Small-Town Politics: Everything but Safeway

The Current covered the November 5th ANC 3E meeting, but it’s worth discussing it in a format that’s indexed by Google – and one that doesn’t use two inflammatory headlines for one ANC meeting. Hyperbole is something that can only be applied to Zoning Commission cage fights. Speaking of which, the obvious topic of the night was the Tenleytown Safeway, but like any good spectacle, that discussion came only after a long development. Actually, the debate over Safeway’s PUD was so long that I’m going to put it up as another post tomorrow.

After the crime report and some perfunctory zoning adjustments, a manager at Maggiano’s in Friendship Heights discussed their mandatory re-application for valet parking. The loss of parking is one of DC’s bugaboos, but he assuaged the concerns with cold, hard facts about where they park. Friendship Heights’ traffic is particularly bad and people from nearby neighborhoods complain about visitors parking in along the narrow streets to the east. So it was a huge surprise to learn that the garage under that block is largely empty most of the time. That suggests that most people will take the stress of driving around Jenifer Street over paying to store their cars, have parked in one of the other garages, or that a good number of the shoppers crowding the streets have arrived on transit. It definitely requires further study. The application was approved, and they moved on to the Reno School.

Jane Maroney, the newly elected Deal PTA chair spoke on behalf of the school in regard to the future of the Jesse Reno School. She explained Deal’s intents for the building in general: that it will be used as a performing arts facility and school nursery that could double as public meeting location. Apparently the two major goals are to keep the main building secure at night and reserve the dulcet tones of the band for infants who will only remember the experience subconsciously.

The blocked archway became a source of contention.
The Reno School. The blocked archway above was a source of contention.

The Jesse Reno building is unquestionably a historic structure, so the debate came down to whether to landmark it now and then renovate, or to renovate and then landmark it. Either way, renovations have to undergo Historic Preservation review because the structure was built in 1903. Deal received money from the city to renovate it, but hasn’t yet hired an architect. Board Member Waldmann of the Tenleytown Historical Society explained a little about its history as a segregated school and the lone survivor of the town of Reno, but her justification for why landmarking was so essential with everyone on board could only be justified with shadows of reckless demolitions during Barry years, so eventually the board voted 3-2 against the nomination. Oddly, the Bender-Frumin-Serebin and Eldredge-Sklover split is the same way they voted on the Janney application.

So, that was the lesser part of the meeting. The rest comes tomorrow.

4 Comments

  • Ben
    November 16, 2009 - 10:37 am | Permalink

    Regarding parking in Friendship Heights, if street parking was priced according to market demand, it would encourage greater utilization of the lot mentioned and reduce the incentive to, as Donald Shoup calls it, ‘cruise for parking.’ A substantial amount of congestion is generated by drivers searching for free/underpriced curbside parking. Similarly, parking in many of DC’s neighborhoods is priced during daytime weekday hours but is free in the evenings and weekends. In neighborhoods like U Street and to a lesser extent, Friendship Heights, many of the people coming to these neighborhoods are coming for dining or shopping in the evenings or weekends yet this is when parking is free. Free parking, especially during the periods when there is the highest demand, discourages transit use and encourages driving.

    Another concern related to traffic in Friendship Heights is the dangerous behavior of pedestrians crossing Wisconsin Avenue in front of Mazza Gallerie. Many people cross Wisconsin in the middle of the block without a traffic signal or crosswalk, even at night when there is a lot of traffic and sometimes with small children. I am very supportive of bicyclists and pedestrians but many of these people in Friendship Heights are clearly reckless. Either a new crosswalk should be added midblock or these pedestrians should be cited.

  • November 16, 2009 - 12:10 pm | Permalink

    The problem with pricing street parking is that the commercial corridor is less than a block deep in either direction. Although those neighbors seem averse to anything remotely urbanizing, maybe they would be on board for one of GGW’s endless payment performance parking schemes.

    I don’t see a value in ticketing pedestrians there. It’s turning into a vibrant locality and I’d hate to do anything that discourages further growth. It’s simple, though, the block is simply too long. Add another crosswalk.

    Beyond that, Friendship Heights will be a traffic nightmare for the foreseeable future. In addition to the fact that Wisconsin is a major regional arterial, the site is a bottleneck even before the roadway goes from three traffic lanes to two. The street grid on the Maryland side is nonexistent – take a look at a satellite view and you can see that because of the lack of parallel streets, all traffic has to travel onto Wisconsin, to go north-south. Once in DC, drivers flood out into the side streets. If the flow was more distributed over a grid, it would be better for everyone.

  • Willy Cass
    November 17, 2009 - 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Re: the lack of through streets on the MD side: As someone who grew up on said through streets, I can attest to this. Its very much by design. Dead ends have been added and through traffic specifically banned. This has more to do with traffic on Western, as the Chevy Chase Club blocks things to the north. Although I’m sympathetic to relieving the traffic, any plan would need to include engineering to reduce speed (like speed bumps), and would probably not be politically feasible. On the plus side, its a great place to bike, so much so that I was allowed to do so unaccompanied from a young age.

    I’m a fan of the (politically unfeasible) solution of installing enough pedestrian safety features that the traffic just gets worse and encourages people to take transit, walk, or bike. There’s a metro stop right there. As for the commuters just passing through from Rockville, they can take 495 to River Road or just get a damn train. Or move.

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