March 20, 2011 - 8:28 am

Park naming bill

The Park at LeDroit nearing completion

We reported earlier that the LeDroit Park Civic Association voted to request that the city christen our new park The Park at LeDroit.  In December our councilmember, Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), introduced a bill to make it official.  The bill went nowhere and since the council session ended just a few weeks later, the bill had to be reintroduced per council rules.

The Committee of the Whole will eventually hold a hearing and vote on the naming bill.  Since the name is not controversial we expect it to pass easily, especially since the name has the imprimatur of the LeDroit Park Civic Association.

We hope the bill passes in time for the park opening in April.

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July 23, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Barry Blocking the Park

Yesterday Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) issued a disapproval motion to block the contract for the new park here in LeDroit Park.  Mr. Barry couldn’t even bother to issue an explanation for meddling in a Ward One park and Councilmember Jim Graham is duly upset.  Contracts over $1 million must be submitted to the Council and such contracts are approved if the Council takes no action within a certain number of days.  Mr. Barry’s procedural move will delay the project by at least 45 days until the Council reconvenes in September and can vote on the motion.

Mr. Barry also issued another mysterious disapproval resolution yesterday to block DDOT’s consolidation of its offices into one building near Nats Stadium.  Mr. Barry was stripped of his chairmanship in March after it was revealed last July that he was issuing do-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend.  Our sources tell us that since then he has taken to generously sprinkling disapproval measures for projects throughout the District in a desperate move to show that he still matters.

The park can still move forward without the extra delay if Mr. Barry is convinced— likely with an old-school lobbying effort— to withdraw his motion.  It’s a pity, though, that important government projects are subject to the whims of childish councilmembers.  It should not take yet another lobbying effort to get this park built.

In a city that decries Congressional meddling in local affairs, it’s truly ironic that a desperately need Ward One project is put on hold by a councilmember we didn’t even elect.

June 25, 2010 - 7:14 am

Ward One Recap

There are few things the four candidates for the Ward One council seat agree on, but there’s one thing for sure: when asked which mayoral candidate they each endorse, all four candidates claimed to be undecided at this point.

At the Ward One Candidates Forum on Tuesday, all four candidates stated their cases for representing the ward after the upcoming election.

Jim Graham

Jim Graham (D) spent the entirety of his five minutes as most incumbents do, listing his accomplishments since his first election in 1998.  Specifically he listed the following:

  • that he secured funding for the beautification of Anna J. Cooper Circle in 2003;
  • that he supported the Mary Church Terrell House project;
  • that he got the 400 block of T Street named Walter Washington Way, after the LeDroit resident who was also DC’s first elected mayor;
  • that he was “part of the neighborhood mobilization” in response to the robberies at the LeDroit Park Market several years back;
  • that he was able to get the city to restore and renovate the Williston Apartments at 236 W Street into affordable housing apartments;
  • that he has helped get city money for the Howard Theatre for its pending revitalization;
  • that he has secured tax abatement legislation to get UNCF to move to Shaw, despite others’ objections to the use of tax abatement to lure development; and
  • that he supported from the start the effort to turn the now-demolished Gage-Eckington School into something other than an abandoned building.

During the question and answer session, Mr. Graham also stated his support for school vouchers.

When asked about small-business set-asides for city contracts, Mr. Graham expressed his disappointment with the lack of enforcement.  The problem, he stated, was not with the laws, but rather with their enforcement.

Marc Morgan

Marc Morgan (R), a resident of LeDroit Park, announced his love of the neighborhood and focused a good deal of attention on crime and small business development.  He asked how many people feel safe walking around at night.  He said he wants to facilitate the improvement of the District’s small businesses, which serve as the best sources of local employment.

Mr. Morgan also announced his environmental credentials and the importance of reducing carbon footprints.  Throughout much of the question and answer session, Mr. Morgan touted the value of leveraging public-private partnerships to accomplish various worthy tasks, such as environmental protection and energy conservation.  When asked if he had held elected office before, Mr. Morgan responded that he had owned a chain of restaurants in Ohio and Arizona and that he served as an environmental official in Ehrlich Administration in Maryland.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith (D) brought photos and graphs for his speech, which he started with the complaint that Ward One has become less green and over-developed.  He didn’t hesitate to mention that one of Councilmember Graham’s top staff members had been indicted on corruption charges and that the Metro, under Mr. Graham’s continuing tenure on the WMATA board, has suffered a catastrophic crash and subsequent loss of public confidence.

Mr. Smith held up graphs illustrating that Ward One leads the city in robberies and thefts and a graph comparing proficiency ratings for DC public school students versus their counterparts in Maryland and Virginia.

Beyond graphs, Mr. Smith also held up photos of various blighted spots in Ward One that he claims languish despite the glitz in Columbia Heights and U Street.  The crumbling Howard Theatre was one of them.

Mr. Smith expressed cautious support of Michelle Rhee and charter schools.  When asked how he would pay for his plans, he trotted out the usual response of better management of existing funds.

Brian Weaver

The evening’s final candidate was Bryan Weaver (D), who is currently an ANC commissioner in Adams Morgan.  Mr. Weaver started off announcing that his campaign’s theme was to bring accountability and oversight to the District government, a hot topic lately.  He criticized DCPS for improperly assigning teachers and called nearby Cardozo High School the “school of least resistance,” by which he meant the dumping ground of problem children.  Nonetheless, he praised Michelle Rhee for making “great progress” and he cautioned residents to be patient about school reform.

Regarding the city’s falling revenues, he said that we need to restructure the District’s tax code and rethink how the city does business.  He brought up the recent park construction fracas as a prime example of waste.

Weaver was the only candidate of the evening to express the concern that Ward One is headed for a widening income gap and that we would become a ward of the well-off and the poor.

What issues matter to you the most?

June 17, 2010 - 7:09 am

Meet the Ward One Council Candidates

Jim Graham

Marc Morgan

Jeff Smith

Brian Weaver

All four candidates for the Ward One council seat will speak on Tuesday night at the Ward One Candidates Forum in LeDroit Park.  Candidates will speak to and take questions from the public.  Everyone is encouraged to attend.

The candidates for office are Jim Graham (D), Marc Morgan (R), Jeff Smith (D), and Brian Weaver (D).  Messrs Graham, Smith, and Weaver will compete for the Democratic nomination in September.  Mr. Morgan is running unopposed for the Republican nomination so he will face the Democratic nominee in November.

Ward One Candidates Forum
Presented by the LeDroit Park Civic Association
Tuesday, June 22 at 7pm
Basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church
623 Florida Ave NW – enter at the back on U Street

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June 04, 2010 - 12:31 am

U Street Booze Moratorium

At last night’s monthly meeting of ANC1B, Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) suggested that the neighborhood could “benefit from discussion” of a liquor license moratorium on U Street.  While the U Street corridor has experienced significant growth in the number of restaurants and bars over the past ten years, not everyone is happy with the revival.  The bar scene, in the midst of a dense neighborhood is bound to create conflict especially as the corridor becomes a regional destination for bar-goers.

In fact one of the attractive features of U Street is that its bars have not become as raucous and overcrowded as those in Adams-Morgan.  Part of the reason is that U Street attracts a different crowd (read: fewer college students) and includes more restaurants than actual bars.  Furthermore, U Street stretches 0.8 miles (from Ninth to Seventeenth Streets) compared to Adams-Morgan’s 0.4 mi (along Eighteenth Street from U Street to Columbia Road).  In reality the main bar strip of Adams-Morgan is packed into the 0.2 miles between Kalorama and Columbia Roads.  That’s only one-fourth the length of the U Street corridor.

We know Adams-Morgan and U Street is no Adams-Morgan.

A moratorium on U Street would freeze the supply of available bar and restaurant space without alleviating the demand.  In other words, a moratorium would eventually pack the existing venues.  Customers will be stuck with the same selection of venues and would suffer higher prices and larger crowds at each venue.

Furthermore, we argue that this issue is already being addressed through two other avenues.  First, the ANC is careful to review liquor licenses and doesn’t hesitate to strongarm restaurateurs and barkeeps into so-called “voluntary agreements” that stipulate a variety of restrictions.  These restrictions aim to maintain the livability triumvirate of “peace, order, and quiet” so that neighbors can sleep without a cacophony of throbbing music, boisterous drunks, and gun shots.  The process is not perfect, but neighbors are legally entitled to input and negotiation.

Second, the liquor issue is already being addressed by proxy of the zoning code.  As we reported before, no more than 25% (soon to be raised to 50%) of street frontage along Fourteenth Street and U Street within the Uptown Arts Overlay zone can be devoted to food establishments.  Since restaurants make much of their money by serving alcohol, the raising of the cap to 50%, an increase with significant, though not universal, community support, implies the acceptability of a commensurate increase in liquor licenses.

* * *

In other news, the ANC voted unanimously to approve the renewal of Class C restaurant liquor licenses for the following businesses:

  • Shashemene Ethiopian Restaurant – 1909 Ninth Street NW
  • Ambassador Restaurant – 1907 Ninth Street NW
  • Zula Restaurant – 1933 Ninth Street NW
  • Sala Thai – 1301 U Street NW
  • Vinoteca – 1940 Eleventh Street NW
  • Red Lounge – 2013 Fourteenth Street NW
  • Gori Café – 1119 V Street NW
  • La Carbonara – 1926 Ninth Street NW
  • El Sol de America – 1930 Ninth Street NW
  • Salina Restaurant – 1936 Ninth Street NW
  • Chix – 2019 Eleventh Street NW
  • Masa14 – 1825 Fourteenth Street NW (rooftop license modifications are a separate matter)
  • Source – 1835 Fourteenth Street NW
  • Prince Hall Freemason & Eastern Star Charitable Foundation – 1000 U Street NW
  • Islander Caribbean Restaurant & Lounge – 1201 U Street NW
  • The Saloon – 1205-1207 U Street NW
  • Ulah Bistro – 1214 U Street NW
  • Lincoln Theater – 1215 U Street NW
  • Café Nema-Momo’s – 1334 U Street NW
  • Dynasty Ethiopian Restaurant – 2210 Fourteenth Street NW

The ANC voted to withdraw its protest and enter into a voluntary agreement with Mesobe Restaurant (1853 Seventh Street NW).  The commissioners voted to protest the renewal of Expo Restaurant and Nightclub (1928 Ninth Street NW) on account of noise and trash.  They aim to draft a voluntary agreement with Expo.  The commission decided to take no action on the renewal of licenses for Yegna (1920 Ninth Street NW) and Eatonville (2121 Fourteenth Street NW).

April 08, 2010 - 7:18 pm

Eyes (and Feet) on the Street

Carriage House

Meet your neighbors and catalog trouble spots. LeDroit Park residents will gather at Anna Cooper Circle on Thursday, April 15, for an alleyway walk-through. The purpose is to alert our ANC Commissioner Myla Moss, Councilmember Jim Graham, and our accompanying MPD officer of any inadequate lighting conditions or other features that may attract crime to our alleys.

The organizer tells us, “while the safety walk has a serious purpose, it’s also a great way to meet your neighbors and find out more about LeDroit Park.”

LeDroit Park Safety Walk
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Meet at Anna Cooper Circle at 7 pm

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March 02, 2010 - 5:48 pm

Narrowly Missing the Mud

Thanks to a wave of citizen pressure on the council, LeDroit Park narrowly avoided yet another delay in park construction.

Last night we learned that Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5), would offer a bill this morning to prevent the mayor’s office from re-appropriating $1.5 million to the park project here in LeDroit Park.  His stated reason for throwing a wrench in the process was that his bill was simply a “procedural matter to ensure that the funding source is constant with the Deputy Mayor[‘s] testimony that the funds will not be taken from other projects and that the funds are properly identified.”

As though a phone call within the Wilson Building wouldn’t have answered that question.  Threatening to further delay a much-needed construction project that the council and mayor had already promised may not be the most prudent way to stick it to the mayor’s office; Mr. Thomas woke the sleeping dragon.

Deluged with emails between residents, civic association leaders, Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), Kwame Brown (D – at large), and Mr. Thomas, himself, the council passed a revised version of Mr. Thomas’s bill, this time explicitly approving the re-appropriation.  Now there’s a u-turn!

Our thanks to all the residents who contacted the council to voice their disapproval.  Mr. Thomas admitted receiving an avalanche of 230 emails this morning on the matter.

And who said citizen democracy doesn’t work?

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February 23, 2010 - 7:51 am

The Restoration

Good news on the park front.  Mr. Jose Sousa from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced at the civic association meeting last night that Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) insisted that DMPED restore the $200,000 in cuts to the park construction budget for LeDroit Park.

As we reported last month, the deputy mayor’s office had reduced the budget for the park from $1.7 million to $1.5 million as the result of citywide belt-tightening.  The remaining $200,000 will be restored legislatively to be paid in the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2010.  Though the park is still set to open in September, Mr. Sousa said that the remaining $200,000 could be spent right away in October to close up loose ends on the project.

In a month or so the design team will host a meeting to discuss additional design details for the park.  We’ll keep you informed.

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January 17, 2010 - 5:41 pm

Lane Champlain

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

The District recently renovated and reopened Champlain Street to cars under the Marie Reed Center.  The new street is one-way southbound for cars and includes a northbound contraflow bike lane.  The reopened street will improve street connectivity between Adams Morgan and the U Street corridor.  Currently, much of the car traffic is forced onto Ontario Road on the east and Eighteenth Street on the west.

The northbound contraflow bike lane will connect nicely to the westbound bike lane on V Street (mapped below).  Though bicycles are entitled to ride on all District streets, LeDroit residents who prefer bike lanes will find a more relaxed route along V Street (from Vermont Avenue) westward to Florida Avenue, then northward on Champlain Street.

Champlain Street and vicinity. The blue line marks the northwestern edge of the L'Enfant Plan

The roadway just south of the Marie Reed Center has been renamed Champlain Street to signify its continuation from the north.  Its old namesake, Old Morgan School Place,  has since been shortened from its former L-shape to its one remaining block between the Reed Center and the PEPCO substation.

We applaud DDOT and Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who spearheaded the reopening, for accommodating cyclists and connecting the street grids.  Connected streets alleviate traffic jams as they provide more alternatives routes when the main streets become unexpectedly crowded.

January 06, 2010 - 8:28 am

Opposing Metro Service Cuts


Have you ever waited 30 minutes for a Metro train?  That may become the norm on evenings if WMATA has its way.  The transit agency is proposing to close a $40-million budget gap for the current fiscal year with a variety of measures, including the elimination of some jobs, the closure of certain mezzanines (including Shaw’s R Street entrance) at night, and by the reduction of call-center hours among other things.  The worst part of the proposal, however, involves the reduction of train frequencies in the early mornings, late-nights and on weekends.  One part of the proposal also calls for eliminating the eight-car trains that run on the Orange and Green Lines.

Many transit and urban planning bloggers around town have are warning of the “death spiral” that occurs when public agencies sharply reduce the quality and reach of their core services.  Since reducing the frequency of trains reduces the intrinsic value of the transit system, the cuts risk driving away customers, thus ensuring a vicious cycle of ridership declines and subsequent revenue declines and service cuts.

The proposed frequency reductions mean that on Saturdays, Metro will actually run less often than the subway of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles!

Our ANC Commissioner Myla Moss (ANC1B01 – LeDroit Park) emailed Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) criticizing WMATA’s plan to close Shaw’s R Street entrance (the south entrance) late at night.  Though we see how mezzanine closures will inconvenience a few riders by a few minutes at a few stations, we believe the real disservice is happening on the platforms: reducing train frequency will inconvenience all riders at every station.

Mr. Graham, we should remind you, is also the chairman of the WMATA board, which will hold a hearing and vote on the cuts on January 7.  We have already emailed Mr. Graham to alert him to the dangers in some of the proposed cuts.  We encourage you to let him know what you think.


Can you imagine waiting 30 minutes for a Metro train to arrive? WMATA’s budget-cut proposal will leave many riders doing just that.

I’m worried that WMATA’s proposal to drastically cut rail and bus service is a terrible mistake that may lead to a “death spiral” in ridership and revenue. The proposed cuts to train and bus frequency will further turn off riders from the system, since reducing service makes the system intrinsically less valuable at a time when the District’s population is rising.

Your constituents in Ward One, a ward with some of the city’s highest population densities and lowest rates of car-ownership, will suffer greatly from reduced mobility options.

I urge you to vote against the proposal and request that WMATA management return with other options (e.g. fare increases, pay/benefit freezes, further staff reductions, entrance closings) that do not sacrifice the system’s core mission of providing decent mass-mobility.

Let us not follow the mistake of New York City, which, when faced with tax revenue shortfalls in the 1970s, reduced basic city services sharply. The reduction in services (park cleanings, street repairs, street sweepings, etc.) reduced the city’s attractiveness and further exacerbated the city’s financial woes— why stay in the city if the services are declining? Please do not let Metro (and DC, by extension) suffer a similar fate. Your constituents (and I am one of them) are heavily reliant on convenient and frequent transit service, which gives the District a competitive advantage over other cities and over the surrounding jurisdictions.

Eric Fidler
LeDroit Park

P.S. I am willing to pay a reasonable fare increase to avoid service cuts.

P.P.S. These proposed cuts will make trains less frequent than they are in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, and New York. I can’t imagine a world in which even L.A. has better train service than Washington.

Let’s hope the board avoids these core-service reductions.