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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg BattlefieldGettysburg Battlefield. Photo: New York Times.

Last Thursday's New York Times has an article, "Gettysburg Casino Plan Starts Whole New Battle," about the onset of gambling in the State of Pennsylvania, and the jockeying going around the state in order to "win" a casino for the various localities. One of the places under consideration is Gettysburg.

From the article: A casino spokesman says the casino would be a mile and a half from the battlefield, "and there won't be anyone dressed in Civil War costume."

Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Gettysburg Casino Plan Starts Whole New Battle - New York Times.gifLocal residents say that the battlefield is actually the whole town. Graphic: New York Times.

Gettin' Wiggy.jpgSegway in Annapolis, Maryland. Photo: Washington Post.

Urban Gardening

Please Don't Pick the Roses. Let the Chain Alone, Too. - New York Times.jpgNew York Times Photo.

From "Please Don't Pick the Roses. Let the Chain Alone, Too." SEE those fine rose bushes on the left side of the first picture? They recently graced the modest garden at the front of an Upper West Side brownstone co-op for a few weeks. In that short time, they sprouted quickly, brightening the co-op's entrance with nascent red and orange blooms - and the promise of many more for years to come.

Good thing the picture was taken. The roses were stolen a day or two later. Not at night. Not in predawn darkness. Between 4 and 5 p.m. On a Saturday. They were uprooted and taken; the trellises were thrown willy-nilly - and themselves disappeared later.

Plant theft is nothing new. Just a week before someone snatched the roses, three hosta plants at the back of this very same garden were swiped....

The beauty of this park-side street, where a neighborhood association each year plants impatiens next to the trees that line the road, no doubt draws attention. This comes with a price.
In an e-mail message about the rose caper, a longtime resident of the co-op, Jonathan Baker, noted that a previous resident "had the privet bushes chained by their trunks to the iron fence, so if we want to plant anything substantial in the future, the bushes will have to be conspicuously chained in the same fashion until they gain some size in a couple of years."

Night time stroll on H Street

Last night, the Economic Development and Zoning Committee of ANC6A walked along the H Street commercial district as preparation for considering cleaning and safety services along the corridor.

Atlas at nightAtlas at Night.
Store Window and Virginia Gaddis, 1200 block of H Street NE
New woman's clothing store on the 1200 block. Virginia Gaddis window shopping...

Graffiti, roll down security gateRoll down security door graffiti.

Koma-Nores graffiti has been up for about two years. (See "2 Charged With GraffitiMd. Men Spray-Painted in Much of D.C., Officials Say".)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Downtown Circulator imminent

This has been discussed in a number of previous blog entries so I don't feel a huge need to discuss it more, other than to comment that a 5 minute head end is likely to generate a lot of bus bunching, and the demand may not warrant such frequency.
I saw one last Sunday at Union Station, but it wasn't yet painted with the logo and all. I didn't photograph it because the three drivers were all standing in front of the bus, smoking, making for a not very lovely photo.

Why I don't always favor "community" development corporations

721-727 H Street NE, Washington, DC721-727 H Street NE, Washington, DC. Owner: H Street Community Development Corporation. Photo by Elise Bernard.

This building was constructed in the place of four of the oldest historic buildings on H Street, which were illegally demolished by the H Street CDC. The buildings were in disrepair but could have been repaired and rehabbed, likely for less than the $2.2 million+ spent building its sorry replacement. The four buildings on this site were two and three stories tall and were replaced by a one story building with a fake second floor.

Beuchert Tavern, 727 H Street NE, pre-demolitionBeuchert Tavern, constructed between 1872-1875, located at 727 H Street NE, Washington, DC. Demolished in 1999.

Maybe the building didn't "show well", but that was out of neglect and disinvestment, and wasn't the fault of the building. (The process of demolition-by-neglect is usually used by unscrupulous property owners to justify demolition. But the process of disinvestment is the problem, not the state of the building--I call the demolition as "cure" process "Blaming the Building.")

The new building was constructed in part with money from the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, HUD, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta, and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. They are proud of it (see page 9).

I, and others, fought unsuccessfully to get a better building. See this memo (alas, without the photo supplement).

It is projects like these that make me have serious reservations about the success of local government "economic development" projects, and why even though I can support the use of eminent domain powers, I have to be convinced about the merits of each case. The return on investment often seems to be negative.

kavakos clubMatchbook cover acquired by Peter Sefton.

The Kavakos Club had been located in 727 H Street NE years ago, and even made it into the text of a George Pelecanos novel. Rather than taking an asset-based community development approach, the H Street CDC is still committed to the now more than discredited urban clearance and "renewal" approach.

hopper.early-sundayEdward Hopper. "Early Sunday Morning."

These Italianate buildings were similar to those previously extant at 721-727 H Street, NE, Washington, DC.

redhookdinerThe Hope and Anchor Diner, Brooklyn, New York, is an example of an Italianate commercial building of rowhouse construction likely built in the 1870s.

redhookdiner2Interior, Hope and Anchor Diner, Brooklyn, New York.

There are all sorts of ways to look at what you have and imagine what it can be--and then to make it happen.

For more information on Club Kavakos, see this page from Peter Sefton's Victorian Secrets website.

Even more on eminent domain -- DC style

H Street Connection, H Street NE, Washington, DCH Street Connection, 8th and H Streets NE, Washington, DC. Photo by Elise Bernard.

A big pending eminent domain case in DC is exactly like the New London case--eradicating an extant shopping center, Skyland, in Ward 7, to build an "even better one."

In the vein of Sam Smith "those that are eminent get the domain" the project is to be given to the Rappaport Companies of Virginia--for a song.

Rappaport Companies were given another property for very little money in the early 1980s.

That property is now the H Street Connection.

If anything, it should be defined as blight and be seized as well. It's dirty--or we could say politely "it's undermaintained"--and the parking-fronted design contributes to safety and disorder issues, and creates a vacuum--negative space--in the rhythm of the street. It is fully leased up though, and most of the businesses use roll down security gates, further increasing the negative contribution of this complex to safety and perceptions of safety on the H Street corridor.

Granted a goodly part of the trash in this vicinity is contributed by the four bus stops here that connect the 90s buses to the X buses at 8th and H Streets.

But still, you'd think that they would put more money into maintaining the property.

Given this kind of track record, they shouldn't be deemed fit to receive more gifts from the government.

But Rappaport is connected. He is a past chairman of the industry trade association, International Council of Shopping Centers.

I'm sure that has nothing to do with this.

(Also see my blog entry from Sunday, April 10, 2005, "City Business as usual--land giveaways, diminishing urban design.")

Neighborhood Development Center Builds Community Capacity -- in San Jose, California...

If I ever get around to relaunching the Citizens Planning Coalition in a focused way (including block-by-block canvass city-wide to build the constituency and membership on every block, in every neighborhood of the city) this is the kind of stuff it would do...

Neighborhood Development Center, San Jose

Neighborhood Development Center of San Jose

The mission of the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) is to assist all neighborhood associations, emerging and existing, in achieving their desired neighborhood quality of life. The NDC is the initial point of contact for residents to mobilize and organize their neighborhoods. The services provided by the NDC are designed to build the leadership and capacity of residents to attain their neighborhood goals.

Community Connections Spring 2004 Edition

The following are services provided by the Neighborhood Development Center:

Leadership Development and Neighborhood Organizing Trainings
Neighborhood Organizing Assistance
Technological and Information Resources

We have nothing like this in DC.

The level of informed discourse on a wide-variety of local issues demonstrates the impact of the dearth of such.

More on police monitoring cameras

Title 24 of the DC Code of Municipal Regulations is about "Public Space and Safety." Unfortunately, that section of the DCMR is not online at the DCMR website (which is listed in the DC section of links in the right sidebar).

Perusing the chapter, it could probably be argued that alley monitoring cameras wouldn't be a violation. But then, I am not a lawyer. Even so, that slippery slope does concern me, although I support speed cameras and red light cameras as it is. And one could argue with me because the definition of what "closed circuit television" is covers everything, if it is a live link -- "Closed-Circuit Television--Any live video link that is electronically received into the SOCC. [*11448]"

But because these cameras do not provide a live link, they probably would not be out of compliance with the regulation. Would they be covered by the regulation at all?

If any monitoring devices are supposed to be covered by this chapter, then alley monitoring wouldn't qualify right now in terms of purpose as outlined in 2500.2 and 2500.3

Before getting into the fascinating regulations, check out this article about the use of such cameras in San Jose, California "Smile You're on Candid Camera" or these photos-case studies and this BBC article from the UK.

Plus according to the DC "Business Resource Center" e-newsletter, such a camera was tested in Adams-Morgan in 2003--see "DC launches major anti-graffiti effort."


From 24DCMR


2500.1 The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has employed an internal network of closed circuit televisions (CCTV) within the Synchronized Operations Command Complex (SOCC) that are highly secured and protected against unauthorized access.

2500.2 MPD's CCTV system is generally intended to be used: (1) to help manage public resources during major public events and demonstrations; and (2) to coordinate traffic control on an as needed basis.

2500.3 In addition to the purposes listed in 2500.2, the CCTV system may also be employed in exigent circumstances for the duration of the exigent event or circumstance.


2501.1 MPD shall comply with all federal and District law applicable to the use of CCTV cameras in public space.

2501.2 The technology will not be used to replace current policing techniques. [*11444]

2501.3 Under no circumstances shall the CCTV systems be used for the purpose of infringing upon First Amendment rights.

2501.4 Operators of the CCTV systems shall not target/observe individuals solely because of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or other classifications protected by law.

2501.5 CCTV systems shall be used to observe locations that are in public view and where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

2501.6 MPD shall not use audio in conjunction with the CCTV unless appropriate court orders are obtained.

2501.7 MPD is authorized to enter into agreements with public entities to access their external video feeds for the purposes established in 2500.

2501.8 MPD is authorized to enter into agreements with private entities to access their external video feeds for discrete periods and only in exigent circumstances.

2501.9 MPD shall abide by these regulations if it receives CCTV feeds from another agency, jurisdiction, or entity.

2501.10 Until legislation is enacted authorizing the use of CCTV for other purposes such as general crime deterrence in non-exigent circumstances, additional permanent cameras will only be installed after public notification has been provided and only in locations that will advance the purposes defined in section 2500 of these regulations.


2502.1 Except under exigent circumstances and/or when the CCTV systems are deployed pursuant to a court order, the Chief of Police shall provide public notice of MPD's intention to deploy a camera.

2502.2 Public notice shall include the general capabilities of CCTV systems, their use in departmental operations, and the duration of the deployment. Public notice will also identify the viewing area, but not necessarily the precise location of the camera. The precise location of a camera may be disclosed if the Chief of Police determines that disclosure will not undermine the security of the camera and the efficacy of the deployment.

2502.3 The public shall have thirty (30) days to submit comments regarding a proposed deployment to the Chief of Police. The public may submit comments to the Chief of Police at any time regarding a particular camera deployment or the CCTV system in general. [*11445]

2502.4 The Chief of Police shall consider the comments submitted by the public in determining whether to go forward with deployment of the camera. The Chief of Police will provide public notice of his decision and provide an explanation.

2502.5 In exigent circumstances, the Chief of Police is authorized to deploy cameras without first consulting or soliciting comments from the public. After the conclusion of the exigent circumstance, the camera shall be turned off immediately. As soon as feasible after the conclusion of the exigent circumstance, the Chief of Police shall have the camera removed. The Chief of Police will provide post-deployment public notification of any camera deployed under this provision.

2502.6 When cameras are deployed pursuant to a court order, neither pre nor post-deployment notification is required.

2502.7 MPD will post and maintain signage indicating the presence of CCTV systems in the District of Columbia.

2502.8 On a semi-annual basis, MPD will provide updates on the CCTV system at community meetings to be announced to the public.

2502.9 MPD will provide information about the CCTV system and its usage in its Annual Report. The information shall include the viewing area of cameras, periods of activation and/or recording and the purposes of activation and recording, disposition of any recordings, and an evaluation of whether the camera achieved the purposes stated in section 2500. The MPD shall not include any information pertaining to cameras deployed pursuant to a court order or deployed as part of an on-going criminal investigation.


2503.1 Only certified operators shall operate the CCTV system.

2503.2 All operators of the CCTV systems shall sign a certification that they have read and understand the CCTV regulations and acknowledge the potential criminal and/or administrative sanctions for unauthorized use or misuse of the CCTV systems.

2503.3 Anyone who engages in the unauthorized use or misuse of CCTV systems shall be subject to criminal prosecution and/or administrative sanctions, including termination. The administrative sanctions will depend on the severity of the infraction and shall be taken in accordance with MPD's Disciplinary Procedures and Policies General Order and/or the adverse and corrective action procedures as provided in the District Personnel Manual. [*11446]


2504.1 Except for demonstration purposes and exigent circumstances, members of MPD shall receive written authorization from the Chief of Police prior to activating the CCTV system.

2504.2 Every system activation shall be documented. SOCC personnel will enter activation information, including the disposition of any observed incidents, into the running resume of the daily SOCC report, including a copy of any written authorizations pertaining to each activation, the name(s) of any person(s) activating the system, a general description of the activity being monitored, and documentation of when activation began and ended.

2504.3 An official of the rank of Lieutenant or above shall be present in the SOCC at all times, and shall supervise and monitor CCTV activities conducted in the SOCC.

2504.4 Operators of CCTV systems shall not focus on hand bills, fliers, etc., being distributed or carried pursuant to First Amendment rights.

2504.5 Operators will dispatch resources as needed.


2505.1 Except in exigent circumstances or when recording is being done pursuant to a court order, the Chief of Police shall issue written authorization prior to recording any CCTV feed.

2505.2 Every recording shall be documented. The record shall include a copy of any written authorizations pertaining to each period of recording, the name(s) of any person(s) recording, a general description of the activity being recorded, and documentation as to when the recording began and ended.

2505.3 When recordings are made in exigent circumstances, the recording documentation shall also include a description of the exigency that gave rise to the need to record without prior written authorization.

2505.4 All recorded CCTV footage shall be maintained and secured by the official in command of the SOCC.

2505.5 Video recordings shall be indexed, stored, and maintained for 10 business days after which time they will be recorded over or destroyed.

2505.6 Recordings may be retained beyond 10 business days because the recordings contain evidence of criminal activity, because the recordings capture an occurrence that may subject MPD to civil liability, or because the recording will be used for training purposes. Recordings that contain evidence of criminal activity or recordings that [*11447] capture an occurrence that may subject MPD to civil liability shall be maintained to final case disposition.

2505.7 The Chief of Police must provide, in writing, any decision to retain any recording beyond 10 business days.

2505.8 Decisions to retain recordings beyond 10 business days must include the purpose of the retention, the nature of the recording, and length of time for the retention. Retention of recordings for training purposes must additionally include a written description of the training purpose to be served by the recording as well as a description of the recording's unique suitability for the training purpose.

2505.9 Recordings retained for training purposes may only be retained as long as they are actively used for training purposes.

2505.10 Recordings retained for criminal or civil purposes shall be secured as evidence, and access to the recordings shall be appropriately limited and documented.

2505.11 SOCC staff shall maintain a video catalog of all tapes held beyond 10 days, including a copy of any written authorizations pertaining to each activation/recording, the name(s) of any person(s) doing any recording, a general description of each activation/recording, and documentation as to when activation/recording began and ended.


2506.1 MPD shall be responsible for the safekeeping, maintenance and servicing of MPD equipment (e.g., cameras, cables, monitors, recorders, etc.).


2507.1 MPD's Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct periodic audits, at least quarterly, to ensure compliance with these regulations.

2507.2 The audits conducted pursuant to 2507.1 shall be provided to the Mayor and the Council of the District of Columbia.


2599.1 When used in this chapter, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed:

Closed-Circuit Television--Any live video link that is electronically received into the SOCC. [*11448]

Demonstration - A temporary presentation of the capacity of the SOCC to visitors of the MPD.
Exigent Circumstances--Unanticipated situations that threaten the immediate safety of individuals or property within the District of Columbia.

External Video Feeds--Any video link received in the SOCC on a live basis from a source other than MPD.
Public Entities--District of Columbia or Federal agencies.

Public notice--Shall at a minimum include, but is not limited to, publication in the D.C. Register, posting on the MPD website, written notice to the relevant Council Member, written notice to the relevant ANC Commissioner, and issuance of a press release.

More on eminent domain

Some really great discussion in the latest issue of DC Watch, including a link to (as usual) great comments about this topic by Sam Smith--EMINENT DOMAIN MEANS THE EMINENT GET THE DOMAIN--from his weblog Undernews. This entry specifically discusses what happened in Southwest DC.

As someone said in a posting on the pro-urb's scary to end up on the same side as rabidly anti-government reflected in such examples as this article, "Shocking New Developments In Supreme Court vs. Homeowners CaseNews Media Blackout On 'Revving Bulldozers,' Intimidation And Harassment Of New London Residents," from the website Prison Planet which I would never have likely come across otherwise.

As H Street neighbor and (newly minted lawyer) Rich Luna said on a neighborhood e-list:

The Mayor has statutory authority to condemn property that meets certain statutory requirements. By administrative regulation, he has assigned that authority to ReStore DC for commercial development or Home Again for residential development (both divisions of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development). Title 16, section 1311 (D.C. Stat. sec. 16-1311 (2004) of the D.C. Code is one section that discusses it.

I began a dialogue with contacts in those offices in the spring to explore the possibility of condemning some the worst empty lots on H (so that we could turn them into community gardens until the city found a better use). The decision in Kelo is likely to make that option a lot more appealing now.

That being said, Kelo v. New London sets a very scary precedent. Oddly enough, it requires citizens to be far more vigilant and demand much greater responsiveness from the political branches. Yet responsivenessis exactly what our political branches are designed to avoid. (Emphasis added.)
Also, this editorial "When Government Takes Too Much," by Philip Langdon, ran in the Hartford Courant in March. It provides the back story of the New London case, that the projects were really pushed forward by the State of Connecticut more than the local community....

"John Norquist, mayor of Milwaukee for 15 years before becoming president of the Congress for New Urbanism, says that when government has to resort to eminent domain to carry out economic development, often the projects don't make economic sense.

Until I visited what's left of the neighborhood after extensive bulldozing, I had assumed that Pfizer's $270 million research complex would spin off tremendous benefits for nearby sections of the city. Naive me. What I found, on a peninsula down the Thames River from downtown New London, was a 23-acre private compound - 700,000 square feet of buildings plus an ample amount of open space - retreating behind a guarded gatehouse. If you so much as aim a camera toward the complex from a public overlook, as I did, security personnel will come question what you're doing.

There is little chance that the Pfizer complex, with its 1,500 physicians, researchers and other employees, will eventually become part of a lively urban neighborhood. It has been designed as an isolated corporate campus rather than a workplace intimately connected to its neighbors. Perhaps the self-imposed isolation seemed essential to a company involved in competitive, sometimes controversial pharmaceutical research, but it defeated the possibility of breathing new life into an old city. The complex's only major contributions to New London are likely to be tax revenue (which the city certainly needs) and employment (also needed in a city with a 7.6 percent unemployment rate). (...)

Although the NLDC has since cleared much of the 90 acres, the hotel and conference center it promised have yet to be started. Office space in a 90,000-square-foot research and office building left over from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center stands vacant. Construction has yet to begin on upscale housing that was to be suitable for Pfizer employees. Norquist says such disappointing results are common in economic development projects that rely on the threat or use of eminent domain. The "rigorous economic evaluation traditionally carried out by the private sector" is eliminated in many undertakings carried out through eminent domain, Norquist says. The result, he avers, is "many ill-conceived, special-interest projects."


Architecture Film Series at National Building Museum

Michael Schade's e-newsletter "Dupont Circle Update," clued me into the 25th anniversary of the National Building Museum film series, "Reel Architecture," running from July 9–August 24, 2005.

Should camera-based alley monitoring be considered for DC?

inksterScenes of illegal dumping in Inkster. The city of Inkster is one of two metro areas, Detroit is the other, that is testing a high tech camera to catch people that illegally dump trash. The camera, which has a range of 100 feet, will be used on a trial basis for 60 days. Photos taken on Wednesday, June 8, 2005. (The Detroit News/John T. Greilick)

Alley safety and dumping issues are always of concern to urban residents. Last week, a dead burning body was discovered in the alley between H Street and Linden Place. Illegal auto repair and dumping, drug sales, and other acts plague the residents that abut the alley. ANC6A SMD02 Commissioner (and Chair) Joe Fengler have and residents have successfully advocated for greater DC government involvement and coordination of activity to address these problems. (More more information on the District Government's MAP--Multi-Agency Plan--for the area bounded by 12th and 14th Streets, and Linden Place and Wylie Place, see this document from the ANC6A website.)

In Columbia Heights, the issue of alley safety is high on the radar as well. From the email list is this message:

I've noticed a spike in alley incidents and crime located between the 12th and 13st Euclid and Clifton. It seems like the series of alleys that connect our blocks to yours is being used for illicite activities. In the last 4 months I've had 4 breakins in my garage, I've come across one lurker (a guy waiting and hiding) and another hooded individual whose shirt was stuffed with objects other than his own body. (He also hid when he saw me.) I've come across drug-users, dealers and prostitution...

Last week, the Detroit News reported, in "Cameras may capture dumping: Detroit and Inkster crack down on graffiti and illegal trash with high-tech Flash-Cams," how certain Michigan communities are beginning to address some of these issues:

Detroit and Inkster are testing a cutting-edge approach to catching graffiti artists and illegal dumpers. For the next month and a half, both cities will test a battery-powered camera called the FlashCam-530 to document wrongdoing. The two cities got cameras June 1; they were installed by a California-based company called Q-Star Technology.

Inkster hasn't caught any illegal activity, and has moved its camera's location from its original site. But it's still early and there are plenty of kinks to work out, said Police Officer Dawn Wall. Detroit's camera has captured some pictures of people who apparently stopped plans to dump because they saw the camera. "We're still doing the fine-tuning on the range location and angle," Wall said. "When we can identify an offender with a license plate number and picture, then that will allow us to prosecute efficiently."

The cameras were installed at no cost to the municipalities or taxpayers. After the 60-day trial, each city will have the option to purchase cameras for $3,500-$5,000.

I distributed the article on a neighborhood email list, which led Rich Luna, a resident of Linden Place, to suggest that the District Government install one of these cameras on Linden Place as a test. This is the response he received:

As I mentioned at the meeting the other night, current regulations prohibit MPD from using such cameras for law enforcement purposes. If you think those regulations should change, I urge you to contact your Councilmembers and others. The Mayor and the Chief would love to see that change & we're planning to make that proposal.

Edward D. Reiskin, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety & Justice


This is a tough issue. The civil libertarian in me hesitates to give this power to the government to monitor our public spaces. Like with the eminent domain discussion of late, such powers need to be exercised with great restraint, care, and responsibility, yet all too often these powers are misused (i.e., the arrest without cause of hundreds of demonstrators in Pershing Park -- "D.C. Settles With Mass Arrest Victims: 7 Rounded Up in 2002 IMF Protest to Get $425,000 and an Apology" or this editorial from the Post "A Bust in Pershing Park."

But how do we reduce the kinds of problems residents are having? Is a very limited monitoring system with a limited purpose in a geographically defined area a good thing, or movement down a slippery slope?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Old Convention Center Site--Chicago offers something to think about

CrownFountain14.jpgSculpture, incorporating video and other elements, by Jaume Plensa. Located in Millennium Park, Chicago.

Today the Chicago Tribune assesses the first year of the Millennium Sculpture Park in Chicago. Blair Kamin, the architecture critic for the Tribune, writes in "The Millennium Park effect: It has emerged as a sparkling example ... of how big cities can get big things done," that:

The joyful postindustrial playground, which has brazenly discarded the old industrial age model of the serene urban park, is blowing equally strong winds of change across the cityscape that surrounds it, altering a museum's plans, boosting real estate prospects and (perhaps) opening doors for more innovative architecture in a city whose design scene had grown stale as recently as a decade ago. It has emerged as a sparkling example, despite its widely publicized delays and cost overruns, of how big cities can get big things done.

In the national conversation, Millennium Park is being hailed in some quarters as an example of how business and political leaders can pull together -- in sharp contrast to the feuding among powerful interests that has turned the rebuilding of ground zero into a textbook case of civic inertia. "One of the great new models for a new kind of urban park," The New Yorker's architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, told television host Charlie Rose on Rose's show in May.

The article includes links to the special report and online extras that the Tribune published last year upon the opening of the Park.

Plensa and WaterFrom the Photographic Ramblings blog by Ken Ilio.

"This fountain, designed by Barcelona-based sculptor Jaume Plensa, consists of a pair of 50-foot glass-brick towers facing each other across a black granite plaza with water cascading down their sides. At regular intervals, the flow of water over the inside face of each tower is interrupted as a giant LED screen behind the glass brick displays the face of one of the 1,000 Chicagoans filmed for the installation. Each face appears for about 15 minutes and periodically the face will purse his/her lips as water pours from a spout creating an illusion that the person is spitting water into the plaza below. The space between the towers is bathed in an eight of an inch of water, deep enough to reflect the images and shallow enough for people to walk across to interact with the fountain or a soak under the cascading water and/or spout."

A tour of Millennium Park

It makes me think that the Old Convention Center Site is such a key location, and could have a similar transformational impact downtown, in terms of doing some great things with public spaces. Granted that everyone seems to want to put about 20 pounds of their ideas into the 5 pound bag that the site represents (Convention Hotel, Library, National Music Museum, etc.), but part of the space could be utilized in a similar fashion to Millennium Park.

Baring that, there are other opportunities, although not many, elsewhere in the city, perhaps as part of the revitalization of the waterfront areas of the city, or even Freedom Plaza, which I think of as a pretty lousy space most of the time.

Park Grill @ Millennium Park, ChicagoRestaurant in the Park. Park Grill diners eat under the Bean Wednesday afternoon in Millennium Park. (Chicago Tribune Photo by John Lee)

One of the problems holding back making public parks more successful in the central core of Washington, DC is that the National Park Service doesn't allow the sale of food anywhere but on the National Mall. This often results in barren spaces such as McPherson Square or the Eastern Market Metro Plaza.

Eastern market Metro Plaza, Washington, DCA conveniently located but wasted opportunity.

More images of Millennium Park.

1A1-VRB-FP.jpgFreedom Plaza, Downtown DC.

freedom-plaza.jpgFreedom Plaza, Washington, DC. Successful from above, but a failure on the ground?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Future of Barracks Row? A Counter-point to letter to the editor about Smoke-Free Restaurants

In yesterday's Post, Elliot Wright, manager of Finn MacCool's on 8th Street SE (Barracks Row) writes in "Smoke-Free vs. Free to Smoke":

I am the general manager of Finn MacCool's Irish Pub on Eighth Street SE. My customers primarily are professionals and families who live and work in the neighborhood. The pub has two dining areas and bars, each with its own heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Most of my floor and kitchen staff are worried that their livelihoods will be damaged by a smoking ban [news story, June 19]. Customers who smoke spend more time and more money than those who do not. Often I have difficulty staffing the nonsmoking section of the restaurant for that reason.

My servers, bartenders, food runners and busboys and girls have chosen to work in a restaurant that allows smoking because they feel it is in their best interest financially or because smoke does not bother them. Less than a block away is a restaurant that is smoke-free. Just like customers, restaurant workers have the freedom to choose.

I don't deny the negative health effects of smoke -- the scientific evidence is overwhelming -- and I am concerned about the health of my employees. However, I am also concerned with their happiness, which is tied to a positive work environment and a busy restaurant.

Smoking is not a crime -- it is a regulated activity, just like the consumption of alcohol. It is the duty of the D.C. Council to regulate smoking in a reasonable manner, but that should take the form of legislation that respects the wishes of customers, restaurant workers and owners.
Elliot Wright has a limited perspective and clearly doesn't understand the restaurant business as well as he should...

The late founder of Clyde's, Stuart Davidson, had a great quote that sums up why the Clyde's Restaurant Group is so successful:

It's more fun to eat in a saloon than it is to drink in a restaurant.

The fact is, restaurant sections by bars, smoking or not, are more popular than sections not by the bar.

Finn MacCool's upstairs is nice, but boring. It's not connected to the street, it's not by the bar. I guarantee that if they switched things around, and made the first floor non-smoking, it would still be the most popular area of the restaurant.
Pedestrian Sign, 8th Street SE, Washington, DCBarracks Row at E and 8th Streets SE.

Marty's Restaurant, one block away from Finn MacCool's is a 100% non-smoking restaurant in the interior (people can smoke during temperate weather outside). It's busier than Finn MacCools, but the sections by the bar are busier regardless. Marty's does lose some customers that prefer to smoke. On the other hand, it attracts a fair amount of family business, which likely compensates for it.

Plus, as a waiter, I appreciate not having to breathe smoke, or have my hair or clothes reek of it. The fact is that smoking not only smells but the possible health effects from second-hand exposure are real. At times I make less money at Marty's than I would in a Dupont Circle or Georgetown location, but the fact that the restaurant is smoke free is one reason I put up with it.

I know that people who drink spend more money, but I think that research demonstrating a positive link between smoking and drinking and tipping, especially "extra-normal" tipping is not solid. From my own experience waiting on about 100,000 tables over the years, I say that:

(1) People who drink have higher checks.
(2) Generally (but not always) this results in higher tips only from a gross standpoint because after all a higher check means that a 15% to 20% tip is going to naturally be higher based on a $6 glass of wine, versus a $2 Coke or a free glass of water.
(3) Because smoking behavior is associated with class (socioeconomic status), in my experience I often find that drinking smokers are bad tippers, especially if they smoke heavily. This makes sense, because research into tipping behavior by economists and sociologists finds that a willingness to tip is based on SES, and people of lower SES are less inclined to tip in general, as well as to tip at the commonly accepted percentage of 15% to 20%.
(4) Smoking behavior is also associated with youth, and younger people, perhaps for similar SES reasons, tend to not be great tippers.

Anyway, for the long-term success of his restaurant, I suggest that Mr. Wright focus on some other issues:

(1) Each new restaurant that opens on Barracks Row reduces the revenue of the extant restaurants.
(2) The population density of the immediate area is not enough to support all the restaurants that are open currently
(3) Unless the district is able to attract other market segments from outside of the greater Capitol Hill neighborhood.
(4) At the present, only a few restaurants on the street are distinctive enough to draw from outside of the immediate neighborhood and whether or not they do is questionable.

Washington Nationals are profitable(5) Even though I am against public funding of a new baseball stadium there is no question that the inaugural season of the Washington Nationals has increased the business of restaurant-tavern establishments on Barracks Row, and this is likely to continue even when the new stadium is built, because it will be a long time before that immediate area develops a variety of restaurant and other entertainment destinations. (In fact, I tremble to think about how bad the money would be overall on Barracks Row right now without any baseball-related business.)
(6) This should reinforce the understanding that Barracks Row needs other attractions in order to draw customers particularly at night. Restaurants aren't enough.
(7) This is why I think it is short-sighted for the Barracks Row Main Street program and other civic groups to oppose attempts to bring more entertainment options to the street. There is a way to balance providing new attractions without becoming a nightclub district. Especially because Capitol Hill is far away from where most of the people more inclined to go out on a Thursday or Friday or Saturday night live.

It's likely to not have to fear becoming a serious "destination district" on the scale of a Georgetown, Clarendon, Shirlington, or Adams-Morgan -- but us poor waiters need something more to have more customers to wait on, especially on a Saturday night, when people are likely to go to a district where they can do something after they eat other than hanging out in front of the 7-11.

Belo Interactive.jpgFear of an Adams-Morgan Like Future; A Real Concern or Merely Fantasy?

For some Barracks Row restaurant reviews, including Marty's, see this article from the Weekend Section of the Post: "Comfortable Spots on Barracks Row".

peopleschurchABC Hearing notice for application of a licensed establishment at the People's Church, 500 block of 8th Street SE. Photo by Norman Metzger, via DCist.

For a discussion of the issue of Barracks Row and its future, particularly with regard to the reuse of the People's Church, see this post from DCist.

Finally, getting back to smoking in restaurants, the experience in New York City has proven that the fears of a big falloff of business are overblown (see or do a google search of your own). Marty's survives... and I probably make more money than the average waiter at Finn MacCool's.

I think we have no idea about just how difficult is the challenge of urban schooling

Last year, the Richmond School District merged two low-enrollment high schools into one. The Richmond Times-Dispatch monitored this change over the course of the past year and today ran a special 8-page section, "Put to the test: A year at the new Armstrong High."

It's worth reading and it certainly provides food for thought in terms of thinking about DC Schools, where according to the Post in the article "Reinventing The Route to D.C. Diploma: Fast-Track Course Load, 5th-Year Option Planned," "One D.C. school system report showed that though 4,207 students enrolled as ninth-graders in 2000, only 2,740 graduated four years later. But the study did not account for students transferring into or out of the D.C. system."

Something I read in the Post more than 10 years ago clued me into the fact that the average center city urban school district spends upwards of 33% of total funding on special education, representing a student population of about 10%.

The stories in the Richmond paper remind me of a phone call I received a couple years ago from the social worker at Gibbs Elementary School in northeast DC. She was looking for a list of businesses that might be willing to make donations of alarm clocks, because the children "have no one to make sure that they get up in the morning to come to school."

Now, by default, charter schools are setting the education agenda in the City of Washington, as seen by the quantum leap in the granting of charters for new schools. Today's Post reports in "As D.C. Charter Schools Grow, Competition for Space Tightens," that "The number of D.C. public charter schools will grow from 42 to as many as 61 over the next year, making a shortage of affordable buildings even more acute, according to charter school advocates."

At first, I was supportive of the charter school movement, because I think it's wrong to hold students hostage to broad educational philosophies about the importance of the overall school district. If the school system isn't doing the job, does that mean that we should force students to remain with that system, in order to keep that system intact? After all, Everett Rogers in research recounted in the book Diffusion of Innovations, found that K-12 school systems were the most resistant to change of all major institutions in American life.

Now, I have serious reservations. By default, charter schools are becoming the primary "neighborhood planning organizations" because of the way Congress intervenes and by law provides charter schools with first dibs and first right of refusal on all DC Government properties deemed surplus.

Maybe a charter school disconnected from the immediate neighborhood isn't always the best use for such properties given other needs and interests on the part of a community for service. In the article "Senator Targets Underused Schools: D.C. Buildings Should Be Closed and Resources Redistributed, Brownback Says," the issue of under-utilized school properties is discussed, but by giving charter schools first rights, consideration of neighborhood and/or other city priorities and needs are removed from the discussion.

Plus, charter schools are not neighborhood schools, they have city-wide enrollments, and they end up disconnecting the school from the neighborhood, when normally, neighborhood schools are the foundation of stabile neighborhoods.

Plus, they add greatly to the number of car trips around the city every morning and afternoon, as students travel to schools far from their neighborhoods, and the trips are usually inefficient from a public transit standpoint, leading to greater automobile usage.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A bit on eminent domain

No time to write a lot but this is something I wrote in email.

The opinion: KELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al.

Susette KeloC. M. Glover for The New York Times. Susette Kelo bought her house in New London, Conn., eight years ago. Thursday, the Supreme Court allowed the property to be condemned.

These are tough and troubling issues--balancing the new and the old, attracting tax base, intensification of land use, density, etc. I look forward to attending the sessions on this topic at the conference in Portland.

Measure 37 is an attack on urban growth boundaries as a way to manage and focus development. However it was characterized, that is why the development lobby pushed this initiative forward. This law is about sprawl and keeping it going, rather than recentering and focusing more compact development patterns.

The Kelo case is about the use of public authority for what can be legitimately interpreted as extreme private benefit rather than "public use."

There are no easy solutions. Should I let my neighborhood of 2500 or so buildings constructed mostly before 1920 in favor of a number of tall (for DC) buildings? I don't know. My HP zealotry says no, absolutely not. OTOH, my support of urban growth boundaries, transit-oriented development and attracting people back to the city means it ought to be considered, especially as the neighborhood has two subway stations and will eventually be served by two streetcar lines as well.

But I do see this as a destruction of the qualities that make DC neighborhoods attractive to begin with--their historic buildings-architecture and pedestrian-centric urban design.

Maybe it would be easier to sign off on this if the results of the 1950s-1970s (and beyond) urban renewal weren't so poor.

I think it's ironic that Southwest DC, a pilot site for the national program of urban "renewal," where the entire neighborhood was leveled for towers in the park modernism, is going through a new phase of urban "renewal" out of necessity, because the neighorhood created isn't very successful in terms of circulation, retail, etc. OTOH, the DC neighborhoods typified by the kind of building stock destroyed in SW are experiencing almost insane levels of market demand for the historic housing that is still extant.

shulman3Typical building stock destroyed in the Southwest DC Urban Renewal Program. Photo by Louise Rosskam, Farm Security Administration, circa late 1930s.

Or the old Convention Center was just torn down (and it was built on an area of historic downtown-Chinatown) because a new one was just built. Yet, the old building wasn't even 30 years old, and the debt service hasn't even been paid off...makes me question again the success of the kinds of "redevelopment" projects the Kelo case represents.

What the Kelo case represents to me is something fundamentally different from HP laws. I think of HP laws as balancing the rights of the individual with the concerns of the community, both the other immediate neighbors and the community at large. I think of the Kelo case as saying that balancing the rights of the individual vis-a-vis the community is no longer important, that the state can do anything and is more important than any other individual or community concerns.

This is accentuated by the fact that the political and economic system is subject to gaming and abuse of power. The people who benefit from eminent domain most often are the developers, not the people more generally, and not really the coffers of the local government. Logan and Molotch's Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place is probably the best description around of these forces. For the Washington DC experience, read chapter 4 from the book Dream City.

Getting back to property rights advocates, I think they have similarly unbalanced arguments as they focus on the right of the individual property owner to the exclusion of any and all other legitimate public policy concerns.

I think it would be very difficult to work with such people (given some really ugly experiences I have right now in the heart of DC, which I haven't written about yet on this list) because it wouldn't be a true coalition based on a shared sense that balancing individual and community needs to be at the heart of such decision-making. Preservationists push balance. The property rights folk are concerned solely about individual property owners ability to have untrammelled authority over their domain.

How to Raze a House

A meeting I missed

Zipcar Hosts First Annual 'Innovation in Transportation' Fair; Public and Private Transportation Organizations from Around Metro Washington Showcase Alternatives to Car-Ownership


WASHINGTON, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Zipcar, the nation's largest provider of self-service cars for use by the hour or day, is bringing together public and private transportation organizations from around Metro Washington D.C. for the first annual Innovation In Transportation Fair on June 23 from 3-7 PM on 8th St. between D and E Streets, NW. From the new DC Circulator Bus to the latest Segway Scooters to demonstrations from local transportation leaders, the event will provide local businesses and residents with a fun and exciting opportunity to learn more about cost-effective, viable transportation alternatives to car-ownership, and experience first-hand the newest and most innovative ways to get around.

Participants include Zipcar, WMATA/Metro, D.C. Department Of Transportation (DDOT), The Downtown Business Improvement District (BID), Capital Segway, Vespa DC, The Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) and The American Lung Association. Each organization will have information available to educate attendees about their particular contributions to the DC area's evolving transportation landscape. In addition, those in attendance will be treated to various fun and interactive displays including:

-- Downtown Business Improvement District and DDOT will bring the new
European-style DC Circulator Bus, which will soon be running an East-
West loop between Georgetown and Downtown DC.
-- WMATA/Metro will be on site to answer questions, and will be treating
the kids to their "police robot".
-- Capital Segway will exhibit the latest in Segway Human Transporters.
-- Vespa DC will display their new line of Vespa motor scooters.
-- Washington Area Bicycle Association (WABA) and Bike the Sites will have
bikes at the event to promote bicycling as an alternative way to get
around town.
-- Several Zipcars will be on hand to demonstrate award winning vehicle
access technology, the latest in XM Radio gear and the new MINI Cooper
Convertible and Toyota Hybrid technology.

Attendees of the fair will also have a chance to win free Zipcar memberships, XM Radio hardware and free Zipcar driving time as an incentive to attend the event.

"Parking, traffic, and the environment are all concerns that are becoming increasingly important to leaders and residents in the District," said Gabe Klein, regional vice president at Zipcar. "The District has an effective combination of public transportation and private companies like Zipcar that offer alternatives to car-ownership, and we are thrilled to bring them all together to show the residents of DC cleaner, cooler, and more community friendly ways to get around."

"DDOT is proud to support innovative transportation reform through our bicycle, car-sharing and pedestrian programs, and the advent of the new DC Circulator. By considering alternative methods of transportation, we can help the District become a more mobile and environmentally-friendly city," said Dan Tangherlini, director of the District Department of Transportation.

Zipcar works to improve traffic, parking and environmental problems by reducing the number of cars on the road and by replacing older cars with new vehicles that have more stringent pollution controls. Zipcar members report that they drive 4,000 miles less each year, and save an average of $435 compared to the average cost of owning a car in the city. Additionally, each Zipcar takes more than 20 privately owned vehicles off of urban streets.

About Zipcar

Zipcar was founded in 1999. Since 2000, when Zipcars first hit the road, more than 38,000 consumers and small business drivers ages 21+ have joined. Zipcar currently operates more than 600 vehicles in seven states and 21 cities, including Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. For a convenient and cost effective driving experience or to learn more visit .

CONTACT: Media: Kristina Kennedy, ,+1-781-455-8250, for Zipcar

New York Avenue Transportation Study Meeting Tomorrow

Too much going on to write much but tomorrow there is a public meeting on this project at the Reeves Center from 9-12:30. For more information go to To print off the report, click on Transportation Studies and choose "New York Avenue."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

People that "care", but about different things


The issue of "seizure" of the public space on Park Road for cars rather than for pedestrians and bicyclists (note to everyone--no bike racks at the Giant Supermarket at Tivoli Square, at least not yet, but plenty of room for cars in the public space) as well as the conversation about historic preservation and designation in Brookland demonstrate how difficult it is to reach consensus on issues, when people have such widely different viewpoints on the fundamentals.

Bear with me.

For people fervently convinced that they are the kings of their property, that building permits are an unreasonable restriction on their rights as citizens, no matter of discussion reflecting a different philosophy will percolate through.

I missed last night's meeting in Brookland, and in some respects I'm glad I did, although the way it was recounted to me reminds me of exactly what happened in my neighborhood in October 22, 2001, when work I was doing was opposed and rather than oppose it on the merits--I was excoriated and the issues were obfuscated. The same thing happened last night--just to different people--and it is incredible that people who are, let's face it, lying and mendacious, get accolades for the "quality" of their research.

liesAd hominem attacks and twisting facts are never signs of good arguments.

I have never really been impressed with the level of discourse on civic issues in most community meetings. I am perhaps overly fact and research driven. But in an uncertain world, facts provide some certainty, some sense of control. That factlessness seems to run amok in DC civic life is distressing to me.

I will say that's a fundamentally different issue from what is happening in Columbia Heights. But the point about different philosophies is still relevant. For people like me, urban vs. suburban design will always be the foremost and primary lens through which I view everything.

For people more focused on more convenient consumerism, without much appreciation or concern or knowledge about the principles of urban design, well, those issues don't matter. The Giant store is bigger and newer than the previous one on 14th Street, but it's not a fundamental leap forward in supermarket development, comparable to what leading edge companies such as Ukrop's, HEB Central Market (Texas), Whole Foods, and others are doing across the country.

I wrote an updated memorandum with additional arguments and photos and sent it to Giant-Stop and Shop-Ahold USA executives yesterday. I may or may not post it to the blog, but the point is that there is a great opportunity to creatively interpret even large "big box" stores such as the new Giant for the urban context.

Giant didn't do it.

But that doesn't mean that we can't approach other companies, such as Safeway, which are opening urban locations in other parts of the city.

Below are some photos from the demonstration yesterday. Click through for larger images.


Protest at Giant Supermarket

Protest at Giant Supermarket

Protest at Giant Supermarket

Giant Supermarket, Tivoli Square, Washington, DCNo bike rack.

Giant Supermarket, Tivoli Square, Washington, DC"Sidewalks for feet, cars in the street." From this image (not doctored--I'm not that good of a photographer) you wouldn't know that this is an urban location.

Click here for more images of supermarket-related issues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


From an anti-preservation property rights flyer in the heart of the District.

untitledVis-a-vis economic forces and the growth machine, I would say that "we hold these truths to be self-evident."

"National Heritage Areas: The War Over Words" from Capitalism Magazine: In Defense of Individual Rights is an article criticizing "national heritage areas" as land grabs. Note: said heritage areas are a way to codify, coordinate, and manage history and cultural resources and don't necessarily involve the creation of new parks and attractions.

This website,, is about how federal lands are being wrecked by forced construction of roads.

Congressional Research Service Report on Property Rights.

1010076And this sign, despite the language, was actually part of the political strategy against limiting smoking in public places in Lubbock Texas. Maybe I should send this photo to Carol Schwartz.

There are all kinds of niches in tourism marketing

Bloomberg News reports that "South African Shark Tourism Booms After Cape Town Attack" According to the article: "South African medical student Henri Murray was spear fishing off the coast of Cape Town, the counnewspaper stories across the country suggesting sharks have started targeting bathers, just like in the Jaws movie in 1975. It's also fueling a niche industry in South Africa, where British and German tourists line up to see the predators close up. ``When there is an attack, we get even more people phoning,'' said Kim MacLean, who has run shark diving trips near Cape Town since 1992, in an interview. ``It seems to boost interest.''

Also see "South Africa shark victim 'knew it was his time'"

shark_feeding.jpgCage diving operators deny their shark feeding stunts have made South Africa's popular coastal waters unsafe for tourists and locals.

Maybe we have the opportunity to be more creative than I thought in marketing local history.

Bleeding edge policy at DC City Council

David Catania proposes expropriating prescription drugs and now this from Carol Schwartz... (whether or not you agree with smoking bans, I do think people have to accept that smoking smells and is an irritant to others; it's not just a matter of personal choice, it impacts other people).

poster_champion.gif From the Business Journal: "D.C. Council's Schwartz: Ban alcohol along with smoking in bars":

D.C. Councilwoman Carol Schwartz introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the sale of alcohol in all bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Suddenly, the debate over a proposed smoking ban in D.C. is getting fun.

In what appears to be a statement against anti-smoking legislation, the councilwoman, D-at large, introduced "the Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II," a response to a public health bill that would ban smoking in bars and restaurants in the District. "I never thought I could ban drinking just because I didn't like it, but now I know I can," Schwartz says in a
lengthy, satirical statement. "The impending smoking ban has empowered me."

02.jpgIs that wine, or perhaps it's non-alcoholic?

Nuisance Property Television--More "cutting-edge" tv from the land of Desperate Housewives

DC Government broadcasts a variety of hearings, including those of City Council, on cable television. If you ever testify before Council, people will mention that they "saw you on tv." To see the DC Government Cable Television Schedule, click here.

This article from the Detroit News, "Suburbs weed out untidy lawns: Metro officials target unsightly yards as fed-up neighbors complain about unkempt property" discusses how some suburban Detroit communities are addressing nuisance properties.

Suburbs weed out untidy lawns - 06-20-05.jpgTodd McInturf / The Detroit News. A notice hangs on the door notifying the owner of this West Bloomfield Township house to cut the grass. If it isn't taken care of, the township will cut the grass Tuesday at the owner's expense.

Obviously, we have the same problems in the city, and "Clean it and Lien it" programs don't seem to do that much when addressing recalcitrant property owners. For example, at a meeting last week, I learned that the city spends $2.5 million+/year cleaning up vacant properties.

From the article: "Left unaddressed, bad lawns and other eyesores irk neighbors and carry a price, experts say. "It has a huge impact on the property next door," said Patti Mullen, a Remerica Hometown One Realtor in Plymouth. "It deters more buyers, which means fewer offers and less money."

Bob Townsend can relate. His 1,300-square-foot home is within walking distance of downtown Northville, but he pulled it off the market earlier this year when few lookers came through. Next door is a vacant property with uncut grass and a dilapidated look."

There is something quite interesting in this article though, that bears consideration for DC:

Televised hearings and posted, placarded notices

Communities across Metro Detroit have different tolerance levels for lawn length, vehicle storage and home maintenance... City officials also have different ways of getting residents to clean up their act.

In Sterling Heights, five ordinance enforcement officers patrol the neighborhoods. The complaints ultimately land before the Board of Ordinance Appeals, a group of five residents appointed by the City Council to settle disputes. Offending homeowners are summoned to the City Council chambers. A poster-sized sign is placed in the front yard alerting neighbors to the hearing so they can attend and comment if they choose.

The hearings are shown on the city's cable television channel. At them, code enforcement officers use laptop computers to display digital photos of the offending property on a large screen in the council chambers. A cursor darts around the screen pointing to the most egregious violations. "A picture is worth a thousand words," said building official Michael Bartholomew."
Maybe we need to think about expanding our thinking about hearings and broadcasting. Perhaps tactics such as these can help us better address these problems in DC.

From the Sterling Heights TV website:

"Watch your municipal representatives at work LIVE! Broadcast meetings include City Council, Telecommunications Commission, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and the Ordinance Board of Appeals. "

1101050328_400.jpgLearning from the suburbs that sometimes City TV might not go far enough.

The Spectrum-Continuum of Public Participation

IAP2 Website.gifFrom the International Association of Public Participation.

That's Not My Giant -- More about Giant-Horning-- NCRC response


Plan to Address Pedestrian Safety Issues at Tivoli Square Giant Food
Statement by Sandra Fowler
Vice President for Asset Management
The RLA Revitalization Corporation
June 21, 2005

We are working with Giant Food, the developers, Councilmember Graham, Deputy Mayor Stan Jackson and the appropriate District agencies to address the safety issues raised by the community regarding the parcel pick up at the Giant in Tivoli Square. Giant agreed to make the temporary and permanent changes to satisfy the DC Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) requirements for pedestrian safety.

DDOT will issue an interim public space permit that establishes:
· A 14.5 foot wide sidewalk along the front face of the store;
· A 12 foot wide parcel pickup lane, which is a 30 percent reduction in width over the previous plan;
· A 9 foot wide ‘traffic island’ to separate the customer pick-up area from Park Road traffic; and
· The placement of bollards and new street trees to clearly delineate the pedestrian-safe routes.

This interim plan will assure pedestrian safety as the developer and DDOT develop and implement a permanent plan over the next 30 days.

Tivoli Square is one of the Columbia Heights developments made possible through NCRC’s subsidiary, the RLA Revitalization Corporation.

My response:

This statement is definitely more about the car, and less about making great public places.

"Think different" shouldn't just be limited to Nike.

Fox and Obel Supermarket, ChicagoChicago Independent Grocery Store in a historic building.

You could have just as easily required Giant-Horning to make the Park Road facade engaging and open to the public space, one that strengthens the public realm by reaching out and connecting to the street and thereby adding to the vitality of the street experience.

Produce at Night, Astoria, QueensAstoria, New York City

What if Giant would have put the produce section on the street, like a green market, and opened up this more like a patio?

Outside Andronicos Supermarket in Berkeley, CaliforniaOutside the Andronicos Grocery Store in Berkeley, California

By definition, suburbanizing the city by favoring and catering to the automobile destroys the vitality and competitive advantage of the city by promoting the car over the pedestrian.

We have so many opportunities to strengthen and extend urban vitality and time after time the city seems to blow it.

Given the millions of city and federal dollars "invested" in this project, this is extremely disheartening.