th Street NW, to prevent bars and clubs from pushing out stores and to reduce late-night noise and crime. But today, there are fewer retail stores, and neighbors say the street needs more activity, not less. While the moratorium is a crude and outdated tool, as an ANC commissioner, I strongly believe that it's best to end it in stages to minimize disruptions and conflicts.
Other local ANCs are trying to phase out their moratoria as well. Two years ago, the ANC partially lifted one along P Street NW and have since reported no negative impacts, and a proposed moratorium on 14th and U streets faces widespread ANC opposition.
The moratorium is intended to protect local retailers from being bought out by alcohol-serving establishments with higher profit margins. But today, there are far fewer retail stores, largely due to the rise of online shopping. What retail remains serves daily needs, like pharmacies, hardware stores, and grocery stores.
Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the community is anywhere close to becoming too unsafe or too noisy. Residents of all ages who live close to the 17th Street commercial strip tell us that they are not bothered by the current noise and would be happy for the strip to be more lively. While some residents have concerns about safety, police statistics show that crime has gone down significantly in the past two years, including both violent crime and property crime.
According to the Capitol Retail Group, increased foot traffic can revive urban retail corridors like 17th Street. New or better restaurants can generate more foot traffic, helping all businesses in the area. But under the moratorium, restaurants can't get liquor licenses to open here.
A Dupont Circle ANC subcommittee held three public meetings about the moratorium over the last three months. They came up with a compromise following in the footsteps of the West Dupont moratorium, which lifted the ban on liquor licenses for restaurants, but not for taverns and nightclubs.
Establishments with restaurant licenses must serve food and alcohol and are subject to certain food sales minimum requirements. Many of the popular new places on 14th Street, like Masa 14 and El Centro, have restaurant licenses, even though they have bars, music, and dancing. They may seem like bars and clubs to some, but they face limitations that taverns and nightclubs do not.
Meanwhile, establishments with tavern licenses don't have to serve food, but they're not all the same. Some are peaceful, like Room 11 in Columbia Heights, while others are very fun, but loud dance clubs, like some of the taverns on U Street (one of which has "Boom Boom" in its name, which I enjoy and have no objection to in its current location). 17th Street residents might welcome taverns like Room 11, which probably would not have an impact on noise or safety, but the latter ones may not be as well received.
ANCs and the DC Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (ABC) have some tools to try and minimize the negative effects of these establishments, but they aren't perfect. And once a tavern gets licensed, it's not easy to enforce prior agreements, and the immediate neighbors have to face the consequences.
If DC agrees to lift the moratorium on restaurants and stores, I and some of my colleagues will consider it the first stage of phasing out the moratorium entirely. During this first stage, the ANC should strengthen and clarify its policies and tools so that it can ensure that any new taverns or nightclubs on 17th Street are successful, but also responsible members of our community.
Not everyone agrees with lifting the moratorium, but it is not the best tool for making 17th Street and Dupont Circle a better neighborhood and a stronger retail environment. Many people want to eliminate the moratorium, and I agree, but it will be less disruptive to do it in phases. When the moratorium ends, we want the supporters to remain friendly with the opponents, because we have a very convivial community. And we want it to stay that way as we make progress together as a community.
Our recommendations will go before the ABC, which will decide whether to lift the moratorium. To send them your recommendations, visit their website. You can also see a list of recently-awarded liquor licenses.
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