Posts about Dupont Circle
Residents really value the trees in their neighborhoods, and when the city cuts them down, it's an irreversible decision. Dupont Circle Nord Wennerstrom wrote in about trees at Ross Elementary, on R Street, suddenly disappearing:
Three years ago GGW's David Alpert wrote an article about tree removal on the 1700 block of Corcoran Street, NW that caused a neighborhood uproar. Well, three years later and one block north, it's happening again.
On Dec. 31, 2012, on the grounds of the Ross Elementary School, contractors for the Department of General Services (DGS) chopped down one large failing oak and then chopped down two large perfectly healthy oaks
— among the largest trees on the block. DGS, which maintains DCPS buildings and grounds, did not notify the neighborhood, the school's principal, the DCPS Chancellor's office or Councilmember Jack Evans. DDOT/Urban Forestry was similarly unaware.
Neighbors intervened to prevent a complete clear cuttingWennerstrom's detailed explanation about the DGS's and Andersen's stated reasons for taking down the trees (which Wennerstrom finds dubious) are below. Certainly the biggest issue is not communicating about the issue ahead of time. Further, there is the question of whether arborists tend to be overzealous about taking out trees.
— today one last oak still stands. Councilmember Evans' office has gotten involved along with ANC 2B03 rep Stephanie Maltz. The contractors on site, Andersen Tree Expert Co., said an arborist had certified the need for the trees to come down. Actually, the arborist is an Andersen employee, and Andersen got the job for chopping down the trees and was paid by the tree.
I've talked to several arborists, both at DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration and private arborists I've hired to prune the tree on my own property. You might expect someone whose job is caring for trees to want to do everything possible to maximize tree life, but I've found that many arborists would take down a lot more trees, and a lot earlier, than most residents would.
Our block, not far from Ross, has a number of very large oak trees. Some of them have fungus starting to grow near the roots, which will eventually kill the trees. However, they could last many more years before that happens. On the other hand, over time this will weaken the roots, and eventually, one might fall in a large storm, damaging nearby houses.
When we had a private arborist to look at our private tree, I asked him about some of the street trees along the block. He said he would probably recommend taking several of those down (not the one closest to our house, fortunately) sooner rather than later.
The experts would often choose to take trees down as soon as anything seems wrong. Meanwhile, residents love their trees, and want to keep them up. DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration has to balance residents' desire to preserve trees against the profession's predilection for removal.
It's hard to know who is right. The arborist profession might know what we don't. On the other hand, they could fall victim to orthodoxies around an arbitrary "standard." Certainly, DDOT has its standards, like cutting all branches up to 8 feet away from houses, just as the traffic engineering profession has controversial standards for road curvature, clear zones and more. The 8-foot tree standard keeps branches from hitting the houses, but also yields odd-shaped trees and cuts down on the shade that helps keep houses cool.
Here is the rest of Wennerstrom's letter:
On Dec. 31, Andersen reps on site and contacted by telephone offered several reasons for the demolitionThis weekend, Wennerstrom followed up with an update:
— including root rot due to excessive ground moisture, the poor health of the trees, the trees were causing basement leaks and, what turns out to be the real reason, trenching needs to be done around the perimeter of the building to remedy the leaks, an action that will endanger the trees.
In fact, on Dec. 26, an Andersen inspection determined there was no root rot yet on Dec. 31 their reps insisted root rot was the cause; the Ward 4 arborist Joel Conlon, who inspected the trees on Dec. 31, and says there's no evidence the trees were in poor health, contradicting what Andersen reps were telling the neighbors; and landscape architect James Urban, one of the nation's leading authorities on design with trees and soils in urban settings, questioned the aggressive trenching/leak remediation plan proposed. Urban says tree and root pruning, along with careful trenching would permit the need leak remediation without destroying the trees.
Attempts to get information from DGS continue to be frustrating. For example, we requested the written evaluation that justified the trees' removal and we only received a cover letter and a crudely drawn schematic diagram. Not included, and crucial to the discussion, were Andersen's eight pages of tree evaluation forms with several questionable observations.
Now DGS has come up with a new reason for the trees' removal. In the Jan. 9 edition of the Dupont Current, DGS spokesperson Kenneth Diggs is quoted as saying the trees are causing the sidewalk to buckle. That's completely untrue
— no sidewalks are buckling. Mr. Diggs and DGS made that up.
We enjoy having Ross Elementary as our across-the-street neighbor and recognize the school's need for building improvements
— we've already lived through three months of a very noisy and filthy renovation this past summer.
DGS may have done everything "by the book", but they continue to do a really poor job of communicating with the public.
On the Ross front, I've heard from another DGS spokesperson. The bottom line is that DGS never considered any basement leak remediation methods that would also have saved the trees
— they were doomed from the outset. Their arborist's certification that the trees had to go was a pro forma move.
Nevertheless, in a January 2, 2013 email response to Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans about the Ross situation, DGS Director Brian Hanlon wrote: "I never take lightly the removal of any tree." (Imagine if DGS were in charge of RGIII's healthcare, rather than microsurgery for his knee, they would have amputated his leg).
A lot of suburban areas around the nation once (and, in some places, still) opposed building transit lines because they feared it would bring crime. We know that's bogus, but got another piece of evidence today.
DCist reports that a man robbed a Wells Fargo bank on K Street this morning, then tried to get away by Red Line train. MPD asked Metro to hold the trains, and the agency promptly robbed the man of his choice of getaway vehicle.
This is an example of what was already obvious to most thinking people: transit is a less appealing mode of transit for robberies, not an invitation to commit them. Generally, the people who used (or still use) this argument against transit were (or are) white suburbs afraid of they darker-skinned people they associated (or still associate) with transit.
They warned that a rail line to a wealthy town would lead people from the scary inner city to take the train up, rob people, then speed away by train. This ignores the obvious fact that any criminal who tries to escape by transit is putting himself in a perfect container for police to close off and capture him.
In the real world: Zoning update hearing, citizen planners, Dupont/Logan bike safety, parking, and gentrification
Now that the summer is over, DC agencies and legislators are kicking it into gear, and there are a lot of important events coming up.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is holding a hearing on the zoning update, and the Office of Planning has a forum about citizens can engage in planning. There's a meeting on Dupont and Logan bike safety, a star-studded panel on gentrification, and two parking think tanks, and more.
Tomorrow, the Dupont and Logan ANCs are having a meeting "for residents, business owners, and organizations to discuss bicycle safety issues in the community," including new infrastructure, laws like those against sidewalk cycling, and any ideas residents have. It's in the ballroom of the Chastleton, 16th and R, from 7-9.
Also tomorrow is a Humanitini panel on gentrification. Washington City Paper editor Mike Madden is moderating the panel, which includes Rauzia Ally and Maria Casarella, two architects who serve on the Historic Preservation Review Board; Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Business Journal; and former Mayor "that's an old movie" Tony Williams. Sign up to attend here.
Next week are 2 of DDOT's Parking Think Tanks, Wednesday evening 10/3 at the West End Library (large conference room) and Thursday 10/4 at Wilson High School (cafeteria). Both are 6:30-8:30. If you can't make one of them, don't forget to fill out the online survey, which asks about both car and bicycle parking issues.
Also next Thursday, October 4, the Office of Planning is having a Citizen Planner Forum to talk about how planning projects can engage more residents. They held 4 focus groups with residents about ways planning processes can work better, and will talk about the results, new tools to involve the public and more. The event is 6:30 to 8 at the District Architecture Center, 421 7th Street, NW.
Finally, there's a pretty important hearing for those of you who can make a 1 pm DC Council hearing on a Friday. Zoning update opponents convinced former Chairman Kwame Brown to hold an oversight hearing on the zoning update, even though the topic already came up during the annual oversight hearings for the Office of Planning each of the last 4 years. Phil Mendelson kept it on the agenda when he became chairman. It was originally supposed to be today, but since it's Yom Kippur, they moved it to Friday, October 5.
Zoning update head opponent Linda Schmitt sent a predictably provocational and misinforming email, claiming that a process over 4 years with hundreds of community meetings (and more to come) is about "high-handed decisions by city officials ... who make every effort to play "hide the ball," deflecting questions, maligning civic advice and avoiding
stating their intentions." To sign up to testify, email email@example.com with your name, address, and phone number.
Hank's Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds has had about the worst time one can with the District's alcoholic beverage licensing process. A years-old fight, which she's essentially won, over outdoor seating popped back up last week and forced her to shut down half her patio during Pride weekend, one of the busiest of the year on 17th Street.
Sadly, Leeds lost out on a lot of business because former Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board chairman Charles Brodsky mis-applied the law. His decision letting Hank's expand its outdoor patio was overturned by the DC Court of Appeals, and until the board can re-hear the case, Leeds is stuck.
This all starts back in 2005 when Leeds wanted to open Hank's Oyster Bar at 17th and Q, NW in Dupont Circle. A number of residents, led by David Mallof and Lex Rieffel, opposed new liquor licenses and outdoor patios in the area, feeling that they created too much noise and other impacts to neighbors.
They went through the official process to protest a liquor license, which allowed them to negotiate a "voluntary agreement" with Leeds specifying various restrictions. ANC 2B, a party to the protest, wanted a standard set of limitations that it asks of all alcohol-serving establishments in Dupont's residential areas, such as a closing time of 11 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends, says Mike Silverstein, an ANC commissioner and now member of the ABC Board. Other protestants, however, asked for further restrictions.
Critics of VAs say that these are not really "voluntary," and defenders of Hank's have used this case as an example. The ABC Board granted motions to postpone its hearing over several months while neighbors pushed for more concessions. Leeds, meanwhile, was losing money quickly while she couldn't open Hank's, and, as she said in a later hearing (page 164-165), she had no choice but to give in.
Hank's ultimately opened, it became a big success, and many residents enjoyed its great seafood and delicious brunch indoors or out on the patio. In
2098 2009, 17th Street's liquor moratorium came up for renewal. The ABC Board extended it, but also included 2 "lateral expansions" for establishments to grow. At the time, most neighborhood leaders expressed an expectation, and hope, that the expansions would go to Hank's and to Komi. They did; Hank's expanded into the ground floor of the building next door and Komi opened up Little Serow in the basement next to its restaurant.
For Hank's, expanding also required rezoning the property next door as commercial, and changing its voluntary agreement, which limited the amount of outdoor seating. It secured the rezoning, and in November 2010, the ABC board granted a motion to terminate the VA.
ABC board makes a curious move
According to the law, the board can terminate a VA if 3 criteria (one with 2 prongs) are met:
(4) The Board may approve a request by fewer than all parties to amend or terminate a voluntary agreement for good cause shown if it makes each of the following findings based upon sworn evidence:The board, with Brodsky in the lead, granted the termination, but made a strange legal choice. Instead of securing "sworn evidence" on all 4 parts of this test, it disregarded part A, and argued that it didn't need to find evidence for all of the prongs to grant a VA termination.
(A)(i) The applicant seeking the amendment has made a diligent effort to locate all other parties to the voluntary agreement; or
(ii) If non-applicant parties are located, the applicant has made a good-faith attempt to negotiate a mutually acceptable amendment to the voluntary agreement;
(B) The need for an amendment is either caused by circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or is due to a change in the neighborhood where the applicant's establishment is located; and
(C) The amendment or termination will not have an adverse impact on the neighborhood where the establishment is located as determined under § 25-313 or § 25-314, if applicable.
Silverstein recused himself from this decision since he had been involved in the original case, but notes that he argued against such a practice in some other, similar cases.
Leeds went ahead and expanded her patio, and residents have now been able to enjoy even more outdoor seating at Hank's.
Mallof and Reiffel appealed, and on May 17, the DC Court of Appeals agreed that the board needed to make a finding on all parts of the test, not just some of them.
The board moved quickly to schedule a hearing, which will happen this Wednesday, where people familiar with the situation expect they will find that Leeds met part A as well and grant her petition once again.
Hank's has to close half its patio
But in the meantime, someone complained to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), the agency that manages liquor licenses, that Hank's was using its whole patio, and on Friday, ABRA forced Hank's to shut down half the patio to comply with the old VA.
In an email to the neighborhood, Leeds wrote,
We have our hearing on these last two issues next Wednesday before the ABC Board. We are confident we will prevail, because we did try to work this out with those opposed to us back when we first sought termination of the VA, but they refused to meet. Also, since the Court of Appeals decision was reached, we offered to address their concerns with a more limited VA, but they insist we cut our outdoor occupancy by 25%, even though there have been no complaints. As for changes in the neighborhood, I am sure they are well known to you. Of course, it could take months for the Board to rule.The board often takes up to 90 days to issue a ruling, but in this case, they may rule more quickly, Silverstein suggested, especially since this decision only requires rehearing a small part of the original case.
Last night, as a result of a complaint by the protesters, we were visited by ABC investigators. We were told we cannot use half of our patio seating area, because of the Court of Appeals decision. This happened before we even have had a hearing before the ABC Board.
What's wrong with the process?
Leeds and her attorney, Andrew Kline, are primarily pointing the finger at the law that any group of 5 residents can file a protest over a liquor license. Silverstein noted that a citizen task force is more comprehensively reviewing liquor license laws right now, and that group may recommend limiting how far away someone can live and still protest in order to ensure that protests come from immediate neighbors rather than people from blocks away.
However, Silverstein noted, voluntary agreements aren't necessarily bad. Dupont's, which set a neighborhood-wide standard for closing outdoor patios at 11 pm or midnight, just set a "level playing field" for all businesses in mixed-use parts of the neighborhood.
Silverstein also noted that the board has fixed some of the problems since 2009, such as the long timeline for approvals. Leeds suffered because she had to negotiate with residents for months while the board put off hearing after hearing. "Justice delayed is absolutely justice denied," said Silverstein, "and justice delayed is absolutely favoring the protestant over the applicant." Since then, he added, the board has significantly sped up the process to create a "rocket docket" where very few applications are pending for more than 90 days.
Since then, Brodsky also no longer chairs the board, having resigned in May 2011 the day before he was arrested for impersonating a police officer. That's little comfort to Leeds, who is paying the price for his and his fellow board members' actions, but the board can at least minimize the damage by making a quick ruling and getting Hank's patio fully open this week.
Yesterday was DC's Pride Parade. Matt Johnson caught some signs which celebrate both DC's LGBT community and its best urbanist qualities:
These folks were part of Councilmember Tommy Wells' entourage. Other whimiscal signs from the Wells group included "More disco, less sprawl" and "Fake cowboys for streetcars." If you were at the parade, did you get any good photos of these or anything else like them?
No discussion or debate about DC's Height Act is complete without mention of T.F. Schneider's Cairo Apartment Building on Q Street NW. The 1894 construction of the gorgeous building was the catalyst for the building height restrictions we know and love today.
It is fortuitous for Schneider that the building caused such an impression. He's lucky that we remember him for this lovely building and for the fantastic tree-lined block of Q Street row-houses between 17th and 18th Streets that he built as a speculative venture for well-to-do families when the area began to thrive.
Because we could instead remember T.F. for the chilly murders committed by his crazy brother Howard in 1892 on that same Q Street block or for Howard's subsequent sensational trial and execution. The Washington Post reported:
It was at 8 o'clock on the evening of Sunday, January 31, 1892, that [Howard J.] Schneider shot his wife, Amanda Hamlink Schneider, and his brother-in-law, Frank Hamlink, almost in front of their father's door, on  Q Street between Seventeenth and Eighteenth. Schneider was a young electrician when he met Amanda Hamlink, in the summer of 1891.
He was of good family, not a bad-looking young fellow, who dressed well and drove fast horses. He made love to the young lady, became engaged to her, and one day in June when they were out driving he produced a marriage license and threatened to shoot himself unless she married him at once. Miss Hamlink yielded, and a minister in Hyattsville performed the ceremony.
The marriage was kept a secret until fall, when the young woman's father discovered it. Then there was a scene, the father suspecting at first that the marriage had been a fraud, and requiring Schneider to produce the certificate. After that Schneider went to the Hamlink house to live. His cruelties made the life of his wife an unhappy one. More than once he threatened to shoot her. Finally he began staying out late at night, and after due warning was locked out from the Hamlink house.
About this time, a few weeks before the tragedy, he became enamored of a young girl from Virginia who was visiting [her sister who also lived on that same Q Street block]. He determined to secure a divorce from his wife, and made preparations to go to Chicago. On the Sunday evening of the tragedy he had sent a colored man to the house with a note asking if his wife intended to live with him.
While he was waiting for an answer across the street from the house, his wife, with her brother and sister, walked down Q Street from Eighteenth. Schneider crossed over to them, leaving his chum, Marion Appleby on the south side of the street.
Grasping at his wife roughly by the wrist, he told her he wanted to speak to her. The brother interfered. Schneider drew a revolver and fired five shots. Three of them entered the body of his wife, whom he still held by the hand, one pierced Frank Hamlink's breast, and the fifth crashed through the window of the Hamlink house.
Frank Hamlink fell into the street, dying almost instantly. Mrs. Schneider was able to walk into the house. She languised until the 6th of February, and left a dying declaration detailing the circumstances of the crime.
Howard Schneider threw down his revolver by the body of Frank Hamlink and fled. Within a half hour he walked into the nearest police station and gave himself up, saying he did the deed in self-defense.
Although most of us have never heard a thing about it, Howard Schneider's trial was one of the most infamous the city has ever experienced. The Washington Post's April 10, 1892 edition (the day after the verdict) was the largest edition it had ever published up to that time. 10,000 additional copies and an extra came off the presses.
Many witnesses were called, and in a dramatic twist, most of them lived on T.F.'s block of Q Street row houses. This meant that they knew both the Hamlink and Schneider families and some were still indebted to T.F. for the property.
When T.F. took the stand, he was accused of intimidating some of his neighbors. In one instance, he had sold a Q Street row house to a Mr. Bean and still held 2 notes for $2000 against him. Before Mrs. Bean testified at trial, T.F. had told the Beans that he could renew the note. After she testified, T.F. wrote Mr. Bean that he would no longer do so because he was unsatisfied with his wife's testimony.
Howard and his friends did their best to plant evidence that he acted in self-defense, but the prosecution was able to debunk most of these details. They proved that Howard stole Hamlink's gun, shot him with it, and then threw it by his body. They showed that Howard planted a second gun and that he created fake bullet holes in his own clothing.
Perhaps the most telling and dramatically sad testimony of the trial came from Mrs. Schneider, Howard and T.F.'s mother, who was forced to describe the mental instability of her son. Of Howard, she said:
He was always talking to himself in his room…and would swear at me or some imaginary person. When I went upstairs to remonstrate with him he would slam the door and swear. He would leave the house after breakfast in pleasant spirits, and would return to lunch out of temper. Often he would break out at the table violently. He had trouble with everyone with whom he had dealings, and always complained that they were against him. He was constantly making appointments and failing to keep them.
Photo from the Washington Post archives.
Howard's important family bought him good lawyers, but that was all they could do to help him. For the year after he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death, his attorneys appealed to overturn the conviction on insanity grounds. They brought the case as high as the US Supreme Court, which refused to step in. On March 17, 1893, after President Cleveland denied clemency, Howard J. Schneider was hanged in the DC District jail.
Cross-posted at The Location.
Small theater company Pinky Swear Productions got some very sudden and frightening news yesterday: Their show Killing Women, which opened in a Dupont church basement on Saturday, may have to suddenly find a new location, as the zoning regulations prohibit theater in that space.
Update: Pinky Swear says they've gotten permission to finish the run of their show and won't have to move.
A resident complained about the production, and zoning officials said that the church, at 16th and S Streets NW, would need a zoning variance to hold performances, according to Andrew Huff in Councilmember Jack Evans' office. DCRA sent an inspector this morning to review the issue; we will report the results when they are available.
Fortunately, Capital Fringe has offered space at 6th and New York Avenue NW if Killing Women has to leave the church, though moving will surely harm Pinky Swear financially. According to co-artistic director Karen Lange, the set won't fit in the new space, moving would force them to cancel a few shows, cost more money for lighting rental, and more.
According to Lange, Pinky Swear is renting the space from Spooky Action Theater, which has a lease for the basement. A resident who lives nearby notes that Spooky Action hasn't been holding productions in the church for a while, which is why this issue is just arising now. Also, he said that the theater groups have been using the narrow alley, adjacent to homes, as the entrance rather than the front door of the church on 16th Street.
The policy question here is, are our zoning rules too restrictive?
On the one hand, zoning creates some predictability. Residents right near the church know to expect a lot of activity on Sunday mornings but not nighttime performances. Audiences coming out of theaters can sometimes be noisy, and could disturb people. That's especially true if they're using a back door adjacent to homes rather than a front door.
On the other hand, having more arts events contributes to a much richer city. Groups like Pinky Swear are small, have little money, and can't afford spaces in places like downtown. Established theaters have theater companies that already use those spaces most of the time. If our zoning keeps the arts corralled into a very narrow range of opportunities, that limits it tremendously, especially for young and emerging artists.
Any zoning changes take tremendous time and money. A developer of a large building can afford to do this, but a small theater company or church can't possibly do it just to put on a play.
There are significant parallels between this case and the recent regulatory disputes around secondhand stores and the car service Uber.
Uber was doing something new and innovative which the existing regulations didn't precisely predict. Their model might or might not have been legal under the regulations, depending how you interpret it. The Taxicab Commission decided that they were breaking the rules, and came down hard.
Used bookstores, vintage clothing shops, and more operated for years under a general retail license, but recently DC officials determined that they actually have to use a different license that mainly covered pawn shops. That license is much more expensive, and requires far more detailed reporting requirements, which made sense for pawn shops to avoid stolen merchandise but is less applicable to stores which buy used goods from distant wholesalers.
In all 3 cases, one can make a case that DC needs to enforce the rules as written. Should we really turn a blind eye to unlawful behavior? If so, how do we decide which unlawful behavior to ignore?
On the other hand, bending zoning rules has sometimes brought tremendously positive results. In many of the warehouse districts of older industrial cities, for instance, revitalization began when people moved into the vacant spaces and started living there. Often, though, they weren't zoned for residential. As New York's Soho became a popular loft space, for many years all of the residents were breaking the zoning rules.
In this case, the zoning code could be more permissive toward arts uses. Arts performance could be one of the "corner store" type uses that can locate in residential zones subject to various restrictions, as I previously suggested. The new code could also allow arts uses in residential zones under a "special exception" rather than a variance, which still requires a long and complex process before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, but lets the BZA grant permission more easily.
For cities to thrive, neighborhoods need to evolve as the desires of their residents changes over time. Zoning can rarely keep up. The best thing we can do is err on the side of more flexibility and fewer regulations.
The Keegan Theatre, on Church Street in Dupont Circle, plans to renovate its building and add a small addition, a new and glassier lobby.
Rendering of proposed design. All images from the Keegan Theatre.
The changes will give the cramped theater the backstage space it needs, and will make it accessible to persons with disabilities. The biggest debate will likely revolve around design. Is a lobby with wavy glass an impressive addition to the block, or will it distract from the existing historic fabric?
Current building needs changes
The brick building, on Church between 17th and 18th, was originally the gymnasium for the private all-girls Holton-Arms School, which was located in Kalorama until moving to Bethesda in 1963. In 1975, the building became a theater, and the Keegan became its full-time resident company in 2009.
It's a charming and intimate theater, and the Keegan has put on some great productions there, but the building poses some big obstacles. The front steps are not accessible for people with disabilities, and the front lobby is very small. There's a very limited backstage area and almost no space for building sets, creating costumes and props, or for actors to dress.
The bathrooms are tiny, squeezed into the basement, and not very nice. During intermission, there are long waits. I live on this particular block, and so when Greater Greater Wife and I go there for shows, we just go home to use the restroom between acts, but that's not an option for most people.
After seeing the condition of the bathrooms, an arts donor gave the Keegan money to renovate the space. They shared with neighbors and the ANC their proposed plans to dig out a basement, to create space for production and green rooms, opening up more space for the lobby and bathrooms.
The only externally-visible change would be a small new foyer in the current side yard, between the theater and the building next door. The new foyer would make space for an ADA-compliant elevator and new stairs between floors.
At a recent community meeting, one question from neighbors revolved around the design of the addition. The architect, Stoiber & Associates, has proposed a very modern look for the addition, with wavy lines and multi-colored glass.
Besides the theater, Church Street is filled with turn-of-the-century painted brick townhouses, with a few larger apartment buildings at the end of the block and one in the middle, across from the Keegan. Would a tiny addition just over 16 feet wide in this style look very strange tucked amid the rows of brick townhouses?
What do you think?
Preservationists differ on "compatibility"
This question raises a point of great debate in historic preservation. When a new building comes into a historic area, or a historic building gets an addition, the law says that the addition must be "compatible" with the historic district. But what is "compatible"?to look like a Georgetown building and not a typical glassy or white Apple store.
There's some merit to this approach. Georgetown has a charm that comes from a consistent architectural style. Architects often want to make their buildings as flashy as possible, but rows of small buildings like those along a commercial strip shouldn't out-compete each other for dazzle; they should look like a row. They needn't all be identical, but shouldn't create a chaotic riot either.
In the rest of DC's historic districts, the Historic Preservation Office has generally taken a different approach. They argue that a new building should not try to look like old buildings, but exhibit a style and materials "of its time." In other words, a building built in 2012 should look to the observer like a 2012 building.
But not all 2012 buildings look alike. A 2012 building could use brick, like the rest of the street, only it could look like 2012 brick. Or, it could strive for a super-modern look that's totally opposite.criticized a project on Florida Avenue, saying, "Your responsibility is not to create an icon... [but] to knit the neighborhood back together." Will the board want something iconic or something that seems to connect the fabric on both sides?
The theater is in the center of a residential block, and is a larger building than the adjacent row houses. That means it already serves as a focal point rather than a part of the row. By that logic, a prominent addition would make sense, to further punctuate the building's unique role among its neighbors.
On the other hand, the board might feel that a flashy design for a tiny addition detracts from the beautiful, old, historic main theater, and want something less conspicuous. They could ask Keegan to tone down the flash and dazzle in favor of either a more modest glass atrium or a brick addition that doesn't stand out.
As a resident of the block, I can see both sides of this one. As modern designs go, this is actually fairly attractive. However, always hard to know for sure how a project will look just from its renderings. Will the colors be as vibrant as they appear there? How much will it stand out, really? Plus, this isn't a large building in a distinctive architectural style; it will be 15 feet wide. Will such a small piece look too strange with such different materials from everything else?
Regardless of the approach Keegan and HPRB choose, a renovated theater that meets the needs of today will enhance the neighborhood and strengthen the arts in DC. The donor's contribution goes a long way, but the Keegan will need to raise more money from its audience and supporters to get the project built.
DDOT officials will meet with residents tonight to discuss parking in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. After the meeting, anyone will be able to park directly in front of their homes, offices, or stores, for free, without circling.
Oops, it's not still April Fool. But there is a parking meeting tonight.
Dupont Circle, like most of DC's busy neighborhoods, has far more demand for parking than supply of on-street spaces. Right now, we allocate the limited resource of spaces in one way. The meeting will discuss whether to allocate them in a different way.
Today, people who don't live in the neighborhood can park on any residential block for up to 2 hours during weekdays and for unlimited time evenings and weekends. This means that around the commercial corridors, especially hot spots like Lauriol Plaza at 18th and T, parking is very scarce.
I used to live near there and parked on the street. When I had to move my car for street cleaning, it would usually take under 5 minutes mid-morning to find an alternate space, but coming home from a car trip on a Saturday night or Sunday morning could mean a 20-30 minute quest for a space.
Residents in this and other spots are understandably interested in change. They'd like a less daunting parking experience. Plus, if the residential blocks are supposed to prioritize parking for residents, why are we giving it to diners?
More importantly, why should this parking be free? Parking in garages isn't free. At the meters on 18th, it's not free (except Sundays). Free parking on residential streets just encourages people to circle the neighborhood for a long time to save some money.
DDOT could pursue a few options.
Reserve parking for residents of all Ward 2 neighborhoods. A simple approach would be to set up the same arrangement Jack Evans has suggested for Logan Circle: Designate one side of every street for holders of Zone 2 stickers only. A related option, with similar pros and cons, would be to extend Residential Permit Parking hours later into the night and to weekends.
These options would free up a lot of parking for residents, though with so many residents in the area, it still wouldn't guarantee that anyone would be able to park on any given block.
There are also a few downsides. For one, people often have contractors, housecleaners, friends, family members, and others who don't live in the area drive to visit residents. In other wards, these parking changes went hand in hand with visitor passes. Each household got one, and any car sporting a pass counted as a resident.
In Ward 2, there would be too much abuse. If every resident got a pass, many would sell them to people who want to drive jobs in the ward. DDOT monitors Craigslist and other sites for people selling passes, but the temptation and potential profit would be far higher for Ward 2.
Another downside is that it would also encourage more driving from neighborhoods like Georgetown, which happen to be in Ward 2, at the expense of drivers from U Street or Adams Morgan in Ward 1 or other DC neighborhoods. If we are dedicating parking to residents of a neighborhood, then it should actually apply to residents of that neighborhood, not them plus others who by accident of legislative line-drawing live in the same ward.
Reserve parking for actual Dupont residents. DDOT could reserve one side of the street as above, but also give out new 2B stickers to residents of the ANC 2B area. Only drivers with those stickers would get the new privileges.
Reserve parking, then "sell" the excess. Any of these schemes to reserve parking may overly limit parking especially at lower demand times. Should we just leave part of the street empty much of the day? DDOT could also reserve one side of each street, or even both sides, but also let drivers pay for some of the extra space.
It's too expensive to install multi-space meters on each block, but now that DDOT has ParkMobile, it could offer these spaces through that service. Just put up signs that say something like, "Reserved for cars with 2B stickers only, OR pay $5 an hour for this space at ParkMobile."
DDOT would set the price at a premium level. This parking is primarily reserved for residents, but others can use it too if they want to pay the higher rates. If they don't, then use a garage, or arrive by Metro, bus, bike or foot.
Set meters to a market rate. There are a number of meters in the neighborhood. At night, they're usually all full. During the day, they're often not very full at all. If a more rigorous analysis bears out this anecdotal evidence, DDOT ought to raise rates at night and lower them during the day. That could bring more drivers in to patronize businesses middays, when the neighborhood is only moderately busy, and generate more revenue at night, when people will fill up the spaces regardless.
DDOT and ANC commissioners will likely support approaches which have support at the meeting and oppose those which don't. Some good ideas for 17th Street's streetscape got thrown out because a majority of people at a community meeting opposed the idea. If you live in the neighborhood, it's important to try to attend.
The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Foxhall Room of the Hotel Dupont, which is on Dupont Circle at New Hampshire Avenue on the north side. Go in the New Hampshire main entrance and turn right to reach Foxhall.
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