Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Brookland


Will preservation be a tool of blatant anti-development?

Opponents of a redevelopment project at Colonel Brooks' Tavern next to the Brookland Metro are turning to historic preservation as their latest anti-building tactic.

Photo from Brookland Avenue.

Lydia DePillis reports that ANC 5A has nominated Colonel Brooks' Tavern and the adjacent houses to be designated as historic.

The timing of this is quite suspect, since a Planned Unit Development (PUD) has already been filed to replace these buildings with a 5-story mixed-use project. The ANC is already on record opposing the project, and for that matter virtually any development around the Brookland Metro.

Most preservationists vehemently dispute that their field is simply about blocking development. Many people who don't oppose all development nonetheless consider themselves preservationists or supporters of preservation. In the blog world, that includes people such as Richard Layman, Alex Baca, David Garber, and myself.

Unfortunately, at times preservation really has been a tool of opposition. Former Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) chair Tersh Boasberg readily admitted that his reason for getting involved in preservation was to stop development of the Cleveland Park "Park and Shop" strip mall into anything larger.

There is certainly a contingent of preservationists who are willing to accommodate change, as long as that change doesn't involve getting anything any taller or bigger than it is today. There are others who see preservation's proper role as focusing more narrowly on the most valuable elements of historic properties or districts.

That creates a dilemma for the Historic Preservation Review Board when they consider this landmark nomination, which does little to conceal its true motivation.

The criteria for designation are very broad. A property can be designated, for example, if it merely "embod[ies] the distinguishing characteristics of architectural styles; building types; construction types or methods; landscape architecture; urban design, or other architectural, aesthetic, or engineering expressions significant to the appearance and development of the national capital or nation."

Colonel Brooks' Tavern and the other buildings are indeed good examples of the kind of building that historically comprised Brookland. These are "typical owner-occupied storefronts of the first years of the twentieth century" which "were associated with an Irish American owner whose business catered to Catholic University staff and students throughout their history."

In other words, it's pretty typical. Does that make it historic?

The laws in DC are written to allow designating a wide range of buildings. In many cases, designation and the concomitant review for new development makes for better projects. They do, however, also impose stricter limits on changes and create more time-consuming process even for allowed changes.

HPRB could take one of several approaches:

  1. It could refuse to designate the property. HPRB previously refrained from designating the Giant in Cleveland Park, for instance, though that wasn't representative of old stores in the area as Colonel Brooks' is.
  2. It could designate the property, but then grant a raze permit anyway. This is what the HPRB did not do with the Third Church of Christ, Scientist downtown. This is difficult because they would essentially be saying the property is historically significant, but then declining to protect it at all.
  3. It could designate the property and then find some way to let almost all of the project go ahead, such as by preserving only the façade. It has not generally allowed this level of latitude with other properties in recent years.
  4. It could designate the property and reject the project or ask for very significant changes that force redesigning and substantially shrinking the project. Then, the owner could apply to the Mayor's Agent to grant the raze or the change anyway. Preservation groups are currently pressing a lawsuit to try to limit the Mayor's Agent's legal ability to allow this.
What will the Board do? Many eyes will be on them in this case, which could set the tone for public support or criticism of preservation for some time, especially as Mayor Gray chooses new nominees for the board.

A few years ago, preservation was under attack in DC, with some negative stories around Third Church and residential properties in Mount Pleasant and Capitol Hill fed by critical columns by Marc Fisher. Following that, the Board made some wiser choices in a few cases, Harriet Tregoning acting as the Mayor's Agent allowed projects at Third Church and the Heritage Foundation addition on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the real estate market slowed, reducing the number of controversial projects.

Now that the market is picking up again, preservation is set for some high-profile battles. HPRB and citywide preservationists would be best served not to make a stand on this particular battle with Colonel Brooks, where the justification for designation is relatively weak and the underlying, anti-development motivation very strong.

Public Spaces

Wall at Brookland Metro serves as a canvas for a memorial

While Washington is home to numerous stately memorials to national figures, murdered Redskins player Sean Taylor has his own unofficial memorial in the form of graffiti at the Brookland Metro station.

Photo by the author.

A few days after Taylor was killed in Miami, Florida, a spray-painted memorial mural appeared on the wall of the CSX rail line adjacent to the Brookland Metro station, where it remains today, untouched.

The mural, painted in the team's colors of burgundy, gold, and white, is seen by tens of thousands of Red Line riders going in and out of the city every day.

Taylor, 24, was in his fourth year with the Redskins. In the twelfth week of the 2007 season he had 5 interceptionsthird in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His reputation as one of the hardest hitting players in the league and his all-out style of play had endeared him to fans.

News of his death during a home invasion on November 27, 2007 quickly spread across the region, leaving his teammates and fans in a state of disbelief and grief. While the Redskins organization honored Taylor's memory on the field, an established DC graffiti artist took to the red line in a public display of deference.

"The Red Line has been a hot spot since the mid-80's, but became the spot in the early 90's," according to Roger Gastman, a Bethesda native and author of Free Agents: A History of DC Graffiti and the forthcoming The History of American Graffiti. "If you wanted to be someone in the DC graffiti scene, you had to hit the Red Line."

"The Brookland station, you can walk right up to it. It is a very good location, if you can pull it off," says Gastman.

"The best writers interact with their environment," asserts Gastman, citing graffiti as the fastest growing art movement of the past forty years.


Beginning his graffiti career with the tag of "CERT" in 1992 at the age of 14, the well-known writer of the Sean Taylor mural declined an interview request for this article.

"The Red Line was CERT's backyard. He basically lived there and owned it. CERT could disappear, but, to this day he holds enough respect that his spots will remain untouched for years to come," reads CERT's profile in Free Agents that describes his graffiti as "hardcore and illegal" and "always in highly visible spots."

"Graffiti to me is my childhood, my teen years. That's what I was about 100 percent. But I'm still representing. Don't count me out. Don't forget me. I can come back at any moment and in a month I'll take king of the Red Line again," contends CERT in the 2001 book.

"Whatever his reasons for slowing down, CERT is a true D.C. king. It's time for him to sit back and let the mark he left on the city soak in. And like he said, don't count him out. With a closet full of paint and heart that's true to the game, CERT will be back," Gastman foretold in the conclusion of CERT's profile.

The mural has remained untouched since its appearance more than 3 years ago. Gastman says there is a code among writers that is being followed.

"Brookland station can be considered a museum for DC graffiti, because of the pieces that have endured over the years," says Saaret Yoseph, a graduate student at Georgetown University. "Brookland is unique in that the art is eye level. The graffiti is looking right at you as you wait for your train."

Yoseph is directing, "The Red Line D.C Project," a documentary exploring the "communal experience" of graffiti on the Red Line as a public art space. It will be released later this year.

Rider Reactions

"What struck me about that one was here was a memorial to someone we actually knewor knew of. So much graffiti is inscrutable. Who are the people named there? What's the purpose of it? But this was one we could grasp immediately," said John Kelly, a writer for The Washington Post and Red Line rider since 1983. "And then a few years later, just across the platform was another one that fell into that category: some memorial paint for Michael Jackson."

On a recent morning at the Brookland Station, riders' reactions to the graffiti suggested a sense of pride in the station's distinction as the home of the Sean Taylor mural.

"If they cleaned it up we would be really hurt behind that one," said Milford Obendorf, a Brookland resident waiting with his wife on the northbound train to Silver Spring.

"It's been here since he passed away. People come here to look at it," said Marquette Obendorf.

"It's real creative," said LaWanda Swain, a custodian with Metro for 6 years. "He played here so they have respect for him."

"It spices things up. If they cleaned it up then you'd be staring at a wall for 15 minutes," said Mike Young, 20, a cell phone sales rep downtown. "People remember Sean Taylor because he shouldn't have died. He hit the hardest like when he cracked yungin' in the Pro Bowl."

Numerous videos on YouTube have compiled Taylor's highlights as a Redskin, including a tackle of punter Brian Moorman in the Pro Bowl that lifted Moorman off his feet to a point where he was parallel to the field.

However, some riders expressed frustration with the station's illegal art.

"It grows and grows until they clean it up," said Joe, an older man in a white dress shirt, a Brookland resident for more than two decades. "The kids that do it are talented, but they can put their talents to better use."

As a regular rider of the red line for more than a decade, I can remember the walls at Brookland being cleaned, "buffed" in the language of graffiti, about five years ago.

"The graffiti is on CSX property, not Metro property. Typically, when we become aware of graffiti, our goal is to remove it within 24 hours," said Angela Gates, a Media Relations officer with Metro.

CSX did not respond to email and phone call requests for comment.

"There have been no graffiti-related arrests or citations in the last year at Brookland-CUA," said Gates who emphasized that the property is outside of Metro's jurisdiction.

With no apparent plans to clean the walls and a lack of enforcement around graffiti, the Sean Taylor mural will continue to be a distinctive cultural landmark for the Brookland Metro station.

A print version of this article will appear in the forthcoming spring edition of The Brookland Heartbeat.


Will Thomas push for local business and good urban design?

Harry Thomas, Jr. will lead the DC Council's Committee on Economic Development next year. In a press release, Thomas notes his plans to continue "building on what he has accomplished in this area for Ward 5." The trouble is, Thomas' development record in Ward 5 is spotty, at best.

Councilmember Thomas. Photo by mediaslave on Flickr.

Suburban-style, big box-anchored retail development is scattered throughout Ward 5, such as Rhode Island Place, Rhode Island Avenue Center, and Hechinger Mall.

With part of Thomas' new duties including oversight of the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD), one might expect him to focus on revitalizing the city's struggling commercial corridors. Instead, we have a Councilmember who has often championed more of the status quo.

In his November 15 testimony before the DC Zoning Commission on proposed car and bike parking regulations in the zoning code, Thomas said,

"I have recently spoken with representatives of several retailers who are interested in developing large, multi-tenant shopping centers in the District.... There are ... a number of locations in Ward 5 and other outlying Wards with blocks of land large enough to accommodate these developments, but without convenient access to Metrorail. Placing a cap on parking citywide, in a one-size-fits-all approach, would limit the desirability of these locations and have an adverse economic impact on the District."
We now know that Thomas was alluding to Dakota Crossing, with a planned 3,000 surface parking spaces, as well as the still developing plans for four Walmarts.

At the same time, Thomas knows very well what progressive urban infill looks like, and has helped usher it in during his tenure in Ward 5. Rhode Island Station, The Flats at Atlas District, and developments near Catholic University build on a multi- and mixed-use platform with retail space for small, local businesses.

While we continue to hear Thomas' lip service about the jobs and tax revenues that will be brought by new big boxes, our main streets continue to flounder. The Rhode Island Avenue Great Streets Initiative, for example, seems to have fallen off of DMPED's radar.

Can Thomas, who will have oversight of DMPED as Chair of the Committee on Economic Development, push for movement on a plan that could link the District's side of this important gateway with the revitalization that is happening just across the border in Mt. Rainier and Hyattsville?

While Brookland's 12th Street NE commercial strip received streetscape improvements, it still struggles to attract new businesses. North Capitol Main Street, Inc. continues to make strides in promoting local businesses, but will it find itself competing against a suffocating surge in big box, large-scale infill?

Will economic development East of the River under Thomas be focused on a blend of large- and small-scale development, or will bigger continue to be touted as better?

Thomas has proven an ability to work with developers and corporations on large projects. He knows the language of urban design and of Main Street commercial revitalization.

Unfortunately, a disconnect appears to exist between Thomas' advocacy for the bigger players and the smaller operators necessary to foster vital, dense cores in our neighborhoods. As he leads the Committee on Economic Development for the next four years, his actions will speak louder than words, particularly as we work our way out of the current recession.

Without a balance of both local and national retail outlets, small- and large-scale development, we will continue to see big box nodes favored to the detriment of our underutilized retail corridors, and we simply cannot afford that.


Washington's Union Stockyards: Getting meat to the capital

Every few decades Americans get curious and then outraged about where their food comes from. In 1906, Upton Sinclair exposed the meatpacking industry's underbelly. Sixty years later, Cesar Chavez opened a window into the exploitation of migrant farm workers. And, at the turn of the 21st century author Michael Pollan and filmmaker Robert Kenner reminded us of the social and environmental consequences of agribusiness.

Cattle grazing at the Soldiers' Home. National Archives photo.

Despite the tremendous amount of information that we have about our food supply, how much do Washingtonians know about how meat ended up on our tables during the city's early history?

Earlier this year PBS aired Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City. As an architectural historian I have long admired Burnham's work. Union Station and the Mall are incredible amenities for folks like myself living in the Washington area. My interest in Burnham, however, goes beyond the architectural and city planning spheres. When he married Chicago Union Stockyards president John B. Sherman's daughter Margaret, Burnham became part of the extended Allerton family, livestock entrepreneurs who profited from the shipment of most of the meat animals shipped into New York City during much of the nineteenth century.

Although Burnham never went into business with his father-in-law beyond his firm's design of Sherman's home and the Chicago Union Stockyards landmark gate, he did benefit from Sherman's Chicago interests and he may have benefited from Sherman's longtime relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad. John B. Sherman (1825-1902) and Samuel W. Allerton Jr. (1828-1914) were cousins whose families had been in business together since the first decade of the nineteenth century. My 2002 article, Hudson River Cowboys: The Origins of Modern Livestock Shipping, looks at some of the Allerton family's business genealogy and my forthcoming article on the East Liberty Stockyards (Western Pennsylvania History, Winter 2010) expands on the Allerton and Sherman firms.

Chicago Union Stockyards entrance designed by Daniel H. Burnham, c. 1875. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

But back to Burnham and to Washington. Burnham in 1901 was hired by the McMillan Commission in its efforts to recreate the federal city envisioned by Peter L'Enfant and remove noisome nuisances like the Pennsylvania Railroad station from the Mall. Prior to the implementation of the McMillan Plan, the National Mall was bisected by railroad tracks and open sewers euphemistically called canals. To achieve the McMillan Plan's goals towards becoming the City Beautiful, the nuisances had to go. Nearly 40 years after Burnham brought the City Beautiful to Washington, his ideals were deployed by advocates seeking to rid the District of Columbia of the business dominated by Margaret Sherman Burnham's family.

Before the McMillan Plan and later efforts to sanitize Washington's gritty urban landscape by clearing out alley dwellings and the wholesale involuntary relocation of entire communities, Washington had a vibrant industrial landscape interspersed with its federal buildings and emerging residential neighborhoods. Lost among the many histories of Washington's urban fabric are the agricultural industries that thrived within the city.

Large working farms, like the Soldier's Home (later the Armed Forces Retirement Home), raised cattle and vegetables within the city limits. Cattle, hogs, and sheep were driven into the city on turnpikes and concentrated in drove yards like the Drover's Rest in Georgetown, on the Mall, and on Capitol Hill. The animals driven to Washington's drove yards were killed in nearby slaughterhouses and sold in the District's markets.

Beef Depot Monument, 1862. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Shows cattle grazing at the foot of the unfinished Washington Monument.

When railroads began carrying the bulk of the nation's meat animals starting in the 1850s, Washington's drove yards followed patterns laid down in other eastern cities and they relocated adjacent to the railroads leading to the city center. For the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, this meant opening drove yards on Capitol Hill along First Street N.E. between North E and F Streets. Unlike its trunkline competitors, the Pennsylvania, the New York Central, and the Erie railroads, the B&O was a latecomer to the livestock business.

Like the other railroads, the B&O outsourced (via valuable contracts) its livestock yarding to professional drovers and livestock entrepreneurs. In Washington, the B&O did business with William E. Clark (1835-1895). Clark was a Pennsylvania native who began managing the B&O drove yards in 1861. Located near the B&O station, the drove yards were little more than impermanent pens where animals were kept before being sold to local butchers; horses and mules that came in on the railroad went to different markets for work in Washington's streets.

The drove yards remained on Capitol Hill through 1877 when the land adjacent to the B&O's Capitol Hill tracks was sold and the operation moved up the line and onto the Metropolitan Branch to Queenstown in what is now the Brookland neighborhood. Throughout the 1870s, Clark and several partners tried to get a charter from Congress to incorporate the "National Drove-Yard Company of the District of Columbia." The company proposed to build a stockyard and market facility complete with pens and scales where all of the District's livestock business could be concentrated.

The 1876 bills to incorporate the business stalled in the Committee on the District of Columbia. For a little more than a decade, the former Queen Farm served as the B&O's livestock depot in the District of Columbia. Beyond livestock market reports, maps, and a former "Drove Yard lane" mentioned in a 1900 volume on Washington trolley trips, little appears to have survived in the historical record regarding the B&O's Queenstown Drove Yards.

Queenstown Drove Yards mapped shortly after they opened in 1878. Atlas of Fifteen Miles Around Washington Including the County of Prince George Maryland, Plate 83.

Since the arrival of the B&O into Washington, the District of Columbia had close ties to Baltimore's livestock and meat-producing industry. With two railroads in the city, the Pennsylvania and the B&O, Baltimore developed two railroad drove yards. The Pennsylvania's was adjacent to that road's Baltimore & Potomac Railroad at Calverton Station west of the city.

The Calverton Drove Yards were first managed by livestock entrepreneur Cary McClelland who had bought up much of the land near the station; later, the yards were run by the Calverton Stock Yards Company. The B&O's drove yards were located at the railroad's main yards at Mount Clare until 1880 and the incorporation of the Baltimore Stock Yard Company of Baltimore County when the yards were shifted west to Claremont. (In 1891, the two companies merged to form the Union Stock Yard Company of Baltimore County and Claremont became Baltimore's principal stockyards.)

By the early 1880s, Alvin N. Bastable (1837-1922), a Virgina native, had begun concentrating all of Baltimore's livestock business. In 1887, Bastable, along with Philadelphia stockyards owner and meatpacker Joseph Martin (Samuel Allerton's partner in the Philadelphia and Jersey City Stockyards and an owner of the Baltimore Union Stock Yards) and Clark, received a corporate charter from the State of New Jersey for the "Union Stock Yard Company" to build and run a fully integrated stockyards and slaughterhouse business in the District of Columbia.

One year later, the Union Stockyards opened next to the B&O and Pennsylvania Railroad tracks south of Benning Road on the east side of the Anacostia River. The new stockyards served both roads. Shortly before they opened, the Pennsylvania Railroad issued these instructions to its freight agents:

General Notice. Hereafter, all shipments of Live Stock For Washington D.C., will be handled at Union Stock Yards, located at Benning's Station, on Baltimore & Potomac Railroad. Agents will forward all shipments of Live Stock destined to Washington D. C. to "Union Stock Yards, Bennings Station, Md."
Four months later, the railroad updated the earlier notice:
Here's the notice that supercedes that notice! All Live Stock, in car loads, (except horses), destined to Wash D.C., will hereafter be receipted for & forwarded to Union Stock Yards. Shipments of horses, in car loads or less, & all other live stock, in less than car loads, will be receipted for & forwarded to Wash. D.C. , unless shippers request delivery at Union Stock Yards, in which case shipments should be sent to Union Stock Yards, Wash D.C. Philadelphia.

Washington Union Stock Yards, c. 1895. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.

Over the next four decades the abattoir and stockyards at Benning Station were the District of Columbia's livestock depot and market as well as the District's principal slaughtering facility. Bastable, along with long-established Washington butchers, created several corporations under which several slaughterhouses operated next to the stockyards at the Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue intersection. By the 1920s, trucks began to supplement the rail deliveries of cattle. Farmers from Prince George's County and other parts of Maryland delivered their animals at the stockyards for sale and slaughter. Benning Station was Washington's versionon a much smaller scaleof Chicago's stockyards and Packingtown.

1907 Washington Post advertisement run in the wake of federal investigations done after the publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

According to various sources, as much as 75 percent of the dressed meat produced in the District of Columbia originated in the Benning stockyards and slaughterhouses. Before closing, the Benning Station yards handled between 10 and 20 thousand cattle (excluding calves) annually. Hogs during the same period ranged from c. 50 thousand annually to 190 thousand (in 1924 and 1928). In addition to providing the District of Columbia with much of its meat supply, the stockyards and abattoir provided jobs to the men and women living in the adjacent working class neighborhoods of Northeast Washington.

A fire in 1934 swept through the slaughterhouse and subsequent efforts to rebuild it touched off a battle in Congress to outlaw all slaughterhouses, stockyards, and other nuisance industries in the District of Columbia.

T.T. Keane Co. meat delivery truck in Washington. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Officially known as "A Bill to prohibit the use of buildings or premises in the District of Columbia for the carrying on of certain undesirable industries" and dubbed the "Abattoir Bill," Congress held hearings in 1937. If enacted, the law would have banned the manufacture of chemicals (fireworks, gas, glue, and acids), rendering, refining, stockyards, slaughterhouses, and tanneries in the District. Parties as diverse as the American Planning and Civic Association, the American Institute of Architects, the Department of the Interior, and various District community organizations all offered testimony supporting the bill while the meat and livestock industry vigorously opposed the bill. The City Beautiful concept first introduced to Washington by Burnham was front and center in the Abattoir Bill hearings, as suggested by Sen. Patrick McCarren (D-Nev.), chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia:

Washington being the Capital City should be the city beautiful and therefore nothing of this nature, that is heavy industries, industries that have a certain unpleasantness with them, should be permitted to exist within the city.

The 1937 "Abattoir Bill."

While most of the testimony received in 1937 opposed the abattoir and supported the bill, a few local residents sided with representatives from the meatpacking and other industries targeted in the bill. Northeast Washington resident Charles F. Longus, who lived "within two squares of the abattoir," wrote a letter to the Washington Star and a typed copy was included in the evidence reviewed during the 1937 hearings. "I am at a loss to know why this has caused such a stir," he wrote.

As a life-long resident of this place, I think I voice the sentiment of its citizens in saying that during the life of the abattoir it has served the community well. For over 40 years ... the abattoir has been the main place of employment, and I believe the life of every resident of Benning has been touched in some way by the operation of the abattoir. It was formerly run by Kane [sic; it was Keane & Co.], Loeffler and Auth and has employed all along from 50 to 100 men regularly, to say nothing of the part-time employees... I think the residents of Benning should have a say in the matter and I think they will say if opening the abattoir means work, by all means open it.
The Benning Citizens Association also opposed the bill. Identifying themselves as "an organized group of tax payers" who "directly represent a very small majority who would be employed" in the abattoir, they asked the subcommittee members, "As to the nuisance of this abbatoir [sic.], we as residents for years in this area wonder where and when the odors were so great that they carried to the Capitol, as said odors did not orriginate [sic.] in Benning."

After the Abattoir Bill hearings, the District of Columbia revised its zoning law and the slaughterhouse was not rebuilt. Among the principal complaints filed by the federal government was the claim that the stockyards and slaughterhouse imperiled new investments in parkland along the Anacostia and planned public housing projects including Langston Terrace to the west.

Map prepared by the Public Housing Administration showing prevailing wind patterns, the stockyards and abattoir site, and proposed developments. National Archives.

The stockyards business was hemorrhaging money without a slaughterhouse and local market for meat animals. Its operation after the fire and subsequent legal challenges was limited to resting and watering livestock in long-haul trains. In 1940, the House of Representatives held hearings on a bill to acquire the stockyards and slaughterhouse properties. The bill died in committee and within a year the stockyards property was sold. In 1942 the Union Stock Yard Company was dissolved.

Washington Union Stockyards, c. 1937. National Archives photo.

The McMillan Plan changed Washington's landscape with the implementation of Burnham's City Beautiful ideal. Throughout the twentieth century, efforts like the 1937 Abattoir Bill sought to fully sanitize Washington's urban fabric. This cleansing, it appears, extends to the historical record. Recent histories of Northeast Washington's Brookland and Deanwood neighborhoods fail to mention the once lively, albeit malodorous, livestock and meat-producing industries that once thrived in those neighborhoods and along their margins. For Washington's historical record to be complete, historians must embrace the city's unpleasant offallike the city's nuisance industriesand incorporate it into the rich neighborhood histories being written for academic and popular audiences.

Former Washington Union Stockyards site, August 2010.


For ANC in Ward 5

Some wards divide up their ANCs by neighborhood. Ward 5, already a geographically large ward, is carved into only three ANCs, each containing a whopping 12 single-member districts and even splitting Brookland up between ANCs.

That means people vote on issues often very far from their own neighborhoods, such as ANC 5C where commissioners from as far away as Fort Totten Park voted to oppose Big Bear's license way down in Bloomingdale, against the wishes of Bloomingdale's own representatives. That's about the distance from the White House to Columbia Heights.

We support Jioni Palmer, who is running to unseat incumbent Marshall Phillips in Edgewood's 5C08. Palmer wants to do more to improve retail in Edgewood, which has lost some high-profile businesses such as the Safeway on Rhode Island Avenue. Phillips appears to have missed qualifying for the ballot, but is trying to hold his seat as a write-in. With the small turnout of many ANC SMD races, a write-in candidacy can succeed, so we urge residents to vote for Palmer.

Another worthy challenger is James Fournier, who is challenging incumbent Barrie Daneker in Stronghold and northern Bloomingdale's 5C07. Daneker has taken a combative and condescending tone on the ANC, which has created more strife over the McMillan development than need be. Daneker also opposed the Big Bear license, as did all but two of the commissioners.

In 5C06, spanning Rhode Island Avenue with parts of Eckington and Edgewood, Darin Allen would do more to communicate with constituents on the street and through his Twitter account than longtime incumbent Mary Farmer-Allen.

Bloomingdale's John Salatti (5C04, Rhode Island to Adams Street) has been a model commissioner and has led the way in encouraging more commercial development that responds to residents' needs, and is running unopposed. In 5C03, south of Rhode Island, green business entrepreneur Hugh Youngblood is running unopposed as well, also with the support of the friends of Big Bear and of a more vibrant Bloomingdale.

Intense debates over development at CUA and the Brookland Metro drove tempers high in Brookland last year. Carolyn Steptoe, the ANC Commissioner for 5A07 from Irving to Michigan east of the railroad tracks, vociferously opposed projects to make better use of the parking lots at the Metro. John Daggett, her opponent, more reasonably pointed out that some development won't "destroy" the neighborhood or the local parks that residents treasure. Steptoe is also extremely combative toward residents on neighborhood email lists. We endorse Mr. Daggett.

Just to the east, in 5A10 east of 15th and 16th Streets, there is a three-way open seat race between Jehan Carter, Corey Griffin and Allen Tillman. We don't have much information on Carter and Tillman, but residents who've spoken with Griffin came away impressed by his ability to have a strong opinion about the direction of the city, while simultaneously displaying a great deal of respect for dissenting opinion. He would bring a younger perspective to an ANC that has been dominated by an older demographic and created speed bumps for local businesses trying to enhance the 12th Street corridor.

In Trinidad, along Ward 5's southern border, incumbents Thalia Wiggins (5B06, West Virginia Avenue and the Florida Market) and Tina Laskaris (5B08, southeast Trinidad) have very ably represented their neighborhood and enjoy widespread respect. Both should be reelected.

India Henderson, the incumbent in 5B10 which contains the Carver half of Carver-Langston, is not a communicative commissioner and is rarely seen in the district. Camille Tucker seems very likely to do better. India Henderson is also the daughter of Council primary candidate and Kathy Henderson, who often acts as the de facto ANC commissioner and was recently embroiled in a bizarre sign-removing scandal.

A common complaint about many ANC commissioners surrounds their level of outreach to the community, through regular district meetings, email lists, and other mechanisms. Many commissioners stop reaching out to those they don't know after being in office for a period of time, and many don't use new means of reaching constitutents like email and the Web.

While we don't have concrete information on policy positions in all districts, based on the potential for more community engagement we lean toward challengers Joyce Robinson-Paul against incumbent Sylvia Pinkney in Eckington and southern Truxton Circle's 5C02, Tim Clark over sitting commissioner Denise Wright in eastern Eckington's 5C05, Vaughn Bennett against Rayseen Woodland in 5B04 in southern Brookland, and Laura Casperson versus Arthur Yarbrough and incumbent David Hooper in central Trinidad's 5B07.

On the other hand, Angel Alston, representing 5A03 in Fort Totten Riggs Park, has made strides recently to listen more to residents instead of just casting votes on most distant matters, such as Brookland development, based on a few people's opinions.


On the calendar: Walk, bike, park, and paddle

DC's traditionally quiet summer is over. There are lots of events coming up this weekend and across the next few weeks. September is always a particularly big month in transportation, as Park(ing) Day and Car-Free Day both show up just days apart, sandwiching Walking(&Biking)TownDC, not to mention government agencies ramping the public meetings back up and numerous other walking tours, street festivals, and more.

Photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid.

This weekend: If you've always wanted to green your home but don't know how, find out at the Green Your Home Expo, featuring companies offering energy efficiency, renewable energy, green household products, and more. They'll be in the plaza outside UDC, 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW (by the Van Ness Metro) from 10 am to 2 pm.

The Surfrider Foundation is paddling the Potomac from 10 am to 2 pm, starting at the Thompson Boat Center where Virginia Avenue meets Rock Creek Parkway. And the DC Building Industry Association is helping out all day to improve Fort Mahan Park.

Celebrate car independence: The fall's two major car-non-oriented events are coming up. Park(ing) Day started in San Francisco, where some local artists fed a meter, rolled out a rectangular piece of artificial grass, put in a park bench, and showed passerby how much green space you could get in the heart of the city by utilizing the 160 square feet of a typical parking space. This year, DC will have some parks of its own for the first time. Unfortunately, the law doesn't just let you park some grass and a bench in a parking space the way you can a motor vehicle, so organizers have applied for permits for four spaces, in Georgetown, U Street, Gallery Place, and Adams Morgan. Park(ing) Day is Friday the 18th.

The following Tuesday, September 22nd, is the more official non-car event, Car-Free Day. As they have the last few years, DC will hold a celebration at 7th and F, NW. You can take the pledge to try to get around without driving for the day. The week is also Try Transit Week in Virginia, designed to encourage Virginians to give transit a try.

Walk and bike tours: There are lots of walking tours and biking tours coming up, including the 800-lb walking tour weekend, WalkingTown DC, on September 19th and 20th. This iteration has over 100 free walking tours, from Florida Market to Deanwood, African-American history, murals at the Department of the Interior, cemeteries, and estates in Georgetown. WalkingTown DC's companion program, BikingTown DC, has six tours covering Anacostia, Ward 5, houses of worship, the Mall, and green buildings.

State-named avenues. Image by Matt Johnson.
Also back on Saturday the 19th but farther north is a big bike ride of Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve. Participants can choose tours of 17, 25, 35, 54 or 67 miles, which start between 9:30 and 10:30 am at Poolesville High School.

Speaking of long bike rides, the following weekend is WABA's 50 States Ride, which hits all 50 of Washington's state-named avenues on a tough ride of over 60 miles. For those who want to see some state streets without so many hills, there's also a 13 Colonies ride hitting the original 13 colonies, all of whose streets come into DC's center, from Rhode Island just north of downtown to South Carolina on Capitol Hill. Both rides are on September 26th, start between 8 and 9 am, and cost $10-15.

Be festive: Adams Morgan Day is this Sunday, September 13th, featuring food, music, art, and culture from 12 to 7 pm along 18th Street. More on their annoying Flash site. And the next weekend is the H Street Festival, from 12 to 6.

In Montgomery, the Takoma Park Folk Festival is this Sunday (the 13th) from 11 to 6:30, and the Magical Montgomery Festival celebrates the arts in Downtown Silver Spring on Saturday, September 26th from 12 to 6.

Listen and learn: On Wednesday the 23rd, CSG is organizing a tour of the Capitol Riverfront, where you can hear the history and see all the development projects in this burgeoning part of the city.

The Brookland Neighborhood Civic Association is having a discussion of bicycling in Brookland, including the Metropolitan Branch Trail and other trails, featuring folks from the Met Branch trail coalition, WABA, and Rails-to-Trails. That's Tuesday, September 15th, 7 pm at the Brooks Mansion, 901 Newton Street, NE right near the Metro.

Zipcar founder Robin Chase will talk about transportation in a lecture entitled "Beyond Zipcar" at the National Building Museum on Monday the 21st at 12:30. That event is free, but you have to RSVP.

Photo by Amsterdamize.
And Mikael Colville-Andersen, who created the blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic, will discuss the nexus between making bicycling fashionable and getting more people to use this sustainable form of transportation. The talk is on Wednesday, September 30th, at 6 pm at the NCPC offices, 401 9th St, NW, 5th floor.

Give your input: You might not have time to weigh in at public meetings after all those festivals, lectures and tours, but there are two key ones. VDOT has finally started analyzing alternatives to widening I-66 after getting a wake-up call from COG. They're presenting the alternatives at a series of evening meetings in Arlington on the 23rd, Haymarket on the 24th, and Vienna on the 30th. Meanwhile, WMATA will listen to X bus riders as part of their restructuring of those lines with a meeting on H Street (really G) on the 22nd and near Minnesota and Benning on the 24th.

If this is totally overwhelming, all of this is on the Greater Greater Washington calendar, with the next week or so of events always appearing on the right sidebar on the main page.



Brookland to become all open space

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

The National Shrine, already the tallest building in Brookland, will also be the shortest. Photo by Alan Cordova.

The DC Office of Planning has released a new Small Area Plan for the Brookland neighborhood that calls for converting the entire neighborhood to open space. The plan will set maximum allowable heights of 0 feet and adjust the permitted FAR to 0.

"We heard the message loud and clear from the ANC," said Ward 5 Planner Deborah Ostrich. "Vocal residents expressed a desire to maximize the amount of open space in the neighborhood, and this plan does this." All houses will have to comply with the new zoning by 2015. At that time, the plan assures that riders getting off at the Brookland Metro station will not have any structures blocking their view.

Residents will be able to remain in their homes provided the buildings have basements. DC zoning laws allow for small penthouses provided they are set back at least ten feet from all property lines. Brookland residents will be able to take advantage of this rule to construct penthouses for entry and exit.

DDOT will also remove all obstructions to automobile traffic, including curbs, bulb-outs, and medians. "This plan will ensure that residents no longer have to circle the block to reach the parking lot for the Yes! Organic Market on 12th Street," said ANC Commissioner Carolyn Jumpfoote. Residents had criticized DDOT's previous design for the streetscape, which created a median blocking some left turns and bulb-outs which allegedly reduced the number of parking spaces. Residents will also no longer be constrained by such impediments as sidewalks and corners, but will instead be able to choose the shortest route to their destination. The new transportation plan will ensure no obstacles block emergency vehicles.

Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5) praised the new plan, especially the section on accessory structures, which will permit gas station pumps as long as they do not exceed six feet in height. "DC has lost many of its gas stations in the last ten years," he said. "We need to create an incentive for more full service gas stations in the District of Columbia." The Small Area Plan allows any property to contain small structures under six feet covering no more than 15% of the lot.

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