Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Ward 3

Public Spaces

DC sports spaces give short shrift to girls

The Department of Parks and Recreation doesn't allocate its resources in a way that matches the gender composition of the District. We are split, more or less, 50/50. Shouldn't DC support its citizens' recreational needs accordingly?

Photo by susieq3c on flickr.

The top five recreational activities that girls participate in are: dancing, swimming, basketball, jogging, volleyball. For boys, the ranking goes: basketball, football, soccer, jogging, swimming.

And yet, at least in Ward 3, that's not how DPR allocates its land or facilitiesnot even close. Neither baseball nor softball make either gender's list of top activities, but there are at least 14 public baseball fields in Ward 3. And girls are far less likely to play baseball than boys.

Numerous studies have shown that physical activity and recreation are essential to physical, emotional, and intellectual health. The White House, the American Medical Association, and numerous other organizations recognize the importance of the issue, as witnessed by the First Lady's "Let's Move" campaign. A recent study shows that urban children in particular get more exercise when they have the opportunity to play outside. And both boys and girls need exercise.

Allocating half the outdoor recreational space in Northwest DC to an activity that attracts less than one tenth of half the population leaves a lot of those kids to fend for themselves. This is a problem we can fix with compromise and consideration and by asking the right questions.

Perhaps our starting assumptions are biased. A lack of cyclists on dangerous arterial roads doesn't prove cyclists wouldn't ride on them if it were safe to do so. And it's possible there's no clear demand for girl's facilities because they can't even begin to play their sports.

In the 1990s, Vienna, Austria, realized that in formulating its urban policy it hadn't taken into account the problems that women and girls faced. So it started a successful program to redesign the city to meet their needs. DPR needs a similar strategy for identifying interest and providing facilities for all potential participants.

Otherwise, the message the city is sending our girls is either "we're just not that concerned about you," or "we haven't thought that much about you." My eyes have been opened to this situation as an equity issue because I have daughters. But no one should be comfortable with anything resembling those attitudes.

Physical activity, and how our city provides appropriate facilities for it, is not something frivolous. It has far-reaching implications for the individual, the community, the country, and beyond.

We should ask ourselves how we decide what uses are best for our green space and what kinds of facilities will meet the needs of both boys and girls.


ANC commissioner tries to stall New Mexico Ave. bike lanes

Despite having endorsed bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue in July, ANC 3D will consider a draft resolution asking the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to delay installing the lanes at its meeting tonight.

Rendering of proposed bike lane on New Mexico Avenue from WABA.

New Mexico Avenue forms one of the few street connections between American University and the neighborhoods of Glover Park and Wesley Heights. The resolution, drafted by ANC 3D Commissioner Michael Gold, argues that DDOT shouldn't build bike lanes "until the completion of a formal analysis and impact study" of the surrounding transportation network which the ANC and neighborhood groups can review.

On Monday, DDOT announced that it plans to complete installing the lanes this week and posted photos outlining where they will go. DDOT has worked with the community to change the proposed design so that it would not take away any parking places.

ANC 3D voted 5-4 in favor of the bike lanes, but commissioner Tom Smith, who opposes them, happened to not be in town for the July meeting. He's marshaled those constituents who previously expressed opposition to the lane's installation to once again re-litigate the decision via email messages to the ANC supporting the resolution, which was introduced without proper notice to the community in an effort to reduce supporter outcry. Cycling advocates only found out about it yesterday.

Markings showing where the bike lanes will go. Photo from DDOT.

This bike lane is an important connection in Ward 3, and if you support it, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Let Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh know that you support the New Mexico Avenue bike lane. Cheh is head of the council's Transportation Committee and has previously indicated her strong support for Ward 3 bike infrastructure. Ask her to have your back on getting this lane installed and to reach out to DDOT to make sure it keeps with its installation schedule. You can call her office at (202) 724-8062 or send an email to
  2. You can also remind the five ANC members who voted in favor of the prior resolution, Stu Ross, W. Philip Thomas, Rory Slatko, Penny Pagano, and Joe Wisniewski, that you and the community still supports the bike lanes. You can find their email addresses at the ANC 3D website.


Explore Tenleytown's successes, failures, and futures

Ward 3 has seen a lot of changes in the last few years and faces exciting opportunities for urbanization, particularly DC's highest neighborhood. Next Saturday, learn about Tenleytown's future with Ward3Vision and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Photo by stevesunusual on Flickr.

At the beginning of 2003, Tenleytown's retail strip was in its twentieth year of decline, with stores closing and vitality crippled by decades of persistent opposition to development. Despite sitting directly atop of a Metro station, the former Sears at the center of Tenleytown could not attract a tenant.

That year, several major retailers had moved into a subdivided Sears building, now sporting an arcing gray crown of 208 condominiums. Today, the area around the Tenleytown metro station has seen revived buildings, new restaurants, and bustling sidewalks. However, the neighborhood still has more potential than results. Public involvement is needed to carefully integrate new density into the existing neighborhoods without sacrificing either.

Next Saturday, join Ward3Vision and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for a stroll around Tenleytown. Open to all, the walking tour will visit key sites in the area, looking at current projects like the AU Law School as well as recent ones. Which projects are successful, and why? How have other projects failed at creating livable, walkable spaces?

The event will meet at the eastern entrance to the Tenleytown-AU metro station at 10am. It will run two hours and involve lots of walking. Help Ward 3 Vision by registering now and wearing comfortable footwear on the 28th. We hope to see you there!


Ward 3 Democrats forget mission, fixate on parking

A Republican, Patrick Mara, just got the most votes in DC's Ward 3 in a special election. Leaders of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee, an organization formed "to support and elect Democratic candidates for local and national office," meanwhile, were more concerned with ramming through a resolution against the DC zoning rewrite's parking proposals.

Photo by Mr Thinktank on Flickr.

This resolution claims that the DC Office of Planning has no data to back up its recommendations to eliminate minimum parking requirements near transit or for new single-family homes and small residential buildings, and reduce them for schools. It implies without any basis that the zoning rewrite will actually take away parking.

The Ward 3 Dem leaders behind this resolution are now going around claiming that this reflects the views of Democrats in Ward 3. In reality, it represents only the views of 23 out of 94 delegates in the group. Its supporters used procedural maneuvers to ensure it would pass without delegates even getting to debate the merits of the issue.

The task force

Last fall, resident John Chelen, an avowed opponent of the zoning rewrite, approached Ward 3 Democrats chairperson Shelly Tomkin. He had already formed a "task force" made up of about 7 people who opposed the zoning rewrite and some who had publicly testified against it. Chelen suggested to Tomkin that the task force put together a white paper on the subject, supposedly to inform the delegates of the pros and cons of the proposals.

Chelen testified against the rewrite process on October 5, 2012, asking the DC Council to step in and essentially require the Office of Planning to restart the 5-year project. This came before his task force had issued any paper on the merits of the zoning rewrite and before the organization's broader membership had debated the issues or adopted any resolution.

Tomkin approved this task force without including any members with differing points of view. When word got out about the task force from Chelen's testimony, Ward 3 Democratic Committee delegate Ellen Bass and another resident insisted that Chelen include them to give some balance (although even after a 3rd resident joined later, they were a minority of the members). Chelen, after substantial initial delay, permitted them to join.

The group's "white paper" purported to be a fact-based analysis of the Office of Planning's policy recommendations on parking. But not surprisingly, the report contained only "facts" that supported the anti-rewrite position and unsupported assertions about the horribles that will result if DC adopts the proposals. Yet Tomkin distributed it to the Committee delegates as an objective statement of the "pros and cons" of the proposals without any caveat about dissenters on the task force.

For example, there is no mention of the environmental concerns about car use and vehicle congestion. The report cites no data to back up assertions like these:

  • In most instances, current parking requirements are substantially less than likely parking need that would be generated by use, so current requirements only partially mitigate the impact of spillover parking.
  • Elimination of minimum parking requirements on transit zones will result in spillover parking in residential neighborhoods near Metro stations
  • Elimination of minimum parking requirements ... will result in people who live near transit zones or downtown to walk blocks from their car to their home ...
  • The rewrite will reduce parking requirements for schools, hotels, and churches. [In fact, all the rewrite proposes to do is base the requirement on square footage rather than factors that change over time like number of seats, rooms and employees.]
The paper also reflected a clear anti-zoning rewrite bias. It contained arguments attacking the OP proposals which it called "Stated Justifications." According to Bass, she had prepared a more balanced draft, but then 2 avowed opponents of the parking proposals reworked it. She and two other members who did not agree with the paper prepared their own "Alternative Analysis," which Bass said she had to distribute to Committee delegates herself.

The resolution

Chelen then presented a resolution condemning OP's parking proposals at the Ward 3 Dems' April 11 meeting. It states, among other things, that the "parking proposals adversely will affect residents, businesses and the vibrancy of the city," that they "do not reflect community preferences," and that they are "not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan."

These are at best opinion statements not supported by data in the "white paper." For one thing, the zoning task force did not assess the community preference beyond its own membership of 10 or so people, and 3 of those people did not agree that the parking proposals would be detrimental. As for the Comprehensive Plan, this too would prove without basis, as soon became clear.

The first order of business on April 11 was a lengthy debate on whether attending members could vote in place of absent delegates, as the Committee Bylaws clearly permit. After much discussion, Tomkin thought better of denying these members their vote, but because of the time it took to resolve this issue, and Tomkin's decision to let an unrelated speaker give his presentation first, delegates grew impatient and some left before the late vote.

Furthermore, procedural shenanigans by the resolution's supporters ensured there would be no floor debate on its substance. Yes, on a very contentious issue that has divided many in Ward 3, and on a resolution that says policies "are not supported by data," there was no actual discussion about those facts. While the resolution purported to reflect "community preferences," community members never had a chance to talk about their preferences.

Tom Smith, an ANC commissioner and Committee delegate, did insist on asking Chelen how many parking places in Ward 3 would be eliminated if the rewrite went through. Chelen responded that he did not know and did not have any examples he could cite, but he was sure it would happen.

Afterwards, Chairperson Tomkin issued a statement in "themail," claiming that the resolution "was approved in a vote by a broad majority taken April 11." This careful wording obscures the reality that just 23 people voted in favor, a small proportion of the 94 Committee delegates and hardly a majority of the Ward 3 Democratic Committee. In fact, fewer than half the delegates (only about 44 people) even bothered to attend the April 11 meeting. By the time the resolution came up for a vote after 9:30 pm, there was barely a quorum present, and only about 30 delegates even voted.

The resolution does not speak for Democrats in Ward 3

The vote total is important because Chelen is pushing other organizations, such as the Cleveland Park Citizen's Association to adopt a similar resolution. He intends to bring this resolution to the DC Council as reflecting the views of Ward 3.

But his hyperbole is overblown and inaccurate. On the Chevy Chase listserv, he stated, "The resolution passed by a supermajority vote [of the Ward 3 Dems], a telling sign of community resistance to the ill-considered and over-reaching proposals made by the Office of Planning."

Ironically, despite the claim that the minimum parking proposals are inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan, the very next day after the Ward 3 Dems vote, the Zoning Commission approved the Babes Billiards PUD, a mixed-use building in what would be a transit zone near a Metro station that would not have on-site parking. The PUD order cited 23 policies within the Comprehensive Plan that support a development with no on-site parking, beginning on page 11.

Being a neophyte at these political meetings, but not in life itself, I expected that a few motivated individuals could move the needle on getting things done through sheer guile and force of will. I was surprised, however, how an organization named the Ward 3 Democratic Committee could permit such a clearly non-democratic process, push through a white paper without even hearing dissenting viewpoints.

Today, the "white paper" is still not available on the Ward 3 Democrats' website, although it is available online, along with the "Alternative Analysis" from the 3 task force members who did not agree with the paper Chelen and Tomkin distributed. Instead of alienating Democrats by letting the group be a tool of those who want to advance a specific agenda on a non-partisan issue, the Ward 3 Democratic Committee ought to focus on its actual electoral mission.


Candidates want affordable housing, balk at more housing

One of the most significant ways to ensure some affordable housing is to provide more housing. It's not the only way and not sufficient on its own, but the clear connection between housing supply and price appears lost on multiple candidates for the April 23 DC Council at-large special election.

Photo by james.thompson on Flickr.

At a Chevy Chase Community Association meeting last week, many candidates affirmed support for affordable housing, according to a report on the Chevy Chase listserv, but then wavered or even outright opposed allowing people to rent out basements, garages, or parts of their homes to create new housing opportunities.

Lorrie Scally wrote:

Patrick Mara said "No" to the rentals because he feared they would result in an overflow of students into already crowded schools.

Meanwhile, according to Scally, "Matthew Frumin expressed his support for ADU rentals in all residential neighborhoods," while Elissa Silverman said she wants to ensure they don't impact neighbors much (similar to what she said on Let's Choose DC).

Yet, Scally said, "The candidates' presentations gave support to DC education issues and affordable housing for residents." Mara has endorsed affordable housing spending in the past; on one of the Let's Choose questions he actually answered, he said, "I'm certain we can find the millions need to fund libraries and affordable housing initiatives." He told the DC realtors, "The cultural diversity of DC is at risk if we do not protect and build affordable housing."

Anita Bonds did not attend the forum.

Adding housing must be a part of the housing strategy

About 1,000 more people move into the District each month than the number who leave. Moreover, the demand to come into DC is even greater than this.

Absent enough new housing, many people who want to come here will rent or buy units in gentrifying neighborhoods where prices are still lower than elsewhere. That raises housing prices in those neighborhoods, hastening the problem of some longtime residents being or feeling priced out, and others deciding to take a windfall and sell their houses at a big profit.

If we want longtime residents to stay, an important element of the equation is to find somewhere else for the people to live who want to come into DC. Basement and garage apartments are one important potential source. We already have large single-family houses with one or two retirees who aren't actually using the whole house. Letting them rent the space is a win-win for everyone except for those who want to keep the neighborhood exclusive and underpopulated relative to its 1950 size.

A lot of people in Ward 3 would rather the population growth go somewhere else. A lot of people vote in Ward 3, and several candidates are clearly seeking their votes. But letting a whole section of the city opt out of growth is not the right policy. It harms poorer neighborhoods by diverting more housing pressure to other areas, hastening gentrification.

How do the candidates stack up?

Four years ago, when I endorsed Patrick Mara, I perhaps assumed too readily that because he lives in a denser neighborhood and bicycles, he also supports a growing city. He might, but he came out strongly against a new matter-of-right building in Chevy Chase, opposes accessory dwellings, and refused to answer either of the two Let's Choose questions on growth. That's disappointing and a little surprising for someone who claims to want less government regulation.

I'm also disappointed Elissa Silverman has not been stronger on smart growth. She has less reason to try to pander for votes in Ward 3, when Ward 6 has become the highest-voting ward. Many of Ward 3's supposedly-liberal residents and newspapers nonetheless seem to go for whomever will lower their own taxes. As a supporter of affordable housing and equity for all neighborhoods, she also shouldn't tolerate some residents west of Rock Creek trying to redline growth and change solely to the east.

Unfortunately, while Matthew Frumin has been willing to stand up for (reasonable) growth more vocally than others, this morning's poll seems to confirm that he is most likely to play a "spoiler" role. Our readers, contributors, and I myself have often wrestled with how to think through the game theory of a race, and decide how much to weigh various policy positions or trade off candidate strengths versus electability.

This post is not an endorsement; our policy is to decide endorsements by a poll of recent, active contributors, which came out clearly for Silverman. On balance, I'm still going to vote for her, too. Besides, zoning isn't the only issue that matters, and she has some definite strengths on workforce development, oversight of city agencies, and more.

But just because we've endorsed should not prevent us from helping inform readers about candidates' positions, whether or not they comport with our endorsement (in this case, it's mostly a neutral effect), or holding candidates responsible for staking out good positions.


DDOT sidewalk gap policy has gaps of its own

Sidewalks are a network to get us from one place to another, just like roads. But the procedures DDOT uses to identify and fill sidewalk gaps take a piecemeal approach that sets up barriers to completing the network.

Photo by the author.

Currently, DDOT requires that 51% of households on a single block approve the addition of a sidewalk, and that the neighborhood ANC file a corresponding resolution. If we consider sidewalks to be roadways for pedestrians, then we need to treat them as such. The default position should be that neighbors have to put forth the effort to oppose a sidewalk, instead requiring supporters to petition for one.

In other words: If folks wanted a sidewalk, they would contact DDOT, and those who opposed it would have to organize against it. The community would have to jump through fewer hoops to get a sidewalk built.

The DC Council's Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010 moves us in this direction, but DDOT needs to update its procedures.

Iona's Pedestrian Advocacy Project has studied the issue and has come up with a set of proposed procedures. In addition, we will request that DDOT develop a 5-year plan to fill sidewalk gaps in priority areas throughout the District of Columbia, as part of the agency budget to be presented to the Council during its budget approval process this spring.

  1. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on both sides of all "main streets," defined as those that have on-going traffic throughout the day and require pedestrians to walk in the street or cross at unsafe locations to a sidewalk.
  2. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street on roadways under construction, as specified in Section 2 (a) of the Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010, and on roadway segments for which residents have petitioned for sidewalks.
  3. Sidewalk gaps shall be filled on at least one side of the street within one-quarter mile of priority areas: schools, recreation and park facilities, and transit stops.
  4. For streets within priority areas not undergoing construction, 75% of residents on a block may petition NOT to have a sidewalk. The ANC for the area shall consider the petition and forward its recommendation to DDOT. DDOT shall determine whether the absence of a sidewalk presents a pedestrian safety issue or conflicts with an ADA requirement that cannot be resolved without a sidewalk.
  5. For those streets that do not have a sidewalk on either side due to engineering issues: If the residents have petitioned for no sidewalks and their request is approved by DDOT, the speed limit on that street will be lowered to 15 MPH.
  6. Residents may submit petitions to the ANC at any time to register their opposition to a sidewalk on their block.
  7. DDOT will notify all residents of these new procedures.
  8. DDOT will keep a record, including the dates, of these petitions on their website for five years, after which they will no longer be in force.
  9. DDOT will update the sidewalk gap map as gaps are filled.
What do you think? You can rate and comment on these procedures on a survey we have set up. Please do so by March 1st, so we can consider your input and include it when the pedestrian advocacy group presents the proposals to DDOT at the end of March.

Cross-posted at Forest Hills Connection.


Where in Ward 3 needs sidewalks most?

Sidewalks are more than a way to get from one place to another on foot. They connect us to our neighbors and neighborhoods. And they become even more crucial as we age.

Children from the Franklin Montessori School enjoy the new sidewalk on Brandywine Street. Photo by George Branyan.

Iona Senior Services has spearheaded a pedestrian advocacy effort to focus on filling priority sidewalk gaps in Ward 3. This effort and has focused on updating the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT)'s 2008 map of sidewalk gaps for Ward 3 and proposing new procedures for closing gaps.

The Priority Sidewalk Assurance Act of 2010, initiated by Councilmember Mary Cheh, establishes routes to schools, recreation and park areas, and transit stops as priority areas for filling in missing sidewalks. And when streets with no sidewalks are due for reconstruction or new curbs and gutters, the law requires building a sidewalk on at least one side.

Sharon Bauer, a former traffic analyst from Austin, Texas, with the assistance of DC Office of Planning, has put in many hours of work to update the DDOT map. She based her changes on the latest Google Street View data. The map includes quarter-mile radius zones (light blue circles) around schools, recreation areas and Metro stops. This is an approximately 5 to 10-minute walk, which we propose as the highest priority areas for filling missing sidewalks.

We have three categories of streets denoted by different colors:

We need your input

If you live, work, or spend time in Ward 3, please download the PDF file of the map and zoom into the areas you are familiar withyour ANC, schools, etc.

Focus particular attention on priority areasthe quarter-mile circles around significant pedestrian features such as schools, Metro stops, rec centers and playgrounds.

Check for inaccuracies on the map, especially the streets marked in RED (no sidewalk on either side) and GREEN (partial sidewalk on one or both sides or difficult to tell).

Then, go to this survey form to provide feedback or recommendations for areas that should receive high priority for sidewalk installation, or in some cases, point out areas where no sidewalk is needed or reasonable. You may also email your feedback to use at

Cross-posted at Forest Hills Connection.

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