Monday, May 3, 2010

Northeast Parcel Flattened

Over the weekend, workers flattened the mini hill located on the northeast parcel of Waterfront Station, owned by the District government, which some would like turned into a playground and community garden. In last month's poll, most readers either wanted the parcel to be developed as originally planned as residential (including an affordable component) with ground floor retail or as a residential building with ground floor retail and a new (free) library. Above is a photo of the flattened parcel, with the Southwest library in the background.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you missed the point with your poll. I don't think anyone is against this being developed as originally planned. But since this isn't going to happen anytime soon, it should be put to a good temporary use such as a playground and separate dog park.

DJ Panic said...

I am glad to hear the results of the poll.
Only %17 of families in this area have children, many of those are teenagers.
It would be a mistake to sacrifice badly needed tax revenue that could be brought in by a mixed use building in that location, in order to appease a vocal minority. The only tax revenue a playground will bring in will be from raised property taxes.
In addition to lost tax revenue, playgrounds have a history of being unsafe at night. We have something great building up here, lets not let them waste it.
I am starting a letter writing campaign. Please e-mail Tommy Wells at twells@dccouncil.us and let him know we need revenue and security, not a gift to the minority of residents at all our cost

wd said...

uhg... roughly one in five families have children and that's not enough for one playground?

I'm assuming you think playgrounds will be of the old safeway style - dirty and dangerous. Is that what you think of the new safeway? this neighborhood is changing. Please don't impede progress, and while you're at it, go look at some playgrounds in capital hill. The closest one I can think of is Garfield Park. Are children playing such a terrible thing for the neighborhood?

DJ Panic said...

"uhg... roughly one in five families have children and that's not enough for one playground?"

1- it seems rather unfair to me that five in five families must loose the potential benefits of greater tax revenue, and further development because of that one in five
2-Also those statistics are not entirely germain to the building of a playground since children is defined as under 18 and the playground is not intended for teens and it is also unclear what is meant by "families" since over half the quadrant lives alone.

Please don't impede progress
That's what I'm saying. I just define progress as a greater selection of goods and services, increased tax revenue, and a safe urban environment. I fail to see a playground as progress in any way.

Are children playing such a terrible thing for the neighborhood?
No, I just don't understand why the vast majority of us who do not need this should lose out over it.
Why can't playgrounds be set up at schools, which the taxpayers have already purchased for those children

wd said...

Mr DJ, I thought this whole playground idea was for a temporary park. This would be a good use of the property until financing becomes available to start building again. I'm all for developing these properties into office and/or residential with ground floor retail. But that is not going to happen any time soon (years).

In the meantime, what do you propose doing with these properties? I see no reason why they shouldn't be put to a good temporary use to the benefit of the community.

PostIt said...

Jeez - such animosity on both sides!

Unlike DJ Panic might lead you to believe, there are quality-of-life issues that are more important to residents than the ability for the District to raise more tax revenue from large retail or condos. It's why parks exist to begin with, and why we have a huge swathe of land called The Mall. I'm unmarried and have no kids, but I would certainly love to see a park where I can lounge on the grass and enjoy whatever picnic foods I've just bought at Swanky Safeway.

On the other hand, there is a very real complication that proponents of a playground are neglecting. Crime and security aside, temporarily *building* something on a parcel of land is problematic. Not only does the physical structure imply permanence, but it grounds the feature in the local community making it more resented when that area is lost. You can just hear the outcry five years from now (when the current proponents won't care so much about it anymore since their kids have grown up), "Oh, my goodness, where are my kids going to play now?" Try as you might to say "Well, this was always going to be temporary" - the removal will be resented in ways that might actually do more harm to the community than the good over that span. As SW development progresses, the last thing we want is give the impression that these new *good* changes are taking way valued public amenities.

Instead, I suggest using the land in ways that don't involve construction and significant landscaping, such as an open field for recreational use or, yes, even a dog park (I don't own a dog). If these parents are truly interested in investing in the facilities available to families with young children in SW, they should look at the permanent solutions. For example, how could the grassy treed area next to the library be more kid-friendly? How could the enormous and unnecessary cul de sac at the end of Water Street be redesigned to accommodate a park? What about the unfortunate widespread use of cement just south of there along the water?

Any changes to these other features would be long-lived changes. Instead, these parents have embarked on this campaign. While benign, it still smacks of a selfish sentiment, "What can you give my kids right now? But don't worry it can go away in 6 years once they've grow up."

Anyway, those are my two cents: great initiative on the part of parents, but redirect it toward long-lasting projects. Meanwhile, make the open space something that looks open and like it could change any day now. And whatever it becomes, for goodness' sake, don't name it.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more!

There are better places for a playground that could be permanently dedicated to such purposes. This is high value commercial and residential space that will continue to carry the SW waterfront station area in the right direction.

If a playground goes into that space it will never be removed. Further, it will serve as a gathering place for the neighborhood teens that currently gather around the metro at night.

We should look forward to siting a business that will stay open into the evening, such as a ground level workout facility or restaurant with late hours, to add light and people into this area to increase revenues and a feeling of safety.

DJ Panic said...

I thought this whole playground idea was for a temporary park

That is not what I've seen, however even if that was the plan, it would be far easier to stop this now, than reverse the decision later.

In the meantime, what do you propose doing with these properties?
I would propose the legwork be put in to find a buyer. I'm sure the land could be sold.

DJ Panic said...

there are quality-of-life issues that are more important to residents than the ability for the District to raise more tax revenue from large retail or condos.

I agree there are quality of life issues, I just feel my quality of life would be raised far more by a greater selection of retail, restaurant, nightlife, or cultural choices than by a playground

l use or, yes, even a dog park (I don't own a dog). If these parents are truly interested in investing in the facilities available to families with young children in SW, they should look at the permanent solutions.
We currently have a rec center in SW, why couldn't a playground be added there (like stead in NW has)or on one of the school properties.

such as a ground level workout facility or restaurant with late hours, to add light and people into this area to increase revenues and a feeling of safety.
I agree fully on this, we need more evening and weekend buisnesses

PostIt said...

@DJ
You're talking out of both sides of your mouth. You say you're all for more retail, restaurants, and nightlife, but you've failed to mention that in any of your posts thus far - just saying an abstract "goods and services." Should we open a Jiffy Lube there? Please...Instead you've mentioned taxes seven times.

Certainly our quality of life would improve with better commercial options (and the right kind) in SW (though I think a lot of the improvements will come with the Waterfront renewal). From your comments, it honestly sounds like you're interested in building SW up into something like Dupont Circle - but that will never be SW. This is a primarily residential area. If you want that atmosphere, you should have lived there instead. We are after a quiet community with some amenities, but not a loud downtown. Make it more like Shirlington, fine, but not Dupont.

And you have to admit that there's a complete dearth of greenspace in SW that is truly kid-friendly. We have a some athletic fields, but no open green space for the sake of open green space (think Lincoln Park or Folger Park). I'm curious, DJ, do you interact with kids much? It's a concern for parents if their child is at risk for getting hit in the face by a soccer ball, or getting side-swiped by a galloping football team. And honestly, saying this is something that we need "to stop" is absolutely the wrong attitude. It's promoting a my-opinions-are-more-important attitude, as opposed to collaborative pro-community respect.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the point being made here is that greenspace should not be a part of SW. It is more that the corner lot of the new commercial center adjacent to the metro entrance is not the right place to site such a neighborhood feature.

I particularly liked the idea forwarded about converting the circle at the marina into a park. It is an isolated, quiet, safe (next to the police station) parcel and has views of the water.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed a number of people cutting through that parcel of land. I expect that they'll continue to do so if possible. Playground or garden or dog park, whatever, must have a fence, not so important for a building, otherwise I'd worry about random people bothering children or dogs or plants.

DJ Panic said...

Should we open a Jiffy Lube there?
Though it would not be my first choice for that piece of land, I fail to see why a Jiffy Lube wouldn't be a far better use of the land than a playground considering
a)well only %17 of SW has kids %60 has cars, and it would be utilized I'm sure by those who work in the area Therefore benefiting far more people.
b)Jiffy Lubes do not have a history of crime in the evenings
and yes
c) It would bring tax revenue to the area, which I think the importance of is being greatly underestimated

do you interact with kids much?
No and one of my favorite parts about living in DC is it is almost 82% over 18. and only %6 under 5
Given those figures I am always resentful when the majority of us have to pay for or make sacrifices for such a pronounced minority.

It's promoting a my-opinions-are-more-important attitude
I have started a campaign (that many agree with) only in response to the campaign started by the parents (as seen in this months southwestner) to sway the council to put up the playground. It is not to say my opinions are more important" it is only to let the council and ANC know that their are those of us who oppose this.

DJ Panic said...

I particularly liked the idea forwarded about converting the circle at the marina into a park
This could be good.

I do however fail to see why so many think there is nowhere for kids to play in SW

we have multiple athletic fields attached to schools.
If none of the schools have playgrounds, why not put one there?

There is The Randal Rec Center
and The King-Greenleaf Rec Center not sure if they have playgrounds, but if not why not work for that. Stead (in DuPont) has a playground so it is something that has been done

We are also less than a mile from the newly developed riverfront park at the yards
and all the green-space at the national mall

Seems to me to be quite a bit, and if these are insufficient why not work to develop them?
Which will be easier to do if the area is bringing in more tax revenue

DJ Panic said...

otherwise I'd worry about random people bothering children or dogs or plants.

Just out of curiosity, what type of fence will keep out random nuisances, but let kids or dogs in?

All the more reason not to put a playground next to a major retail/office area

Anonymous said...

As a temporary use, particularly during the late spring, summer, and early fall months, I would suggest an outdoor stage for concerts, or even outdoor dramatic performances sponsored by organizations like the Shakespeare Theater or Arena Stage; and/or Screen-on-the-Green type events. The same suggestion applies to the northwest parcel on the other side of Fourth Street. (This assumes, of course that these areas would be grassed over). Community festivals, flea markets, etc. would also be possible uses.

In the winter, perhaps a temporary ice-skating rink could be set up.

These would bring the community together, and provide more things to do, pending permanent development of the site.

Erin said...

PostIt,

Maybe DJ Panic is trying to turn this into Dupont, but it sounds like you're trying to turn it into the suburbs. I'd guess our percentage of children is closer to Dupont's than the suburbs. This area is not kid friendly - thats why only 17% have kids under 18 here, but you want to make it such. Atleast DJ Panic has a leg to stand on - when I bought my condo here 2 years ago, the plans for that whole Safeway/M street area were already well knwon about. This playground idea is what is out of the blue, not more restaurants, retail etc. As for nightlife, there have always been a couple of clubs along the water, so there is precedence for that too.

I agree with not leaving it empty in the meantime, but I agree with the others on here, by no means should any actual structure be built on it, like a playground, because then when it comes time to take it down, people will complain that the city is taking down their playground, though it was never intended to be such in the first place. Anonymous on May 7 gave some really good ideas that appeal to a wider range of people.

I also agree in that I'm not against green spaces or playgrounds, they just need to be in the right places - such as at the Rec Center that already exists and is paid for by city funds or at the schools, also already exist and paid for by city funds. Growing up where I'm from, all schools had playgrounds and other than that, they had them at the state parks only. And that was an area with a LOT more kids and no one ever felt like there weren't enough places to play..

PostIt said...

@Erin
Wait, I want to make this into the suburbs? Really? Have you been reading what I wrote? Clearly you have, since when you said you "agree with the others on here, by no means should any actual structure be built on it, like a playground" - THAT WAS ME, NOT "OTHERS."

My issue with DJ is not that (s)he is against the park, it's that (s)he is completely unrealistic with what works for development. To think that a JiffyLube adds as much to the community of Southwest as a park! Really? A noisy, smelly, and dirty facility completely devoid of cultural value and community togetherness adds nothing but industrial blight. Which house is worth more, the one adjacent to the park or the one next to the JiffyLube? Talk about being a contrarian for the sake of having an argument.

You're perhaps right that SW is more like Dupont than the sprawling suburbs in MD and VA. But with that said, SW is much more like the Capitol Hill area than it is like Dupont. And in comparison, Capitol Hill has far more "multi-use" parks than Southwest (think: Folger, Marion, Lincoln Parks). If you look at a satellite image of SW, you'll notice that we have four baseball diamonds - and only one true "park facility," but which has a major water feature, which makes many parents feel uncomfortable. Similarly there are no "field" areas with trees where people can lie around, have a picnic or such. These are great amenities. Furthermore, for kids' and parents' safety alike, a well designed playground has a barrier (typically trees) between a ballfield - or eliminates the ballfield altogether. A park is not simply a plot of grass placed anywhere, which is what DJ implies when (s)he suggests annexing part of a baseball field.

I am not "for" this park, but I think the movement by parents reminds us of a couple important points. First, having a park area in the visible, central, and highly trafficked part of the new SW would be more successful (think of the Dupont Circle fountain) and would do more to stem any park-related crime that DJ seems to fear more than anything. Second, there is a complete lack of general use green space that can be used for non-athletic purposes. A park is more than just a 20,000 square foot plot of land - it has trees, grassy patches, benches, and (perhaps) a jungle gym or an above-ground fountain. A park is not defined by its color, but by being a central community-oriented outdoor space, which we don't have.

PostIt said...

@DJ

The whole issue of this being a kid-centered initiative is a strawman. Everyone likes greenspace, and it's irrelevant that 17% of people families have kids. But I'll play into your hand anyway, and respond on your terms:

1. 17% of families have kids. Where did you get that statistic? A look at the Census Bureau (linked from my name), shows DC not eggregiously off the national average. Is the 6.1% of kids <5 in SW so much lower than the 6.9% national average? Should we apportion public initiatives based on population distribution, or those who need public amenities most? If you think it shouldn't matter how much you need a certain facility, then maybe by your logic we should just allocated public funds based on those who contribute the most to those funds?

2. 60% of people have cars? Where did you get that statistic? First DC's car ownership rate is far lower than the national average. Second, being in an urban area, its access to greenspace is lower and facilitating access to that space should be weighted more heavily. Furthermore, 100% (!) of DC residents could have used the park at some point in their lives - not so with many people (especially in an urban area) who never own a car.

3. Yes, vehicles need to be maintained, but seeing as you're a mathematical person consider this unit of measure: person-hours spent/area. I contend the person-hours spent/area to be far higher at a park than at a Jiffy Lube. In an average year, people will spend much more time at a park (yes, more than half an hour every six months). As such, a park is more used by a community than Jiffy Lube.

4. The tax issue is not understated. DJ makes it sound like any tax revenue comes right back into our pocket. Wrong. "Tax revenue in the area" (s)he mentions - well, that area is the entire District of Columbia. Our tax dollars are diffuse and are not reinjected into Southwest directly. We are already likely receiving substantially greater return from the District on our tax contribution (consider the million-dollar mansions, commercial buildings, and rich people living elsewhere who carry the bulk of the District's tax burden).

5. Access to parks for children, like schools, broadens the appeal of a certain area. 87% of women and 81% of men in the United States reproduce in their lifetime (source: American Association of University Professors). A kid-unfriendly area naturally restricts the appeal of that area. If you care about property taxes going up - broadening the market is critical to raising property values and having quick turnover of real estate.

If you're looking for community-focused development, a park is a great contribution whose assets can't be exported to anywhere else. But, as I explained in my last post, it has to be done right, and that is not currently the case in SW. That's why this issue is one worth hearing out, even if we already know it would be unwise to replace useful development with a playground.

DJ Panic said...

To think that a JiffyLube adds as much to the community of Southwest as a park!
No, I think it adds more It adds revenue, security, and a useful service. A park adds crime, and lost potential for revenue.

Talk about being a contrarian for the sake of having an argument.
You brought up jiffy lube not I, I said that wouldn't be my first choice. I would prefer a restaurant with later hours, or a retail shop or maybe a vet. SW lacks so many things the choices are endless. I do however think a jiffylube would be better than a playground.

17% of families have kids. Where did you get that statistic
This comes from the Washington Post

we should just allocated public funds based on those who contribute the most to those funds?
I am a proponent of line item taxation where members of a community choose where there hard earned dollars go on a individual business.

60% of people have cars? Where did you get that statistic?
The Washington city paper

a. 87% of women and 81% of men in the United States reproduce in their lifetime

and most of them move to or live in the suburbs, those who do not, tend to be at the lower end of the financial spectrum. These people can not afford increased property tax, and benefit from public programs tax revenue funds.

I also will note I am not against using that space. I think using it for farmers markets, outdoor movies, concerts etc. is great! It would provide community benefit, increase business to existing businesses while not placing a permanent structure that will need to come down

PostIt said...

@DJ
Thanks for pretending to answer the thrust of my argument.

You and I are not in disagreement about how the temporary open space should be used, but your logic for an anti-playground/park stance still lacks foundation.

If playgrounds encourage so much crime, then shouldn't the suburbs, with a higher park/person ratio, have far more crime than DC? Oh, wait, you say, it's only urban parks that are the problem. By that logic, the Mall should be a hotbed for crime, as would every large traffic circle in DC. Listen, I live across from one of the baseball fields here in SW and I think it's such a waste - useful open space that's redundant four times over. From my own experience, green space doesn't mean inherent crime. I, for one, have yet to see any crime going on there. One of the major reasons is visibility. Lights down onto the field at night help highlight if something is going on - a centrally located (real) park would have the same effect - more foot traffic=more visibility. Naturally, late-night retail and some activity would have to complement that. No question.

And you still haven't explained how you think revenue to a Jiffy Lube helps SW directly. How would any revenue not be completely dispersed (or completely focused) elsewhere in the District. One might argue that with federal taxation on the business that more money actually LEAVES the District compared to increased property values in the neighborhood (for taxes and resale) thanks to a park, which would only increase DC coffers specifically (not that I think finances should be the sole determiner of development choices).

Perhaps most troubling of your argument is that you think that it's okay if families feel forced to move elsewhere. With that kind of logic, why should any municipality build anything its citizens are requesting? "Oh, YOU, want THAT? People who want THAT or any MORE of THAT should go live somewhere else." That attitude only leads to the compartmentalization of society. Maybe we should only build entrance ramps for the disabled in Florida, where there are a lot more senior citizens, or just forget putting crosswalks in small towns where everyone owns a car? How is that xenophobic attitude productive at all?

Anonymous said...

I agree with DJ Panic.

Why did we move to this area in the first place? For many of us, it was the gay bathhouses.

Can't we have a business like that move in? Let's just all forget about this playground foolishness.

DJ Panic said...

you say, it's only urban parks that are the problem. By that logic, the Mall should be a hotbed for crime?

It was not that long ago that the mall was one of the highest crime areas in the city
This was changed by extreme police presence, something I would not hold my breath waiting for at the spot we are discussing
Besides, this is ad hoc ergo propter hoc thinking even at that since there is not a playground on the mall.

And you still haven't explained how you think revenue to a Jiffy Lube helps SW directly

1- I have no interest in a Jiffy Lube, I just think it would be better than a playground, I think ANYTHING is better than a playground
2- DC is a small city, If something helps the city at large it helps an individual quadrant
3- A Jiffy Lube would be used by a large percentage of people,

Perhaps most troubling of your argument is that you think that it's okay if families feel forced to move elsewhere.
Frankly that would be fantastic
Why must everyone suffer for those who feel the need to reproduce?
Why must I pay taxes for playgrounds, schools, and programs?
Why if I am the majority in this area, must I keep suffering for the minority

DJ Panic said...

Why did we move to this area in the first place? For many of us, it was the gay bathhouses.

Can't we have a business like that move in? Let's just all forget about this playground foolishness.


Thank you
I miss the business that used to be in the area

Anonymous said...

Thank you DJ Panic - Your support of Gay Bathouses and JiffyLubes should be an example for all of us.

Now, if we can only bring back the open air drug markets....

DJ Panic said...

Thank you DJ Panic - Your support of Gay Bathhouses and Jiffy Lubes should be an example for all of us.
a) I never said a Jiffy Lube would be the best business to go in,but I do not understand why you view it so negatively since it is a revenue bearing business, that would be used by both locals and workers, that has never proven to cause any problems
b) as far as bath houses, how could you possibly dismiss a business that would have security and be open late in this area
I can only see your aversion as conservative, offensive and homophobia, since there is no valid reason to believe this would create a negative environment.
Bathhouses have provided a safe environment for many gay men to be themselves, as well as launched the careers of such icons a Bette Midler
How can you equate Bathhouses to crime?
One only needs to look at Castro Street In San Fransisco to see that an area with bathhouses can be safe.
as far as "open air drug markets" I would hazard to guess more of those take place in and around playgrounds than Jiffy Lubes, or Bath Houses.