Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Freshman Class of ANC 6D

In last month's general election, three new ANC 6D commissioners were elected - two of them will represent areas of Southwest. Below is an interview I did with Bob Craycraft, who will represent single member district 6D 01 and Cara Lea Shockley, who will represent single member district 6D 02. These individuals will replace Jane Jorgensen and David Sobelsohn, respectively - both of whom did not run for re-election. Portions of this interview also appears in this month's South by West article in the Hill Rag, along with questions posed to David Garber, who will represent single member district 6D 07 in Near Southeast.

SWTLQTC: How long have you lived in Southwest?

Bob: It will be 12 years in March, the entire time I've lived in the Washington area.

Cara: Three years in February.

SWTLQTC: Why did you decide to run for office?

Bob: I felt at the time that the District, and Southwest in particular, was entering an exciting period of continual improvement and growth that I wanted to be a part of, and try to influence in a positive way.

Cara: Commissioner Sobelsohn asked me to consider it. I’d been on the ABC Committee as his representative, so he knew I was willing to contribute. But more than that, I love this neighborhood. We lived in Arlington when I was a little girl, and we used to come to the Flagship restaurant for brunch on Sundays. I remember telling my mother when I was about 10 that I wanted to live here. I’ve been lucky enough to do it.

SWTLQTC: What neighborhood issues would you like to tackle during your first term?

Bob: Residents of SMD 6D01, the so-called Near Southwest, are in a Bermuda Triangle of development defined by Fourth Street, L'Enfant Promenade/10th Street, and the Southwest waterfront. Our only boundary not under development, in fact, is an 8-lane freeway. Trying to represent the needs of residents in this rapidly-changing environment are critical, whether it's traffic, parking, or a host of other issues. The rumors and media reports about moving Southwest into Ward 8 need to be addressed head-on, and residents' viewpoints considered. There are chronic problems facing Jefferson and Amidon-Bowen Schools that I'm not certain can be turned around -but I will do my best to be an active part of the process that is at least trying. We have a rare grouping of mid-century religious architecture that I also feel is endangered, and Town Center West Park, the duck pond as many people know it, is literally crumbling in front of our eyes. In the longer term, I'm also concerned with the threat of overhead streetcar wires appearing on Seventh Street one of these days, and have yet to be convinced on the economics of a streetcar system.

Cara: My SMD has many elderly people and many people with disabilities. I’d really like to see our sidewalks made safer. So much of the street lighting concentrates just on the areas where the cars are driving. We need better lighting, and I’d prefer something tightly focused on the sidewalks so that it doesn’t become an issue for the homeowners, more even sidewalks so that people on canes or in wheelchairs feel safe, and I’d love to see some beat or bicycle cops patrol in the evenings.

SWTLQTC: What role do you think ANC Commissioners play in the development of neighborhoods?

Bob: We should try to be the reasoned voice of the majority of residents, and not just a mouthpiece for our most strident neighbors. I also want to strike a balance between homeowners and renters, who can often have very different views on a subject.

Cara: We’re supposed to fight for the residents – all the residents – we currently have. I don’t want to see my neighbors priced out because the area is suddenly chic. A neighborhood without businesses won’t thrive either. It’s a balancing act. We also need to be able to get things done, like the traffic study the current commissioners have spent years pushing for. They’ve finally, just this past meeting, gotten DDOT to promise one. Traffic patterns at all times of day and all the various layers – pedestrian, bicycle, car, public transportation, major streets, neighborhood streets, major events – need to be understood. Businesses can’t succeed without easy access, but we also can’t have accidents like the ones at 4th Street, SW and M Street, SW become part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

SWTLQTC: What are your thoughts about the redevelopment plans for the Southwest Waterfront, which mostly falls in your single-member district?

Bob: Overall, I think we have a home run with some of the most talented developers in the country involved. I'm not certain it's the right place to put public housing - the lack of a walkable supermarket, drug store, or Metro station seemed to make it uniquely ill-suited for a lower-income resident.

SWTLQTC: What are your thoughts about the redevelopment plans for Randall School, which falls in your single-member district?

Cara: If Bing Thom really is going to be the main architect, I think it’s terrific. His work for Arena Stage was striking, and I like the idea of continuity of design throughout the neighborhood. There’s a clinic in my SMD, right next to Randall School. I want it to stay, if not there, then nearby. That clinic has been a godsend for so many of my constituents – including me. Beyond that, I really need to see all the plans and ideas from the new owners. I think the public art aspect is wonderful, and I respect Commissioner Sobelsohn for getting it.

SWTLQTC: Your single-member district also includes L’Enfant Plaza, which is north of the Southwest Freeway. How do you think the north and south areas of Southwest can be more connected short of removing the freeway?

Bob: I appreciate that question, as many people are surprised to learn that for those of us along Seventh Street, L'Enfant Promenade is just as convenient as Fourth Street. Or could be. Yet we are virtually blockaded from the Metro and the Promenade with pedestrian-hostile architecture that has included the closing of the southern walkway around the HUD building and the enclosure of what is now called Constitution Square in just the past two years. We have the incredible Mandarin Oriental hotel right beside us but "you can't get there from here" due to the tangle of streets and walkways. The only thing I can see in the short term to make it better would be some sort of wind-breaking enclosure along the freeway overpass, it can be a miserable walk in bad weather. It would be fantastic if a redeveloped L'Enfant Promenade could include a greenhouse-style entrance way out onto Seventh Street to entice and welcome shoppers into that complex, but I don't see the Feds ever allowing such an amenity.

SWTLQTC: Much of your single-member district is on the north side of the Southwest Freeway, which is primarily an office district. How do you think the north and south areas of Southwest can be more connected short of removing the freeway?

Cara: There’s a foot tunnel commuters use to get to Federal Center SW and its environs which is junky and scary; it and the pathway leading to it need to be cleaned up and made more appealing – widened would be nice, policed would be even better. The sandwich shops and other businesses should be encouraged to stay open later, many of them close mid-afternoon, for the residents to pick up something on their way home from the office or just to have a place to go in the evening occasionally. We need some of the smaller amenities. I already use the dry cleaner near NASA because they do great work and are open on Saturdays. So many of the little shops aren’t open on the weekend at all – even the Starbucks at the Federal Center SW metro stop isn’t open on Sundays.

SWTLQTC: What is your stance on the proposal by Ward 6 Council member Wells to implement a “Complete Streets” concept for M Street SE/SW (i.e. remove a lane of traffic, add cycle tracks, widen sidewalks, etc.)?

Bob: I think the proposal is little more than quaint as long as we have pedestrians being killed at Fourth and M Streets and the MPD unwilling to ticket speeders and red light-runners blatantly running through our streets and intersections. The intersection of G and Seventh Street is another bad one, with G Street changing from one-way eastbound to two-way "just because" and so many Maryland commuters using it as an I-395 bypass. I just don't have the confidence in DDOT or MPD's moving violations enforcement to feel the Complete Streets concept will work for us.

SWTLQTC: What kinds of businesses would you like to attract to SMD 6D 02?

Cara: Local ones. I love the idea of both the Randall School development and the renovation of the Southwest Waterfront. But if all we end up with is a bunch of national chain stores or hotels, I think we lose something crucial. I was on the bus in Ward 8 a week or two ago and saw a restaurant that had “Black owned and Family run” on its sign. I want businesses like that in my neighborhood, ones with ties to DC. If there’s going to be an ice cream parlor (I bring this up because the PN Hoffman representative kept using “getting an ice cream cone” as his example of someone coming to the Southwest Waterfront), I want to see Gifford’s rather than Baskin Robbins. We don’t need another Starbucks – there are five within half a mile of me - but bringing in Sidamo Coffee and Tea, for instance, would be something unique and local.

SWTLQTC: Which DC political figure (past or present) do you most admire and why?

Bob: David Catania. Anyone who can be white, gay, and a closet Republican in a city that is majority African-American, straight, and Democratic and win at-large elections has earned my respect.

Cara: Sharon Pratt Kelly. She saw problems with the city and ran for Mayor to combat them. I also think Tommy Wells does a good job of listening to the people he serves.


Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for doing this! Neat interview.

I'm not quite sure what to say in response to Bob's assertion, with respect to waterfront redevelopment: "I'm not certain it's the right place to put public housing - the lack of a walkable supermarket, drug store, or Metro station seemed to make it uniquely ill-suited for a lower-income resident" I mean, all of those things are at Watefront Stn which is, like, two blocks away, right?

In response to Cara's observation, " I’d love to see some beat or bicycle cops patrol in the evenings", I can report that I was driving back from Barracks Row this evening (this, Bob, might be why one might like a street car) and was passed, at about 9:30 in the evening, by three police officers on bikes riding down M street. And looked down to see that the temp gauge in my car read 26 degrees. That is either dedication or insanity. Although there were a surprising number of pedestrians out, so I can see where it was beneficial. If bloody cold.

Anonymous said...

What is going on with the killings in Southwest? Any community meeting planned? We are very concerned with the recent reports. - Elizabeth & Scott

Anonymous said...

Great interview, very informative. In regards to Cara's comment: "I was on the bus in Ward 8 a week or two ago and saw a restaurant that had “Black owned and Family run” on its sign. I want businesses like that in my neighborhood...", I couldn't disagree more. The owner's race does not matter to me one bit. On the other hand, if the sign states that they're "locally owned", or "family run" then I give them my full support. Touting race and/or ethnicity as a reason to frequent a business is a losing strategy.

Cara Shockley said...

For the record, the race doesn't matter to me either. Locally owned, family owned -- those are the important things, but I think it's important to quote accurately. Hence, the full wording on the sign.

Jeannine said...

I was also confused about Bob's answer on there not being a walkable grocery, drug store or Metro. All of these facilities are very walkable from the Waterfront.

Re: Killings: There have been arrests made in all recent incidents of shootings and the recent robbery with a gun. From what I've been told from the police this was all crime on crime. I.e. Drug dealers/criminals warring against one another. The police are taking every precaution by constantantly patrolling the housing complex where the crime is occurring. Although they are doing everything they can, I too worry that this may spread to not just "crime on crime" but to more crime within the community to include innocent residents. I'm also concerened with my property value. Many homebuyers just look at statistics instead of digging to see who the crime was committed against. If you want to learn more, come to our PSA meeting which occurs the third Thursday of every month from 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Harbour Square Coop
500 N Street, SW
Washington, DC

Come meet Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers and other members of your community at the regularly scheduled monthly meeting of Police Service Area (PSA) 104. Neighborhood crime problems are identified and solutions discussed at PSA meetings.

Sponsor: Metropolitan Police Department, First District

Learn more about the seven police districts Contact: Lieutenant Nicholas Gallucci nicholas.gallucci@dc.gov

(202) 698-0380

sb said...

I'm glad other people pointed out the oddity of Bob's answer. I think the waterfront is a lot closer to those amenities than most public housing in DC is!

Also, my understanding was that this was definitely not going to be typical public housing--instead, 15% of the housing would be for people under 30% of AMI (about $31k/yr), and 15% for people under 60% of AMI (about $62k a year). There are a lot of people (like me) who are good neighbors, solidly employed, who would like to live there. If they have good management who can weed out problem tenants (who occur at all income levels; look at http://jeffersonatcapitolyards.blogspot.com/2010/09/has-8th-floor-been-at-it-again.html and other posts on that blog about a luxury building)then it'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

In the promenade near the 9th and d metro entrance, there is now a big coming soon sign for Roti. Roti is an awesome place that has its first location downtown near GW and is sort of chipotle style make your own pitas. Can you find out when it'll open and what its hours will be? Thanks!

SWill said...

Jeannine: Thanks for giving us an update on the shootings. It's been a busy week for me and I didn't have to chance to investigate.

Anonymous 12/12: Thanks for the tip. I'll see what I can find out about an opening date and hours of operation.

Bob Craycraft said...

Regarding my comments on the lack of a walkable supermarket, drug store, etc. for residents on the waterfront, thinking of walking from today's Philips restaurant to the Safeway. That's hardly two blocks---more like 7 or 8. We have much empty space within two blocks of 4th and M, it seems many people who would qualify for lower-income housing (elderly, disabled, single-mother families) might be better-served with such amenities closer at hand, given an option.

Anonymous said...

SWill... I know this is unrelated to this post, but what was the rant at the ANC meeting against the blogs and Southwester about?

SWill said...

Anonymous 12/13: During the Community Concerns section of the ANC meeting, an outspoken community member who is a perennial commenter at ANC meetings accused some neighborhood bloggers (calling out JDLand by name) and the Southwester editor of being misinformed when talking about the role of ANCs and the community's position on certain issues. This individual then began a laundry list of some issues under question, like ANC "extortion" for community benefits, parking and traffic studies, misspelling someone's name, the long-time community members' thoughts about neighborhood development, etc. Commissioner McBee cut this indvidual off before finishing the statement saying something to effect of "You can finish your speech at next month's Community Concerns section of the meeting." Afterwards, an audience member from near SE publicly thanked bloggers and the editor of the SWer for their voluntary service to the community which received a round of applause from the audience. That about sums up what was said, but I'm sure the SWer will have something to say about these comments in their next issue.

Anonymous said...

"...an outspoken community member who is a perennial commenter at ANC meetings."

Lemme guess. Does his name begin with a "G" and end with an "ene"?

Anonymous said...

If what Bob is really attempting to say, but is afraid to go on record with -- and this is -- that if the re-development of the SW Waterfront, the Capital Riverfront, the Nationals ballpark, and the possibility of a new Buzzard Point community is to succeed short and long term the public housing in our area must also be re-developed in some way to improve community safety, to increase the city tax base (in some way) and to address a host of other community related issues (including crime, litter, etc) that mirror what residents had faced in south east before the Capers community was redeveloped. If this is not what Bob is trying to say I apologize, but this is what I believe.