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.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another reason why it's difficult to maintain small businesses in DC as well as an active urban street environment

Politics and Prose
Originally uploaded by Lost in Place

From email, LETTER FROM BARBARA AND CARLA, proprietors of Politics and Prose, the independent bookstore on upper Connecticut Avenue:

Every once in a while we get an abrupt reminder that we live in a jurisdiction where small business is not respected or encouraged. When we first opened across the street, there was no government agency that could advise us on what we needed to do. Then, after we made the applications we needed to, we could not get an occupancy permit, no matter how many times we called or went down to the office responsible for that. The process simply stopped somewhere in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory and Affairs. We were fined and we started over again, but the certificate was never issued at our first location.

A few years ago we were infuriated when, as a D.C. business, we had to pay a surtax for the new stadium. The rationale: the stadium would help businesses in the District of Columbia. We fail to see how the baseball stadium helps Politics and Prose, but perhaps we are just missing something.

The latest irrationality occurred when an inspector visited us last week and told us we had to remove the bench in front of our store or pay for a permit. The bench, which is used by our employees eating lunch, or by people accompanied by strollers or dogs, or occasionally by the homeless, seems harmless. But the inspector told us it had to be gone the next day.

Apparently this latest problem is occasioned by a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Coummission who went to war to get rid of all the outside chairs and tables on our block. As many of you know, the sidewalk is very wide in front of our buildings so there is no problem walking there even with sidewalk fixtures. And we think lots of activity on the sidewalk -- sitting, eating, and playing -- make our block more lively and fun. But
Mr. Frank Winstead doesn't, and he has made it his personal mission to eliminate everything. You can write to Mr. Frank Winstead and express your opinion of his mission.

Marc Fisher has also written about this guy, most recently in "Looking for Middle Ground In Tricky World of Personal Crusades" and earlier in "The Menace of Ping Pong, The Horror of a Bench " and "Ping Pong Politics On Connecticut Avenue."

Also, it is necessary for someone to run against Mr. Winstead in the next ANC election, and defeat him.

I write that ANCs can be great or terrible, that you can have 270 able public servants, or 270 parochial dictators. It's a mix, but too often many ANC commissioners fail to realize that their number one job is to add to the quality of life and the livability of the city.

If Mr. Winstead wants no supportive pedestrian activity and dead urban streets, then Mr. Winstead needs to move to a subdivision in Fairfax County and shop in the controlled environment of Tysons Corner Shopping Center.

This is merely another form of suburbanizing the city. I don't know Mr. Winstead's background, but I presume he is not originally a "city person" and he is applying a suburban-centric vision to how he sees the world. But city streets are supposed to be active. Furthermore, if he himself lives abutting the commercial aspects of Connecticut Avenue, it is not his place to make that area residential. And he should move to a place that is more to his liking.
Tysons Corner resized
Photographer: Tracy A. Woodward/Washington Post. Overview of the Tysons Corner area. Photo taken from the Tower Club at Tysons Corner. Looking west over the Tysons Corner Shopping Center.

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