Housing Complex

Can Wards 6 and 7 Play Nice on Reservation 13?

Last summer, the redistricting debate ripped through D.C.'s neighborhoods, creating an especially ugly dynamic between Capitol Hillites and the east-of-the-river wards that had shrunk in population and needed to annex some of Ward 6. The biggest sticking point: What would happen to Reservation 13, the big piece of waterfront property long slated for mixed-use development, when it "belonged" to a councilmember whose main constituency lived on the other side of the bridge?

I argued that it shouldn't matter: Leaving aside the quality of any particular councilmember, elected officials themselves don't control the fates of development projects, and a little cross-river cooperation couldn't hurt anyway.

That theory is receiving its first test with Mayor Vince Gray's determination to bring a Redskins training facility to the area—a conversation in which he hasn't even included the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, nevermind the surrounding neighborhoods. Since they've been working on plans for Reservation 13 for the better part of a decade now (hear that, Jack Evans?), Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in Hill East were the first to demand a meeting with Gray, and visited ANC 7A in December to get support for a united front. A meeting was scheduled for the end of March at Eastern High School, a few blocks away from the site.

That touched a nerve. During redistricting, Eastern had been carved out to stay in Ward 6, even though many Ward 7 residents felt it should belong to them—and that Hill East people shouldn't be driving the conversation on Reservation 13. "The specter of what Eastern High School was during redistricting resurfaced," says ANC 6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven. "There's some extreme voices who say this is in Ward 7, this is our land, Ward 6 should have no say in it." The meeting had to switch days because of Gray's schedule, and it relocated to the D.C. Armory—which is now in Ward 7.

Last night, ANC 7A chair Villareal Johnson swung by 6B and tried to assure the commission that while he might "shake the dust off" the plan and update it for market conditions, he didn't want to "throw the baby out with the bath water."

Afterwards, I asked Johnson whether folks on his side of the river wanted anything different from what Ward 6 people had already endorsed. "I don't think Ward 7 has a priority for that site," he said, before mentioning that he's heard people talk about a hospital as a desirable component of the new plan, since D.C. General had been shut down.

Whatever it is, the neighborhoods will be more powerful if they can come to an agreement across ward boundaries. According to Councilmember Tommy Wells, ANC 6B will have party status in any proceedings before the Zoning Commission. "It's going to have to be a partnership," Flahaven says. "And I hope that the whole Ward 7 thing doesn't become a distraction, because there are people who would like for it to be a distraction."

One thing they'll likely agree on: A Redskins training facility is sub-optimal. "I don't know anyone who wants a training facility, other than the mayor," says Johnson (who, incidentally, says he plans to run for the Ward 7 State Board of Education). "I talked with a lot of people who don't think it's an efficient use of space, unless it's part of a bigger plan."

  • PissAsHe77

    It is sad but true.....Ward 6 and 7 will not get along!
    Egos from both sides are off the hook! Until everyone
    gets off their high horses nothing will go right for Reservation 13.

    All I know is that the Redskins can go to HE77! They are not welcome At Reservation 13!

  • Kappa

    Is Reservation 13 on the East side or the West side of the Anacostia River? That is the question. The impacts, good or bad, will be felt by the neighbors.

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  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    You're right, but this reminds me somewhat of the Florida Market issue. FM is in W5, but abuts W6, and the residents living closest to the market are from W6, but the whole Councilmember involved process was very parochial focused on W5 and seemingly only according W5 residents "great weight" on the issue, to the tune of busing people from Fort Lincoln to testify, while demeaning W6 residents who live across the street.

    From a development standpoint, Res. 13 shouldn't have been shifted to W7, not because in a theoretical world of robust citizen engagement it shouldn't matter, but because DC's ward level politics are fucked up and parochial and in a normal snafu type DC world, this creates opportunity for really bad engagement and involvement.

    However, because Res. 13 definitely impacts the abutting Hill East/W6 communities, they will end up ensuring that it doesn't get f*ed up. Likely this (Redskins training facility) becomes the base of an anti-Gray mayoral effort.

    Just like with Florida Market, the reality is that Res. 13 is more connected to W6 and the core of the city and those are the people who will shape it because it matters so much more--by way of comparison most all of the other W7 geography and residents are pretty far away and it isn't part of the way they think about the world/their ward.

    Not that "great weight" is the be all and end all, but the boundary between W6 and W7 on 19th Street is in the middle of the road. That means that the abutting ANC in W6 will have standing for Res. 13 development, planning, and zoning matters.

  • i. J.

    Tommy Wells is a racist. Wells hates Blacks.

  • trulee_pist

    If handling development of Reservation 13 after redistricting is the first test of Lydia's theory that ward district lines shouldn't matter when it comes to development, then Councilmember Yvette Alexander, as well as CM Michael Brown, Mayor Vincent Gray, and Gray staffers Lew and Hoskins failed the test tonight.

    They spoke to the people across the street from the development as if they were creatures from Mars.

    Alexander arrived late and the very. first. words. out of her mouth were, in effect, "Reservation 13 is mine now, and you Ward 6'ers can go pound sand." Layman is nuts if he thinks "abutting ANC in W6 will have [any real] standing for Res. 13"--not if Alexander has anything to say about that.

    This meeting drew about 300 residents from W6 W7 and elsewhere, including many elected officials who have been working on Res 13 development for a decade, and set the efforts back significantly. What a shame, since it was an extremely well-organized event put on by the ANCs in W6 and W7.

    What a shit show.