Getting To Yes

A Positive Vision For The Neighborhood

Generally speaking, we’re inclined to say “yes.” Yes to the Ellington. Yes to L2. Yes to Black and Orange and the Louis and Blackbyrd and Langston Lofts and…well, the record’s pretty clear. With very few exceptions, we’re much more about Yes than No.

See that? It’s all that remains of the once grand Republic theater.

Of course, just like a relationship, yes isn’t unconditional. The Ellington had several rescalings, making it a superior building. L2 and its designer, Eric Colbert, were rapped on the knuckles by HPRB for an uninspired design, and returned with something demonstrably better. We always liked B&O, but wondered whether there isn’t a median between hosting a great burger joint and serving inebriates at 4am.

Let’s face it: yes is fun. No can be a downer. Saying yes generally means making others happy, while saying no means pissing off at least a few. Nothing new here.

Occasionally – as in every day – we get notes here from a few rather angry anonymous commentors. They’re often filled with poor spelling and pointless accusations, and judging by the clock, they’re frequently composed in the wee hours, which is rarely a good time to frame a serious argument. From now on, anyone sending a comment with the blanket condemnation that we’re just “N—-S” is simply getting this emailed back to them.

Still, we like being about yes, and generally agree that it’s as important to spell out what you’re for as much as what you’re against. So here goes.

Here’s what we’re about. What we want to say yes to. A positive vision for the neighborhood, which we can then share with others:

  1. Daytime As Well As Nighttime. A tremendous amount of the neighborhood development recently has been focused on entertainment, food and drink. It’s made the hood a real draw. We like restaurants of all sorts – fancy (Eatonville) to divey (Pica Taco) and everything in between. We also like bars and music and all that. However, we want to see more daytime traffic. An office building, instead of yet another apartment bloc. A little more retail and a little less cocktail. It’s not asking too much.
  2. Cooperation. Bar owners are making a killing in the neighborhood, and they’ve opened in some formerly empty buildings. But liquor means more fighting, more trash, more congestion. Those who are profiting from all that merriment should find it in their best business interests to help the neighborhood keep itself safe and clean. If you fill someone with booze, your responsibility for that person does not stop when they walk out the door.
  3. Traffic. Our little streets are carrying more traffic than they can manage. Parking is beyond impossible, congestion ties up the streets. It’s a complaint as old as cities, but in this case it’s also true. Some of the new parking restriction initiatives are positive, but we just want a little honest. “New urbanist” types like to say that buildings now don’t need parking, because we’ve got Metro and bikes and Carshare. Hogwash. This is a fantasy like supply-side economics. You increase residents, with more people living on top of of one another than at any time before in this neighborhood, you increase cars. Just open the window and look. There may be no brilliant solutions to traffic, but everyone needs to be honest about the problem – and that includes developers who can’t be bothered with the expense (or the water table) to put in the required parking.
  4. Respect. We can disagree and debate on what is good design, or smart development, or sustainable planning. In fact, we should. That’s not what those who hurl the NIMBY label, or make other accusations, are doing. They are just plain being bad citizens. Nobody respectable in the same-sex marriage debate uses the word “faggot.” Nobody respectable uses the brick of “Nimby” in the development debate. Period.

So: yes to buildings – those that house office workers as well as those who work in them. Yes to entertainment – and a cooperative relationship to keep everyone safe and sound. Yes to honesty when talking about traffic problems. And yes to everyone being a good neighbor, and respecting all those around you – along with their right to hold differing opinions.

See? Getting to yes really isn’t that hard.



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6 responses to “Getting To Yes

  1. Thanks for this post Doug.

    As someone who lives in the U Street area and does not have a car I am not sure I understand the point about traffic.

    Surely, the best way to have less congestion would be to stop people who move into new developments from being able to get parking permits? When I lived in central London this was very common…

    • Doug

      Interesting. I’m curious to hear what others may think of that. I’m not sure such a thing can be done in DC, however…I seem to recall this complicated explanation that, in the end, you can’t bar someone from applying for parking.

  2. Long time resident

    London has very successful congestion charges that have decreased traffic in Central London. A lot of our traffic is caused by car-bound visitors to our popular neighborhood — a congestion charge a la London or Singapore would help– but I do not think our masters on the DC Committee in Congress would allow it. ( They do not allow commuter tax, fx.)

    I wonder how much of the traffic is visitor vs. residents, Doug?

    • Doug

      LTResident – you bring up a critical point: namely, residents of the District of Columbia aren’t fully in charge of their civic fate. We as a population could vote on any issue with convincing majorities, only to see it reversed – or worse, just erased – by our masters in Congress. And yes, I do use the word “masters”, as there is no better descriptor for those who can determine another’s fortune.
      I would love to see traffic analysis, but I suspect a large portion of traffic are visitors – note the number of Maryland, Virginia and other plates.

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