Housing Complex

Zoning Fights That Make Me Sad

The all-important zoning map.

I had the pleasure of attending two ANC meetings over the last two evenings in which zoning for two specific parcels was discussed: One, for the Curtis Chevrolet site on Georgia Avenue, and another, for the Big Bear Cafe on First and R Streets NW. Both left me feeling even more depressed than ANC meetings usually do.

Once upon a time, developer Foulger-Pratt planned a 400-apartment mixed-use building on the Curtis Chevrolet site, which was supported by Councilwoman Muriel Bowser and many residents. In March of last year, ANC 4B provided extensive comments to the Office of Planning, requesting more time to consider the proposal. But then, in July, the ANC voted to endorse an all-commercial development on that lot. The "whereas" clauses included: "Our Community is homeowner-based and family oriented, we want to maintain the character and integrity of our community" and "With the addition of over 1000 more residents in a compact area the likelihood of crime and violence increases dramatically."

Ultimately, the mixed-use project fell apart because it's apparently easier to get financing for all-commercial projects in this economic climate. Now, the site will likely become a Walmart, which may not have been the kind of all-commercial development that residents opposing new apartments had in mind (their requests included the usual neighborhood dreams of a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and a movie theater). At Monday's ANC meeting, even though the Office of Planning had ruled that her anti-residential zoning request would be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and even though the planned Walmart would render it moot, Commissioner Brenda Speaks passed another resolution requesting that the zoning appeal be heard. At the same time, her personal assistant was circulating a flyer opposing Walmart.

Here's the bottom line: You can't demand fun, high-quality, neighborhood-serving retail without accepting more residents. Brightwood isn't high-density or high-income enough to support the kinds of things Speaks and Co. are asking for, and when you oppose mixed-use projects, you're just asking for a Walmart.

Next depressing zoning discussion.

You thought the Big Bear Cafe wars were over? So did I. But after being defeated in their battle against the cafe's liquor license, nearby residents are opposing the zoning map change from residential to low-density commercial that owner Stu Davenport needs to operate his business legally. The ANC voted to support the change back in 2008, and it passed in the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2010. But last night, in the outgoing Commission's last meeting–also the last meeting at which the single member district in which the cafe is located, currently represented by Davenport, would not have a vote–the ANC overturned its previous vote and supported neighbor Karla Lewis' petition to keep the address residentially zoned.

In both cases, the powers that be will likely ignore the ANC appeals for unrealistic commercial development (in ANC 4B's case) or monochromatic residential character (in ANC 5C's case). But both represent somewhat regressive visions of neighborhood development. It's the kind of thing that the Office of Planning is trying to mitigate by overhauling zoning regs to allow for commercial uses in high-density residential zones. Healthy neighborhoods have amenities like restaurants, cafes, gyms, daycares, etc. within walking distance (which you can see in a wonderfully visual way with the Office of Planning's nifty walking map).

Doesn't mean unrestricted commercial development–neighbors still have a substantial degree of control. Just desirable retail where it works. It's my wish for the New Year that more local government bodies will understand.

  • Ben

    Ex-Commish is a remnant of the "Old" DC--frightened by change, and willing to go to any lengths to prevent it. If otherwise good, upstanding businesses and the majority of neighborhood residents are harmed or negatively impacted, so be it. It is both sad and reckless behavior, but it is also--thankfully--on its way out. In its place are people for whom civility and adaptability are not foreign words.

    To Mr. Daneker and the rest of the petulant NIMBYs, I say: good riddance, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

  • DCCommish

    @evoque--they already have them and they are of public record. I'll be sure to be at the hearing and share that information directly with the board memebers. Check out the reords for yourself.

    Jerry--no liew here just the truth and fact which you are not looking at and like to avoid since you love BBC...so like or lump it you just can't run a muck and think that you can then get all you want!

    Willis--then maybe you shouldn't have said anything. It's obvious you don't have the facts but continue to support the illegal actions of BBC. It's never been personal, it's about what is fair and equitable. Stu hasn't been fair or equitable but just looking to line his pockets! I have said in the past BBC has been a good addition to the hood but what he has done moving forward with his agenda at the price of nieghbors and commissioner with the lies on top of lies is outrageous. Someone must stand up against such actions. As for that leadership you speak about, you can blame STU for all this crap. He lied, he still lies and you all eat it up. Leadership is when someone takes a stand on truth, facts and justice even though it's not popular. Unlike some of these Commissioners i.e. Salatti who just speaks up on popular things. Salatti and Davenport cause the riff because of thier actions, not the ANC commissioners. ARE ALL YOU PEOPLE BLING TO THIS!

    Sally--you silly little thing, still listen to the PR campagin instead of the facts. Hard to change the minds of those who don't pay any attention to the facts!

    Ben I'm all for change, change is good! However when you lie and cheat to achieve that change i have a big issue with that. By the way I'd watch that door if I where you, it usally hits those who are not honest first! As far as business that are good and upstanding they got their permits and licenses, but BBC screwed up and thought they were going to get the same thing if they ran a PR campagin. Well not going to happen! Look at the truth and facts not the bullshit Stu puts out!

  • DCCommish

    @JustMe--what a bunch of crap! As you shoudl know because as a waitress you know everything about food service and business right! Rustic got all it's licenses with out issue! It's BBC who tried to lie and use the public outcry to get it's permits, lisences and not zoning. so please go back to the tables and ask your customers if they would liek somethign else, instead of trying again to get more tears shed for BBC. you know little about the law or the lies and false docuemnts submitted on this issue.

  • DCCommish

    Willis--furhtermore, I'd much prefer a neighbor who tells the truth than one who lies and cheats. I'm much prefer a business opening in a commerical zone than an R-4. Furthermore, if you had a freaking clue, you'd know that those liquor stores have been there since before zoning, and if i had my way we'd be able to close a lot of them. But however you silly thing, there is the law which we all have to follow, ooo ooh except STU! So please get your facts and arguement straight first. It's obvious you don't know the laws or zoning. AND BBC is not a decent business, it a business that operates illegally and shady just like it's owner STU! SO!!! and as far as calls goes i have plenty but it's obvious that you can't have class you have to drop to the level of bloggers and the racist, crazy comments they make and join that group in order to be hears! Right Lydia!

  • DCCommish

    Thank you LOWER WARD 5 finally a blogger who gets it, who understands and knows something. Gives me hope!

  • Willis

    Sadly, DCCommish, your further responses loaded with invective only prove my point. Oh, and I do know a thing or two about the law, and your allegations about Stu and BBC are not only wrong, but they are also reckless (and perhaps intentional). So, while we're on that subject, you should tread lightly before accusing a business of operating illegally and its owner of being a liar in a public forum such as this. Defamation is still an actionable tort in the District, as is tortious interference with business relations by the way.

    The site that BBC operates on has been used COMMERCIALLY for more than 110 years (a point you conveniently leave out of all of your comments). In any event, I stand by my comments--we deserve better leadership than you have offered, which (as you have so clearly demonstrated here) has been divisive and dismissive of anyone who disagrees with you, not to mention rude and childish. Honestly, grow up, DCCommish. We at least deserve adult leadership. The problem with your ilk, DCCommish, is that you have not a humble bone in your body--you think you know more than you do, and your ego won't permit anything to penetrate your brain other than that which reinforces your preconceived and erroneous viewpoints.

  • Willis

    Oh, and I have no idea what you are talking about with your repeated claims respecting "racism." I haven't seen anyone here mention race other than you, so stop injecting that into this discussion. In fact, you don't know my race, do you (as if that should matter--it doesn't)? (Perhaps I ask too much, as nothing divides people more than the issue of race--it seems division is your goal.)

    As for your claim about my not having class...I'll let your comments and my comments speak for themselves on that score.

  • DCCommish

    @willis--shall we go to the video tape! And Race please you mihgt get some history lesson if you read the washington City papers over the past year! It's when BBC, Stu and Commissioner Salatti started the PR campaign to avoid the regualtions that things went wrong. They are the dividers of this community over this. The residents deserve to know the truth see the documents, statements and records and decide. not the PR Campagin these boys have put together to drum up business for BBC and the financially troubled owner. Let's get the fact Willis. Know the law, know when documents where altered and not singed, know when CO's should hdave been filed, etc. so I'm ready any day to defend my record on this issue! Get Real Get the Truth not what someone tells you! Facts is what it's all about and I do my FOIA requests, get transcripts, minutes, and even video. What do you have but Stu's foolish clammering?

  • Willis

    @DCCommish, I don't really have anything to add to this discussion. You feel compelled to justify the positions you have taken at all costs, including by lobbing wild and unfounded allegations here, yet you have not directed us to a shred of evidence to support your claims. You seem to have no interest in trying to achieve unity in our community or to keep an open mind, but instead you appear to relish the division you have helped insert into this issue. The people of our community deserve better--period.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    lydia: fantastic article. way to get the point down succinctly.

    barrie: how's the retirement going? publicly threatening violence to a person ("Can't wait to get a hold of you to tell you that to your face.") is probably a bad idea.

  • DCCommish

    @imgoph--Retirement is great! Now i get to be as nasty and in your face as all of your bloogers have with one different...the TRUTH and FACTS!

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    barrie: maybe you could work on your grammar in your down time as well. toodles.

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