Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Local involvement is so much fun

From Commissioner Pernell


Mr. Layman I disagree, because in the passed you been wrong about every class of liquor and in some cases you have lied. I am in support of Commissioner Wirt's concerns and issues with additional liquor licensing on the H Street Corridor.

From my emailed reply:

Those are some pretty serious statements about my efforts, intent, and methods. I do stand by my words and actions. I would argue that my position is research-based, consistent, and predictable, and consistent with a position I laid out in 2002, as seen from the reprinted testimony appended below. My position is also based on my observations of other neighborhood commercial districts in the city and around the country, as well as reading and other research.

As far as the specific proposals go, I have a hard time seeing how the 1200 and 1300 blocks of H Street should be considered fundamentally different from the 500-700 blocks of 8th Street SE, the 200-300 blocks of Massachusetts Ave. NE, the 200-300 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, the 1500-1800 blocks of 17th Street NW, etc. In addition to a number of Class C establishments, each of these strips has one Class A establishment, and one or two Class B establishments (actually 8th Street SE only has Class Cs and one Class A).

Last week, I went to an amazing wine and cheese tasting at !!!!!!9th and M Street NW at Modern Liquors, and it is well known that the liquor store on 8th Street SE has completely changed its marketing and product mix away from products most likely to be consumed in the public space (the same goes for Modern Liquors).

In my weblog entry on this issue, I added the following, which was not in any of the email postings [deleted since it is in the weblog entry from Wednesday]

If you want, I can probably dig up a pdf file of the article cited below and send it around... In any case, no one can claim that I don't make my positions well-known and public. Lies? Well, I like to think of myself as very much fact-based.

Richard Layman


Good afternoon Councilmember Ambrose and membersof the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Committee on the "The Operation of theAlcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.” My name is Richard Layman and I live in Ward 6, on 6th StreetNE, just north of H Street. It is an historic neighborhood of late 19th and early 20th century buildings and is variously described as the Near Northeast or Capitol Hill North. H Street is its spine. I have lived in the neighborhood for about 12 years.

Traditionally, the operations of Washington’sAlcoholic Beverage Control Board have served to sanction the status quo. For example, the pattern of Board decisions regarding my neighborhood clearly indicates that the Board has little inclination to deny licenses or renewals, and in fact it can be said that the Board coerces protestants and other community bodies such as ANCs to negotiate voluntary agreements that sanction ther enewal of current licenses and the granting of new licenses.

Imagine my chagrin when I learned that Section25-314(a)(4) of the D.C. Code provides that, in deciding whether to issue a new license, the Board is to consider "whether issuance of the license would create or contribute to an over-concentration of licensed establishments which is likely to affect adversely the locality, section, or portion in which the establishment is located."

You will understand my chagrin, because in analyzing the Master List of ABC Licensees, I discovered that:

• The H Street NE neighborhood has 48 Class A and B alcohol outlets for a population of approximately 28,000 people.

• Compare that to Georgetown, which has 16 Class Aand B outlets for 16,000 residents. Georgetown has one such establishment for every thousand residents while my neighborhood has almost two such establishments for every thousand residents.

• While ANC6A on the northeast and ANC6B on the southeast have comparable populations, the H StreetNE neighborhood has half again as many licensees–15 more–compared to Capitol Hill SE.

I find this alarming because in preparing this testimony, I have discovered that there is a large body of academic research demonstrating the linksbetween the availability of alcohol and the disorder in neighborhoods, particularly with regard to violent crime. The strongest statistical analysis yet, a study published last year, concluded that–

"High alcohol outlet density is associated with high rates of violent crime... Spatial analysis suggests that alcohol outlets elevate the rate of violent crime within the immediate neighborhood context, not in surrounding neighborhoods."

It is unfortunate that these research findingsdon’t make their way into policy prescriptions for the District of Columbia. I have appended this study, “Spatial Dynamics of Alcohol Availability, Neighborhood Structure and Violent Crime” [by Dennis Gorman] from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, and the section on“Liquor, Disorder and Crime” from the book Body Count to this testimony, and I suggest that they be required reading for all members of the ABC Board.

I urge you to look at these issues from the perspective of our community:

1. Research has proven that there is a direct link between the availability of alcohol and violent crime.

2. Thus, it follows that the more alcohol sales outlets there are, the more crime (and disorder) that results.

3. The H Street NE neighborhood clearly has an over-concentration of Class A and B alcohol outlets.

4. We don’t need precise statistics to know that our neighborhood suffers more crime in comparison to other areas of the City--neighborhoods that likely have fewer alcohol sale outlets than the H Street neighborhood. All we need to do is open The Common Denominator or the “District Extra” and read the weekly crime reports.

5. The same goes for disorder–public drinking goes on all day long on H Street. We smell urine in the alleys and on the corners of the neighborhood, and we pick the discarded beer, wine, and liquor containers up from our streets, yards, and alleys. Sundays, when the liquor stores are closed, provide a too brief respite from these nuisance crimes and quality of life offenses.

6. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is empowered and expected to consider over-concentration when deciding license matters.

7. Yet, we see little if any substantive action onthe part of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board that addresses the negative impact of Class A and B alcoholic beverage sales in the H Street NE neighborhood.

So, as a Ward 6 resident with a commitment to improving the quality of life in my community, I am asking the City Council to demonstrate the same commitment to the improvement of our neighborhood and our city, by doing the following:

1. Examine the correlation between the impact of alcohol sales and crime on Washington DC’s neighborhoods. Dennis Gorman, the author of the paper on “Alcohol Availability” cited above is interested and able to do such a study of the District of Columbia;

2. Create an office as part of the licensing process that supports citizen efforts and concerns in the hearing process. Such an office could be analogous to the Office of the People’s Counsel function with regard to utility matters;

3. Direct the ABC Board to implement Section25-314(a)(4) of the DC Code when considering licensing matters before them;

4. Provide the means for the ABC Board, other public officials, and private citizens to analyze the concentration of liquor licenses by maintaining reliable data on such licenses and making i tavailable in GIS format on the Internet;

5. Rather than sending written notice only to ANC offices, as now required, create an Internet-accessible database of ABC license application notices that can be queried by Ward, ANC, and SMD;

6. Provide close oversight of this issue as it relates to city neighborhoods under stress and in particular to the Near Northeast/Capitol Hill NorthNeighborhood.

Let’s make our neighborhood a model of how the close regulation of Class A and B liquor licenses can serve as a tool that contributes to increased public safety and public civility throughout the City. This is how we feel about it. “H Street. It’s our neighborhood, it’s our business.” It’s time for the City Council and the ABC Board to feel the same.

Thank you.


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