Posts about Shaw
DC is awash in murals. Four new murals recently went up as part of an arts festival sponsored by Heineken. Ward 7 residents banded together to give a beloved restaurant a mural. And a filmmaker's making a documentary about what murals mean to DC's culture.
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue SE just east of the Anacostia River, Thai Orchid is the sole sit-down restaurant on a block with a beauty supply store, liquor store, and empty storefronts. Opened in 2010, the locally-owned spot quickly became a local gathering spot. On her blog Life in the Village, Veronica Davis raved about the food, while commenters expressed excitement that they could eat out without crossing the river.
To say "thank you," neighbors want to beautify Thai Orchid and its block with a mural.
It's a testament to a business that took a chance on Ward 7 and represents a continuing commitment to local businesses. Supporters applied for funding from MuralsDC, a partnership between the DC Department of Public Works, the DC Commission on the Arts and the Humanities, and nonprofit group Words Beats & Life that uses street art to enliven neighborhoods and combat graffiti.
They had commissioned an artist to create the mural, but a small group of residents put a halt to the project, arguing that District funds should be used for more worthy causes. Now, the community is raising money to move forward with the mural without public help.
But murals are still going up elsewhere in DC. Working with MuralsDC, Dutch brewing company Heineken sponsored four murals in Shaw and NoMa and installed them last month. It's part of a larger series of murals Heineken commissioned in Atlanta and Miami. The DC installation coincided with the G40 Art Summit, a street art festival sponsored by the Art Whino gallery in National Harbor.
It makes sense that Heineken chose DC as a location, with its long history of murals celebrating its African American and Latino communities. Filmmaker Caitlin Carroll was so inspired by the city's mural culture that she started working on a documentary about it called Painted City.
The film features art historian Perry Frank, who documents murals both past and present, and includes stories about murals that have been lost, highlighting the art's fleeting nature. Community pride and beautification is a recurring theme in the documentary, and Carroll also highlights the work of local artists who work with residents and kids to beautify their neighborhoods.
Murals, along with public art in general, can let communities show neighborhood pride, inspire others, and provide hope. In an area struggling with unemployment, poverty, and crime, residents see art as a way to uplift and inspire.
As Carroll notes, "Every mural has a story." The stories often have an end as murals disappear due to new development or get damaged in building repairs. But even in their temporary nature, they still serve as a form of community expression.
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.
Residents and community leaders are unhappy with the District's chosen developer for a city-owned property at 965 Florida Avenue NW in Shaw. Instead of choosing a development scheme behind closed doors, could DC just auction it off and let the market decide what's best for it?
The winning proposal. Image from MRP.
Last week, the Deputy Mayor's Office of Planning and Development (DMPED) selected a proposal from MRP Realty, Ellis Development Group and Fundrise to build apartments and a market over one from the JBG Companies, Gragg & Associates, and Moddie Turay Company to build housing, offices, a hotel and a Harris Teeter supermarket.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B, of which I am a member, voted for JBG, which many residents preferred. But we did so without knowing an important piece of information: the price that each development team offered DC taxpayers. Neither bid has been made public, but DMPED's spokesperson said that MRP's was higher. By ignoring how much the bids are, politics, not the best use, decides how DC allocates public land.
In 2008, the city appraised the 1.45-acre parcel at over $17 million, and land values in this neighborhood have climbed considerably since then. Despite the high demand for space in the area, the price that either developer bid did not factor into the public discussion about a taxpayer asset. Instead, during the process each developer presents a development proposal, and the price is only revealed in closed-door discussions with DMPED.
DC law says that the ANC, a neighborhood-level governing body that makes recommendations on local land use and licensing issues, is entitled to "great weight" in determining which developer purchases city land. This means that if DMPED chooses to award the site to Ellis Development Group, it must explain why it went against the ANC's recommendation.
Rather than soliciting proposals for city-owned land disposition, DMPED should simply auction off government land to the highest bidder. The current process has two primary flaws. First, it invites lobbying from developers in an attempt to win land deals for their firm. Earlier this month, WAMU did a series on the city's land disposition practices, revealing that it has sold $200 million of land for near-zero prices in the past five years.
In many cases, city-owned land sells for a price well below market value based on the assumption that the projects will provide affordable housing and jobs for DC residents. But as the series points out, sometimes these promises fail to materialize, and some of the developers who have purchased valuable city-owned land for a song have also made large contributions to mayoral and council campaigns.
Once the city awards a parcel to a developer, the price that the winning firm pays will become public record, but the price offered by the competing firm will not. Closed-door conversations between DMPED and developers create an opportunity for corruption in which politically-favored firms win land deals over firms who would provide the development that residents are most willing to pay for.
Second, removing the price system from land use decisions prevents residents from getting the type of development that they want. Land prices indicate where customers want to live and work and which areas have the greatest demand for new buildings.
By removing the price system from city-owned land, DMPED also removes the signals that show developers what kinds of residential, office, and retail space their consumers are willing to support. And selling land at below-market rates dampens the profit and loss signals which tell entrepreneurs whether or not they are correctly interpreting this demand, limiting the ability of the city to evolve to meet residents' needs.
Land disposition presents an appealing tool for policymakers to provide benefits to their constituents without using general fund revenues. But selling city-owned land for below market rates turns the request for proposal process into a beauty contest. Developers compete to make their projects look like opportunities to achieve policymakers' goals instead of on the price they are willing to pay for a taxpayer asset.
Rather than issuing a request for proposals, the District should simply auction surplus land to the highest bidder, permitting land to go to the highest value use as determined by the market process. Public policy goals should be carried out through direct subsidies that are more transparent and preserve price signals in the market for land.
Hidden treasures lie all over Greater Washington. For those in the know, these finds can create a new map of local culture and history, street art, and changing neighborhoods in a game called "geocaching."
Geocached murals reveal "the real DC"
Similar to orienteering, geocaching is a massive, worldwide GPS-based treasure hunt. Using a GPS device or a smartphone app, the "cacher" tries to find hidden objects, called "geocaches" or "caches" for short, hidden by other cachers. They can be big or tiny, a large tupperware or just a tiny magnet with a paper log inside. Once found, the cacher logs their finds online.
Geocaches must be hidden from view but may not be buried. They must be placed with permission of the landowner or on public land, but are not allowed on National Park Service land.
Within the geocaching community, certain cachers develop a reputation for creating exactly these types of experiences, intimate glimpses into a small corner of the city not found in a guidebook or on a Segway tour. Among cachers in the DC area, few can boast a stronger resume than Lewis Francis of Falls Church, also known as Exmachina. He's a curator of hidden mural caches located within eyeshot of the city's lesser-known works of street art.
Francis finds inspiration from discovering interesting places, and he decided to begin a mural series while walking around Columbia Heights, where he works. "When it's warm I like to explore and wander around the neighborhood," he says. "I noticed a mural right behind Wonderland Ballroom. I thought, this is kind of cool, you wouldn't know about it unless you stumble across it."
He found an app called "Art Around," which shows where all of the murals are located on a map. The more Francis learned about the murals, he realized he wanted to share them with other cachers.
Located all over the city, most of the murals in Francis' series are part of the Murals DC Project, a program sponsored by the Department of Public Works intended to target graffiti-prone areas, sponsor programming for at-risk youth, and enhance communities through beautification.
Many of these murals are located in areas that are in transition or off the beaten path. Some are in alleys in bustling urban corridors, others in quiet residential neighborhoods. Some are hidden in plain sight and others take a bit of sleuthing to find. The geocache series has brought hundreds of visitors, residents, tourists and business travelers alike, to a unique slice of "the real DC."
A mural's life is fleeting
Francis chooses the murals in his series carefully. "When I look at a mural, it has to speak to me," he says. "It has to have some unique history and has to be in a place that people will come across but not in the open."
One such mural is ""Un pueblo sin murales..." in Adams Morgan. Painted in 1977, the mural was created by a group of Latino immigrant artists and restored in 2005 by activist group Sol & Soul and artist Juan Pineda.
The Picasso-esque mural depicts life in the Latino immigrant community in DC in the 1970s, but it also reminds the viewer that the neighborhood has changed since it went up. Last year's earthquake and subsequent building repairs have damaged some parts of the mural, but hopefully it will be restored soon.
Francis believes that murals are intended to be temporary, as the neighborhood changes, improves and new buildings rise, the murals become another piece of the past. One of his early mural caches, "World of Columbia Heights," is already gone.
When he archived the listing, he wrote, "Sadly, it appears this mural and its cache have gone the way of all good things. If a new mural ever again graces these walls I will re-enable. Goodbye old friend, I and my office neighborhood will miss you."
Francis is always on the lookout for candidates for new mural caches. "Sometimes geocachers tell me about places," he says. That's how he discovered "73 Cents," a mural that depicts the artist's husband's struggle with cancer and is meant to advocate for patients' rights. "It was such an interesting and sad story," he adds.
He's also looking for other urban adventures. "I was thinking about a series showcasing the rock clubs. Maybe a cache at Walter Reed," he says. "The caches I like are not just about the hide, but also about the location."
Ultimately, the mural caches are the best kind of reminders that DC is a complex and vibrant community, one which conventional wisdom and reductionist judgments cannot begin to capture. Whether teaching us about a past DC now gone, or the potential for DC's future, the city's murals are an intimate part of the often-overlooked cultural richness of the District of Columbia.
Below are a few of my favorite murals, although I will not divulge the exact locations of the geocaches so you can go out and find them yourself!
If you refuse a bag search at a WMATA subway station, Metro Transit Police may follow you if you leave and even if you board a bus. That's what happened to me Tuesday morning in Shaw.
I entered the Shaw Metro station with a bag containing my lunch and my laptop. An officer waved me aside on the north mezzanine and told me to put my bag on the table for inspection. Stunned that I was being stopped without cause, I asked the officer if he had a warrant. He said that if I refused, I was "welcome to use another mode of transportation."
I refused the search, which is mostly about theatrics than actual security. I didn't want to enable what critics have labeled "security theater", the symbolic show of force to give the appearance of protection. In fact, WMATA admits that since they don't search every bag, it's really more about perception, providing "an additional visible layer of protection." Putting on a show is not a good reason to rummage through people's personal items and I didn't want to enable that behavior and belief.
By agreeing to an "optional" WMATA search, I was afraid I would also be inadvertently consenting to a search of my laptop, which would be an abusive and unreasonable intrusion for a transit agency. I wasn't sure if the officers were properly trained to know the nuances of what was and wasn't an appropriate search. How would you even argue with an officer who believes random bag checks at one station actually deter terrorism, anyway? It's like arguing the plot in a fiction novel: the very premise is that facts only partly matter.
Remembering reports that Metro Transit Police only set up searches at one entrance, I pointed to the south mezzanine and said, "I can use that entrance," and the officer said nothing. I left the north entrance to walk to the south entrance a block away.
As I descended the escalators to the south mezzanine, I spotted more officers in the distance. Realizing that the answer would probably be the same at this entrance. I calmly turned around and left, deciding to catch the bus instead.
Little did I know that Metro Transit Police would follow me there. I boarded the 70 bus, which runs above the Green and Yellow lines on 7th Street NW and SW. Two officers got on behind me. Their vests were marked with the word "Terrorism" (perhaps, "Anti-Terrorism" or "Counter-Terrorism", I don't remember which), so clearly they were not there to investigate a fist fight, theft, or fare evasion.
One officer took a seat and another stood, mostly watching his phone. Neither of them said anything to me.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, I thought. Why would police follow me for refusing a supposedly "optional" search, even after I was told I was "welcome to use another mode of transportation"? I was on another mode, after all.
When the bus reached H Street, where I intended to transfer to the Red Line, I paused a moment in my seat, to see what the officers were doing. They remained on the bus. I then got up and stood in line to leave the front of the bus. As I neared the front door, I looked back and noticed that one of the officers had left the back door of the bus and was standing outside.
To test if he was following me, I then sat down in a seat at the front of the bus, and the officer re-boarded the bus through the back door. The driver closed the doors and I asked her if she could reopen it so I could leave. She pushed the door mechanism, which reopened the front and the back door and I left the bus.
As I left the bus at the front door, the officer standing at the back door, partly hanging out the bus, waved and smiled at me through the glass of the rear open door. This act was about sending me a message: if you refuse a search, you will be followed, which is itself a form of intimidation.
WMATA's stated policy allows customers to refuse the allegedly optional search. "Customers who encounter a baggage checkpoint at a station entrance may choose not to enter the station if they would prefer not to submit their carry-ons for inspection," it says.
While you may be "welcome to use another mode of transportation," bag searches aren't really optional if Metro Transit Police follow you and deliberately make it known that they're following you.
Church parking is a huge problem in Shaw, especially today. It's commonly said that the churches in Shaw used to serve immediate residents, and thus didn't need as much parking, but as their congregants have moved farther away over time, they need space for their cars on Sundays. But is this true?
Of the 42 churches reporting in the NW Urban Renewal area (see map), only 14 had 40% or more of their membership in the renewal area in 1957. Yes, that is 56 years ago, but as present day churches grousing about parking dredge up members who've been attending for 40-50 years as an excuse to ignore parking violations of members of undetermined tenure, I say it is fair to look at membership patterns from way back then.
In [an Examiner article from October, entitled "Parking conflicts prompting churches to flee D.C.,"] Lincoln Congregational Temple is mentioned as one of the complaining churches. On page 39 of the 1957 survey only 25% of its congregants lived in the area and supposedly of that, most were elderly, people who should be by now at home with Jesus. With the Savior and not driving and trying to find a parking spot.The parking problem has grown especially acute recently. Residents petitioned DDOT to extend residential permit parking (RPP) to Sundays, meaning churchgoers who don't live in the area can only park for 2 hours on RPP blocks and not at all on one side of every street. That has made it impossible for church patrons to use the street parking.
In '57 a majority of their membership [were] up in Brookland and over in Kenilworth. It is possible that the church recruited a ton of members in the Shaw area since the survey, who then moved out of the area and come back on Sundays. However, I don't think that gives anyone a moral right to a parking spot, no more than having the right to use the toilet in your first apartment years after you turned in the keys and got your deposit back.
Shaw is chock full of churches, and some of them have figured out how to worship without double parking and the like. Sadly it is the ones who haven't seriously looked for solutions, other than breaking the law, who seem to scream the loudest. It is embarrassing as a believer, when some church leaders try to make parking a theological issue. Parking ain't in the Bible.
I also suspect that in 1957 Shaw had fewer resident-owned cars, so there wasn't the same level of competition for curb space.
DDOT has been working with individual churches for some time to try to find extra space that can accommodate parking on Sundays, like diagonal parking or space along the medians of wide avenues. But any such parking has to be open to all, not just churchgoers (anything else would be fairly clearly unconstitutional), and just adding more free parking won't ultimately solve the problem.
Many of the churches, but not all, have nearby office buildings or public schools with unused parking capacity on Sundays. There should be a way to work out a deal where the churches can use these lots. However, that parking won't be entirely free.
As we saw with the compromise the Washington Interfaith Network worked out for Columbia Heights churches to use the DC USA garage, once free parking is clearly not an option, suddenly a compromise that involves non-free parking becomes tenable.
The neighborhood parking also isn't entirely full, now that it's so restricted. It should be possible to let some people who want to drive to Shaw park on neighborhood streets, but there isn't room for all. How can DC allocate this scarce resource? The only ways to divvy up a limited resource is lottery, queue, pricing, favoritism (choosing one preferential group), or a hodgepodge.
Right now, it's favoritism for residents, with no option for others. The most sensible approach would be to set up a parking pass that's not free, perhaps also limited in number, which people could purchase to park in Shaw on Sundays. But the assumption that parking must be free, that free parking is a God-given right, is a straitjacket that forecloses better, creative solutions.
Update: The change to the parking included restrictions to RPP holders only on one side of every street. The original article did not mention this feature of the new policy. It has been corrected.
Shaw residents will soon not be able to enjoy resident parking privileges in Logan Circle, while far more distant residents of neighborhoods like Georgetown and Kalorama will get special entitlements. That's the consequence of the recent redistricting and Evans' successful fight 2 weeks ago against a bill that would have kept parking zones from changing.
Shaw moved from Ward 2 to Ward 6 in the recent redistricting. A line in the redistricting committee report proposed keeping parking zones fixed as ward boundaries change, and the Gray administration sent the Council legislation to do just that. But Evans successfully blocked the bill on July 10, which means that Shaw residents will soon lose Ward 2 parking stickers and gain Ward 6 stickers.
Meanwhile, Logan Circle will soon get a pilot program reserving one side of every street for Ward 2 residents only. This will make it far easier for Ward 2 residents to park in Logan, even if they live at the other end of the ward in Georgetown or Kalorama, but harder for residents of other wards to park there, including the people of newly-6 Shaw.
DC parking zones are fundamentally unfair
Unlike almost all other cities, DC sets zones for its resident permit parking (RPP) program based on political ward boundaries, rather than a some objective and geographic standard. Our zones are also very large, larger than many other cities; instead of only helping residents park in their own neighborhoods, people get special rights to park in other people's neighborhoods so long as they are in the same ward.
Some people really like that. When redistricting moved the Palisades from Ward 2, which spans downtown, to upper Northwest's Ward 3 in 2002, residents objected. They were not upset because they didn't want the Ward 3 councilmember to represent them, but because they liked having a special privilege to drive to places like Foggy Bottom or Logan Circle and park with special resident privileges.
However, this is unfair to residents of the more desirable parking areas. At a recent parking hearing, Anne-Marie Bairstow of Woodley Park argued for smaller zones. She said that many people drive from other neighborhoods to Woodley Park, use their resident privileges to park, and take Metro. This deprives actual Woodley residents of the benefits of the RPP system.
It's also unfair to people who happen to live over a line. Palisades residents suddenly lost a privilege. Adams Morgan residents, who are in Ward 1, or Bloomingdale residents in Ward 5 never had that privilege in the first place.
This isn't the purpose of RPP. DC has a program to favor residents of an area in the competition for on-street parking spaces. It could limit that to only the immediate neighborhood, which would be fair, or perhaps it could instead give the privilege to anyone in the District, but giving it to an arbitrary set of alternative neighborhoods is not.
There's reason to be extra sensitive to this issue because redistricting moved Shaw out of Ward 2 and into Ward 6. Shaw happened to be the lowest-income and most-minority section of the ward, which has now gotten even richer and whiter. That gives this policy action an added economic and racial effect, whether or not that was the intent.
When Kingman Park moved from Ward 6 to 7, it stayed in Zone 6, so there is precedent already for keeping neighborhoods in zones other than their ward.
Upcoming Logan restriction will further discriminate against Shaw
Evans' office also recently proposed setting aside one side of every street in Logan Circle for Zone 2 parking only. Normally, most residential streets allow people with the right zone sticker to park all day, and people without it can still park during the day for 2 hours and nights and weekends without limit. But a few years ago, parts of Wards 1 and 6 started having one side of each street restricted so that people without the right zone sticker couldn't
ever park there at all park there at all during RPP enforcement hours.
Evans decided to suggest this for Logan as well. However, his staff and the Logan ANC turned down a suggestion to limit the special privilege to people actually in Logan. If they had done that, this would have put equal limits on the people of Shaw and people of Georgetown (and Dupont, where I live). If this bill had passed, then Shaw would have still gotten the privilege, though people of Bloomingdale, the Palisades, or Columbia Heights would not.
Instead, we have an even less fair outcome than either of those.
Shaw doesn't only lose out; they do gain the ability to park with resident privileges in Ward 6, including H Street, Barracks Row, and around the ballpark. That includes a lot of streets that only allow Ward 6 parkers on one side. However, while there hasn't been any kind of ward-wide poll, at least some Shaw leaders had specifically asked to stay in Zone 2, suggesting that residents preferred 2. Most of 2 is closer to Shaw than most of 6.
The best solution is to let DDOT, or some sort of independent commission, set parking zone boundaries based on neighborhoods and geographically-similar regions instead of political wards, as most other cities do. Or the zones could correspond to ANCs, with a provision that people right near an edge can still park in an adjacent zone.
But taking privileges from Shaw without taking them from other neighborhoods to the west isn't the right answer and isn't fair.
The National Capital Park and Planning Commission, forerunner to today's NCPC, declared most of Shaw, Mount Vernon Square and Triangle, Capitol Hill, Southwest, Buena Vista and other neighborhoods "obsolete" in 1950. Yes, amazingly, they really used that term.
That's some of the astounding information in the 1950 document Washington, Present and Future from NCPPC. ShawNeighborhood listserv participant RayM scanned a number of pages showing plans to radically remove multi-family dwellings from historic neighborhoods and force the kind of low-density, single-use, less walkable pattern of development that permanently destroyed many urban areas.
What was wrong? People lived in neighborhoods with alley dwellings, some of which were less well maintained. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs talked about how planners in Boston declared the North End a similar "slum" simply because people lived at a certain population density per acre, and the view at the time was that government had to force people to live more spread out.
There are certainly reasons to believe race played a part as well; these neighborhoods were predominantly African-American. The solution, people thought at the time, was to tear down the old neighborhoods and build new ones in the "towers in the park" style of the housing projects we all know and loathe today. Here is their plan for Shaw:
Fortunately for Shaw, a thriving neighborhood with beautiful old row houses and some of DC's best-preserved carriage homes, most of this plan never came to pass. It largely did, however, in Southwest:
Besides wholesale demolition of neighborhoods, planners tried to push people out of so-called "blighted" neighborhoods with zoning. On Capitol Hill, for instance, the zoning plan wanted to take the fabric of different size buildings coexisting and declare that illegal. Instead, all commerce in the NE quadrant of the Hill would be restricted to H Street, Massachusetts, and a 2-block stretch of 8th, and all multifamily to Maryland Avenue.
They also wanted to widen 11th Street and demolish everything for 2 blocks on either side of East Capitol to create a new extended Mall. (This is the reason that the street between A and C NE is Constitution, not B, and likewise in SE is Independence, even though the original L'Enfant plan called them B Street).
Restore the zoning code to legalize historic neighborhoods
The current DC Zoning Update is rewriting the 1958 zoning code that came from this era. When evaluating it and other proposals, it's important to recognize that some characteristics of the District today come directly out of explicit "social engineering" decisions that planners pushed on the District at the time.
Rules against accessory dwellings and corner stores, parking minimums and single-use zoning were all efforts to zone many of the people, mostly African-American, out of the neighborhoods. When the Office of Planning suggests relaxing certain rules, often that's because the rule doesn't describe what's in the neighborhood today, or what was there in 1950, since the 1958 code was deliberately trying to zone out historic uses.
Accessory dwellings, corner stores, and more are all ways to let the city be what it naturally grew to be, before people around 1950 decided to force it to change. You can help by joining Pro-DC today.
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