This weekend, up north of Van Ness, you have two great opportunities to get food and meet people, one sponsored by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, the other by the Capitol Memorial Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
On Saturday, Mary Cheh is having her campaign kick-off at Murch Elementary School in Tobago, from 2-4. The event promises of food paired with speeches on the playground, in temperate weather. Mary Cheh has been a very strong supporter of economic growth, pedestrian safety, and neighborhood livability in Ward 3. Outside of the neighborhood, she has also fought hard for the much-needed education reforms of Michelle Rhee, while also fighting against Mayor Fenty’s cronyism and arrogant executive style. Map out Murch ES.
If you’re more of a religious person, especially one that dislikes meat, alcohol, coffee, and evangelists, the Capitol Memorial Church has its annual vegetarian food festival. Because they hold services on Saturday, the event will be on Sunday, the 16th, from 1PM-4PM. According to the DCist article on theevent, the diversity and volume of food is enormous. The CMC professes to have parishioners from 40 countries providing an unlimited transnational smorgasbord for $10 Map out the CMC.
So in the last post, I pointed out that it was easiest to demonstrate that some location is a place by showing the density of people there. That’s what this map is. It’s an imprecise but useful tool to map and note the actual behaviors of pedestrians in the T-T area. I’ve made a point of making it blurry and gradated. There are not borders, so much as dips in circulation and public activity that result from the popularity of one area and the amount of effort pedestrians are willing to exert to get from one place to another.
Take, for example, Friendship Heights. Most people arrive by Metro or driving to the retail district. But within only two or blocks of that hub of activity, the circulation patterns change: there are fewer people and they are generally more local. The walkable distance matters more. It’s clear that the locality ends, even if it is slight and gradual.
The character of the architecture changes slightly as one travels south on Wisconsin. It’s shorter, somewhat dinkier. But at Fessenden Street, the entire block is suddenly small, two-story local retail. It looks like little to the north, but also seems slightly different from Tenleytown, up a steep hill to the south. Someone who lived a block to the south would feel like it might be part of Tenleytown, and someone who lives a block to the north might feel it’s Friendship Heights. This is hard to define; just like foot traffic, it comes in gradients. However, due to its higher pedestrian traffic, small public park, and consistent look, I would argue it is effectively a between-place. So let me show you what I’ve come up with:
So, property and school districts are both legal structures that have strong effects on the perception of space and the organization of social networks. But generally, the legal structure that affects the commercial and economic growth of spaces is zoning.
Zoning, quickly, is a Progressive-era policy from the early 1900s that dictates what uses can or cannot exist on a certain piece of property or in a general area. The Modern Movement picked up the concept as a way of guaranteeing a healthy city, as did the Garden City and Regional Planning movements. Generally, its effects have been good – like keeping smelting plants away from residences. But it’s also led to unhealthy homogeneity and a commuter culture that was less prominent before governments began micromanaging the fabric of cities.
This is one of the wonkier posts, but it’s important to understand what has been planned for the area.
So, in addition to the visible boundaries of the city, there are the invisible ones, ones that are really only legible to a bureaucracy, but have significant effects on the lives of residents. Because it affects individuals so young and even effects the parents, where someone goes to school seriously alters the social geography of cities. They decide where the majority of socialization occurs: in one school, in another school; in private schools, in public schools; in classrooms or in breakfast nooks.
When I was a wee little Flannie, attending Murch and carousing about my block, I had neighbors across the street whom I hardly knew. Why? They went to Janney. We met and played outside occasionally, but by 3rd grade, we both had already formed our social lives, and that was it. Our parents were likewise divided; they knew each other, but that was it. My street was the boundary between two schools and there was a palpable difference between the facing blocks.
In the Reno-Tenleytown-Tobago area, there are seven schools that provide Nursery school through Twelfth Grade education. Obviously, there’s also American University, but that’s not as relevant since its students are not shaped as much by boundaries and divisions. There are also any number of private and parochial schools students could attend, three of which are in the area, but with a minivan or a Volvo, you too can idle your car outside your child’s school. So let’s just do the public schools.