Tag Archives: EastBanc

ANC Round Up: Moving On Edition

Last night the ANC met for its March session. The most important item on the agenda was the adoption of its resolution opposing Georgetown’s ten year campus plan. In the end, though, this was one of the shorter items on the agenda. The rest of the evening was filled with projects and items that will surely dominate the discussion for the rest of the year.

Ten Year Plan

The discussion around the proposed resolution was strictly hemmed in. G.U., CAG/the Burleith Citizens Association, and DC Students Speaks, were each given ten minutes to make their final case. Linda Greenan, Vice President of G.U.’s external affairs, spoke first. She expressed the disappointment the school has that the parties couldn’t reach an agreement and reiterated the school’s position that the proposed plan is modest and has been tailored to address the neighbors’ complaints.

Lenore Rubino of the Burleith Citizens Assoc. and Jennifer Altemus of CAG then split up 10 minutes. They repeated their organizations previous statements that that the plan fails to seriously address the already existing negative impacts that the school has on the neighborhood and the threat that the non-student uses are going to be pushed out unless the situation is remedied. They both supported the ANC’s resolution (CAG strayed a bit from the ANC’s resolution by demanding that no students be allowed to park a car in the neighborhood).

Finally, Hao Shen of DC Students Speaks, well, spoke. He gave an energetic defense of the school’s proposal. He pointedly stated that objecting to the plan is a violation of the District’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based upon matriculation status. This would be a compelling argument, that is if the DC Court of Appeals hadn’t explicitly rejected it in one of the court cases that sprung from the last ten year plan fight (837 A.2d 58, in case you’re interested).

Beyond this, there was little other discussion. Ron Lewis echoed Greenan’s disappointment in the failure to agree. In the end the resolution was passed 6-1, with Jake Sticka voting nay. Continue reading

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The Georgetown Post Office and Performance Parking

Photo by Wayan Vota.

Last week, GM briefly mentioned that he thought the ideal solution for the Georgetown Post Office garage situation would incorporate performance parking. GM thinks that deserves a bit more explanation. That’s because the Georgetown Post Office is a perfect example for why we need to bring performance parking to Georgetown.

The Dominant Parking Theory

The theory that dominates most parking planning is the same one that came about in the mid-twentieth century. It calls for all new developments to provide at least a certain amount of off-street parking spaces. More often than not, these spaces are offered for free.

It’s not hard to understand the thinking behind this theory. If a building is plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood, without enough off-street parking, the users of this new building will quickly use up all the street parking, thus hurting all the users of the existing buildings.

How That Theory Is Playing Out in Georgetown

As described last week, Eastbanc is proposing to build a new office building behind the historic Georgetown Post Office on 31st St. Eastbanc proposes to build 18 underground parking spaces. This parking would be accessed from the existing south driveway of the Post Office.

The urge to insist on more parking, as some Commissioners expressed, is consistent with the dominant parking theory. Commissioner Skelsey stated “this is an office building. There’s no Metro, people are going to drive.” Eastbanc defended the amount of spaces, estimating that there would be a space for every 750 or so square feet of office space (downtown buildings have a typical ratio of more than a thousand square feet for every parking spot). Thus, Eastbanc was assuring the neighborhood that the old users would be protected from the new users.

If the conversation went on even longer, the question of whether to charge the employees to use the parking may have come up. The natural response based upon the dominant theory would be of course not to charge the employees. If you charge them then they may simply park in the neighborhood.

Given the fact that so much (essentially) free parking is so close to the Post Office–they only need to move their cars every two hours, annoying but not unheard of–pursuing the current strategy simply makes sense.

Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

Performance parking (championed by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup) stems from the simple observation that street parking is too cheap. Garages in Georgetown charge anywhere between $4.00 to $12.00 an hour. Street parking is either free (in the two hour zones) or $2.00/hr at meter spaces. Since street parking is so cheap compared to what the market rate is for commercial parking, it is quickly used up. Performance parking merely suggests raising the cost of street parking just to the point that some spaces are always available.

GM has laid out his plan for performance parking for Georgetown. It would call for most streets near Wisconsin Ave. and M St. to become metered. Residents would be exempt from the meters (there are a host of reasons why that is the right choice but the main two are that the neighborhood wouldn’t accept the opposite and if residents aren’t exempt it would create an additional incentive to drive to work, which isn’t a worthy goal). All non-residents would be required to pay to park on the side streets just like on the main streets. The rate would ideally be set at whatever rate it took to discourage enough drivers from parking on the street such that at least 10 to 15 % of street parking spots are open at any given time.

How It Would Affect The Georgetown Post Office Project

Around the Post Office there is a mixture of metered spaces and two-hour zoned spaces. If the new building were built with zero parking, it is likely that some portion of the employees of the new building would in fact park on the street. They would have to move their cars every two hours. But it’s not that easy to enforce two hour zones and at least some workers would figure that they can be less diligent and simply pay the occasional $50 parking ticket. That’s acceptable compared with the monthly parking rates in Georgetown, which vary from $210 to $300 per month.

Those with Zone Two stickers can simply leave their cars parked all day.

With performance parking, those options would be gone. Metered parking would cost more per day than simply getting a monthly garage space. And meters are a lot easier to enforce than 2 hour zones; it doesn’t take multiple observations by a meter maid. Also, those with Zone Two stickers would not qualify as residents (unless, of course, they are Georgetown residents).

There are seven garages or parking lots within two blocks of the Georgetown Post Office. There is no need to create a new one. Particularly since the driveway can only accommodate one lane. That block of 31st St. is already frequently backed up. There is simply not enough room for cars to maneuver around each other, as would be necessary with the current plans.

Eastbanc has been quick to say they’ll be happy to build whatever parking the neighborhood demands. It’s a shame and it’s not in line with Anthony Lanier’s views on pedestrianism and city planning. While some are working behind the scenes to bring performance parking to Georgetown, it probably won’t be here until it’s too late for this project.

As a result, we’ll end up encouraging more driving and creating more congestion all because we’re stuck in an outdated theory.

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The Morning Metropolitan

Photo by Trepelu.

Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:

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The Illegal Billboards That Won’t Go Away

Nobody hates to see empty storefronts in Georgetown more than GM. They represent the loss of an establishment and the longer they stay empty, the more they depress the appearance of the block.

But are they worse than billboards?

You may have noticed recently that two storefronts on the 3300 block of M St. have been covered in billboards. The one above covers 3338 and 3340 M St. It is a giant advertisement for Mastercard. On the right is a big screen TV that shows a feed from a camera pointed out at the street. Animated shoes react to movement on the sidewalk.

Across the street at 3335 M St. is this:

It’s a billboard for PNC. It also has a big screen TV, but this one allows you to play a boxing-based game to teach you the power of savings.

While an empty storefront is undesirable, these billboards are eyesores. And frankly they cheapen the look of the neighborhood. Moreover, even if you are ok with these particular ads, do you really want every landlord with an empty store to turn their facade over to Madison Ave.? Continue reading

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ANC Preview: Any Objections?

The ANC will meet for it’s June meeting next Tuesday at 6:30 at Visitation. Looking at the agenda, you’d think the entire meeting will be dominated by liquor license renewals. But GM predicts little time will actually be spent on those issues. So what will they be talking about?

EastBanc’s Plans for Fillmore

GM has covered this, but for those just catching up: EastBanc has agreed to purchase the historic Fillmore School building at 1801 35th St. from the Corcoran (the ANC agenda mistakenly calls this the “Corcoran School”, which is a little confusing to history nuts like GM who know that the historic school building at 1219 28th St. was called the Corcoran School.)

EastBanc plans on converting the building into 15 condos and wants to construct rowhouses on the parking lot (GM estimates they want to build 16-20). EastBanc will come to the ANC to present their plans. When they presented similarly ambitious plans for the post office, they received a pretty warm reception from the ANC and the public. GM doesn’t imagine it will be much different this time.

Streetcars

DDOT was asked to send a rep to last month’s ANC meeting to discuss their streetcar plans for Georgetown. Unfortunately nobody came. They are back on the agenda next week, so hopefully someone will come. Continue reading

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More Details on the Fillmore School Deal

GM reported on Monday that the Corcoran College of Art + Design had sold the historic Fillmore School building at 1801 35th St. to EastBanc. Few details were available at the time, but since then GM has learned of some more key elements of the proposed plan:

The Condos:

A EastBanc representative confirmed the project to GM and added that the main building will be converted to approximately 15 condo units. This is only one more than the number of condos that were built in the old Phillips School building, which will likely serve as a model for EastBanc’s project (they could theoretically look to the Wormley School conversion as a model, but in that case the developer made the units too expensive and has had a tough time selling them off, so EastBanc should probably treat that project as a warning not a model).

Townhouses:

Much like EastBanc’s proposals for the Georgetown post office, they are also contemplating building townhouses where the Fillmore School parking lot is right now. The parking is rather large. By GM’s eyeballing, it looks to be about 4-5 times larger than the parking lot of the post office, where EastBanc has proposed to build four townhouses. So it would reason that EastBanc could proposed somewhere around 16-20 townhouses.

The Phillips School also involved townhouses being built on the parking lot. At that property, the developers added fourteen townhouses to the parking lot, which was slightly smaller than the Fillmore School parking lot. That would seem to support a mid-teens prediction for the Fillmore project. Continue reading

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Fillmore School Building Reportedly Sold to EastBanc

GM started hearing rumors a week ago about the possible sale of the historic Fillmore School building. On Friday, he heard it confirmed from reliable sources that the building was in fact sold.

The building at 1801 35th St. was built in 1892 and named after our last Whig president, Millard Fillmore. It was surplussed by the District in 1998 and bought by the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Corcoran has since then used the property for classes and gallery space.

Word has spread that the Corcoran has sold the building to EastBanc. GM reached out to both the Corcoran and EastBanc, but neither responded to emailed inquires. Continue reading

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