Thursday, December 23, 2010

ANC7C Holiday meet 'n' greet

In a break from the norm, which is usually no meeting in December, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7C hosted a holiday meet and greet.

In recent weeks, the Commission has been faced with news of Wal-Mart's arrival at the Capitol Gateway site at East Capitol and Southern Ave.  With the Commission facing this and other high profile community and economic development plans, we felt it was critically important for residents, developers, and stakeholders to meet in a social and informal environment.

The development community certainly came out in full force with refreshment donations from Beulah Community Improvement Association and its partner UrbanMatter's Ray Nix and 4800 Burroughs Avenue.  New deli owner Eun Sun Kim profiled her eatery's new menu with a spread of three types of salad--chicken, seafood, and tuna, chicken wings, sandwiches, and potato wedges. 

Mark your 2011 calendars for the 7C meetings on the second Thursday, 7p, 5109 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE basement! 

Commission Chair Khaliq Elhillali welcomes attendees to the holiday meet and greet.

Neighbors partake in the spread donated by Uncle Lee's Seafood deli owner Eun Sun Kim.  The deli is located at the starburst at Eastern Ave-Division Ave-Sheriff Rd.

Chair Elhillali and 7C Office Manager Ginger Jevne share a laugh.

Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander chats with neighbors and stakeholders about prospects for Wal-Mart and other community happenings.  7C Commissioner Mary Gaffney is pictured to the right.

Neighbors in 7C07 SMD engage Chair Elhillali about the Commission's operations and how to get involved.
Rev. Turner, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church and head of its community development organization, talks with development partner Ray Nix.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Liquor Store Alley: Is Your Neighborhood on the Edge?

For much of the year the process of granting liquor licenses has been debated from working class Ward 5 to hipster Ward 2 to tony Ward 2.  The overwhelming opinion is that the District's liquor license process which is administered by the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) is broken.  The common thread in these license debates, however, has been on-premises liquor consumption at bars, restaurants, and taverns.  Alcohol licensing for liquor stores is not, however, considered a part of the ABRA reform. 

In too many neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 there is a concentration of liquor stores--both beer and wine (Class B) and beer, wine, spirits (Class A).  Generally, there is an automatic expectation that a voluntary agreement and/or monetary donation can be made and the ANC will acquiese to the inevitable, ABRA granting the license.  This underlying tone favors the business instead of favoring the community and lets the business off the hook for actually having a business plan that doesn't leech off predominantly low-income neighborhoods.  In many cases in Wards 7 and 8 a VA will not be sufficient because the concentration of liquor stores is too high; we're saturated. 

Google Maps. Uncle Lee's left, Jock's Liquor right
 I am contending with this very issue right now with Uncle Lee's Seafood.  There is a new owner who is "just trying to survive."  The owner has a background in operating a deli with a speciality in breakfast.  She has changed the menu to include breakfast and lunch.  Unfortunately, survival is based on the lottery and liquor sales and not using her talent and skill on meeting an unmet market--an eatery with quality food and not typical carryout. 

No liquor license issuance is the only option for Uncle Lee's Seafood. Vibrancy and sanity of the neighborhood will not be enhanced with six liquor stores within a half mile radius! 

Google Maps. Liquor Store Landscape
 While I appreciate my neighbors west of the River writing about making the liquor license process less contentious, it is important to note the impact of concentrating licensees, specifically liquor stores.  Maybe there's room in ABRA reform to separate liquor stores from the licensing for restaurants, taverns, and nightclubs to take these matters into consideration.  Maybe even 7C should pursue a moratorium like Georgetown.  Otherwise, we'll continue to pick at the contention of "who is in the catbird seat--the licensee business owner or the Advisory Neighborhood Commission/community?" 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ward 7 residents define "livability" for their streets

A cross-section of residents in north Ward 7 gathered recently to help the District Department of Transportation and its consultants put a pin in the oft-used term "livability" at the second meeting of the Far Northeast Livability Study.

In transit and smart growth circles, livability means multimodal transportation, transit-oriented development, and a Complete Streets policy.

Many attendees weren't versed in the new terms entering the community development lexicon, but they do know their neighborhood and the ward can be better with more sidewalks, improved crosswalk markings and pedestrian signaling, slowing speeding traffic on narrow neighborhood streets and thoroughfares, and improving bus service.

The Far Northeast Livability Study area encompasses all of north Ward 7, between East Capitol Street, the Anacostia River, and the District line. A unique feature of the study process is an advisory council made of community members which shapes the meeting format, engages neighbors, and gives insight on key points.

This advisory council is especially important because the area has already been the focus of numerous studies in the past. Residents want to see action, not just a study that sits on the shelf.
DDOT Director Gabe Klein Photo Courtesy SBrown
Fortunately, DDOT Chief Gabe Klein agrees. At the monthly general meeting of the DC Federation of Citizens Associations, Klein pointed out the agency has $3 million invested in the DDOT Livability Program, including "money in the obligation plan to put solutions in place." The funds to implement the Livability Program are also included in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government's five-year Transportation Improvement Program. Klein pledged to attend the next huddle.

The gathering discussed tools that transportation engineers use to deal with speeding and cut-through traffic, and to integrate biking connections. The toolbox includes simple, low-cost methods like painted medians, high visibility crosswalks, and in-street pedestrian yield signs. At the other end of the spectrum, there are high impact, mid- to high-cost solutions like chicanes, roundabouts, landscaped medians, and raised crosswalks.

Residents discussed these options and weighed the pros and cons of each along problem corridors like Sheriff Road, 49th Street, East Capitol Street, the Minnesota Avenue-Benning Road intersection, and the Nannie Helen Burroughs-Minnesota intersection.

The next steps in the process include a review of the meeting comments in December and a follow-up in January. With a population of nearly 30,000 people, it is critically important for north Ward 7 residents and stakeholders to be on the ball and make sure the "study" gets implemented.

Crossposted at Greater Greater Washington.