As basic chemistry tells us, gas seeks an equilibrium. You cannot long have a single space filled half with high-density gas and half with low-density gas. The high density gas would rush to the other side and even out the pressure in the room. Thus it is with the ANC. You might write up a tight two hour agenda, but that high-density schedule is bound to spread out and take up the full three hours the space will allow.
And the theme of air, density and equilibrium is a pretty good place to start the discussion today. The agenda last night had seven projects that included rear additions to the buildings in question. Whenever a project like that comes before the commission, it’s just a matter of time before the words “open space” and “light” are evoked to reject the proposal. However, last night it was Commissioner Birch who boiled all these concerns down to a single word: air.
What the word air really means is the right to look out through other people’s properties. Actually, in England they have an appropriately fussy name for it: Ancient Lights. It’s a quasi-right over other people’s “air” that in some circumstances enables you to block construction that will block the sunlight.
And GM is fine with that. Nobody wants their views all the sudden completely obstructed. But as these projects continued to be considered, GM couldn’t help but wonder how the logic underpinning the argument opposing each project would have applied to the construction of Georgetown in the first place. In other words, would Georgetown have been built as it is if the planners of yesteryear felt the same as they do today on the question of density?
Too often density is viewed as a four letter word in Georgetown. This is ridiculous. Density is one of Georgetown’s best features. Density gave us the row-houses on small walkable blocks right next to a bustling retail corridor. That coupled with the historic consistency of late 19th century homes is why people love to live in and visit Georgetown.
Density as a vague concept isn’t a problem. The problem is at what point we have too much density. Last night the commissioners were struggling to express where that line is. And that brings us to “equilibrium”. For the commissioners to have a logical argument against addition projects, its important for them to establish a coherent argument that we have reached some sort of an equilibrium.
The FAR requirements are an attempt to do just that, but frequently the commission fights a project even when it is within the FAR limits. If the 60% FAR requirement is not adequately expressing the desired equilibrium, the commission should come up with a better measure that everyone can understand. Simply fighting density for the sake of fighting density is not defensible in a neighborhood that was built specifically to be dense. Some other measure is needed.
This week, the halls of the Wilson Building have been shaken with the reports of an extensive bribery investigation that could undermine a powerful councilmember. Well, let GM add another suspect to the list: Georgetown Cupcake. Last night, as always, the ANC provided food and drink to the commissioners and the public. But last night there was a new offering:
And just guess who had business before the commission last night. That’s right, Georgetown Cupcake. Yes, it is clear to GM that they were attempting to trade calories, delicious cream-cheese-crammed calories, for votes. GM believes the only proper restitution for this horrific scandal is to have Georgetown Cupcake come before the commission every month.
Oh, and about their project: apparently the Old Georgetown Board disagreed with the ANC and approved the general design of the store last month. They just wanted to see some minor changes, that’s why the store was back before the commission. Clearly bought off by the sweets, the commission changed course and gave a cautious approval to the project as seen below:
The Space is Filled
Having expanded his words to the full space a reasonable blog post can contain, GM will wrap it up:
- Commissioner Birch reported that “love is in the air” on Poplar St. as four baby girls have been born on the tiny street in just the last month.
- Commissioner Starrels essentially laid out the opening argument for the ANC’s upcoming fight the reform Philadelphia Pizza. Essentially they’re going to turn to DCRA and try to demonstrate that the restaurant is not meeting its delivery-to-sit down ratio. Once that hook catches, the ANC will pull hard throughout the BZA process to extract promises to cut back on the late-night revelry.
- As recommended by the Georgetown Transportation Study, an all-way stop sign will be added to R St. at 29th.