Monday, June 30, 2008

Giant "Set Down" scheduled for July 28th

The announced schedule for the Cleveland Park Giant PUD had the "Set Down" hearing scheduled for July 14th. However, when the calender showed no such date, rumors circulated regarding the status of the project. All is well for proponents however, as the Office of Planning has circulated the following announcement:

OP has worked with the developer and their team on this project for some time. In order to ensure the greatest potential for a successful case, there are a few outstanding issues that we are still working together to resolve. We mutually agreed that the revisions would not be complete in time for the July 14 Zoning Commission meeting, but have arranged for it to be placed on the special Zoning Commission meeting of July 28. This special meeting should not delay the case from its predicted schedule for a public hearing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

DDOT Scraps the Pedestrian Signal

Pedestrian Master Plan.
Rising Fuel Prices.
Walkable Urban Environments.

One would think in a time of a more pedestrian friendly city that the Mayor envisions, a novel pedestrian signal would be a desired means by which to encourage pedestrian activity. Indeed, such was the case since March 2007 in Chevy Chase DC. DDOT implemented a pedestrian activated signal that brought all traffic to a stop to provide the most cover possible for pedestrians in the heart of the Chevy Chase commercial corridor.

The city is in the process of receiving public feedback on a $13 Million Pedestrian Master Plan and in the face of these broader pressures, DDOT announced at Monday's ANC 3/4G meeting the elimination of the pedestrian signal. The only metrics provided by DDOT was the anecdotal "number of near-misses" at the intersection. Doesn't every intersection have near misses?

This intersection has an unblemished record where pedestrian safety and vehicular accidents are concerned. There haven't been any reported incidents associated with the signal. That's right, not one.

One would think that with record pedestrian fatalities and injuries in 2007, DDOT would be crowing about the success of this engineering solution.

But, as is the case with most district agencies, the "Costanza" approach is taken.

While the light was not perfect -- drivers would sometimes stack during peak pedestrian activity -- it seems that honing and testing would be in order to perfect the engineering, signage and programming associated with the intersection.

Instead? Let's revert to the same old driver-centric solutions.

Bravo DDOT!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beauvoir Scandal?

A scary incident was brought to the attention of this forum by way of the DC Urban Mom's message board.

It seems that a teacher at Beauvoir School was escorted from campus for "hav(ing) a camera containing inappropriate images of a child. At that point, Beauvoir had already decided not to renew the teacher's contract for the fall. Parents were notified last week."

The story gets a little more interesting. Check the DC Urban Mom's link for what is clearly only part of the story. Based on the entries, families with the school are aware of the situation, but for some reason, it has received little to no media coverage.

Further, the teacher in question has apparently vanished.

What a tragic situation for the children involved.

EDIT: The Washington Post finally picked up this story.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ped Safety this week

The Greater Greater Washington blog addresses Pedestrian Safety in the District with issues both inside Ward 3 and around town.

There is a Pedestrian safety Forum hosted by Councilmember Mary Cheh on Tuesday at 6:30 in the UDC Auditorium.

Meanwhile on the afore mentioned blog, the author discusses the Pedestrian Signal at Morrison Street in Chevy Chase, DC:

DC has only one Barnes Dance type signal, at Connecticut and Morrison that's the subject of neighborhood controversy. DDOT installed this signal last year, replacing a stop sign. Instead of a regular traffic light, this one is blinking yellow on Connecticut (allowing cars to go) and blinking red on Morrison (like a stop sign) until a pedestrian presses a button to cross. Then, the light waits until the lights at neighboring blocks are red on Connecticut before changing to all-red for cars and a walk sign for pedestrians. There's also a "no turn on red" sign to make it clear that during the all-red phase, cars are not supposed to turn right.

This is great for pedestrian safety, eliminating the danger of being hit by turning cars. But some cars turn on the red anyway, so accustomed to being able to turn right on red. Instead of adding better signs to deal with the confusion, many local ANC members are pushing to convert this light to a traditional three-color signal. We should have more pedestrian signals, not fewer, and at the very least should make sure to give this one a shot before scrapping it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

I Hart ANC 3C

In a special election this evening, Josh Hart won a convincing 9-2 vote for the vacant ANC 3C04 seat.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Russert Park?

Mike DeBonis of the City Paper posted an excellent idea for a tribute to Ward 3 resident Tim Russert.

Well, allow LL to be the first to suggest it: If a recreational trail is ever built in Klingle Valley, it might be appropriate to name it in the memory of Tim Russert.

Friday, June 13, 2008

ANC 3C04 Special Election


I'm Josh Hart, a 29-year-old analyst at a Federal Government agency
running for the vacant seat. (If you live East of Connecticut Avenue
between Quebec and Macomb Streets, then you likely live in the
district.) A map of the district is available at .

A Special Election for the seat is being held during the ANC meeting
on Monday, June 16 from 7:00pm to 8:15pm at the Second District
Metropolitan Police Station at 3320 Idaho Ave NW. The candidates will
be speaking at about 7:30pm in case you want to hear from us prior to
voting. (You don't have to stay for the ANC meeting in order to vote.)

Please join me at Nanny O'Brien's at 3319 Connecticut Ave NW this
Saturday, June 14 from 4:00 to 5:00pm. I hope to meet you and discuss
the issues of concern to our district. I want to make sure that our
corridor on Connecticut Avenue is the vibrant neighborhood that we all

- Josh Hart

A Report on the Giant Presentation

A summary of the Giant Community Presentation by Cleveland Park resident Gabe Fineman:

Notes from the June 11, 2008 Meeting on Giant
[Having trouble reading this because you do not get mail in HTML format? You can
download a formatted copy from that also has a lot
of background documents.]

So, is Giant going to expand their store at Newark Street? Yes, they will, and
it will be part of a major redevelopment project. This meeting was sponsored by,
and run by, Giant. It was held in the Washington Hebrew Congregation (Macomb and
Massachusetts) and was less amicable than the last meeting in December 2006. The
room was very large and seated most of the 150 people who came, although many
stood to better see the slides.

So, what has changed and why this meeting? Giant has finally filed the paper
work to start the administrative procedures to get City approval to rebuild the
two blocks they own on Wisconsin Avenue. They took the route of filing for a
Planned Unit Development (PUD) that is special permission to change zoning as
part of a specific development. That is, the change from status C-1 to C-2A is
only allowed for what is in the PUD and they cannot change their mind and build
a fat rendering factory or mega-church there once the zoning was changed. The
meeting was to get 'community input' that is required to impress regulators.

So, what is going to be built? Substantially what they told us in December of
2006. Giant (now Ahold's) owns most of the block where the store is located and
the entire block to the north where the Pharmacy is located. Giant invested
major bucks to buy the real estate years ago and now Ahold will develop it and
get the profit out. In the process, we get a much larger supermarket. Everything
will be knocked down and rebuilt (first the block to the south and then the
block to the north). They will double the size of the current store/pharmacy.
This will make it larger than the store at Van Ness. The other retail space is
dropping by the space of the long vacant Murphy's. This is all being financed
with lots of residential space that they hope there will be a market for in
three years when it is finished. This is all accomplished by building down (a
two story garage [400 cars] and another one story garage [88 cars] under the
buildings) and building up the north building to five stories in places. The
current buildings will get much larger and cover the old parking lots. For more
details, you can read the PUD and the notes of the last meetings at .

So, what happened at the meeting? I found it sad. It was obvious that few if any
neighbors had read the PUD or the traffic study. There were absolutely no
references to the PUD, such as that some of the traffic counts made no sense.
[e.g. 244 cars west bound on Porter at 34th in the AM rush hour with only 60
reaching Wisconsin - PUD, Exhibit K, Figure 2-12] For a neighborhood that prides
itself on its literacy and on its rationality, it was embarrassing that the
audience was so ill prepared. Indeed, the audience seemed to not even listen to
what was being said, but to filter it through its preconceptions. For example,
the traffic engineer said that the number of trips to and from Giant would
double along with the size of the store and many responded that something had to
be done to prevent the number of cars on the cross streets from doubling. The
fact that most cars do not go to Giant and that most that do, use Wisconsin
(70%), was ignored.

What did people ask for and what will Giant do? The group of people that came
out seemed rather evenly divided between those who wanted Giant to stop delaying
and just build the new store and those who wanted to have Giant do things that
they simply will not do. Some immediate near neighbors feared that building the
underground parking lot would destroy their homes by either cracking the
foundations or changing the water table. Some were so shrill about their fears
that others told them to sell their houses and move instead of trying to
monopolize the meeting. Many were afraid that the doubling of traffic in front
of their homes would lower their quality of life (see above). Giant is planning
some traffic calming adjacent to the development, but Federal Highway money and
the bureaucracy in DDoT will have to plan, approve and pay for traffic calming
elsewhere. Some wanted Giant to solve the general lack of parking in the
neighborhood. Giant is building the underground garage so as not to add to
parking problems and does plan to continue to provide free parking for the
restaurant row, but it cannot solve existing problems. Finally, some people
wanted Giant to scale back the project, even scale back the size of the store.
This is not something they will do because it makes the project no longer
economically feasible. This was a long list of nay sayings, but I must emphasize
that those who wanted immediate action were just as numerous and just as
passionate and just as ignorant of the excruciating process of building in an
urban area.

So, what is the next step? They are still a way from approval for the project -
they estimate January at best. There are a myriad of regulations (zoning,
overlays, height restrictions, density restrictions) to be approved. Once they
get approval, it will be another year to build the south block with the
supermarket and a year after that to build the north block. The opponents are
resourceful and creative. Who would have foreseen that they could convince
anyone on the Historic Board that the 'late commercial moderne style' was more
than mundane and thus the current Giant building was 'historic'?'

So, what will happen? My prediction is that the only thing that can stop this
major residential development will be the continued downturn in the housing
market. We will see construction in about two years. As I said after the
previous meeting: "If Ahold were to sell of the north block and this were a
regular developer, we would see a 200-300 unit building with no underground
parking and no input from the community. Developments of this scale happen
because so much money is involved. We are fortunate that Giant sees this as a
long term proposition and not a property to be built and flipped. Because of
that they seem willing to listen to the community and make changes to the
traffic, the streetscape and even subsidize small tenants."

More Information?
Disclaimer and Such. As always, these are the personal notes of Gabe Fineman.
They reflect my biases and viewpoints that I make no attempt to hide. Comments
or questions may be sent to me at [If Yahoo masked that
address, it is gfineman (at) advsol (dot) com].

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Greater Greater Washington on Giant

David Alpert of the Greater Greater Washington blog had positive comments about the Giant proposal at Newark and Wisconsin:

This project will replace bland, single-story buildings and large surface parking lots along Wisconsin Ave and Idaho Ave with an appropriately scaled mixed-use project that will engage the street with many individual stores and residences...

My favorite part of this project is the treatment of Newark Street. Too often, traffic engineers either design the road entirely for cars and try to keep people off while maximizing vehicle speed, or close a road completely which is great for pedestrians but can create "superblocks" and dead space that is less safe. Instead, this project paves the center section of Newark Street with something like cobblestones, creating a wide plaza that's open to cars but also more pedestrian friendly, using subtle visual cues to show that this isn't a rapid driving space.

Be sure to read the full report.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Washington Post on the Cathedral

Jacqueline Salmon of The Washington Post wrote an article
about the current plight of the Washington National Cathedral. Part of the feature is a mention of the local greenhouse:

Washington area gardeners are outraged over the closing of the greenhouse, which sells plants, pottery and other gardening items behind the cathedral. It is scheduled to shut down at the end of next month. More than 300 people have joined a new organization to keep the greenhouse open and have set up a Web site,