Tag Archives: respect

The Long View

Faces tell the story

Faces tell the story

First off, I hope nobody got their hopes up.

Over the last week or so, a large portable “Pod” container had been parked in front of our house on Wallach. It wasn’t ours, yet I can’t help but suspect that a few of you faithful readers may have put two and two together, erroneously, and thought we were moving. Sorry to disappoint.

It wasn’t ours, but a neighbor’s just about four houses down. He and his wife and their happy slobbery dog were great neighbors. But they have had enough of the unending late-night street party that our corner of the neighborhood has become. They live elsewhere in the District now, as do several others who have left recently. “It’s just too much, and we’re the ones feeling it most,” said another neighbor as we bumped into each other on the street recently. “Nobody else seems to understand.” She and her husband are also debating a move.

Unlike the recent joint ANC “listening session” – in which hardly anyone, including the ANC commissioners present who already had their minds made up, listened to anyone else – it seems there are several things that can be learned about where the neighborhood is moving, but only if people listen to each other.

I was there, and heard many voices; although to be fair, those speaking seemed less “diverse” as one speaker noted and more homogenous than a walk around any four blocks around here. Regardless, there were generally three types of comments – from liquor moratorium supporters and opponents alike.

First was the appeal to good policy. Impact on crime, jobs created, long-term area growth; appeals to reason, basically. Of course, no serious policy discussion is premised on :90 second time limits, and by and large a lot of those arguments marshaled on both sides seemed rather spurious. That’s OK; it’s really no different than how committed partisans in our larger political contests engage.

Second was the “too blunt” argument, whose theme and variations were essentially “Yes, we can see how some of these things are getting a little out of control, but the moratorium is too blunt an instrument. Let’s just use existing laws to go after the bad actors.” Which would be fine, noted opponents, if it were possible. Personally, I suspect that if anything could have been done in the past under the existing laws, it would have. As in: if only the ANC 1B actually worked and wasn’t a complete mess losing filings and forgetting meetings and just plain making crap up, but alas, we know different. And the truth is that a moratorium is a blunt instrument. Perhaps not a cudgel, but certainly as fine as a hammer.

The third general sentiment seemed to me, at least, the most honest. Namely, that many new residents moved here specifically for a certain kind of urban lifestyle, and that those pushing the moratorium were attacking that life, and as a result, the new residents in turn. In other words: saying you don’t want any new bars is like saying you don’t want me. This candor, it seems, deserves some attention.

The moratorium was never my thing. It was an issue I could have (and did) go back and forth on. The District regulations it’s based on are cumbersome and complicated and, while not as absolute as some worry, just too ponderous for anyone’s good. Thus, winning arguments aren’t really based on policy or facts or convoluted processes, but emotional appeals.

In this case, a large segment – although I’m not convinced a majority, despite the dog-and-pony show – of residents share that emotional sense that the moratorium is somehow an attack on their values, their choices and at some root level, who they are as individuals.

This, I sense, puts this moratorium in a different space than the previous successful efforts in Adams Morgan, Georgetown and Cleveland Park. There, the populations were largely stable, there was little or no new influx of residents, and many of those drinking there and causing problems were from other areas of the region. Here, however, there’s a new building going up every week, and many of the younger, relatively successful newcomers are the ones rushing the tables and bars counters.

I really do get all that, as well as earnestly respecting those who let feelings be their guide on this issue.

Which brings me to what has been lacking – at times shamefully so – in much of the discussion from those vehemently opposed to the moratorium: any attempt at empathy or understanding.

When my partner spoke of the “online jihad” aimed at those proposing the moratorium – and was booed and hissed by those gathered to ‘listen’ – this is what he was speaking of. “Tyrants,” “busybodies,” “old nobodies,” “idiots,” “fascists”; these are just a few of the many more choice terms moratorium opponents have flung at proponents. And save one exception, with the courageous conviction that online anonymity provides.

In fact, it was frequently the anonymous commentors here and elsewhere that publicly singled individuals out by name and address; bravely while remaining cloaked themselves. Truly profiles in courage. Boo and hiss that.

Understanding and community-building work both ways, which is something this neighborhood is in desperate need of. Just as some opponents felt attacked personally by this issue, so, too do many residents who have watched their life choices be disrespected in puddles of vomit, exponentially more trash, drunks arguing and urinating right in resident’s front yards and so on with the explosion of establishments serving liquor.

Those neighbors moving out of the neighborhood aren’t happy to do so; several have commented they feel the neighborhood no longer cares about them and nobody is willing to listen. Successful communities work to build bridges, not burn them down. No individual or group should get everything it wants, and to hell with everyone else, as some seem to believe. We all must live together.

In the end, communities change. They follow at times unpredictable paths of both opportunity and loss. Ultimately, there will come another issue, another debate, where those who find themselves feeling in the superior position today will need those they once disrespected and called terrible names tomorrow.

It’s important to remember that, especially in this town, memories are long. Only fools choose to make enemies they don’t have to.



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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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