Brick and Glass, Sticks and Stones

Greater and Not-So Greater Washington Blogs

We’ve been lucky to get some attention and notice from a number of DC blogs – ones that cover the immediate neighborhood and others that focus more on DC real estate and development. 

Our sincere thanks go to Borderstan, UStreetGirl, 14thAndU, UStreetBeat, City Paper Housing Complex, DC Mud, and the DuPont Current. 

14th & U circa 1970 - Scurlock Studio

We’ve been in the blogging  business long enough to be able to distinguish fair and accurate commentary from that which is best characterized as irresponsible and biased. 

But having a combined thirty years of actual newsroom experience, much of those at C-SPAN, were what really honed our skills as bullshit detectors. And speaking of… We couldn’t help but be amused (yet slightly put off) by the screed published last week on what we once thought was a responsible online outlet – GreaterGreaterWashington

It seems that GGW’s Founder, Editor-in-Chief (and who knows what else), David Alpert, has a certain bug up his ass about a certain community’s efforts to maintain the sustainability, integrity and viability of their neighborhood.  According to his bio, Mr. Alpert, “…has had a lifelong interest in great cities and great communities.” That may be true, but we’ve learned that he has little or no interest in accurate reporting.

In a nearly 700 word jumble of mistaken facts, misinformed opinions and baseless charges, Mr. Alpert vented on your humble editors and indirectly on our neighbors on Wallach Place.  No matter; we take it in stride.  But worse than him being ignorant of the facts, Alpert’s unconscionable sin was to violate a simple and sacred tenet of journalism – not reaching out to us ahead of time before he published (like many of the other journalists listed above did). 

Alpert appears neither bound by facts or common journalistic courtesies. We trawled through his online sandbox just long enough to correct the record as best we could in the comments section.  So for the purposes of setting the record straight, we republish our brief response:

Mr. Alpert, We were going to fire off a quick response to your piece earlier this week, but it took us far more time than we’d thought to catalog your litany of factual errors, misrepresentations and baseless accusations.

1. Despite your fanciful and uninformed inference, my partner Doug and I hardly orchestrated the block’s solid opposition to the current Level 2/Colbert plan. Nearly a dozen residents with anywhere from 10 – 50 years of hard time on Wallach Place turned out to voice concerns at the HPRB meeting three weeks ago. We’re hardly the puppet-masters you make us out to be – rather we launched a blog to serve as a public forum to track the development on a number of towering projects that are slated to rise quite literally over our backyards.

 2. Your basic arithmetic is wrong. This planned project is not a six-story building as you wrote. Go back and count or take a closer look at the plans and renderings. The Level 2 proposal is seven stories plus a penthouse, roof deck and mechanicals – planned to top out at over 90 feet.

That would make this project only slightly shorter than the Ellington – a building with significant multiple setbacks that’s situated on a much deeper and expansive lot. And in the case of the Ellington, where it does abut the shorter townhouses on 13th Street, that elevation is only four stories.

 3. Your choice to use 17th and Church as a point of comparison is wholly misleading. The apartment building you feature is more consistent of the period and the townhouses on that block are considerably taller than ours – many of them being 3.5 stories. Also, Church boasts a large green space at 18th. Better blocks to compare Wallach to would be our sister streets of Caroline and Willard.

 4. We maintain that while Level 2 may have conducted the requisite notifications to ANC and other neighborhood groups, the fact that an entire block of active and informed residents was caught off guard by this project – one on the drawing board for over a year probably – speaks poorly to the design team’s lack of interest in being good neighbors at the onset. They could have easily engaged the residents most affected by this project, but they chose not to. They failed at the most rudimentary elements of public relations.  

No one wants the Yums bunker gone like the residents of Wallach Place and we’re ready to partner with any developer who wants to replace that eyesore, but Level 2 chose to conduct their affairs in stealth mode. They didn’t even reach out to the owner of the townhouse that will directly abut their project, and tower nearly 100 feet over it. Rather than lazily rely upon a single anonymous comment from borderstan, you could’ve done some basic research, or even actual journalism.

5. Had you spent the time doing that basic research on our positions, you’d know that our chief concerns about the project are not parking but rather the building’s scale, massing, and setbacks. And the HPRB felt the same – voting unanimously to send David Franco and Eric Colbert back to the drawing board to have them restudy those exact aspects, in addition to fixing the “K Street” look of the project.

Each of your factual errors could’ve been averted had you had operated with a simple and fundamental element of journalistic integrity – one that dictates that you reach out to us for comment before publishing. So in the spirit of your lazy, sloppy and inaccurate drive-by shooting, we’ll cut and paste something from your comments section: “GGW going bat for them (Level 2), speaks to GGW’s credibility gap.”

We concur. Maybe it’s time to consider a name change to your site – “Not So Greater Washington.” Regards, Doug Johnson and Craig Brownstein

It was the HBRB that called the Franco/Colbert project “a failure of imagination.” It’s the Wallach Place families that imagine something greater on that site, and it’s doubtful they’ll be deterred, dissuaded or distracted by failures of journalism.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Brick and Glass, Sticks and Stones

  1. Pingback: SYMHM: July 20 Hump Day Edition | Borderstan

  2. fl

    You guys are some serious hot heads. I get why you’d be frustrated, but I think you’re going a little overboard. Setting up a blog on wordpress or blogspot doesn’t make you a journalist. I’m not saying that you are not one, but in dealing with other blogs your presumption that everyone will operate by the ethics common in the journalism profession is a little naive. Maybe GGW got some of the facts wrong, but overall I agree with their view point. I’m interested in the discussion which is why I read your blog, even though I disagree very much with your position. I think it would be more effective if you chilled out on how aggressively you attack everyone who disagrees with you. I understand you have an opinion and you live close by to this project, but others have opinions too and, believe it or not, they are just as valid as yours.

  3. Logan Res

    I find GGW to be one of the best blogs available for transit and development articles and opinions. They are very in favor of smart growth which is why they are not agreeing with your opinions regarding the building being proposed. 14th Street is a major transit and commercial corridor. It makes perfect sense to push for greater density there.

  4. Don

    I think you and your partner would be MUCH happier in the suburbs. Density makes a city. Get over it, or move.

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