Few things rile up neighbors like liquor licenses. Just outside LeDroit Park at 8th and T Streets, a proposal for a new restaurant, All Souls, has elicited the ire of several neighbors. The objectors, though small in number, are trying to stop a local restaurateur from turning a vacant storefront, pictured above, into a community asset. Much of this opposition is unwise and unwarranted and will hold back neighborhood improvement. We have heard the objections to All Souls for several months and would like to see this restaurant finally come to fruition.
While some objections, particularly regarding outdoor noise late into the night, are certainly reasonable, a few objectors have damaged their own credibility with an array of spurious objections.
The first of such complaints is that a restaurant serving alcohol across the street from an elementary school is unsavory. This is a red herring. Restaurants cannot serve alcohol to 10-year-olds and the main business of restaurants is at night, several hours after school has ended. The restaurateur has agreed to not serve alcohol before 5 pm.
The most ludicrous objection we heard is that patrons on the patio on 8th Street (along the blank wall in the photo above) will leer into a neighboring house. This is another red herring as drawing one’s window blinds or curtains can easily solve this problem.
Another objection is that a restaurant is inappropriate for what one objector alleged is a “residential street”. This is not entirely true. Most of the 1900 block of 8th Street is actually in a commercial zone C-2-B, which is intended for commercial uses, but also allows residential uses.
The restaurant site is surrounded by a residential zone (R-4) on three sides. Nonetheless, all zones have boundaries in which differing uses abut each other. It is the responsibility of residents to research and understand the zoning implications of where they live. It is also important for residents to understand their limitations in dictating how other people lawfully use their own property.
The restaurant building, as marked in the map below, is zoned for commercial uses (C-2-A), which permits restaurants as a matter of right. The law is very clear in this case that a restaurant is permitted in this location. The issuance of the alcohol license, which is necessary for any reastaurant to survive financially, is not by right, but must be requested. Thus, it is only in the alcohol license that the objectors have a viable case to block the business.
All Souls will improve the quality of life in several ways. It will provide a sit-down restaurant, something we consider a desirable neighborhood amenity. It will provide more eyes on the street to deter crime. Drug dealers and criminals at 7th & T Streets will feel less confident in their criminality when they see that there are numerous witnesses at sidewalk tables 100 feet away.
Most importantly, the conversion of a vacant property (pictured to the right) into a vibrant, occupied use improves the impression of the neighborhood. People rightly look upon vacant and abandoned space negatively. They look at active, lively restaurants positively. All Souls will improve the image of the neighborhood by improving the quality of life.
Let’s hope the unreasonable objections of a few don’t derail a potential community asset that we suspect the silent majority supports.
Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D — Ward 5) introduced a bill to ease Sunday parking tensions by permitting angle parking for religious institutions with ANC and DDOT approval. The councilmember held a forum on the bill and its companion commercial district bill last week.
In DC neighborhoods where street parking is at a premium, few things raise a resident’s ire like church congregants who park illegally on Sunday mornings. Congregants who drive from other parts of the District, from Maryland, and from Virginia have been known to double-park, park in alleys, block crosswalks, and block fire hydrants.
After receiving numerous complaints from residents, Mr. Thomas introduced the bill to primarily allay residents in Bloomindale and Eckington. Since these neighborhoods are among Ward Five’s most densely populated, they, like LeDroit Park, suffer from high street parking occupancy. Last week in Eckington, Mr. Thomas hosted a forum on his bills and took questions from residents.
Mr. Thomas acknowledged what residents have long known: parking enforcement around churches is intentionally lax on Sundays. Though Mr. Thomas admitted the unique challenges to transportation on Sunday mornings, he also decried congregants who park illegally, block residents in, and hinder public safety.
Transit service reaches its nadir on Sunday mornings, and churchgoers often travel to churches in residential neighborhoods with light Sunday service. Since transit service and car traffic are relatively low on Sunday mornings, Mr. Thomas thinks DDOT will be able to find instances of roadways wide enough to accommodate both angle parking and through traffic on Sunday mornings. In each case, though, DDOT will make the final determination of what is safe and permitted, even if an ANC supports the petition.
We asked Mr. Thomas why he singled out angle parking and not other non-traditional parking arrangements and he admitted that the bill was just a first draft and could be expanded to include other measures.
For instance, DDOT permits parking beside the median on Sundays on the 1300 and 1400 blocks of New York Avenue NW downtown. This arrangement works since there is still one lane available for through traffic and since Sunday morning traffic flows are small. A similar arrangement might work along other multi-lane avenues in the District, including Rhode Island Avenue.
In other cases, solutions could be less radical. The congregants of several churches on Florida Avenue park in the right lane on Sunday morning even where parking is never permitted at any time. DDOT may be able to simply change the signs and permit curbside parking in such places on Sunday mornings. The extra parking can act as a traffic-calming measure, though, as we know, easier parking can induce more driving.
No matter what happens, the Department of Public Works, the primary agency in charge of parking enforcement, needs to end its practice of lax Sunday enforcement near churches. Only DDOT, not pastors and not congregants, should make the determination as to what constitutes safe Sunday morning parking. Mr. Thomas acknowledged that the law needs to be enforced uniformly as it is unfair to overlook, as one resident noted, illegal parking in residential neighborhoods, while actively ticketing illegal parking downtown on Sundays.
Though residents expressed frustration with some, though not all, neighborhood churches, Mr. Thomas rightly advised residents that parking tensions need not be adversarial. In fact, he called attention to instances in which neighborhood residents and churches collaborated to resolve parking problems. This can include urging pastors to rent unused lots for their congregants or to provide shuttle service from satellite lots or from congregants’ homes. He even touted bikesharing several times but said it is not practical for everyone.
Whatever the solution, Mr. Thomas admitted the bill was in its infancy and that he wants to provide a template for cooperation; angle parking may be one of many possible solutions.
Mr. Thomas was eager to mention the companion bill to allow permanent angle parking in business districts. Though most meeting attendees were there to complain about church parking in residential neighborhoods, Mr. Thomas said that many Ward 5 businesses depend heavily on customers arriving by private car. However, when he asked a local business owner how much of his business is from outside his neighborhood, the owner said that very little came from elsewhere.
The business corridor bill is significantly different from the Sunday parking bill. The former would permit businesses to seek diagonal parking at all times, regardless of transit service, or if the street space could be reallocated to bike lanes or wider sidewalks.
The Sunday parking bill carries more merit than the business corridor bill because of the unique circumstances of church locations and Sunday transit service. The business corridor bill, in contrast, too hastily and disproportionately prioritizes parking to the detriment of other road uses.
Howard University wants to add 1,300 beds on 4th Street, a new restaurant is coming to 6th St and Florida Avenue, the neighborhood watch seeks your input, and the conclusion of park construction are all agenda items at tonight’s Civic Association meeting.
The meeting is open to the public and all neighbors are encouraged to attend.
Tuesday, March 22 at 7 pm
Basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church
(enter on U Street)
The civic association will also take open comments from neighbors who wish bring up anything of neighborhood concern.
This email came through the neighborhood listserv.
On Saturday evening at 7pm en route to Shaw metro north entrance, I was jumped from behind and wrestled to the ground by a teenage thief trying to steal my iphone. Rather than risk being stabbed, I let go of the iphone. What is disturbing is that this is a busy road with many pedestrians walking by, yet not one person stopped to help, including the shopkeepers stood on the doorsteps. When I asked for assistance, I was told to use the payphone on the corner of 7th and T which is where the gang of teenagers preying on their victims hang out in the evening – including the evening I was attacked. There were 10 or 12 on the corner of 7th and T and all fled after I was robbed. A good Samaritan let me use his cellphone to call the police who arrived in under two minutes. They said they are aware of the gang on 7th and T and have been monitoring them, yet the brazen robberies and attacks in broad daylight continue unabated.
Given the proximity to the Howard Theater, I’m sure this kind of publicity will not be welcomed given the Theater’s planned reopening later this year. I have now been forced to avoid the Shaw metro and will take the U Street Cordoza location instead. Anyone walking in the vicinity of 7th and T should hide their cellphones. Ironically, I am a playwright, my most recent work being about race relations in DC. It is poignant I was attacked in the shadow of Howard Theater.
What a terrible incident, but we’re glad nobody was hurt.
The Block of Blight (600 block of T Street NW) is a perennial source of criminality, as confirmed by the MDP’s regular listing of arrests. The frequency of crime at the corner of Seventh and T Streets warrants a more frequent police presence that the area lacks.
We usually walk our friends to the Metro late at night lest they fall victim to this sort of incivility. Blight encourages crime and both are on display near the Shaw Metro Station. We gently, but consistently, remind visitors that the station and surrounding blight are actually in the Shaw neighborhood, not LeDroit Park, but hopefully we won’t have to reiterate that nuance forever.
Renovations on the Howard Theatre have already begun and the developer for the mixed-use UNCF project at the Metro assures us that the groundbreaking for that project is a month or two away.
DDOT just activated the new contraflow bike lanes on the two blocks of New Hampshire Avenue connecting from U Street. Cyclists traveling against the flow of car traffic now have separate lanes in which to travel all the way to the crossroads of U Street, Sixteenth Street, and New Hampshire Avenue.
At the intersection, DDOT has installed special bike traffic lights to allow cyclists to cross into the bike-boxes ahead of the queues of car traffic waiting on Sixteenth Street. (See the green bike-boxes ahead of the stop lines in the diagram above.)
This is a pilot project for DDOT and there are a few kinks to work out. First, the bike signals are not placed in ideal positions. Look carefully at southwest corner of the diagram above. Notice that a cyclist stopped at the stop line on New Hampshire Avenue does not directly face a bike signal. The cyclist must know to look to the right and to look up to heights that are unusual for bike signage. In much of the world, bike signals are placed five to seven feet above the ground. Even if the signals cannot be located to other poles, lowering them on their existing poles could help.
Second, there are induction loops embedded in the pavement to sense a waiting cyclist but there’s no indication that cyclists should wait exactly at the stop line in order to trip the sensor. While filming, we pulled to the curb to stop and failed to trip the sensor.
This is merely the first step in DDOT’s plan to reconfigure the intersection, which suffers a high number of pedestrian injuries. Until now, these two blocks of New Hampshire Avenue have been the missing link between New Hampshire Avenue and Sixteenth Street and the bike lanes on T and V Streets (eastbound and westbound, respectively).
Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) will address the monthly meeting of ANC 1B on Thursday at 7 pm at the Reeves Center at Fourteenth and U Streets NW. Following the mayor will be Councilmember Kwame Brown (D – at large), who is running for chair of the DC Council.
In other news, a new Mexican restaurant at 1819 Fourteenth Street, next to the Black Cat, is applying for a liquor license. They plan to host 99 seats in the summer garden, 14 seats on the sidewalk, and 161 seats inside. Though the property appears to be a modest 20 feet wide, it’s very deep and the “summer garden” is probably liquor license-speak for “roof deck”.
Closer to LeDroit Park, Howard Theatre Restoration Inc., the non-profit about to break ground on the Howard Theatre renovations this month, will request a $5,000 grant for the Jazz Man statue we wrote about earlier.
Update: We received word yesterday that the mayor has canceled his appearance.
Simon’s store, the LeDroit Park Market at Fourth and T Streets NW was robbed earlier this afternoon. The suspect is described as a black man, 5′ 6″ to 5′ 7″, bearded, and wearing a green shirt, white sunglasses, a dark colored hat, blue jeans with black shoes. The neighborhood-funded surveillance camera placed on Simon’s store may have caught a glimpse of the suspect.
When Simon opened his second business, Cookie’s Corner at the corner of Second and Elm Streets NW, some decried the presence of bullet-proof glass at the counter. Does this latest robbery vindicate that decision?
On the night of Sunday, November 12, 2006, a drunk driver speeding as fast as 80 mph on Florida Avenue slammed his SUV into the back of a stopped car, killing two occupants, and then veered into 607 605 Florida Avenue NW on the edge of LeDroit Park. The driver’s SUV punctured the brick façade of the turret damaging it to a degree that DCRA declared the house uninhabitable and had the turret demolished.
The owners’ son explained (with some interesting photos) to the Prince of Petworth his difficulty renovating the house, from delays with the insurance payment to contractor disputes to an Army deployment to Kuwait.
Finally, after three and half years, the shabby plywood covering the turret has come down and the renovation (we hope) is back on track.
A cab crashed into 408 U Street NW yesterday. According to a neighbor, a cab customer attempted to rob the cab driver, who then flipped out, ran over the curb, reversed in a panic and slammed into one of the McGill houses.
The culprit escaped and there’s no word on the state of the cab driver. The house appears to be unoccupied.
If you haven’t heard, Cookie’s Corner at the Second and Elm Streets NW is now open for business. It’s somewhat like the LeDroit Park Market, which is owned by the same person, but Cookie’s Corner will serve pizza in addition to sandwiches.
We, like others, are a tad disappointed with the inclusion of a curtain of bulletproof glass at the counter. Then again, it’s easy to issue that criticism if you’re not the person who has to staff the counter.
We paid a visit on Tuesday and were informed that food service begins this weekend.